Although dating can be fun and exciting, it can also be stressful and overwhelming, especially if you have been out of the dating scene for many years.
For some, returning to the world of dating can feel akin to climbing Mt. Everest blindfolded. The fact is, after going through a divorce or the painful death of a spouse, dating becomes more complex. There are many factors to consider, especially if there are children involved. And, dating has probably changed quite a bit since your free-spirited adolescence or college days.
Regardless of the complexities involved, there is something very special about opening yourself up to dating again. In doing so, you are acknowledging that you have healed from the loss of your former spouse and are ready to move on. You are also showing signs that you miss the companionship of another and that, just maybe, your heart is willing to take another chance at love.
Consider the following a “User’s Guide” to returning to the world of dating. Giving some thought to each of the questions and suggestions will not only help you decide if you are “date ready”, but will increase your chances of having a healthy relationship in your future.
How soon is too soon?
In our counseling practice, we are often asked how soon after a divorce or death of a spouse should one consider dating. Obviously, it depends on the individual, but generally it takes a year after a divorce and often longer after the death of a spouse for a person to be ready for a new relationship. The first year after a loss is a time to re-develop a sense of self and think about what you want to focus on in this new chapter of your life. Emotions are running high and your attention should be on self-care. The grieving process should never be rushed.
Parents should also be concerned with the needs of their children (who are also experiencing a range of difficult emotions) and should generally wait six months before introducing their new boyfriend/girlfriend to meet their children. The first three to six months of any relationship is the honeymoon period. Everything is fresh and exciting. After six months, couples tend to relax and show their “real” selves. Once you have established that you truly love this person, for better and for worse, it is safe to introduce them to your children. We know that children fare much better after divorce, for example, when their parents do not have a string of relationships coming in and out of their lives.
How much baggage are you carrying?
Before you go on your first date, it would be wise to take a “self-assessment” to determine if you are carrying around any old baggage from your last relationship. Simply stated, some people allow the end of a relationship to destroy them. They hold onto painful feelings, resentment and fear and spend the rest of their lives stuck in the past. Individuals who thrive and move forward, however, work through the healing process and see the loss as not just an ending, but also a new beginning.
This is not easy when you have been hurt or betrayed by someone. However, when you hold onto resentment, you have nothing to offer in a new relationship. Make sure you have healed old wounds before you enter the dating world. And remember, no one is blameless when it comes to a break-up. Take responsibility for your own mistakes so that you don’t carry this baggage into your next relationship.
If you are ready to date, make these eight dating tips your mantras:
1. Don’t get too serious too soon. Date for the sake of dating. As tempting as it is to jump in head first with someone you feel is your “soul mate”, give yourself the opportunity to meet new people and just have fun before getting into another serious relationship.
2. Leave the details of your past relationships at home. No one, not even your closest friends, want to hear your continued revenge-filled conversations about your ex. If the subject of your ex-partners comes up, be honest but keep it brief. Remember, you are out to have a good time!
3. Be yourself. Being your authentic self is one of the most important things you can do on your date. If he/she doesn’t find the real you appealing, they are not the right person for you.
4. Get to know your date. There is nothing more flattering than someone who listens intently and shows genuine interest in what you are saying. This also gives you a great opportunity to determine if you would like to see this person for a second date.
5. It’s a date not a therapy session. Even if you are at a place of tremendous soul-searching, the first few dates are not a time to delve into your deepest issues with your date.
6. Be what you want to attract. Think about all the positive traits you are looking for in a new partner and then ask yourself: “Do I have those qualities ?” People with similar emotional and mental health attract each other. If you are not at your best place, consider working on this first.
7. You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs… Every date will not be “the one” (which doesn’t really exist anyway), but each new person you meet may broaden your social circle and lead you to someone unexpected.
8. Learn to recognize red flags. If something doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t. Trust your intuition and don’t overlook negative qualities because you are lonely or worried you will never find someone better.
As daunting as it might seem to date again, you may find great pleasure in meeting new and interesting companions. You may also experience the excitement of physical and emotional chemistry with a new person. Finally, the possibility of experiencing great love again makes this endeavor worth risking!
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes
in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. Synergy is a unique counseling practice providing compassionate, solution-oriented treatment for adults, children, adolescents and families. She can be reached at 466.3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org