When you get injured, it can be a daunting task to put yourself back into a position to do it again. My oldest son plays hockey. In the first game of the first tournament last year, one of his teammates was checked from behind and broke his leg. We could hear his screams from the other side of the ice. After his teammate was stabilized and taken off the ice to the hospital, the game resumed. Every player on both teams played in a much more subdued manner. They just weren’t as aggressive. No one wanted to experience that or hurt another player like that.
Getting back into the dating game can be just as daunting as any injury sustained on the ice. After a 20-year relationship, it was scary to put myself back out there. Especially when my ex was joyfully recounting rape statistics on how often women are abused and extrapolating that to say that one out of four of my dates would be a rapist.
Just like the hockey players, I was tentative at first. Even though I couldn’t articulate what I had been feeling, I understood at a gut level that my weakness was that my boundaries had been crossed so many times during my marriage, separation and divorce that I didn’t know up from down. He even had me questioning my own truths and intuition.
So, just how you wouldn’t choose the toughest, biggest looking opponent, I chose dates who I knew wouldn’t push my boundaries. I needed time to rebuild and regain confidence in myself. A friend of mine said it really takes two years before you’re ready for a commitment. I think that’s a good rule of thumb. That first year after my divorce was filled with conflict, which I was still learning to deal with. This second year has been much better.
Women are conditioned to be people pleasers. We are the first to extend the olive branch in an argument and volunteer our time and money to important causes more frequently than men. When it comes to relationships, we tend to lead with our hearts and not our heads.
I’ve heard from many women who have been in abusive or just really toxic relationships who are understandably gun shy. They feel that men are all bad. That hasn’t been my experience at all. There are many gentlemen out there. You just have to know what to look for and be aware of red flags.
Each date helps me refine what I want. Saying that you want someone nice isn’t exactly specific enough. You have to learn to define what behaviors are nice.
When I was 19, all I knew was that I wanted someone who would challenge me. Be careful what you wish for. I got that in spades with my ex. I still want that, but someone who will challenge me in a healthy way.
Whoever I end up choosing will have been through a long vetting process. My biggest question after my divorce was what red flags should I look for? How did I miss the signs in the beginning? Instead of beating up and judging my 19-year-old self, I started making a list. This was actually at the suggestion of my first date. He was an older guy and gently said I had that “deer-in-the-headlight” look. He gave me a lot of suggestions.
If you’re like me and got married young, you missed out on dating a wide variety of guys and didn’t learn to look for red flags.
Below are some game-ejecting penalties to watch for when dating again after divorce.
Yes, some of these seem like no-brainers, but you would be surprised at how many excuses we make for men and all of the crazy things I’ve heard strong women (including myself) have put up with just because we fall head over heels for a guy.
1. If he cancels on you more than once, bye-bye. If he isn’t going to make you a priority when he’s chasing you, he sure as hell isn’t going to make you a priority once he’s caught you. Obviously, things occasionally come up, but there is a limit. If a guy really wants to be with you, he’ll move heaven and earth to keep his date with you and impress you.
2. If he can’t commit to making plans well in advance, he doesn’t respect your time. Bye.
3. If he repeatedly makes excuses for his behavior, next.
4. If he gets angry when you say no, or set boundaries, bye Felicia.
5. If he seems more interested in your money or what you can do for him, yeah, that’s a no.
6. If he just wants to see you on the spur of the moment or late at night, that’s just a no.
7. If he seems perpetually confused about what he wants/needs and only texts sporadically to keep stringing you along, NEXT!
8. If he keeps telling you he loves you and talks about the future, but then pairs that with repeatedly cancelling your plans together, or sends any other type of mixed messages, you are better off alone.
9. If he repeatedly encourages you to cross your boundaries or do something that makes you uncomfortable, run.
10. If he acts jealous, possessive or controlling, NEXT!
Dating is a contact sport. But we don’t get back on the field (or ice) because we want to get hurt, we do it in pursuit of something greater. We don’t do it because we can’t be alone. We do it because a team can accomplish more than an individual. We do it because we want companionship and love. Humans are meant to be with other people and make connections. We are healthier and happier when we have companionship and a solid group of friends. So, have fun while you’re playing and don’t forget to wear your helmet.