I have been reflecting a lot lately about my experiences with dating post-divorce and the many lessons I have learned along the way on my own journey. For many of us, the holiday season can be a time where we really miss having that companionship, someone to plan activities with especially when you see others displays on social media.
But I think it is so important to remember that the first few years post-divorce is just a season of life, it does not last forever and it can be a time of huge personal growth that ensures that you don’t end up in another long-term relationship that mirrors the marriage that did not work out.
Here are some of my take-aways and things that I work on with my clients who are just beginning their post-divorce path:
- Take the time to really get to know yourself again, learning to be OK with being single is a process, it takes letting go of the fear of being alone. Resist the urge to start dating right away, give yourself time for: reflection, personal growth work, hobbies, and building deep connections through friendships. Developing a full personal life helps ensure that when you begin dating you are not coming from a place of desperation to fill a void.
- Be aware of your past patterns when choosing a partner because many times we are unaware of our tendency to gravitate to people who feel familiar due to family of origin. The familiar is always healthy for us. It took me a few relationships to identify that I was doing this myself, eventually I was able to see a pattern emerge. I had to really focus on dating people who at first would not have been on my radar without this awareness. The book Love Is Not Enough by Mark Manson really highlighted this lesson for me.
- Each relationship that does not last is NOT a waste of time. There are lessons we can take from each relationship if we look at them as stepping stones to understanding ourselves, what we want and what will be best for us in this phase of life. I have grown so much over the years and learned so much about myself as each relationship ended.
- Have a list of non-negotiables, mainly lifestyle habits that you are not willing to tolerate and stick to it. I did not stick to mine and then I would get frustrated when they would not change, an act of futility.
- Date who they are, not their potential and make sure you are OK if they never change from where they are when you are dating them.
These are just a few things that I discuss with my clients on their journey post-divorce, everyone has their own lessons to learn. For some it is about trust and opening their heart again…overcoming fears…learning to trust one’s own intuition…finding safety and defining what that means to them…being aware of people pleasing behaviors that will stop them from being their full authentic self. There are so many layers to dating and it is important to take the time up front so that you are not spinning your wheels.