By Samantha Scholfield, BounceBack Dating Expert
What to expect and how to behave on that most momentous of days -- the first date after a bad breakup or a divorce -- is often a mystery. Even if the relationship didn't last that long, when the breakup is traumatic enough to negatively affect your life, it doesn't matter how long or short the relationship was. When we dive in to something deeply enough, we forget what it is to be without that person -- and that is what makes the breakup so difficult. We have to learn to be single again, and how to date as this new person we've become. All of this adds up to making the first date after the breakup a Really Big Deal.
Here are the first five of fifteen tips to make the first date transition a little easier.
1. Don't talk about your past relationship. It may be tempting -- after all, that relationship may be all you've known for the last two or ten or thirty years. Instead, talk about things that you like to do, books you've read, movies you like, and places you've visited. If a funny story fits into the conversation that your ex was a part of (because, say, you were on vacation together when this event occurred), gloss over it by not mentioning your ex at all, or by referring to them as your ex and leaving it at that. No further explanation needed. After all, your ex is (hopefully) not the point of the story and serves no greater relevance than setting the scene.
2. Don't let the fear rule. Instead, expect fear and embrace it. Unless you're a superhero with iron-clad confidence, it's totally natural and normal to be freaked out about a first date. So instead of focusing on the fear and letting it rule your day or week leading up to the date, acknowledge it and let it go. It's there. It doesn't deserve any further attention than a "Hello."
3. Don't have any expectations. Instead, expect nothing from the date. This date may turn out to be a ton of fun, or it may tank, or it may be mediocre. You have no way of knowing ahead of time what will happen. First dates can be nerve-inducing when they're just everyday first dates. When they're the first date after a big hiatus? It's easy to work yourself into a flurry of what ifs. To avoid this and enjoy the evening, get rid of any and all expectations about them, about how the date will go, and any potential outcome of the date. This will allow you to enjoy your time getting to know this person without stressing that things are or aren't going as you expected.
4. Don't rebound. This person does not have to be your next relationship. In fact, unless you're totally and truly over your past relationship and are totally happy and secure with yourself, it's probably a good idea to get used to the dating game again (and to get used to being single and getting to know yourself as a whole rather than one-half of a relationship) before you dive into something new. Focus on making friends and if something happens down the line? Great. If not, no worries.
5. Don't pressure yourself. Recovering from a major breakup can sometimes take years. So go at your own pace. When you're ready to date, you'll date. There's no set, proper time-frame for bouncing back and moving on.
Divorce is one of the most traumatic events in our lives. It just sucks. That first date after your divorce is a physical representation to yourself that you're ready to move forward with your life, and as such can be a totally scary, nerve-wracking, nervous sweat-inducing event. Taking the pressure off yourself and what the date means can do wonders for making it fun rather than scary. And when you're bouncing back and trying to move forward, scary is bad. So, be yourself, don't pressure yourself into feeling or doing anything you're not ready for, and most of all, remember to enjoy it for what it is: a fun couple hours with a potential new friend.
Samantha Scholfield is a writer, dating coach and author of Screw Cupid: The Sassy Girl's Guide to Picking Up Hot Guys. Billed as a "considerably hipper author" than The Rules, she can usually be found writing about sex, love and relationships in the ubiquitous coffee shops of Seattle. www.screwcupidthebook.com.
BounceBack helps people find happiness after heartbreak from a relationship breakup or divorce. It's a place to tell your story, get community support and advice from experts. Heartbreaks happen to everyone. And everyone has the potential to bounce back and move forward to a life full of strength, confidence, and happiness. www.bounceback.com