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Dating After Divorce

Dating 2

“I mean, I got married so I could stop dating.”

-Harry, When Harry Met Sally (Nora Ephron)

If you’re anything like Harry, you thought dating was a thing of the past. And yet, here you are.

Painfully aware that things don’t always work out quite like you hoped and planned. Half-tempted to scrap the whole idea of ever trying to partner up again. And half-crazed at the notion of giving up on love, forever.

Up ahead, the wonderful world of dating is peeking out around the bend, and it’s totally normal if you feel tentative in your approach. In hopes of calming your nerves and strengthening your resolve in the worthwhile pursuit of love and companionship, it’s helpful to get the lay of the land. Things have changed a bit since you last visited.

Let’s take a quick tour!

For those looking for love, creating an online profile on one or more dating sites is a common first step. Before locking in a paid membership, be aware that each dating service has its own vibe, reputation, and niche. Read up, and ask around, to educate yourself about which site(s) might serve your needs and interests best. Pro-tips: 

  1. Crowd-source advice before you pay a costly membership. 

  2. Commit to taking your time and going on lots of dates. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to avoid exclusivity for a predetermined amount of time. This may give you valuable insight and help you let go of expectations (i.e. being lucky in love right away, and giving up if that doesn’t happen.)

John Gottman, creator of the famous Love Lab and author of multiple New York Times bestsellers on love and relationships, went on 60 dates before meeting his wife of 30-plus years, and co-creator of The Gottman Institute. Seriously. Julie Gottman née Schwartz, was John’s 61st date, in his dating journey following his 2nd divorce. A friendly reminder that finding the kind of healthy love relationship that adds to your quality of life may take longer than you think, but is totally worth it.

Hobbies

Another wonderful entry point, although less targeted, is finding a club-style hobby. Not to be mistaken for clubbing, this approach to finding love offers many solid benefits to your well-being. Discover, or rediscover, activities that enrich your life, ignite sparks of joy, and build community, with the added potential benefit of meeting someone special who shares your interests. You can’t lose! Seek out groups, meet-ups, or even online forums (Damn Covid-19!) where you can create fun, renew your energy, and connect with others with similar interests and time on their hands.

If you haven’t had much free time in the last 10+ years, you may not even be sure where to begin when it comes to leisure activities. What lit you up in childhood? Start there, and see if those interests still have juice. It never hurts to try things that pique your interest for the first time, either. There are hobbies you’ve never considered before waiting to be discovered. Meeting in bars is so 90’s, but meet-ups ranging from game or movie buffs, to bookclubs, to birding, to personal growth, to hiking, to swing dancing, to anything else you can imagine are plentiful and hipAF. There’s nothing more organic and sexy than a person who’s fully invested in creating their version of an awesome life! Pro-tips: 

  1. Meetup is a great start for finding local groups/clubs. Start there. (Keep in mind that Meetup is not a singles or dating app.) 

  2. Post-divorce is a beautiful time of rediscovery and reinvention. Don’t waste it. Find your passion and your people, and you just might find your person in the process. 

Dating Sites & Apps

The obvious advantage to dating sites is that your fellow members are all, in theory, looking for a romantic partner. On the other hand, interest-based clubs are hard to beat when it comes to meeting people with shared interests. Often newly single people have spare time on their hands for the first time, as their divorce left a vacuum in their lives. Finding those who are also on the look-out for a shared passion, friendship and companionship, if not a romantic partner, is wicked smart. Never underestimate the importance of taking an active role in building a community for yourself during this season of your life. Enjoying yourself while you wait for that next special person will keep you from crying in your cheerios. And who knows! The friend you meet fishing may have a single sibling! 

If you decide to create an online profile on a dating service, there are more resources than you could ever use to aid you in that intimidating endeavor. From googling, dating podcasts, divorce and dating coaches, and social media dating gurus, to divorce membership sites like Avail, there’s no shortage of advice to walk you step by step through the process. (Included in Avail’s membership program is an entire module on online dating, as well as a specific facilitated dating forum, and dating book clubs where you’ll get expert advice and community support.) Creating an online profile, one that paints a picture of you in words and photos, is much less intimidating if you’re willing to invest in a little guidance. Don’t go it alone!

The invisible preparation for online dating is where to focus most of your attention. Where to find the next love of your life, via dating sites or meet-ups, how to resource pointers for the nuts and bolts of an online profile, and how to communicate with potential dates are really just the tip of the iceberg. Learning who you are, what you want out of your next relationship, what you value, how to be in a relationship without losing or denying yourself, and how to care for yourself in and out of relationships are all critical components of preparing to date. It may sound trite, but use this time to fall in love with yourself, dating or not.

The more energy you put into becoming the person you want to date, the better prepared you’ll be for dating. 

Relationship experts have written reams dissecting the elements of romantic love and attraction, relationships gone wrong, trauma bonds, attachment styles, as well as the parts each individual plays in architecting a relationship. While you wait, do the research on yourself, and examine your relationship style. One antidote that works equally well addressing the fears of being alone, as well as the equally paralyzing fear of dating again is increasing this awareness. You’re the common denominator in all of your past relationships, so roll up your sleeves and figure out the part you play, and whether or not you want to keep playing it. If not, learn some new moves! It’s never too late.

Do you have to wait to date until you’re “ready”?

That leads to the big question everyone’s asking: Do you have to wait to date until you’re “ready”? Yes. And no. As long as you’re aware that you’re in a transitional stage of learning and curiosity, dating can be an informative way to gain insights into who you are, who you choose, and what you want. A supportive team to help you in that endeavor is invaluable, whether that’s a group of trusted friends, a forum for sharing, or a coach who works with you one-on-one or in a group. With support, dating can be a profound season of maturity and personal discovery. Avail was founded by two divorcees who recognized the tremendous need, and set out to provide you with the tools, confidence and community you need to navigate divorce and the transitions that follow, including the adventurous terrain of dating.

There’s a world of interesting people to meet and experiences to have. Your life experience so far is evidence of a resilient person who doesn’t break easily. So relax! You can learn to trust yourself in the process of finding a life partner who’s a good fit.  With a sense of humor, courage and curiosity, dating can be loads of fun, and is something you can enjoy and embrace, throughout all of the exciting ups and downs. 

Avoid The Extremes

Bottom line, avoid the extremes: whether that’s the temptation to jump from the frying pan to the kettle or  the temptation to hunker down and accept a life alone. Dating will stretch you, and at times be uncomfortable. That’s ok! You’ve survived some of the most uncomfortable experiences life serves up, and here you are. Still kickin’. 

Release the Hollywood notions of love at first sight and set light-hearted, realistic expectations. Romance has many comedic elements to it, so cultivate a playful approach. With Avail’s support, you can relax! We’ll hold your sweaty palms as you step into the beautiful, exciting creation of your future love life. 

About The Author

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Molly Wilder

Alchemizing radical acceptance, fierce self-compassion, and a wiley arsenal of future-focused tools, Molly creatively engages her clients on a homecoming journey to the wild, untamed self. Drawing on a BA in Psychology, and 30 years of study in the field of personal development, Molly recently transitioned from Director of Training, Coaching + Facilitation for Stasia Savasuk’s wildly popular Style School, to a private divorce coaching practice. Guiding brave souls along their path to personal sovereignty, through divorce and beyond, is Molly’s jam. She contributes to the Avail community as a writer + group facilitator. Find her on Instagram @herwildhare

Dating After Divorce

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