09 May 2012

10 Tips for Dating After a Divorce (Also Helpful for Anyone Single)

Dating after a divorce is nuts.  It just feels naughty.  I swear, for months I just couldn't believe that I could actually think of a guy other than my husband.  Or flirt with a guy.  Let alone go to dinner with one - hold a guy's hand - let him touch my knee at dinner - and um....even make-out if I wanted.  Holy crap.  That was all unbelievable.  And yes, I felt like I was 16....but b-e-t-t-e-r.  You see, wisdom and strength is sexy.  It helps you to feel confident.  Feeling that confidence and wisdom is more attractive than anything.  And I can tell you I didn't feel that at 16.  But at 32 after having many life experiences, I decided to let that wisdom and experience work for me.  And you can, too.

Here are my best tips - gained from either my own experience or from the good advice from others, when I, too, was newly divorced...

People have different ideas about this and may even voice their opinions to you about when you should date (ha!), but just trust yourself to know when you feel ready.  You'll know.  I felt very ready early on.  So did Danny.  But our situations may be unique.  And we also did not have kids.  Other people might be in a different stage and might need more time to  heal and regroup, which is perfectly fine.  If you don't feel ready, I highly recommend that you be very kind to yourself by ACTIVELY working on healing yourself & caring for yourself in whatever ways you need.  Don't choose to dwell in sorrow and pity and remorse.  Please, please, please work hard each day to move on from that.  And of course, if you have children, then I'm sure you'll be thinking of their needs first and foremost.

Divorce is definitely taboo and frowned upon in many circles.  And that can add heaps of shame to your countenance as you face the public with the news of your divorce.  You don't need that.  May I plead with you to let go of that shame.  While I hold marriage as very sacred, once the divorce was in motion, I tried to see it simply as one of my life's trials - one that wasn't a whole lot different than various other big trials that people face.  Whether the divorce was caused by (or chosen by) you or your spouse or both.....what's done is done.  Choose to look forward with a clean slate and decide that you will rededicate your life to living the kind of life you would want for yourself.  Shame will only hold you back from that and get you into more bad situations. 

Experience brings wisdom.  Even if you've screwed up, you still have had some life experiences - ones that can help you and teach you how to be better.  So as you face dating, feel proud of those life experiences & the new knowledge that you have.  Feel proud that you've had an opportunity to learn a thing or two.  A friend of mine told me early on that the experience she gained from marriage and divorce gave her an edge in the dating scene.  I tried to let it do the same for me.  And I projected confidence & peace when the divorce came up on a date...because I was a changed woman because of it...and I wouldn't have traded that for anything.

No matter how tempting it is, do not let your miserable experiences during your divorce or previous break-up or childhood (or whatever) be the foundation for the bond you form with someone.  I have seen this happen over & over & over in people's relationships (people think they are great together because they "understand each other's pain.")  UGH!  I say do not make "misery" your company, especially in your marriage. Instead, pick out the positive outcomes of your trial...think of what you've learned because of your trials.  Don't dwell in the pain of the past - think of what you want your life to be like now and in the future.  Think of who you are and the good qualities that you have.  Think of all the positive things in your life and in others lives.  Then bond over those positive things; make those positive things the foundation of your relationship & the things that you want to have in common.  So many people said to Danny and I - "Oh, it must be so great that you guys have both been divorced and been through the same hardships - you guys are perfect for each other."  We constantly had to correct people and say that actually, divorce is not at all why we were drawn to each other, and that we rarely if ever talked about the negative aspects or pain of divorce.  We are together & perfectly matched because of the happiness and goodness and hope and love that we have chosen to have in our lives! :)  That was our bond then.  And it still is.

Too often I hear people say they want to marry someone who fulfills them whether it is emotionally, spiritually, financially, intellectually, physically, etc.  This is a dangerous way to think!  Use this time to learn how to feel WHOLE with or without a partner.  Learn how to fulfill yourself.  Trust me....learning to do this will empower you & bring you more attractiveness & light than anything else I can think of.  It's necessary for healthy dating, relationships, marriages and parenting.  So if you feel you could use some repair work when it comes to feeling "whole" - make sure you tackle that.  Get the help & support you need - both from professionals, friends and family you admire, books, etc.  Do not just let this slide.  Take action to feel better about yourself and your life...and your dating experiences (& life) will substantially improve.  

If you want to date, I say make it known.  Go to events and gatherings where you are likely to meet someone.  I think dating is like finding a job.  A date doesn't just fall from the sky.  You have to let people know that you are ready and interested in dating.  And yes, do I dare say - tell friends and family to keep you posted if they know of anyone they'd recommend.  I did this all the time.  And I couldn't be happier that I did :) 

Ha!  OK, I am actually very frugal.  And I believe in us all rising above our appearance or our image. BUT....if you are going through a divorce or a rare major break-up, this is one time in life when I wholeheartedly recommend doing whatever you can to feel HOTT (unless spending money is what got you into that mess).  I think just about anyone can feel uplifted by being spruced up.  So get a haircut, buy a new outfit, get a manicure...whatever little thing will make you feel great.  [I know Danny bought a new jacket and a few new shirts.  I got my hair done more often and got a few new clothing items.]  Obviously, divorce can take a financial toll, though.  And the economy sucks.  So I certainly don't recommend going crazy with spending nor is it a good idea to go into debt for this, because now is a time to be as financially smart as you can.  But, still......if you can budget a bit of money, GO GET HOT and then call it good.  Cause we're human & no matter how enlightened we get, it still just feels good to look good.

On a girls' trip with all my married friends, before I started dating, I bought some new perfume.  My friend recommended a really delicious perfume which to this day, I just love...it's Hanae Mori.  My friend told me that every time she wore it, "guys always asked her what she was wearing" and that she had "tons of dates during that time."  Um, it took me all of two seconds to buy that stuff on the spot. And would you believe, sure enough, on the very first day (!) I wore it, I had guys commenting on it!!!  One guy smelled me on the street as I was walking by and said......."ohhh, that smell is my favorite!" Another guy said he has always loved that perfume and he sprays it on his sheets.  Oh my.  Seriously?  I had to call my friend right away on the street and we just laughed.  Anyway, GO BUY HANAE MORI.  Or anything else that is new & delicious to you.  I swear, a new scent will just be great for a fresh start (and it makes you feel sexy!!)

This is probably the social scene you are used to.  I always loved being around other married couples while dating - it made me feel more at home than being in a room full of people who had never been married.  The first guy I dated after my divorce hung out almost completely with married couples - and I LOVED it - it was a nice way to transition.

Ha!  Oh my.  This one's hard to do, trust me.  If you think it's hard to restrain yourself prior to being married at all, well - it's like 1,000 times worse to restrain yourself after you've been married.  Yikes.  I need to write a whole post about this.  Cause those instincts are so there and they can get you into trouble.  And even though I support no sex before marriage (not just because I'm Mormon, but from experience) - - I still think that for anyone, jumping into a physical relationship too soon will just muddy the waters.   So, my advice is this:  force yourself to hold way, way, way back for awhile after a divorce.  Pretty soon those married/free-for-all instincts will no longer be there...and you can start handling yourself with some dignity and a clear head as you date and try to have healthy, positive & meaningful relationships going forward.

Do you guys have any other thoughts or tips to add?

(photo source)

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great tips. I'd love a post about restraining yourself! You are right, it is super tough.

  3. ditto above...great tips!

  4. I could write an entire book about why #4 is a bad idea! And completely agree with #5 as well. Great advise, thanks!

  5. and when you're doing all of those things and still don't have a date....just enjoy life and trust in your Heavenly Father's plan for you :)

  6. bingo! add this to the agenda of things to discuss when we walk around the park. rather - dating divorcees...

  7. this is beautifully written. while i have never been divorced (nor do i plan to be) i do have friends that have been. thanks for always being so honest! your the best.

  8. I'm single and I really appreciate this post. I can learn a lot from your experiences and I believe what you say. So, thank you! Thanks for the reminder of #4 and #5! And #6 takes courage and vulnerability! Thanks for everything, Mara!

  9. I am recently divorced and think you nailed it with this post...great great advice!

  10. Thanks for the tips :P


  11. Thanks so much for this! I'm finally feeling 'ready', but wondering how I will find the opportunities to date. As a single mom, that is a little tricky but I am excited to see how different the dating experience is this time around. (Guess I need to work on #6, right?) I definitely feel more confident in who I am and my ability to be happy all on my own.

    #8 is so true--it was one of the most liberating things I did after I got separated!

  12. #11 You are in control! Do NOT go on any sort of date that you're uncomfortable with. You say when and where and for how long. I went on waaaaay too many creepy dates up in the mountains with STRANGERS. Luckily nothing happened but I learned to never do that again!

  13. Mara (or Danny) - I LOVED this! I feel like you hit the nail on the head with every single one of them. I felt so good reading this, because these are all concepts I've thought about, but to hear them spoken through another's voice really solidified them in my mind. You are so insightful and so clear with your thoughts. Thank you!

  14. Great post; you gave some really good advice! Especially about the no bonding over a divorce. That happened to me right after I got divorced. I met someone (too soon) and we immediately felt this "great connection" because we had such similar experiences. It ended up being a great learning experience for me, but more along the lines of "that was a bad idea, I will never do that again."

    Anyway, something that is really helping me is to remember that I don't have to know right away how I feel about someone. Gray areas are very uncomfortable for me, but I am learning to live in them with dating. I am learning to just have fun and not place expectations on a situation or project any sort of outcome. It is really hard for me to do that, but when I can, my dating anxiety is alleviated. I feel like I can be more present and in the moment with someone if I can relax about needing to make any kind of decision on a first, second, or third date.

    I just moved, and I feel like I finally, truly have a clean slate. I am no longer "recently divorced" to myself. I am finally just ME! I love it!

  15. This is a great topic to address! I've been divorced for 5 years and have done all but one or two of these things. I especially endorse numbers 1,2,4,5, and 10. I got divorced after 12 years of marriage, and with 3 children. I'd never planned on doing so, and I wasn't the one who initiated it, however, by facing it in a positive way, it has become one of the best experiences in my life as far as personal growth, development, and opportunity. Keep your standards high, and you will be happier, and things will work out for the best!

  16. What worked for me? - one of the first things I did was to find support. As a man, we don't get the same communal support women do, so I had to seek it out. I found a local DivorceCare class, a faith-based curriculum. (It's a program found almost everywhere in the country.) It helped me to mentally prepare for the tumult that divorce brings about. It also helped me to use the scriptures to work through the issues. I highly recommend this class to men and women in divorce.

    All of your recommendations are excellent words of wisdom. #10 is especially important and, at least for me, the one that has the greatest impact on my energy. It was very difficult at first, especially while trying to assuage the pain of divorce. We are all hard-wired to seek physical touch, and the full expression of love floods the brain with endorphins - enough to overcome pain, at least temporarily. But now that I'm in an abstinent relationship with a beautiful woman I am finding that there is a benefit to abstinence during courtship. My love for her is deepening on a scale I never experienced before. It's not that I previously viewed women as objects, but I am learning what is described in scripture as "pure love." It is solidifying our relationship before we even take it to the next step - if that is what Heavenly Father intends for us.

    Aside from this particular article, I have experienced the transformation you write about throughout this blog. We can all find great peace through our trials if we choose to. It takes work. At some point we all have to say "ENOUGH ALREADY! I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY!" Just in the past few months I've reached a point where I begin everything with a perspective of love - my family, challenges, my clients, my friends, strangers...every person, every problem, and every opportunity. Love my enemies? I thought I practiced that before, but now I can say that when I face adversity my first reaction is to apply greater love to the problem, and look for the positive. Love can truly overpower any other emotion or adversity we face. It just takes study and practice! I've been trying to write down everything I did to reach this place so I can teach others how I did it. I think I'll just send them the link to your blog! Your writing clearly articulate the many minute steps it takes to alter our thinking and to become the people that Heavenly Father knows we can be - happy, empowered people full of joy in all things, with a love for all people. Godspeed!


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