It’s a miracle.
Just thinking that you might want to date again is a miracle.
Remember what happened last time?
But here you are. You took your lumps, and you’re ready to try again.
Maybe you’re feeling pressured to date. Your mother and a few of your close friends think you should throw yourself back in the dating pool, even though you reassure them you’re happy. They don’t like the thought of you being alone.
Being alone is the least of your worries, but you indulge them. You put a profile up online. You get a few hits.
But when an interested man asks you out for coffee, it all goes wrong. Your heart starts pounding, you panic, and you can’t get away fast enough. You thought you were ready to try this dating thing again. What happened?
Maybe your head wasn’t on the same page as your heart.
We can intellectually convince ourselves we’re ready for dating long before our hearts are ready to take the dip.
We can move on rationally long before we’ve moved on emotionally. We have to; we’ve got too much to do. We may need to make new living arrangements, sort out the finances, get the children settled, and coordinate the 1001 details involved in starting a brand-new life from scratch.
In all that organizing and sorting and planning, our hearts get left behind.
There’s no time or space to feel. If you let yourself feel, you might end up having a breakdown, and you can’t have a breakdown. Your to-do list isn’t done yet.
So how do you know when you really are ready to date again?
Look for these 5 green flags.
1. You feel neutral towards your ex.
Love and hate are two sides of the same coin.
As long as you feel an intense emotional response to your ex, whether positive or negative, then you’re not over him yet. You’re still emotionally tied to him.
Which means you’re not yet free enough to be fully emotionally available to any man you do meet.
Wait until the sound of his name can float past you with no reaction. Then you’ll know you’re finally free to open your heart to someone new.
2. You’ve made sense of what happened in your head.
In the immediate aftermath of divorce, the story we often tell ourselves is:
I can’t believe I married such a jerk.”
In other words, if you hadn’t been so naïve, you’d never have fallen for a man like him. You made a mistake, you suffered the consequences, and now you’re moving on.
That’s one story. But it’s not the final story.
It’s not the final story because it doesn’t give you any real closure. It feels like it explains your marriage, but it doesn’t.
You’ll know you’re getting closer to the real story when you start to see that everything was more complicated than you originally thought it was.
It wasn’t that you were naïve; you fell for your husband in hopes of getting some very specific needs met. It’s not that your marriage was a failure; there were some good times along with the bad. It’s not that those bad times ended your marriage; there were other contributing factors.
When you’ve finally made as much sense out of it as you can, you’ll know. You’ll feel a sense of closure. That story is done. You can close the book and set it aside.
3. You’ve forgiven yourself.
Once you’ve made sense of it all, you should have the understanding you need to forgive yourself for your part in what happened.
Oddly enough, forgiving yourself is even more important than forgiving him, because you don’t have to live with him anymore, whereas you do have to live with yourself.
Guilt is a terrible burden to bear, and divorce brings it on us in spades. We feel guilty for everything we didn’t do and everything we did. We should have known better, we should have tried harder, we should have seen through his lies…. There are so many shoulds and coulds.
Dump the guilt. You don’t need it. Learn what you can, and let the rest go.
4. You’ve forgiven men.
Long after your ex is out of your life, you can find yourself looking at men differently. It can take a while before you fully trust any man again.
Divorce reveals the dark side of the human psyche. You may have seen a side to your ex that you never imagined existed. You wonder how many other seemingly nice men have that dark underbelly.
It’s very easy to generalize from your experiences and assume that all men are the same. Rationally speaking, you know they’re not … but your heart may not be so confident.
Some women respond by putting up a permanent wall in their hearts. They won’t allow a man to get the upper hand ever again. They make disparaging remarks about men. They keep men in their place.
That won’t serve you, either. If you want to love again, you need to leave a door open.
Forgive men for not being who you wanted them to be. They’re only human, just like you.
5. You know what your children can handle.
If you have children from your marriage, then you already know how tricky it’s going to be to introduce someone new.
Many children dream of their parents reuniting. Meeting Mom’s new boyfriend or Dad’s new girlfriend destroys that dream. The new love interest can be met with disinterest, disgust, or outright hostility.
That’s why some experts suggest waiting to introduce a new partner until at least 2 years after the divorce. It can take that long for children to get used to the new situation.
That doesn’t mean you have to wait years before you begin dating again. Date when you’re ready, but do so discretely. Let your relationships unfold off-stage. Keep your dates out of your children’s lives until it gets serious.
When you finally meet someone who matters a lot to you, and you feel instinctively that he’ll be in your life for a long time, then you’re ready to introduce him to your children. Do it consciously and sensitively. It won’t be easy for him to gain their trust, but it can and should happen over time.
Meanwhile, the time you spend as a single woman after a divorce isn’t time wasted.
Use that space to work through your thoughts and feelings. Make sense of what happened to you. Reach a place of forgiveness as best you can.
Then, and only then, take that next step.
Prove to yourself that you can love again.