Relationship counsellor, clinical sexologist, and author of Seasons of Sex, Leandie Buys offers some advice for women who are ready to start dating again after divorce.
So often I hear women say, “are there still good men out there?” “Are all the good guys are taken?”, “Where do you meet decent guys these days?” These are just some of the questions I get asked.
With the help of technology, the dating pool has greatly increased in size, but with that comes a number of problems! We only have a certain number of hours in the day, and we can’t just meet up with anyone that ‘swipes right’.
Online dating websites and mobile apps help women filter out at least some of the ‘lost causes’.
Another thing that can make getting back into dating again is that you may now come as a package – kids ‘n all. You have responsibilities now. And, there’s also some baggage. Your ex, your former in-laws are all part of the package that is ‘you’.
Anyone that wants to date you needs to be willing to be a part of an extended family.
The same applies to you. There are few single men over 35 that don’t come with a ‘little’ extra baggage. In my practice, I often find that ex-spouses often cause major relationship problems even after divorce.
Women are jealous and territorial over their children, often criticising their ex’s new partner and her parenting skills. While men become defensive and angry and tend to avoid confronting the issue. Eventually, the children are used as pawns in their parents’ arguments.
I’m not going to lie. Dating after divorce is not easy.
But there are some things you can do to find a nice guy, and to make the transition into the dating game just a little bit smoother:
1. Deal with your divorce
Have you dealt with your divorce? This is the first thing that I ask all my single patients who say that they are ready to enter the dating pool. It is absolutely vital that you have dealt with your divorce, and the emotional and spiritual impact it will have had on you.
Even if you attended relationship counselling, you should also attend a few sessions of individual counselling after your divorce to help you work through all of the left-over emotions, and potential frustrations and anger.
You cannot enter a new relationship if you are not healed from the hurt that divorce brings. You need to be sure that you are able to offer a stable, healthy platform to build a new relationship on with your new partner.
2. Know your expectations & deal-breakers
I like to encourage my clients to put together a ‘job description’ of what they are looking for in a new partner. When they meet someone that they think might have potential, I tell them to refer back to the ‘job description’ to make sure that they are not just settling for second best.
It is NEVER a good idea to get into a relationship to avoid being lonely. You need to know your worth, and you need to know what you’re looking for in a partner who will build you up and help you be all that you can be.
Your list can include things like:
Someone who is independent, has a good career, is settled, is trustworthy, treats people with respect, has hobbies and interests, is a good communicator, is kind…
Ask your friends if they think your list is realistic – remember, Mr Perfect doesn’t exist! But your list will help you stay on track when you think you’ve found someone with potential.
3. Ask reliable friends to introduce you to someone
I’m not talking about getting all of your Facebook friends to set you up on blind dates. Tell some trusted friends (with good taste) that you are ready to start dating again, and ask them to introduce you to people that they think might suit you.
Don’t be afraid of sounding ‘desperate’. Your friends are probably dying to introduce you to someone, but they don’t know if you would be willing to be ‘set up’.
This is a far better way of getting into the dating pool than meeting random strangers. At least your friends have vetted him already, and they know he’s not a total ‘weirdo’!
4. Try on-line dating, but register on more than one site
The specialist firms sometimes offer a ‘meet and greet’ service – so you don’t have to meet up with a stranger alone.
Take your time going through profiles, select only ones that you think really have potential. Make sure that if you do meet in person, you meet in a public place, and preferably for lunch or coffee for your first ‘date’. Always tell a trusted friend the details so that they know where you are!
Also, it’s a good idea to set up a separate email account for your dating exploits – a free Gmail account will allow you to keep your work and social life separate, and it is easy to close down a Gmail account if you are ever harassed.
5. Get involved with your kid’s school activities
Go to the tennis matches, school functions and plays. You’ll get to know the other parents, and small talk about the kids is a good way to start a conversation with a single dad.
You could even set up a play date with your kids, and see where it goes from there.
6. Get a hobby, or join in some group activities
NOW is the time to do what you’ve always wanted to do, but never got round to doing.
When you get involved in something that gets your creative juices flowing, or your adrenalin pumping, you will find others that have similar interests to you. Find out about hiking trails or mountain biking in your area. Sign up for dancing lessons, pottery classes, or martial arts. Just get out of your house, and do something different that makes you excited about life again.
Even if you don’t find ‘the one’, you’ll get to meet some interesting people, and you’ll learn some new skills that you never had before.
7. Have fun!
Don’t see every date as a potential marriage partner. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect, and to impress him. Be yourself, be natural, and have fun. Dating is meant to be fun. It’s all about meeting someone new, and taking a step towards building a new life for yourself after divorce.
You’ve learned from your previous relationship mistakes, and you know what you want. Make sure that the person you’re with knows that you are a strong, capable and valuable individual.
Your attitude must not be, “I hope he likes me” but rather “I hope I like him!