Growing up, many of us learned to value and naturally imagine our futures. We fantasized about who we would become when we grew up. That included who our future mates may be and what they’d look like, and our role in caring for our imaginary children. Others fantasized about a life partner or a career while children and a family were not on the agenda. For some people, singlehood without parenthood was the path. Either way, we all hoped that when we married, our unions would be happy and perhaps lifelong ones.
Most of us, when we bond or pair with another, especially when exclusive and monogamous, want it to work. However, studies described by the American Psychological Association show that “marriage and divorce are both common experiences. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.”
Childhood books, movies, and cartoons promise a certain “happily ever after.” Well-meaning parents and caregivers promise a happy and idyllic future. A stark contrast exists today. But we are adjusting to new rules in today’s world. The options for “happily ever after” have widened. Divorce is more common; therefore, more people are divorced and dating. We have included a rainbow of additional life options beyond traditional heterosexual marriage and divorce. We now accept and embrace gay marriage. We live in a culture where polyamory is a movement and polygamy is displayed on TV as a part of everyday life.
We hope that deep love, hot sex, and youthful idealism will last forever and with one person (in many cases). Even with issues raised from the start, when in a committed relationship, one must do all one can do to save the partnership or try and protect the children (if that applies). After all, when you have love, you have everything, right? No, not right. Love or sharing children is not enough to keep a marriage vital.
Since people grow and their needs change, humanity may possibly need to expand from mating with one person for life to two or more. Once divorce is a reality, we learn to accept relationship termination and lessons learned. The choice to appreciate the positive feelings, experiences, and outgrowths of the relationship (including sharing children) is always within reach.
So what do you do when you find yourself approaching the end of your marriage and welcoming a new way of life, a brand-new beginning? How do you date if you haven’t been in the dating scene for some time? When you do meet someone interesting, what messages you are sending and receiving, whether in person or on online dating? How can you navigate dating as a single person? Here are some dating tips post-divorce:
- Go at your own pace. You know when you are ready to date.
- Trust your instincts and how you feel when in the company of someone new.
- Respect your personal limits and only agree to what you are comfortable with.
- Be yourself, honestly and unapologetically.
- Notice your patterns and improve upon them.
- Learn from past mistakes. Allow your intuition and wisdom to guide you.
- Be willing to be open and take safe risks in order to try new things.
- Have fun with the process of dating. It’s a real adventure!
- Educate yourself on nonverbal language, active listening, and reading between the lines for in-person and online interactions.
- Trust your inner guidance system when sharing yourself or your story.
- Learn from each person you meet, date, or relate to. See what they do, more than say.
- Observe role models who have happy, healthy relationships: What do they do?
- Remember that dating is the same today as it was when you previously dated.
- Enjoy going to new places and learning about new people, their differences and similarities.
- Keep your heart and mind open.
Whatever you do, do it well. After all, we are all here to love, be loved, and learn. Love as much as you can and as often as you can. Be sure to love yourself and keep on learning.