You're an easy mark for jerks right now. Be careful!
The prospect of dating after divorce is usually exciting for women, but also pretty terrifying ... and for good reason. When you're a woman back on the dating scene after 10 or more years of marriage, you're an easy target for players and manipulators.
I remember feeling that same thrill about dating right after my own divorce ... at least, initially.
I married at 19 and didn't have sex until my wedding night. When I divorced (after nearly 18 years of marriage) I was totally unprepared for dating. I assumed it would be fun and innocent like dating was in high school.
Boy, was I wrong!
Three months after my divorce was final, I "fell in love." He just seemed to know me so well. It seemed like we'd known each other forever and I was eager to express my love for him, sexually. I won't lie — I had a whole lot of fun doing it!
But then, things changed. When my life got complicated and I needed some emotional support, he disappeared. I naively kept reaching out to him thinking he must be going through a tough time too. After all, he told me that he loved me, so I couldn't imagine that he would just vanish.
When I finally understood it was over, I was devastated.
I thought I was rebuilding my life with someone new, that I was doing well, but the truth is — he was just using me.
Unfortunately, my story isn't unique.
A woman I know told me that the first guy she got involved with after her divorce actually said to her: "Wow, you're like every guy's fantasy. Like a little innocent kitten just set down in the jungle. I hope the lions or bears don't eat you alive."
Another guy she dated came back to her, months after she stopped answering his calls, to apologize and admit he had knowingly taken advantage of her the whole time they'd been together.
And being used isn't unique to newly divorced women. Men get used, too. Several women I know only went out with men because they liked the expensive meals and gifts the men showered upon them. But as soon as someone else came along, someone willing to spend more money or was better looking or even better in bed, those women immediately dumped the men they'd been seeing.
Divorce shakes the foundation of your life. For a period of time, it makes you virtually helpless prey for users and manipulators. Does that mean you're a fool? No, not at all. You're just a human being going through a genuinely challenging time in your life.
Here are the 5 reasons divorce makes you such an easy target for manipulation:
1. You're lonely and a little naive.
When you're newly-divorced, you feel a profound lack of love. You experience loneliness at a level you've never felt before.
A player can use this against you. You believe them when they say they want to spend time with you or that they love you. You'll believe just about anything to keep your loneliness at bay. And since you're not a user yourself, it's hard for you to imagine other people behave that way deliberately. (Reminds me of how I fell for a user.)
2. You're not really sure what you want sexually.
The whole world of dating is intoxicating after divorce. You want to get out there and experience it all, to reclaim (or maybe even claim for the first time) your sexual power.
But the truth is that after a long-term marriage (especially if you married the first person you had sex with), you're sexually inexperienced. You're naive about what the modern dating world is really like. You're entirely out of practice fully expressing your sexual likes and dislikes.
It's your lack of knowledge and sexual experience that really do make you look like an innocent little kitten to the salivating lions and bears of the dating jungle.
3. You've lost your direction for the future.
Your hopes and dreams for the future change dramatically when you divorce — (Well, first, they're shattered and then you realize you need to come up with new ones) — and this leaves you wandering without clear direction for awhile.
When you're newly-divorced, it's pretty easy to feel stuck and unsure of what your future holds. So when someone tells you that you're exactly who they've been looking for and how you make their dreams come true, it's super simple to get sucked into that.
4. You're hungry for approval.
You weren't fully appreciated, validated, or respected in your marriage. You're justifiably anxious to have someone praise you for simply being you.
You believe just about anyone who seems to really see you and show you the appreciation you've been missing out on. In fact, you're drawn to them like a fly to honey, and manipulators use that to trap you under their spell.
5. You desperately want to feel happy again.
When someone makes you feel happy after (or even in the midst of) the profound misery of divorce, it's easy to believe they're exactly who you need in your life. They're like a drug you can't get enough of and you'll do just about anything to keep them with you — which is exactly what the users and manipulators out there want.
So, is the only option to not date at all or end up being used? ... Of course, not!
Knowing you're an easy target is the first step to keeping manipulators at bay. Yes, you need to go slow and ease into relationships carefully. You have plenty of time to find love. But if you spend time working on yourself first, instead of reaching out to new lovers for approval, you'll save yourself some hurt and frustration.
The only way to make sure you're not an easy target and can honestly experience the thrills of a relationship is to make sure you're truly ready to be out there dating again.
So, wait ... at least a little while. Don't date until you're past the soul-sucking loneliness of divorce, until you've gotten to know yourself sexually, until you've created new dreams for your future, until you appreciate you for being you, and until you've found a sense of happiness on your own.
If you don't wait and, instead, run head-first toward the thrill of dating (like I did), you do run the risk of being used, manipulated and hurt. The choice is yours.
It's a choice I wish I'd known about when I got divorced. It might have saved me a whole lot of hurt.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and author of "On The Road From Heartbreak To Happiness". You can schedule a Complimentary Consultation with her to develop a plan to get ready to date or just learn more about her and her work at drkarenfinn.com.