The divorce is settled and you're ready to date. You've spent time processing everything, and now you're interested in meeting someone new. The problem is that you don't know where to start! It's been a while. Though you took the vows however long ago to your now ex-spouse, you never expected that you'd ever be here. So now what?
It can appear to be a demanding task, but it doesn't have to be. There are things you can do to make this "process" as stress-free as possible. The results are up to you. You do have the power to create your reality. Remember that.
So where to begin?
First things first, you must unpack all emotional baggage so the healing process can begin. What happens all too often is that people tend to jump right on the dating scene because they're lonely. If loneliness is an issue, steer clear from dating! You'll find yourself acting out of desperation, settling, and being driven by emotions that ultimately drive men away. Know the reason that you want to date, and ensure they're the right reasons. The wrong reasons will get you in trouble.
Wrong reasons would be loneliness, rebound, seeking a replacement, wanting sex, not wanting to be left out of the "fun" that you see others having. The right reasons would be healthy fun with the opposite sex, to meet someone (or some people), to see what's out there, to fulfill basic need for human companionship, or marriage. Just know what your reason for dating is.
I always say to date with a purpose. But only you know what that purpose is. I believe as Christians, the reason should be companionship, long-term relationship, or marriage. It doesn't mean expect that whoever you date is going to be your next romantic partner or significant other. You should obviously see positive qualities in this person, noticing they can benefit your life and not cause you to compromise in any way.
When kids are involved, beware!
If you have children that are underage, I think it's best to evaluate whether they are prepared for you to move on as well. It's easy for both parties to forget that when a divorce takes place, it doesn't just affect them. It affects the children as well. They're grieving the loss of the union as well. Significant changes take place in their emotional and mental state as well. Don't make decisions solely based off how they feel, but do take their stance into consideration as well.
Perhaps casually bring it up at dinner to see what the response would be. "Would you like it if I ever got remarried again one day?" Starting further along is a way to go because you can always work your way back. Maybe then bringing up dating or seeing how they'd feel about you dating someone new in the future. Whether you do this in the form of a lighthearted question or a silly statement, the choice is yours. Just ensure they're prepared as well.
Increase your self-awareness
Do you know who you are and what you want? Self-awareness is a conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Women are known to become who someone else wants them to be. Fighting to be accepted leads to watering down yourself as a means to get a date, spouse, job, promotion, friends, etc. Never good. You must accept yourself unconditionally.
Unconditional acceptance is at the root of many failed relationships. There's a person that doesn't know who they are because they lack self-acceptance. They're earnestly seeking someone to validate them and accept them for who they are. The problem with this is that the unknowing partner will initially accept someone that wasn't being truthful about who they are. The one pretending is stressed trying to keep the facade of whom they initially presented, thinking the person would never want to be with them if they were themselves.
Unconditional acceptance is at the root of many failed relationships.
Know yourself. Embrace yourself! Every part of it. Even the part that may feel ashamed about being a divorcee. You're not alone. You won't be the first or the last to go through a divorce. Don't let it define you. Take the label off yourself, because you're still special, chosen, and worthy. Be honest about what went wrong, but also be honest about what you want going forward. Maybe you want a friend to accompany you for dinner one or two nights a week. That's fine. Maybe you want someone to talk to occasionally. That's fine, too. Perhaps, you realized that the signs were there regarding your first marriage, but you want to try your hands at marriage again in the future. That's perfectly fine as well. Just be honest.
Have reasonable expectations as you put yourself back out there. Don't expect that he's a fraud or that it won't work like the last one. Also don't expect that things will take off pretty quickly. Expect it to be a good time with a potential new friend. Nothing more, nothing less. I released a book on dating in the 21st Century for Christian women. Check it out here if you desire. Understand dating is dating. It doesn't equate to exclusivity or commitment. Dating is what you make it. Just ensure that your partner is in the loop and shares the same beliefs and desires. Remember that your next isn't your ex. You can't size up every person and compare them with your last. Nor can you ramble on and on about your ex in conversations. This makes things awkward. And it's something that many men have admitted is a turn off...
Boundaries are key!
Have boundaries as you enter into this new chapter. Know what you will and will not tolerate. Know what you do and don't want. Have a list of standards that you'll live by. You've been through a divorce before, and surely you don't want to endure it again. Figure out what you can do now to avoid it at all costs. Spend time with God. Have standards and boundaries. Be healed with no unpacked bags. Know who you are and accept that person. Keep an open mind and have realistic expectations.
When it's all said and done, whether you're divorced or not, dating should be fun with no stress. Relax and have fun! Communicate and let your hair down. Keep God at the center and breathe. Know your worth and laugh. It'll all be alright.
"An important part of dating is communicating. We communicate by sharing our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. We enjoy being with someone when we have an easy time communicating or when we have a lot to talk about." John Blytheway