When a couple decides to take that next step after dating, divorce is seldom on their mind. They’re looking forward to a blissful matrimony that should hopefully last forever. So, when things don’t work out quite as planned, it’s a shock to the system. Even if the couple and/or their loved ones saw it coming, the finality of a divorce feels like a loss. It’s a grief similar to that of death and therefore requires time to process. After time is spent alone reconnecting with oneself, dating is a more than reasonable way of “getting back out there.”

Whether through time alone or with friends, therapy or meditation, introspection and openness is the perfect precursor to letting love back in. From exploring the new age of dating apps to figuring out your first date outfit, it can all be overwhelming, but you’re certainly not alone. Here’s a closer look at dating after divorce. 

Finalizing Your Divorce Or Separation

Almost none of us predict that we’ll be filing for divorce from the person we considered to be our soulmate and/or best friend. However, if or when we do, here are some tips for next steps.

First, it is recommended that your divorce be final before you start dating. This is in order to move from one chapter to the next while minimizing as much mess as possible. Obviously, we can’t help when or how we connect or fall in love with someone. So, the quality of that time apart matters more than the quantity. The time that you spend asking yourself important questions makes a difference. It determines who we’ll attract and/or how the experience will unfold. If you want to date for dinners and sex, be honest with yourself about that. If you want to date to connect, be honest about that too– with yourself and your match. 

Remaining Honest While Dating

Honesty is the best policy always, but especially when you’re getting involved with another human being. This brings us to a major factor that will certainly impact any dating experience: should you decide to take things to the next level, intimacy-wise, disclosing your STI status is not only necessary, but a matter of respect. And at the bare minimum, we owe our lovers that level of respect regardless of the level of chemistry.

We may not take everyone home to mama, but if or when we decide to take them home, a conversation about health needs to be among the foreplay. You can sandwich in your divorce if you’d like, but use your discretion when sharing details about this chapter of your life. Trust is an important part of getting to know someone. Some recommend taking your time while others remind us to be mindful of the feelings that we experience.

Trust Yourself and Have Fun

Feelings can be long-lasting or fleeting, but in post-divorce dating, making room for the slow burn is also recommended, as is waiting to make introductions to family, particularly children. This person has probably shocked you with their attentiveness, ease and openness. Cherish that, protect it and have enough faith in it to not rush it. The same way that you grew after becoming single, you have the capacity to do that in connection to someone else especially if they’re as self-aware as you are.

While it can be scary to reenter the world of dating, no matter how long you were partnered, there is always excitement to be found in the unknown. Don’t take yourself too seriously when building a dating app profile or relearning how to flirt. There’s no right or wrong way to do any of it, and the right person will find humor in the awkwardness right along with you.

The trust that you built in yourself will allow you to gauge when and how it makes sense to build that with a current or future partner. Getting back out there looks different for us all whether virtual, in-person, via a meet-cute at a grocery store or a blind-date through a friend. We deserve to give ourselves permission to experience new joys, particularly through the second and third chances that we give to ourselves. “Finding happiness” can start with you. It can also be done in connection to our environment, our experiences, the people and places around us.