The process of getting yourself back on your feet after a divorce and dating requires patience and compassion for yourself along with a determination to wanting to create a happier life.
Once I had made the decision to begin dating, I never anticipated feeling so overwhelmed and lost in the process of meeting someone. The last time I dated was in 1996 and that’s when I met my ex. In the mid-90s, online dating was introduced and the concept of meeting someone online was not as mainstream as it is now. I remember wondering whether online relationships could develop and even thrive.
Fast forward to today, what were the stigmas attached to online dating now, compared to 20 years ago, and could I really meet someone serious this way? Were there other options? I remember researching online dating websites and as I was reading through each of them and their features of swiping right or left, giving a thumbs up or down and the quizzes I had to complete to find a match, I nearly had an anxiety attack.
Before I delved into picking an online dating website, I realized that I needed to first figure out what I wanted out of a relationship with someone.
I also needed to figure out what characteristics, traits, and compatibilities I was looking for in a man and which ones mattered the most to me.
More importantly, I needed to make sure that I had healed from my separation and divorce and that I had a better understanding of what went wrong in the relationship with my ex and my role in the demise of our marriage. I needed to delve into my past and look back at my life to make sure I understood why my needs and wants in my previous relationship were not met–not only his role in this but mine.
I quickly came to understand that you can’t expect others to make you happy all the time and make you feel like you’re leading a fulfilling life; you need to make yourself happy and know what does it for you. It’s so important to make time and space for it and to make sure anyone you want to spend time with respects that about you. Don’t set this expectation of others, expect this of yourself first and foremost.
When I decided to create an online dating profile, I immediately saw how much work goes into it. It took me so long to get my profile up, not only because I wanted to find the right picture but I also wanted to strike the right tone in the information I was providing about myself. I wasn’t looking for anything serious nor was I looking for a one-night stand.
The positive thing about the experience of online dating is that it really made me think about the things I enjoyed and wanted in life.
At times, I didn’t know how to answer some of the prompts and instead of skipping them, I would step back and make sure to think through an answer that I was happy with. Eventually, I became excited at the thought of completing my dating profile because I was excited at the prospect of getting to know myself and to see how I would answer certain questions.
When my profile started to get noticed, I didn’t answer any messages. I just wanted to experience the process and make sure I was okay with moving forward. More questions came to mind: What were the expectations around online dating? For example, how long do you message with someone before giving them your phone number and then at what point do you meet them in person? What do you do then? What are the expectations in terms of kissing and what about sex?
I’m the kind of person who tends to overanalyze pretty much everything so once I listed, in my mind, all of these questions plus a dozen more, all I wanted to do was hide. I remember slamming my laptop shut, late one evening, as I was desperately trying to find answers online to my questions, looking for women who had written about the same dilemma I was faced with. Surely, someone in cyberspace had something clever to share with me to make this experience easier. Nope, there was nothing that would make this easy. Plain and simple, I had to put myself out there.
I’m not going to lie, putting yourself out there after being with someone for almost 20 years is hard. It’s intimidating, overwhelming and plain scary. When I was a teenager, the one worry I had before a date was to find gel strong enough to tame my wild hair. Now, it seemed like my worries would fill-up a book with check-lists of things I needed to figure out: logistically, intellectually and emotionally. It’s interesting how dating makes you learn more about yourself and the things you want (and don’t want) in life.
What about the baggage that you carry from your previous relationship? How does one determine how he/she will let that influence their decisions around dating and eventually making a long-term commitment to someone.
For example, I had to wrap my head around the fact that not all relationships would end the same way my previous relationship had ended.
I eventually stopped asking questions and put myself out there as confidently as I could knowing that for now, what I wanted out of dating was to get to know people, get out of the house, have some fun and try new things.