Dating After Divorce, Breakup or Loss

By Tina B. Tessina, Phd, LMFT

Deciding to date again after a loss or breakup is not easy. The first order of business is grieving and healing. If you try and skip over the hurt and grieving and find someone else right away, you’ll most likely wind up in a “rebound” relationship, which will suffer from the unprocessed pain of the prior relationship. When you do your emotional processing, grieving, talking to friends, analyzing what went wrong, until you feel ready to date again, you’ll do better in the next relationship, because you’ve learned from the first one.

If your previous relationship was a serious one of some duration, it will take at least a year to complete the grieving and move on. If it was short or less serious, it can be gotten over more quickly. When you process what happened in the previous relationship, looking at the clues that indicated, for example, that the previous partner wasn’t a good choice, or that poor relating skills, unrealistic expectations, or lack of commitment created the problems that killed the romance, you will be better prepared to make a better choice next time. If your loss was not a breakup, and your partner passed away, the grieving process is more about honoring the memory of that person, then working through what you want now.

The thought of dating again might be exciting, but every time you think of actually doing something about it, you’re terrified. Perhaps what you have tried so far has not gone well, and you need some guidelines.

Dating successfully Steps:

1. Recovery from the breakup or loss.

2. Understanding what went wrong in the last relationship, if you don’t want to repeat the pattern.

3. Identifying the kind of partner you’re looking for.

4. Developing social networks involving these kinds of people.

5. Once you’ve done all that, finding a new love is simple, because you’ve changed the odds to be in your favor.

Getting ready to date again:

No matter how well prepared you are, every dating experience will be unique. Some will obviously be better than others. The whole point of dating is to meet new people, and get to know them. In the process, you are likely to make some friends of both genders, and to have a lot of interesting experiences.

To get ready for dating again, get your life in order. If you have children, make sure they have a stable environment before you worry about dating. Do whatever is necessary to re-build your confidence and prepare yourself to find a suitable partner. Plan to go slowly and carefully, and not to repeat previous mistakes. If you need coaching or therapy to do this, please get it.

Since everyone you meet will be a unique individual, there’s no way to be completely prepared for what will happen. What will happen is a surprise. If you are prepared to learn and to be surprised, seeking to control only your own responses, and prepared to make realistic plans and decisions, you’ll enjoy most of the experience.

Becoming Open minded:

Consider accepting that dating is venturing into the unknown. It’s like exploring and learning and you will be in the best possible frame of mind. Then you will be able to enjoy the adventure and get the best results.

If you’ve never been single before, you’ll get enormous help from your single friends — how to sleep well alone at night, how to get your social life going, do’s and don’ts on first dates, places that are good to go to. Be careful whose advice you take. Take the advice of the friend who is doing it the way you’d like to do it. Don’t take “places to go” advice from a friend who drinks a lot more than you, for example. And don’t take relationship advice from someone who sleeps around, if that’s not how you want to do it.

Talking about Past Relationships:

How you talk about your past relationship depends on how new your date is. Of course, you’ll need to explain that you’re single, and that usually leads to the “divorced or widowed?” question. If you met online, your profile will already have answered that. If you’re widowed, you may still be wearing a wedding band, so you should explain that. For a new date, one simple statement, such as: “I’m divorced/ widowed for (however long)” should suffice. If the relationship continues past the first couple of dates, then each of you needs to share more about what happened in your previous relationship(s.)

You’ll probably be nervous, so be careful not to talk too much and monopolize the conversation. Each time you reveal something about yourself, follow it up with an invitation for your date to reveal something. “Was it like that for you?” or “What do you think?” This keeps the information sharing even and mutual.

Finding Forever

To find a life mate, use the ‘get a life’ method: focus on activities that you enjoy (sports, classes, volunteering or political, social, charitable or religious activities) which involve meeting other people and creating a social circle. If you are doing things that are meaningful to you, you’ll automatically have something in common with anyone you meet there. It will also move your focus from desperation to something productive, which will bring out your most attractive character traits. As a bonus, you also get to observe whoever you’re interested in interact with other people, which will tell you a lot about his/her character. Dating doesn’t have to happen until you are already quite sure you two are mutually compatible and interested, and success is almost guaranteed.

If don’t feel like you’re in “mint condition” due to grief and loss, that’s a prime reason to get out and do something productive. Your best character traits shine in that environment. It’s easy to focus on surface things and not look beneath, but in a long-term, loving relationship, looks very quickly cease to matter, and character is what counts. When you have repeated social contact with someone, love can grow without either party really being aware of it. The two of you develop a relationship “infrastructure” in an organic, natural fashion, as opposed to forcing it. Such relationships often last a long time, because they’re reality based.

Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (www.tinatessina.com) is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 40 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 15 books in 17 languages, including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today; It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of DysfunctionThe Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After FortyLove Styles: How to Celebrate Your DifferencesThe Real 13th Step , How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.  She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog (drromance.typepad.com), and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.  Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts, including on GenerousMarriage.com. She tweets @tinatessina

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