Are you recently divorced and back out there dating? The thrill of it is gone? How do you date?
For most of us, dating is fun. You get to go out, meet new people and enjoy learning new activities and trying new places. It makes us come out of our shells. We also learn a lot about ourselves such as what we like, what we don’t like, and how we handle conflict. Dating is important, and I usually suggest dating several people before committing to one. Dating after a long term relationship or marriage is not the same. Everything seems different when you go back on the market again looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. You’re a different person the second or third time around. Your older, wiser, more guarded and have a lot more to lose. Many times you have children or the people you are dating have kids; the carefree days of dating are gone. Dates may feel more like interviews, and there is tension in regards to dating because most people want to cut to the chase the second time. Women after a divorce are usually seeking a long term committed relationship. They want security and to feel loved and special to one person. Men that begin dating again after a divorce or break-up are looking for someone who will accept them, have sex with them, and help them feel less lonely. This may or may not lead to commitment. After all, they have tried commitment and it broke.
The statistics report that about half (50%) of all marriages lead to divorce. Not to mention all those couples who live together for many years without marriage and then break up. This leaves many adults looking for potential partners the second or third time around. What makes dating and second marriages difficult are the kids that are involved. Only in movies and on TV are blended families made to look easy and fun. A blended family in real life requires maturity, patience, and a total commitment on each parent’s part. They take a long time to establish, and even longer to live in harmony and peace.
The second most difficult issue is the people you are dating. You aren’t the only one who changes the second time around. Most of the people you date have their own story of complicated love. They are guarded and many times carry anger that will be projected onto whoever they date. For example, if you date someone who had a critical wife and they divorced, every time he hears criticism in your voice he is going to resort back to the behavior that may have lead to the breakup of his marriage. The exception to this rule is if he was able to get therapy and understand why he reacted the way he did, so he doesn’t continue the destructive behavior he used in the past with new relationships. You won’t know this from “interviewing” him on a date, which will complicate matters when you have your first fight.
The third difficult issue is the in-laws. Many times in-laws accepted and loved their new daughter or son like their own. Hearing that they will no longer be related or they won’t see this daughter or son-in law is very upsetting. The in-laws may create divisions within the family where their own son or daughter feels they lost favor with their parent due to the divorce. Many parents will not accept the new date into their home or to any family events. This is especially true with affairs where someone acted out in the marriage. The grandchildren may be the biggest losers because Grandma or Grandpa may refuse to see them or one of their parents anymore. It is difficult to begin again with this sort of contention at home.
For anyone who is dating the second time around, I have a few suggestions that may make the dating more enjoyable and hopeful. Before engaging with someone new, you may want to make sure you are ready emotionally to forgive the past and open yourself to a more enlightened present.
1. Before you begin to date and after the dust has settled with your break up, take up a new activity that is just for you. For example, yoga and golf are activities that stop you from thinking about that “old junk” and help you focus on the present. It will make you feel good doing something just for you. We build confidence when we take care of ourselves in a positive manner.
2.. Join a support group. Men need men and women need women after a divorce or break up. Support groups are a way to meet a social need and to talk to others who have walked your walk. A brotherhood or sisterhood can be very healing because they relate to you in gender specific ways. Guys understand how a guy feels after a break up more than a woman can. The same is true for women.
3. Get clear in regards to your part of the break up or divorce. Blaming your spouse or partner will keep you trapped in the victim role. You cannot change what someone else did to you. Whenever we accept responsibility for something that happened, we also gain more control to prevent it in the future.
4. If you have children, reassure them that a date will never spend the night nor will a date ever be responsible for the child’s care. No child should ever have to worry about their mom or dad’s date. If you are a parent, your child’s health and wellness must always come before any date. Period.
5. If you have in-laws make a peace with them before dating anyone. Your in-laws raised the child you fell in love with and married. If it didn’t work out, it is most likely the two of you, not your partner’s parents, who ended the marriage. If you love your in-laws, ask them how they would be comfortable handling future family gatherings. Most of the time, their wisdom and experience will help guide you to a relationship that is more meaningful than the one you had in the past. Many in-laws tell me, “We really love him/her now, because we aren’t related but they still love us enough to come by and visit.”
It would be wonderful if everyone had a great relationship that never ended, but that is not the real world. Divorcing or breaking up is not detrimental to your health, but living alone and becoming bitter may be. Dating is important if you want to share your life with someone. Knowing and preparing before you begin dating the second time around will help make you more confident in finding love again. –Mary Jo Rapini
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