Don't be afraid to put yourself out there again.
If you are recently divorced, broken up with or widowed, you probably have a lot of questions about dating, and often times these questions can bring on fear and worry that will paralyze us and make us want to crawl on the couch and watch Netflix. Though we deeply long for companionship, we victimize ourselves by throwing a pity party and saying things like, "Poor me, everyone else is out tonight and here I am stuck home alone with no one to do anything with."
Your Tango Experts, Anabelle Bugatti and Margaret Jacobson, in anticipation of Anabelle joining Margaret on The Mother Rising radio show have come together here to debunk and reframe the top 5 fears of dating post-divorce and put you in a mind frame that will re-invigorate you, create a sense of excitement about dating and ultimately empower you so that you are that strong confident woman walking into date after date after date.
Here are the top fears people who are re-entering the dating scene most commonly have:
1) "I have a big scarlet letter on me due to divorce": One of the top fears we hear is that divorce somehow tarnishes your relationship reputation and wards all of the eligible daters away. This is a very common fear, but the only one giving us the scarlet letter is ourselves. More than half of the population has been divorced, so they are in the same boat with the same fears. Anabelle interviewed several men who were never married and who said they have no problem dating divorced women. And they did not feel that divorcées would be unable to make a relationship work or be unable to commit. In fact, they said it makes them think quite the opposite; if a woman has already been married, it shows that she is interested in commitment and knows what goes into having a serious relationship. Margaret also interviewed a professional matchmaker who said that the men really feel that those women who have been divorced and then choose to get into a commitment are much wiser and the men actually trust them more. Give yourself a break. Divorce is not a big ugly sign or a label on our clothes that's obvious to everyone else.
2) Who pays for the date? Anabelle has such a great perspective on this. Her rule of thumb is, that whoever asks for the date should pay. If you ask him out, anticipate and offer to pay. If he's a true gentleman, he probably won't make you pay anyway, but you should offer. If he asks you out, let him pay. On the very first date it's always nice to offer to pay your half just as a gesture of good faith. However, if a man actually lets you pay for your half on the first date, either they're incredibly cheap or they don't plan on asking you out on date #2. And call me old fashioned, but if they make you go Dutch, I wouldn't accept a date #2.
In Margaret's experience, if you really just want to step in slowly and develop platonic relationships with men before you start dating them, then you should always pay for yourself in order to feel like there weren't any unspoken expectations from the date. The check coming to the table can be an awkward moment, so always be prepared to pay. Make sure that you go somewhere that you can afford and use your intuition to learn about the nature and expectations of your date. It can be telling. Ultimately how you and your date handle who pays is about respect for yourself, your financial limitations and your date.
3) Who is going to want to date me when I have kids? Because divorce is so common, blending families is also very common. Many men and women have sole or shared custody of their children and go on to have very successful relationships. Having children is not as big of a deal breaker as you may think; however, you must be careful whom you invite into your home if you have young children. Take dating slowly and do not involve your children until you're sure that it's something serious. Be wary of people who want to get to know your children too soon too fast, and anyone who is really worth their salt won't split because you have children. The only ones who will are those without children are who aren't at a stage in their life where they are ready for children, and that is OK. Entering a new relationship is a big commitment on its own, and if you have children, a new partner has to also consider the implications of becoming possibly a first time parent. But don't rule yourself out of anyone's dating pool just because you have children. And trust your children's instinct when it does come time to introduce them to your new somebody; they can be a remarkably good judge of character.
4) How do I make sure I don't pick the same guy over again? We can't say enough about how important this time post-divorce or other serious relationship is for self-discovery and reflection. Dating post-divorce is a great opportunity to get to know yourself, what you like, what you don't like, what you're willing to budge on and what your deal breakers are. It's great to have a sense of your dating boundaries and stick to them to ensure you are respected. The quickest way to have a date or new beau disrespect you is to disrespect yourself by violating your own boundaries and values. And if your ex wasn't a complete buffoon, you don't have to pick a new partner who is completely opposite. Make a list of the qualities you really liked and that worked well for you and keep those as good qualities you'd like to have again. Also list the qualities that caused a lot of contention in the relationship or qualities you really couldn't stand and would like to eliminate.
When Anabelle got divorced, she swore she would never marry a guy who played video games or liked sports. While she came to be more flexible on the sports thing since most men do enjoy some sports, she stuck to her guns about the video games. It ended up that she got the best of both worlds in her new marriage. Other qualities you may like to eliminate might be smoking, credit card debt or an excessive amount of pornography. Each of us will have a very individual list. Anabelle pursued therapy to work through a lot of her personal growth issues and found herself more than once tackling the self-help aisle at many bookstores. Her commitment to learning about what makes herself tick helped her open to being not only a wonderful date and enjoying dating, but also has made her a great wife once again. The book she swears by is The Dalai Lama's book The Art of Happiness.
Meditation and personally designed spiritual rituals that included gratitude, affirmation and intention allowed Margaret to see herself wholly when she stepped into new relationships. Some of the big red flags that had her going back to her seat of meditation more than once were the feelings of neediness to communicate with the man she was dating. She started examining those moments when she felt that need, and realized that these men were not responsible for filling the lacks in her life. Only she was responsible. One of the many books she enjoyed working with is, Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power by Gary Zukav.
When you are able to really do your work and see that you choose your mindset and your mental/emotional state, then you become more and more empowered. You begin going out not just with friends or on dates, but even alone; alone to the movies, alone to dinner, and YES alone to the bar! You will feel empowered, confident and sexy.
5) How do you tell if your date only wants to get laid? The last major fear of divorcées is knowing if your date is only looking for sex. When you are dating to find a new relationship, it's important to heighten your awareness to the intentions of the man you are dating.
Whether or not a man is solely interested in getting laid isn't as easy to gauge right off the bat, but here are some guidelines. Usually if the guy tries to put too strong of physical moves on you at first, like he takes you on a walk in the park and then tries to kiss and grope you, it's pretty obvious that he's only interested in a physical relationship (and yes, Anabelle actually had a guy try this on a first date). Other guys will try to invite you over to their house for a nightcap on dates one to three. Some of them will be really blatant and say they're only on the dating site to get laid or they'll try to engage you in dirty talk online or via texting or email (you'd be surprised how many guys will try this). Anabelle's best advice is to wait a few months before even considering messing around or jumping into the sack. If he only wants sex, he'll probably cut out by date five when he realizes you're not going to sleep with him. If he sticks around, you know it's just for more. Guys who are really in it to get to know you and find something long term, won't freak out when you say you're going slow sexually. Sex has a way of obscuring our view of bad partners. So many toxic relationships were clung onto because of good sex. Don't be fooled.
This is your time to explore and learn about yourself.
When dating post divorce, do not expect the first few people you go on dates with to be the new "one." Many people get out of a one marriage and can't wait to dive back into another. While getting remarried is perfectly fine as your relationship direction, you need time to heal, get over the divorce and deal with your baggage. Until then, you're not ready to start finding a new husband. Take it slow and get the hang of what it's like to date again. You don't have to engage in flings or date just to date, but if you have the mindset that you're trying to figure out whether or not each date is your future husband, you will inevitably scare away, smother and emotionally strangle any new and possibly great relationships that come your way. When it's time to take serious applicants again, you'll know. But take your time and go slow.
Anabelle and Margaret share WAY more in the radio show about these fears. Join them as their show, "Post-Divorce Dating Nerves: Re-Framing Dating Fears & Understanding Dating as Self-Discovery" airs live on Margaret's VoiceAmerica Empowerment Station show, The Mother Rising on July 17th, 2014 at 4pm PDT. If you can't make it live, it is also available very shortly after the live show at the same link and also through iTunes.
Margaret Jacobson is a Divorce Wellness Coach as well as a radio show host weekly on VoiceAmerica's Empowerment station. For more information on her Divorce Wellness Services or how to maintain contact with the growing Mother Rising Community, you can visit her at www.themotherrising.com or view her YourTango Expert page.
Anabelle Bugatti holds a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Nationally Certified Counseling and is a Doctoral Student in Marriage and Family Therapy at Northcentral University where she is establishing her doctoral thesis on Mama's Boys in Marriage & Divorce. Anabelle is a contributing relationship expert on YourTango.