Dating is never easy. Not even when you’re young, gloriously debt-free and emotionally baggage-less. But it’s even more challenging after the pain of divorce.
“Dating is tough” after divorce, confirms author Marcy Miller. But for all its grief, it’s well worth the effort, she adds.
In her book, Rebooting in Beverly Hills: A Wise and Wild Path for Navigating the Dating World, Miller not only recounts her struggles to forgive, forget and move on after the devastating failure of her third marriage (he cheated; she forgave; he kept cheating; she asked for a divorce). But she also shares how she re-started her love life, one lousy date at a time.
Here, Miller shares seven tips for re-entering the dating world after divorce.
1. Take the time to heal
Don’t start before you’re ready. “You can’t see clearly when you’re still angry and heartsick,” says Miller, who took nearly two years to sort herself out emotionally before she began dating again.
During those two years, Miller took very good care of herself, however. She went out and had fun with girlfriends, took classes and read a lot of “self-help books.” She went to the spa and pampered herself, and even consulted a psychic who offered her some kooky, albeit, helpful advice, “She told me I had to bless my ex and mean it.”
Taking that advice wasn’t easy “because intellectually I knew I was better off, but emotionally I was still heartbroken. I had to get past that and to be able to have no anger left. It took a lot of work.”
The payoff of that sabbatical was that by the time she entered the dating world again, she wasn’t bitter. She knew what she wanted from a man — and what she didn’t.
2. Have a plan when it comes to dating
“You have a list when you go to the grocery store, so why wouldn’t you when you’re doing something more important?” asks Miller, “I made [dating] into a business strategy.”
Miller divided her strategy for finding a mate into four categories: “pickups, fix-ups, matchmaking and Internet dating.” To navigate each category, she came up with a plan for forging ahead. For example, she let it be known among her friends that she was willing to be fixed up. Later, she hired a matchmaker, albeit unsuccessfully (she later fired her). But don’t let the failures detract from the goal.
“If one plan doesn’t work, try another.”
3. Stop talking so much and listen instead
Instead of doing all the talking, Miller decided to pay closer attention to what the men she was dating were saying. As a result, she spent more time asking questions and listening to the answers than she did talking about herself. The information she gleaned was useful in determining a man’s compatibility. It “helps you assess who this person is,” she explains. The best part of paying more attention in the early days of a courtship? You know what you’re dealing with before you become intimate.
4. Put chemistry on hold and focus on character
A lot of women decide there’s no chemistry early on and as a result often give up too early in the relationship, says Miller. She advises women put chemistry on the backburner and instead focus on how a man behaves — what he says and what he does. Consider his character and not his hairline in other words.
Even if you wind up being incompatible, you may still have found a “nice companion, or an occasional nice brunch pal,” she says.
5. Do more than date — live your life!
“No one says you have to go out,” says Miller. “There are so many alternatives to actually going out on dates.”
Instead of going out, have girlfriends in for dinner and a movie. Have a game night or go out for lunch. The point is to be social, have fun and feel engaged in your own life once again…regardless of whether a man’s in it or not.
6. Have a sense of humour about bad dates
“It’s not the end of the world that you had a bad dinner,” says Miller. “Take something from it.”
The takeaway could be a funny story to tell your girlfriends or it could be that you took home some pretty great leftovers. “If you can’t laugh about these things, you’re going to get morosely depressed,” says Miller, who dated her fair share of duds before finding a compatible partner. If you find your spirit lagging after a string of crummy dates, take a break. “Nobody says you have to date in a continuous loop,” so when you’re ready to re-enter, you’re refreshed.
“You have to say to yourself, this is a process. And you have to be in it for the process because it does get discouraging and boring to keep telling your story [on dates].” But as Miller points out, “this is your life. So while you’re going through with it, you have to find ways to enjoy it and make the most of it.”
If after you’ve taken the time to heal, after you’ve gone on dates and re-started your life, you come to the realization that you don’t want a husband (or a boyfriend) ever again, that’s fine too.
“One of my friends, said to me, ‘Why should I share?’ and I know what she means. I get it.” It’s your life. Ultimately you have to live it in the way that gives you the most satisfaction.
Have you gotten back out there after a divorce? Tell us what helped you move on in the comments section below.