Dating After Divorce: Common Pitfalls

I received a message the other day from a woman who was recently divorced after fifteen years of marriage. But that’s not why she was reaching out. She was instead asking for help dealing with the utter devastation she was feeling at the end of a six month relationship.

She seemed surprised at the depth of her response.

I wasn’t.

Dating after divorce is often a journey through murky waters. Every encounter and action can have multiple layers, as we work through the end of one marriage, heal ourselves and learn to be in a new relationship. Those events take time and often result in certain stumbling blocks in dating after divorce.

Beginning Deja-Vu

If you were in a long marriage and you were faithful, it has probably been a long time since you have experienced the particular thrill that can electrify the early stages of infatuation. In fact, the last time you felt that intense passion and excitement may well have been with your ex, back when you thought they were the best thing ever. Anyone can get swept up in the romance of new love, but if you’re associating it with the beginning of long marriage, you’re even more at risk for reading more into it than there is. The beginning is always intense. But it’s what happens after that matters.

The Gift of Hope

When a marriage ends, it’s easy to feel unlovable. Broken, even. This belief is even more prevalent when infidelity or abandonment occurred and a partner is left wondering why he/she is not good enough. It’s common to fear that you will be alone. That no one will want you. When that first glimpse of love again occurs, it is though the clouds parted and let the sun through for the first time after a long, dark winter. It’s a sign that maybe you’re not broken beyond repair and that you can be loved as you are. Be careful, though. Because if you’re projecting damage, you will attract those who want to fix – white knights and enablers. It may feel good for a time, but they need you to remain broken. Is that what you want?

Warp Speed

When one has been married, one knows how to be married. And one often forgets how to date. Recent divorcees are known for rushing in to a relationship and then rushing in to commitment. It’s usually not intentional. It’s just the comfort zone. But getting to know someone takes time. If you’re talking home buying before you have discussed deepest fears and witnessed their most important values, you’re falling in love with an idea rather than a person. Slow down. 

Loss Amplified

Loss often triggers memories of other loss. Especially when a new relationship is entered soon after divorce, healing may be delayed. After all, it’s more fun to focus on the new romance than the demise of the old. But the thing about feelings is that they refuse to stay buried for long. As a result, the end of even a superficial connection can feel immense as it triggers the emotions buried from the earlier loss. What you feel may not always be a result of what just happened; cause and effect of emotion is more nuanced than that.

By all means, go out and date when you’re ready.

But please, keep your eyes open.

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19 thoughts on “Dating After Divorce: Common Pitfalls

  1. Reblogged this on The Coachable Coach™ and commented:
    I’m working on a piece about how the emotion of loneliness (usually associated with a negative feeling, anti-social and “isolated” feeling) and solitude (more often associated with a more “exploratory”, mindful feeling of “freedom”), and how these feelings relates to, and defines, your behavior. Found your blog post of great interest and value for not only dating after divorce but for the struggle people who don’t feel they are good enough or wanted, go through.

  2. I came across this site in preparation for a divorce due to an abusive and adulterous wife but she was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and her death made it unnecessary. I nursed her into the grave which and took care of her.

    After what I experienced, “dating” is something I would avoid completely avoid any sort of “emotional” involvement. I found that starting with the physical and simply find someone who you get along with who is sexually compatible and work with that until one is ready to move on.

    Sex and intimacy are two different things as I know we all know and mixing the two too soon seems like a sure what to get hurt or strung out or hurt or whatever.

    Death and divorce are a long way away but am glad I am not dealing with a divorce which might sound harsh but when women are abused by men and that man gets killed there is a lot less judgment when if a woman was to say, “sorry son of a bitch got what he deserved.”

    When an abusive wife and mother is introduced to her Karma, what I experienced is that her circle of friends and employers try to paint her as something she was not.

    Good luck –

  3. Making male and female friend after a divorce is most important. People to enjoy time with after all the stress you went through. Then dating can happen naturally, when you are ready for it. You make some great points, especially about superficial break-ups and past emotions.

  4. I’m apparently susceptible to being blindsided. After being cheated on and abandoned by my wife (after 20 years together), my first real post-divorce relationship (year and half) just ended. Five days before she told me she wanted to call things off, she posted on Facebook that I was her best friend and that she “couldn’t be happier.” No lead up, no fight, no warning, no incident – I was completely caught off guard.

    It took a day before the full impact hit me but the result was a week of crying myself to sleep and not eating. I think there was definitely more wrapped up my feelings than just the break-up. It was the loss of trust again. She’d been kind and I eventually truly trusted her – which left me feeling shell-shocked and wondering – is this just how it goes? Do relationships just end this way? Is there something wrong with me that I can’t see these things coming?

    I’m still reeling. If this is indeed how relationships work, I just can’t imagine doing this over and over again without it hardening my heart beyond the point of ever being truly open again.

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