Are you ready to date?
There are a lot of people who mean well and like to help and offer advice without being asked, (something we all love) and strongly encourage divorced woman to immediately start dating after a divorce. They see a person they love that has gotten hurt and want to see that person move on and find their happiness. After all, if you’ve tolerated a bad relationship that finally ends, why wouldn’t it make sense to immediately start looking for something great with someone fantastic? A-hem. Seriously, what could possibly go wrong?
I felt this pressure from both my family as well as friends but didn’t let it overwhelm me or manipulate me to move on before I felt I was truly ready, because the reality is that a person going through a divorce needs time to heal and mourn the death of a relationship. Even if the relationship was bad and one that didn’t emotionally keep you hostage, you still need to heal from the life that should and could have been. One may even argue that especially in a bad relationships one needs time to reflect, heal and understand what truly transpired and why.
So how do we really know when we are ready to move on and start thinking about dating again?
Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
1. Did you take enough time to heal?
Allow yourself time to be angry, weep and rage before you put yourself out there again. Give yourself the time to grieve and deal with the emotional pain that comes along with the end of a marriage. Don’t push yourself to just get over it. It never works long term and will just work against you in the long run.
Give yourself time to get your single life in order. Perhaps you moved into a new home or got a new job. Concentrate your efforts on establishing a home and getting your finances together. Once you feel in control of life basics, you can begin to ponder dating.
The time it takes to recover from the blows of divorce varies with each person. Make sure your wounds are on the path to healing before you take the plunge into the sea of singles.
2. Do You Know the Single You?
You are now a single maneuvering through the world; give yourself time to adjust to being alone.
How well do you know yourself as a single person? If you are used to always being with someone else, you need to relearn what life for a single is all about. From waking up alone to managing money on your own to going out to dinner by yourself, it takes time to realize that you are ok alone.
Spend time doing the things you love. Work on every aspect of yourself from appearance to emotional issues that need addressing. If you feel you cannot handle the issues of divorce or being alone, seek counseling or professional help. Nurture yourself by taking good care of your emotional health, inner beauty and physical fitness.
If you are a single parent you will need more time, both to heal and get to know who you really are on your own and as a parent. If you are overwhelmed with being a single parent get some guidance from a mentor or therapist and a support group or friends that can help you. The emotional scars of divorce can impact your parenting abilities, but don’t criticize yourself for it and do not under any circumstance let that undermine your true potentials. Know it will just be temporary and once you get emotionally stronger and healthier you will be functioning a lot better. Nothing lasts forever, so the pain will eventually heal and you will find yourself again, but this time in a stronger and better version.
(We will address on how to handle your children if they don’t seem to be adjusting well to the divorce and/or you dating again)
3. Do You have a Solid Support Group?
After a divorce, the people you called friends may distance themselves. It may happen after lines are drawn and sides are taken. Friends you had during your previous relationship may decide not to take sides, fading into the background of your life. When this occurs, seek new friends that understand and know the new, single you. You may have lost faith in people and are afraid to open up and seek new friendships, but there is a life after divorce, and as hard as it is to trust and open up again, you have to try and move on and surround yourself with emotionally healthy people that will bring a positive glow into your life again. Do not allow any negativity to impact you. Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results, so get rid of any negative people that plant negative thoughts in your mind.
Family provides a soft cushion to fall on when life gets the best of you. Keep family ties close and let them in on what’s going on in your life. Allow your caring family to pamper and nurture you when it’s needed.
Be wise about what you tell family and friends. You can reveal everything or pick and choose what you want others to know.
4. Do You have a Healthy Self-Esteem?
Breaking up with someone who loomed large in your life shakes the foundations of the ego regardless of who wanted out. Feeling like a failure or unworthy of good things in life, including a solid, romantic relationship, may keep you from making good decisions.
Take steps to bolster your self-esteem. Make a list of everything good about you and keep the list where you can see it. Show a good friend or confidante the list you created and ask for feedback. Change the list to reflect your friend’s perspective.
Let go of the past. Reliving what you think you did wrong repeatedly does nothing for you. Learn from past mistakes and move forward in a positive direction. The Torah way is not to linger in mistakes, but rather learn from our mistakes and move on. If you find yourself stuck, know that it’s the yezer horah holding you back, it’s his strongest weapon to get you weak, for when we are weak we are bound to fail and fall into the traps that lead to more mistakes and pain in our lives. If you are struggling learn Gan Emunah, I felt that it helped me tremendously and there is a chapter in there on mistakes we have made which I really found very helpful. I say learn and not read, because it is a book one has to truly learn how to apply in order to reap the benefits and grow from it.
In psychology, self-esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. I would like to add that it also defines how much we love and accept ourselves.
The Torah tells us “Veohavto lereacho komoicho”, one cannot be in a healthy relationship or marriage if you don’t love and accept yourself for who you are. (We will address this topic in a separate post)
You have a lot to offer someone and never forget it. Respect yourself and your personal needs. Never think that you must lower your expectations or standards just to date someone or have a man in your life.
5. Can You Stay Clear of Unhealthy Behaviors?
After a breakup, the despondent nature of being alone may bring on unhealthy behaviors. Drinking or eating too much when alone may dull the pain, but brings on a new set of problems. Watch for over-eating or indulging in dangerous habits that you believe will fill the empty hole inside. You may feel as though you cannot be without someone in your life, but stay clear of settling for the first person you happen to meet, even if you are lonely, especially if red flags pop up.
Keep a daily journal of activities and how you feel each day. Create a list of alternative activities you can do when the urge to eat a quart of fudge ice cream threatens to overwhelm you. List things like: go for a walk, call a friend and take a bubble bath. When the mood strikes to grab the bottle of wine, look at the list and choose to do something else.
6. Are You Prepared?
Be ready to date after divorce by being prepared. Be prepared to feel lonely from time to time. Know that Yomim tovim and anniversaries may bring on the blues. As long as you have a plan of action in place and do not get bogged down by despair, you’ll do fine.
Reenter the world of dating by being prepared for rejection and not allowing it to devastate you. Dating is trying on potential partners for size and fit. If your date never calls you again, or isn’t interested don’t become devastated, just try and think of the cues that your date gave you that he just wasn’t that interested and move on with your life. Be selective and do not settle for less than you deserve.
A method I applied to dating that kept me positive, was to look at each person I met that didn’t end up being “Mr. right” as an experience and a lesson I needed to learn from. I always asked myself what did this date teach me about myself, or give me clarity about. Whether it was clarity about my beliefs, feelings, confidence or authenticity I tried to makes sure to walk away with something that enriched the core of my being. Don’t feel discouraged because you have met yet another Mr. Wrong. He was a shliach to get you one step closer to your real Mr. Right.
Get Out into the World
You are ready to date when you can answer the six preceding questions with a resounding, yes. Now all you need to do is get out into the world and start meeting people. Mr. Right or Mr. Possibly will not come knocking at your door; you must be proactive and set yourself up to meet new people.
There is no easy way to jump back into the dating saddle after divorce. Taking your time and taking care of you begins the process of healing. Rushing headlong into another relationship too soon after a split can do more harm than good. Learn that you can live with yourself, by yourself. If you fear risking your heart, start slow. Date someone you enjoy being with, but feel no romantic notion about and call it good practice. Keep moving forward in your life making it better, making it happy and when the right one comes along, you’ll be ready to date. Last but not least, dawen! Make it a habit to always ask Hashem to give you clarity and a sense of peace of mind. Say it with your own words, he understands and hears you. It will help you navigate through this challenging and sometime confusing stage. With Hashem help, time and clarity you will find the right person.