When my ex and I separated, I felt very unsure of myself socially. We married when I was 19 and after nearly 18 years of marriage and a demanding job in a male-dominated profession, I couldn't really imagine dating and having a man find me sexually attractive.
And yet, just the week before my divorce was finalized, a man asked me out. He was a friend of a friend and he asked me to lunch. I was flabbergasted and quickly asked myself, "Am I ready to date?" I just as quickly answered, "I must be, I just got asked out!"
That was how I started dating again; I let someone else decide I was ready.
When we met for lunch a few days later I was nervous and unsure of what to talk about. He was kind and listened as I babbled on about my divorce and asked him questions like "Are you sure you find me attractive?"
When word traveled throughout my workplace that I was divorced, I was shocked at how many of my single male colleagues who I considered friends started behaving differently toward me. They wanted to hang out with me more, asked me out and even tried to kiss me! Having always considered myself just one of the guys, I was extremely uncomfortable with how these friends of mine were acting. It got to the point where I didn't trust them and was suspicious of just about any man who tried to talk to me.
Then a few short months after my divorce was final, I met a man that I fell for. We had a lot of the same interests and a lot of the same insecurities. His insecurities were primarily due to his age because he was significantly younger than me. My insecurities had to do with my inexperience dating and my fear of being in another relationship. I had no idea there was a difference between dating and being in a relationship. Our "relationship" lasted a few months and ended in heartbreak — mine. I was devastated because it hadn't even been a year that I'd been divorced and here I was getting dumped again. I was convinced that I just wasn't meant to be in a relationship and stopped dating.
That lasted a year, at which point I started dating again. This time I was a bit more prepared. I actually made the decision that I wanted to date so I could figure out what I did and didn't like about the men I met and what I did and didn't like about my behavior when I was out with them. I chose to date because I wanted to have fun meeting new men and learn more about me.
Most of the men I went out with during that time were on the same page — although there were a couple who definitely weren't.
I met one fellow at a restaurant. He was charming and we had a great evening — in the beginning. As the evening wore on he started talking more and more about his ex. He found a million ways to discuss how horrible she was and how he got custody of his kids as a result. The longer we sat there, the more details I heard about his ex. And then, out of the blue, he told me he felt like he was cheating on her. Talk about not being ready to date!
I met another guy on the patio of a Starbuck's on gorgeous afternoon. He was nice enough, but really had a hard time conversing with me about anything other than his suspicion that all women were just gold-diggers at heart like his ex. I excused myself as quickly as possible so I could enjoy the beautiful weather instead of staying stuck under the storm clouds of his suspicion.
After nearly a year of meeting and dating various men, I met the man who is now my husband of 5 years. Our first date wasn't perfect, but we had a really good time together. We met at a Mexican restaurant. Although we had spoken by phone several times since we connected on eHarmony a little over a month ago, I was a bit freaked out when he greeted me with a bear hug. He told me later that I freaked him out a bit by asking about his kids since he hadn't talked about them with me (but did have a profile photo of him and his youngest son). It turns out neither one of us was looking for perfection in our first date. We were just looking for someone that we could be ourselves with and who was definitely over their ex.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment: Are you ready to start dating again? Honestly answer the following questions either "yes" or "no":
- Do you distrust the opposite sex?
- Are you deciding to date because someone asked you out or because someone decided to fix you up?
- Is your favorite topic of conversation your divorce or how terrible your ex is?
- Are you afraid of either dating or not dating?
- Do you feel like you'd be cheating if you went out on a date?
- Do you believe that dating and being in a relationship are the same thing?
If you've whole-heartedly answered "no" to each of the questions above, you're probably ready to date. Being able to say "no" to each of the questions means that you've done a lot of work healing from your divorce and are ready to explore who you are with the people you date and what you do and don't want in a future partner.
If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, you're not ready to date. I'll suggest that even if you answered "maybe" you're still not ready. It takes time and effort to heal from your divorce. It's OK to give yourself that time. There really isn't any reason to jump into dating before you're ready. If you do, at a minimum you run the risk of boring or scaring your dates off and at worst you risk heartbreak and needing to do more healing from another failed relationship.
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