Is There An Appropriate Amount of Time I Should Wait to Date After My Divorce?

Is There An Appropriate Amount of Time I Should Wait to Date After My DivorceLast week I made the decision to end my 7-year marriage because of physical and emotional abuse. I feel like I’ve already been through those famous five stages of grief–denial with all the years I stayed in something unhealthy, bargaining was the last few years when I urged him to get counseling and tried to forgive him. Now I’m DONE. I actually feel a huge wave of relief and happiness and hope for a future of actual love and that I might someday find a guy who can be kind and compassionate the way I am and the way I deserve.

My question is this: How long is it necessary to wait before getting back into the dating scene? I should mention I have two small children and I don’t want to rush anything. I just want to ride this wave of optimism because I’ve never felt so confident and lovable before. What would you recommend?

I don’t have a strong attachment to any man in particular right now. I just really believe that love may be possible for me after all and I don’t want to quash any potential dates on the basis of some arbitrary rule.

Thank you so much,
Ann

Congratulations, Ann, on having the courage to leave a situation that was making you miserable. I must admit, I’ve never fully understood the psychology of abuse – and how people who are objectively treated poorly choose to remain in relationships – but I’m glad you’ve broken free.

You can do WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT right now.

More importantly, I’m glad that you’re feeling relieved, happy and optimistic about what happens next – that you’re looking forward to your new lease on life, rather than being paralyzed by fear like so many other victims of abuse.

Which is why I want to tell you in the kindest, most non-professional way possible, that you can do WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT right now.

Google “How long should I wait after divorce to start dating?”

You’ll get a whole bunch of opinions, but all that matters is you.

Sounds to me like your marriage was dying for years and that you’ve already mourned its death. Sounds to me like your head is on straight and, while you’re cautious about exposing your children to other men, you don’t want to have to wait until they’re teenagers.

If you’re riding the wave of self-love, get back out there and explore your dating options as a single mom.

So if you’re riding the wave of self-love, I couldn’t think of a more opportune time to get back out there and explore your dating options as a single mom.

And if you’re gonna do it, just make sure you’re prepared, and you’ll have an incredible time meeting the kind of guy who will appreciate you for all that you are.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    L

    As a divorced person, the urge to date is strong after separation, but as ready as you feel now and as much relief as you are feeling, you have a lot of mourning left to do.  The decision to divorce never comes lightly and every divorced person I meet feels as if they mourned the marriage before the separation.  And they have – they had to do that to get separated in the first place, unless the whole thing came out of left field.

    But all of that mourning tells you nothing about readiness to date.  In fact, if someone gives me that line, it is a sure sign that the person is on the rebound.  Post separation is an emotional roller coaster and thinking you’ve mourned fully during the marriage  is a sure sign that you are not very far down the path of emotional recovery.

    It is natural to be curious about what is out there and to desperately crave love and passion after a bad marriage.  If you date you will be on the rebound.  Just know that going in.  And you may break someone’s heart because of it.  And your heart may be broken too by someone else.  And, as a newly separated person, emotionally healthy people will avoid you.  That means you are most likely going to date other emotionally unhealthy people.  Those people may also be on the rebound, they may be narcissists that specifically look for vulnerable women, but healthy people want to be with someone that has some distance from their marriage.  My advice is to go to counseling, take a few months to sort out the legal stuff and then, once the legal stuff is signed and dealt with, date.  I won’t date anyone unless the paperwork is signed (divorce final is preferred) and they have been separated for at least a year.  If you want sex, find a friend with benefits that is in a similar place as you and is also not in the right place for a committed relationship.

     

    1. 1.1
      ScottH

      This is almost exactly what I was going to say.

      I was deprived in my marriage and starving to get out there and date.  The night I filed for divorce, I signed up on Match and had no idea what I was getting into.  When the women I was talking to found out that I wasn’t fully divorced, the smart ones avoided me like the plague.  I did get to date some women and had some badly needed intimacy, but like L says, they weren’t on the most stable footing either.  The thing is, I greatly over-estimated my emotional state.  And, most likely, you are doing the same thing but you won’t find out until you get out there.

      Being divorced and dating in mid-life is just an unfortunate situation.  I do like Evan’s approach and think it will provide the path of least resistance but make no mistake- there will be plenty of challenges.

  2. 2
    Erin

    I left an abusive marriage many years ago.  It took me a good 5 years before I was able to even entertain the idea of a LTR without triggering a panic attack.  I broke up with two fantastic men as as a result during that 5 year period, both when they started to bring up marriage.

    Take it slowly and pay close attention to your feelings.  I was full of excitement for the future and eager to date too, for all the reasons you describe…but ultimately I was not being fair to those men by getting involved with them, because I was not going to be equipped to deliver on what they wanted (marriage) if all went well.

    Good luck to you.

  3. 3
    Christine

    Congratulations to her for ending an unhealthy situation!  As someone who has been in unhealthy relationships before, I actually do empathize with why people stay in these situations even while being treated poorly (not saying they should, of course, but that I understand it).  I think it’s partly because of what psychologists call “intermittent conditioning”–or where people are still “rewarded” on a sporadic and inconsistent basis.  Very few people are jerks all the time.  Many times, the abuse is intermingled with spurts of the earlier “honeymoon” period, giving their partners false hope that things can get better if they just hang with it or work through it long enough.

    Far be it from me to set some arbitrary time table for her but just hope she truly is as ready as she says she is.  Rather than set a deadline, I would suggest to her that she ask herself how she thinks about her ex.  Is she able to think about him in a neutral, dispassionate way?  I personally knew I was truly over my ex when I was able to do that, and no longer felt any sadness nor anger towards him.  If she is able to do that then I say she’s ready to move on.

  4. 4
    Cat5

    As both a child of divorce and a divorced individual, I will say this – as ready as you think you are, you aren’t.  And as ready as you think you are, your children aren’t.  If you can’t tread carefully for your own sake, then do it for you children’s sake as they are mouring a loss also and need your time and attention for a while to process it.  Something that is hard to provide if you are dating.

     

    You don’t have to wait to date, but at least wait until the divorce is final and you are certain you want are in relationship before exposing your children to the individual you are dating or even to the fact that you are dating.  It is very confusing to a child when their parents are still married but dating and/our sleeping with others – it’s adultery and hard to explain to a child why it’s okay.   Also, if you are bringing dates home before you know them,  you are exposing your children to all kinds of dangers.   My parents not only dated others while still married,  they brought a lot of them to meet us kids,  and one of them was sleeping with a married person and moved us in with the married person.   It was all very confusing and scary – waking up with a strange person in your home.  Plus, some of their dates were not nice people.  My siblings and I still have the scars from those experiences.   They may be healed now,  but they are still there. 

     

    So do what you want, but be mindful it’s not all about you and what you want when you have children.   Sometimes you have to put their needs first.  Remember you have kids to care for and protect until they can do so themselves, that you are setting an example for them, that whatever you do will impact them and how they get through this terrible time of grief loss, and they need your help and understanding to get through it.

     

    This message brought to you by your friendly neighborhood child advocate/guardian ad litem.  🙂

  5. 5
    Jasmine

    I think if you’re looking for love, wait until the messiness of the divorce is done, you feel comfortable in your own skin, and you have an understanding of your role in this relationship you are leaving. Until then I don’t believe you’ll really be ready to find that person. If you just want to have fun and keep it casual, I guess just wait until you have your own place. But it sounds like you want more than that. Congratulations on the decision and good luck with everything.

  6. 6
    Stacy

    I waited three years, but mainly because I had a 2 and 3 year old at the time.  I was totally over him.  But, I didn’t have the energy or desire to date.  So now, yeah, I have a little fun. But, my kids don’t meet my dates – Like, EVER!  I date when their dad takes them or I get a baby sitter.  I think that’s where the issue comes in. It’s not about you anymore. If there is a strong sign that he will be in my life for a long time (he and I are probably thinking more longer term), then my kids will be exposed. Also OP, I am hoping you did the work to understand why you accepted such bad behavior for a long time with your ex husband. Make sure that you are in a place where you won’t make the same choices. Apart from that, get out there and do your thing.

  7. 7
    Nicole

    I, too, left an abusive marriage after almost 7 years with two young children.  After being emotionally and physically abused and called ugly, fat, and stupid for years. the ego boost of dating men who found me interesting and attractive was greatly needed and became part of the healing process.  You should, however, not rush into a serious relationship right now.  Date around, discover more about yourself and your preferences, and have fun.  One thing my marriage taught me was to be more discerning on who I want in my life and to not settle for the sake of companionship.  It took me many years and several relationships, but I finally found someone who is perfect for me.

  8. 8
    Karmic Equation

    I read somewhere that for every year of a relationship, it takes about 3 months to “get over” them. So if you were together for 7 years, then it might take you 1.5-2 years to truly get over the break up.

    It was true of my marriage (we were together for 11 years, 9 married; but last 2 years we were friendly, but celibate). It was true also of my 6-year LTR. While I dated and had a bf in the 2 years after my breakup, I chose men who were unsuitable for LTRs. But I was mostly satisfied in those relationships because I didn’t have to emotionally invest, because I really wasn’t ready.

    When I was ready to invest, after about 2.5 years (after my 6 year LTR ended) and some online dating, I actually took down my dating profile and just spent time being me and NOT actively looking. For me, it’s always worked that way. When I really want a bf, there is not a suitable man in sight. Then when I just concentrate on being me and ignoring men and dating, I attract the good ones. And no, I never gave off the desperate vibe, since I had FWB relationships while I was single and looking. IMO, I think I attracted the good ones when I stopped the FWB relationships when I decided I was emotionally ready to give all of me again. Maybe men sensed that emotional readiness whereas when I was in FWB relationships, I was a little closed off, distracted, distant, not fully present, etc.

    I met my current bf of 6 months, who is a really good man, who is commitment-oriented, honest, authentic (sometimes too much so, lol) — when I was in the no FWB and not actively dating mode.

  9. 9
    Crystal

    I was more than ready to start dating after my divorce last year. After almost a year of online dating, I’ve met a wonderful man who shows me every moment of every day how much he loves me and how glad he is to have me in his life.

    My marriage wasn’t physically abusive. We were simply vastly incompatible and argued about big and small things almost daily. While I see ways that I could have been a better spouse, I also realize that our incompatibility was an insurmountable obstacle for me.

    I’m so glad I started dating as soon as I separated. At almost 54 years old, I’m glad I didn’t waste a moment of time looking back on a marriage that was unsatisfying but, instead, invested in my future by learning from Evan and others. His books “Finding to One Online” and “Why He Disappeared,” were phenomenally helpful to me.

    Because I took the time to learn how to date and pursued finding my life partner as if I was being paid to do it, a year after my separation and less than a month after my divorce, I’m with a man that is everything I hoped to find in a  partner and so much more.

    I agree with Evan. While it can be helpful to get advice from others, ultimately, the OP  is the true expert on her life and her dreams and her needs. She should look within and do what feels right to her. This path could lead to what looks like success or failure to others but will no doubt include life lessons that will be hers alone, at the end of the day. After all, this is her life to live, not anyone else’s.

    1. 9.1
      L

      I hope it works out for you!  I had a 2 year relationship with a guy I met a year after my separation and a few months after my divorce was final.  He was a great guy but it turns out that my eagerness to remake my life blinded me to the fact that he wasn’t right for me.  Not saying that will happen to you, but it happens a lot, hence the consistent advice from the BDTD folks.

      Usually, I agree with Evan.  This time, his advice felt very incomplete.  She can date if she wants to but she should be cautious because chances are very high it will be a rebound.  And, since OP was in an abusive relationship, she should be even more careful since she is more likely than the average divorced woman to have significant emotional scars.

      1. 9.1.1
        Crystal

        Actually, @L, according to research cited by Psychology Today there is no correlation between how soon a person starts dating after a break up and whether or not the new relationship will last. In other words, a relationship is just as likely to be successful if it comes right after a failed relationship as it would be if there was a great deal of time between the old relationship and the new one.

        Not only that, but according to the PT article, people who form healthy relationships soon after a breakup are more likely to heal faster after their breakup than those who have a long recovery period because, in the former case, the new relationship gives them a boost in self esteem.

        My point in reply to the OP’s letter is that advice from others can be helpful but, ultimately, her life is unique and she is the only person who can authentically determine the best course for her.

        I don’t believe any of us should rely heavily on other’s experiences when deciding how to proceed in life. No matter how similar another’s experience my seem to our own, our individual experiences are still unique to each one of us.

        Therefore, we should make decisions understanding that it does no good to compare ourselves to other people but rather we should compare where we are today to where we were tomorrow and where we want to be and then make decisions on how to go forward in life accordingly.

        The name of the Psychology Today article is ”
        Can a Rebound Relationship Be the Real Deal?”

        1. Christine

          Thanks, I’ll check out the article.  It’ll be interesting to read another perspective.  It all boils down to whether someone has truly moved on from the ex.  Personally, I tend to take a little longer in recovering from failed relationships.  However, I can also see how another person could successfully jump into another relationship straight away.  Sometimes a person has emotionally “checked out” of a relationship long before it officially ends.  So they are actually “over” it at the breakup stage and really are ready to jump into another one right after the breakup.  Only Ann can truly know which camp she falls into.

           

        2. Crystal

          I meant:

          We should compare where we were yesterday to where we are today and where we want to be and then  make decisions on how to go forward in life accordingly.

  10. 10
    francine

    Congratulations!

    I left my husband of 6 years and was determined to move on and find love again.

    While you think you are ready I would strongly recommend you give yourself more time to grieve, become happy in you own life and reflect on your relationship.

    I through none of this applied to me – I’m different, I’m the exception to the rule. I was wrong. I was hurt badly by a cheating boyfriend. I have had to deal with anxiety and depression as a result of not trusting men and after finding Evan’s Blog and listening to his “why he disappeared” book a thousand times, 3 years later I am starting to feel more confident joining the dating world again.

    Good luck.

  11. 11
    In Not Of

    Who knows? I’m still going strong as a single close to a decade. Not sure I ever see anyone on the horizon.  My ex met his current wife 2 months into our seperation.

  12. 12
    phil

    A good rule of thumb I’ve heard from counselors is that it really takes one year for every 4 years of marriage to have fully dealt with your marriage and the breakup.  It seems awfully long, and you think you are over it, but as time passes you realize that you really weren’t over it as much as you thought you were.  So, take it slow, and re-establish your life first and be very intentional about dealing with your past.

    1. 12.1
      Rebecca

      It took me 5.5 years to get over my 7 year marriage so I don’t mean to underestimate the difficulty of grieving that loss.  That said, I broke off an engagement in my mid-twenties (not as serious as a divorce, but second-“best”) and was clear at the time that I’d done all my grieving before the break-up, and after one night of drinking and talking with friends, I was over it and ready to move on.  After my husband and I split up, I was just as clear that I WANTED to date but that I was no good to anybody.  I think if you’re that clear that you’re ready or not ready, you’re probably more right about yourself than any one-size-fits-all rule can be.

  13. 13
    Stacy

    Don’t let other people’s rules hold you back. Everyone is different and there’s no one size fits all. Personally, I left emotionally abusive marriage and met a  guy the next day after the final separation  (literally) in a social setting. We started dating and while I originally didn’t expect it to become anything more than a “rebound sex”, it did become a real relationship. He makes me very happy and looking back I wouldn’t want to miss that because somebody on the Internet told me to wait 4 months or a year or until “the divorce is final”. Do what feels right and try to take better care of yourself now.

    1. 13.1
      Tassel Daley

      I agree with you. There should be no hard and fast rule when one should start dating after a divorce. Each person should decide for himself.

  14. 14
    Rose D

    I’m speaking from experience when I say please wait! However tempting it is to immediately jump back into the dating pool, you need to protect yourself and your small children. Work on yourself (relationship counselling is excellent to help you make healthy choices in the future), focus on your children, being a great mother, keeping yourself fit and well, and becoming self-sufficient/independent. Your children need a positive role model in you, (especially if you have daughters), to show that a woman doesn’t need a man to make her feel ‘enough’. Give yourself some time to recover and I strongly recommend Evan’s ‘Why he disappeared’ to stop you making the same mistakes I did, when I started dating (too soon) in my case. I’m now in my mid-50s and raised my teenage daughters alone following my divorce. I made some mistakes and wish I had waited longer to date. Thankfully I have a good relationship with my daughters who are now grown-up and am in a happy, stable relationship but it took me a long time to get there.

    Best of luck to you and your children 🙂

  15. 15
    Mike

    It’s been the experience of most couples that split in my circle that the one who leaves tends to date quicker than the one who got left. That’s most likely being because they had already begun withdrawn their emotional attachment to their spouse long before they left.  The one left behind is dealing with fresh pain and has just started the process…Still, one should take the time to be comfortable living in their own before dating again. It seems few do, because second marriages have even higher rates of divorce than first marriages. My X left me after 24 years together, I told myself I wouldn’t date for a year, it ended up taking me three to get to the point of dating again, she already had another lined up before she packed her last bag…

  16. 16
    Al

    While I agree that the OP can do whatever she wants (it’s HER life after all and only she can really know when she is ready), I’d caution anyone who is emerging from an abusive relationship to take serious stock and give themselves a little time to process where their head really is. I also lived in an abusive marriage for almost 20 years.

     

    After I finally got out there was a period of what I’d call “Love Mania.” I was FREE and the world was brimming over with new romances for me to find. Except it wasn’t that simple. I soon discovered that I was not anywhere near as ready as I thought I was. Any hint of the behavior patterns my ex exhibited sent me running in a blind panic. If a guy got too close too fast, I bolted. I finally realized that it wasn’t THEM, it was ME. I was a basket case and I didn’t even realize it. I had to take a huge step back from dating. It’s been a year and a half and I’m only now starting to feel like I maybe, possibly might be getting ready. Take your time Honey. There’s no rush. They aren’t going to cancel dating while you are recovering.

  17. 17
    Joshua Tilghman

    Ann,

    As Evan pointed out, congrats on deciding to be take the big steps to being happy again! I can attest, it’s well worth the risk. Even also pointed out that everyone is different on how long one should wait, but I think it’s best if you jump right back out there. While some people believe they should take some time to rediscover yourself, why not do that WHILE dating. You just have to re-enter the scene with the right mindset – don’t look for Mr. Right as you date. Date often. Get to know different personalities, and if you can have the strength to stand back and be objective, you’ll rediscover yourself along the way. I recently wrote a post on doing something very proactive before dating again though that helped quite a bit. It will only take about thirty minutes to an hour and acts as a guide post to keep you from falling back into a relationship that doesn’t fulfill you. When dating after divorce; you have to KNOW what you are ultimately after. 

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