When I felt ready to date again following my divorce, I remember it being an exciting and terrifying time.
Exciting: It was exciting to start thinking about a new beginning with someone who would love me for me. I went the route of online dating and was enjoying the interest I was gardnering from the opposite sex. It was flattering. On a less egotistical note, I was hopeful that the dreams of being a husband and father had not died with my divorce. Dating was a concrete step of faith in opening the door to restoration and redemption. Dating again was exciting.
Terrifying: I did not want to screw up again in my partner choice. This is a common fear, I have heard, from others who have experienced divorce and survived their former spouse’s infidelity. The terror of going through that again castes a shadow of doubt over the excitement. Also, I was scared that I would repeat mistakes I made in my first marriage–not saying those caused the divorce or adultery, mind you. I just did not want to be that person. Dating again was terrifying.
Here a few tips I learned in this process:
1) Have dealbreakers. I was not going to date or marry someone who could not be alone. And I was not going to marry or date someone who did not share my spirituality. And I needed to date someone to whom I felt attracted physically. Those are just to name a few of mine.
2) Be willing to walk away. I actually broke up with Mrs. DM while on a trip to NYC over the phone…or should I say she broke up with me. We got back together when I returned to MN a few days later and the rest is history. However, I was willing to walk away even with a relationship I sensed back then had great potential. It is when we hold something with a tight fist that we run into trouble. I ran into such trouble in my first marriage when I was so intent on getting married that I ignored some red flags I now see. If you are desparate for a romantic relationship, you will be willing to accept abusive behavior or sell yourself short. That is not a good place to be. Hold your dating relationship(s) with an open hand. Be willing to be single.
3) Understand all relationships are risks. We only control ourselves; so, that means it could happen again. That said, I was determined not to allow my ex-wife’s nasty behavior to me sour me to all relationships after her. That would be to give her–and Satan–incredible power over me. I was unwilling to grant that power to them. Even though my heart was certainly scarred for being so trusting, I was not going to allow such experiences ruin me from trusting people again. I would open my heart again. That was my choice, and I accepted that I would be hurt at times in my dating experience because I had made that choice.
4) Don’t be ashamed of your divorce. I struggled with this one early in my post-divorce dating experience. This is something I initially hid in my profile feeling ashamed. I would wait until later stages of communication to reveal it. After having girls bail on me after learning of that status, I decided to stop wasting our time. I put up my divorce status. If they cannot handle that up front, then they are not the person for you. You were divorced. And you survived the infidelity of your former spouse. Someone who has a problem with either is telling you they cannot love you for you as that will always be a chapter in your life story (or a footnote, if you prefer).
5) Own your choices. By this, I am encouraging you to assess your healing and decide yourself when you feel ready to date again. This was some advice given to me by a wise widower who had remarried and knew of my situation. I second this advice as ultimately it will be you who will pay the price or reap the reward in this area. That said, I think advisors and matching tools–like eHarmony–can be helpful. But the decision to date must be your own.
And I will add one last piece, please do not date until you are legally available. That is a matter of integrity. Stay strong and wait even if it takes time to obtain a divorce. You can use that waiting time to invest in yourself. This is something I did while my divorce was pending for months.
Dating after divorce is exciting and terrifying. We do not have to repeat our past. But we do not control other people. Risk remains but also does redemptive reward.
Who knows what kind of redemptive story God is writing with you?