Disclaimer- I am by no means a mental health expert, just an average person who dealt with the same things you are. If you feel like you need professional help, please don’t put off seeking it.
The process of healing from a divorce and then eventually reentering the dating pool is a long, hard road. There’s so much grieving, healing, and apprehension involved; it’s just exhausting. If you are reading this amidst the pain and confusion that comes with a failed marriage, please know that it WILL get better, and healing will come. I’ve been there too. Fourteen years have passed since my divorce, and it’s amazing to look at just how far I’ve come and what I learned along the way. I want to share some of the steps I took, by trial and error, of course, that made the transition from divorce to dating a little easier. My hope is that this will help someone get started on the path to healing and happiness.
I can’t stress this enough, y’all. Someone almost ALWAYS gets hurt in a rebound relationship. A reprieve from your loneliness is not worth the hurt that you will bring on yourself, or even worse, someone else. The amount of time you need to grieve and recover from your marriage will vary from person to person. The length of your marriage, circumstances surrounding your divorce and individual mental health factors affect the amount of time you need. If you want your next relationship to be healthy, ask yourself this: Would I want to be in a relationship with me? Are my insecurities, needs, desires, and other “baggage” light enough for another person to bare? Be brutally honest with yourself. If the answer is no, get to work. Seek counseling, talk to your pastor, concentrate on self-improvement and cultivate some hobbies. Prioritize resting and ALLOW yourself to grieve and renew. Working on yourself can be a little painful at times, but it might keep your mouth from writing checks that your butt can’t cash. Nobody has time to mess with that.
Why are we all always in such a dadgum hurry? What’s the point of rushing through life so caught up in making it to the finish line that we can’t stop and enjoy the beauty along the way? Take a minute and think about the word “stroll" with me. The definition is “a relaxed journey on foot for exercise or pleasure.” A stroll gets you where you want to go at a pace that doesn’t leave you breathless. A stroll allows you to appreciate the beauty and changes to your surroundings brought about with each new step. But how does any of this apply to reentering the dating pool, you ask? It’s simple, when you are ready to start dating again remember this: Slow your roll, just stroll. (I know, my cheesiness knows no bounds, but stay with me.) If you’ve already learned how to be happy alone, taking a slow approach to dating will be fairly simple. (If you haven’t learned how go back to step one. You got this! Love you!) The dating stroll allows you to appreciate each step in the dating process without looking too far in the future or rushing toward the finish. If you are strolling, you can appreciate the flutter of excitement when you first meet without hoping that this person could be “the one.” You can genuinely enjoy getting to know another person without the pressure of checking off boxes on your priority list. But most of all, you can make it past the infatuation phase with your head on reasonably straight and your feet on the ground. It’s just like that ole “Turtle and the Hare” Y’all already know that slow and steady wins the race, just make that your approach to dating too.
If you aren’t seeking the FUN side of dating, like, what are you even doing it for, anyways? I know I know, trying to find your soul mate. Blah blah blah. (I’m kidding, kinda) But seriously though, dating is FUN. You get to meet new people learn about their experiences, and hear their life stories. You get to do new things and go to new places. You have a reason to get all dressed up and leave the house. These things are fun, right? Fun is good! If you’ve completed step one and two, finding the fun in dating is simple. (If you haven’t, you already know what I’m about to say. Scoot on back.) I don’t think I really have to explain how to have fun to y'all. You can figure that out for yourselves. Bottom line you can be genuine about your dating endeavors without the weight of seriousness looming in the back of your head. It’s all about living in the moment, being honest with yourself about your feelings and being honest with your date about your intentions. I’m going to say it again. You don’t have to take such a serious approach to dating. JUST HAVE FUN!
People rarely fit neatly into the “boxes” we want to put them in. Even if we fit a certain stereotype, we’re all walking around with interests, habits, and personal histories that make us unique. Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t know all there is to know about a man based on the kind of shoes he wears to work, right? If you are completely healed from your previous relationship and are happy being alone, ready to stroll and have fun, this step is a piece of cake. (At this point, do I really have to say it? Do steps 1-3 first. Got it? Good. I’m so proud of you!) Approach every new encounter and every date without positive OR negative prejudice, only neutrality. Everyone has their own core desires in regard to morals, religion, family aspirations, and so on. Again, don’t compromise on those. BUT maybe step out of your comfort zone a little and go on dates with people who don’t fit your supposed “type.” This could be eye-opening, or it could solidify that your type is, in fact, your type. You never know until you try!
Bottom line, divorce can feel like rock bottom, and really, it kind of is. But at least there’s only one way you can go from here. Up! Keep your chin up, darling. The healing may not be easy, but it’s worth it.
Now, go get started on Step One. Go on’now. Shoo!
Until next time…
Love y’all and good luck,