There’s no such thing as an easy divorce. Even if you and your spouse have made the mutual decision to throw in the towel, there’s an adjustment period as you shift your daily routines and process your feelings about the split.
However, most divorces are far more complicated, tense, and stressful. Splitting up possessions, dealing with friends who feel the need to choose sides, and custody arrangements for any kids can be hard on anyone, no matter how tough an exterior you present to the rest of the world.
Post-divorce feelings can run the gamut from being so down that you’d just like to stay home—or conversely, enjoy some peace and quiet for the first time in years—but you may also be ready to hit the town and celebrate. What’s the best time to start dating after a divorce? Here’s the real deal on what a good timetable looks like.
First: Are You Sure It’s Over?
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when the lawyers show up and paperwork gets signed, there’s no turning back. One or both of you is ready to move on. But every once in a while, the impending threat of losing someone you’ve loved for years can stir reminders of why you fell in love in the first place.
If you date before the ink is dry and you and your partner decide to reconcile, admitting you spent some time with someone else can be tough for your now-not-an-ex to swallow.
Technically Divorced Versus Actually Divorced
Here’s a sticky one: the initial divorce paperwork you or your ex sign doesn’t immediately grant you a divorce. Timelines vary from state to state, but there’s usually a few months’ delay while the courts look over the paperwork you’ve submitted to help determine the division of assets.
You may not realize the stress that can accumulate during a contentious split. Or you may realize it, but want a fling or something more serious to help you forget about all that mess. Think about why you’re looking and who you’d like to meet. If you do choose to date before the final document gets the notary’s stamp, make sure you’re up front about where you are in the divorce process.
As much as you hate to admit it—or can’t actually see it—there are definitely cons to dating before your divorce is final. Plenty of people who want to steer clear of the potential drama that comes with someone else’s divorce.
It doesn’t mean you’re high-maintenance. It means you’re in a situation that some people are understandably wary of getting caught up in. Don’t take it personally. If it’s meant to be you’ll end up connecting sometime later on when the dust has settled.
It’s Okay To Want To Take a Breather
If you’re looking for advice on when it’s okay to start dating, chances are you’re not totally confident that you’re ready to get back in the saddle. Listen to your head and your heart on this one. It’s fine to take the dating version of a gap year.
Spend some time by yourself and getting re-centered. Marriage can often mean you’ve made compromises, and post-divorce life is the time to undo the damage of any unhealthy compromises you had to take on.
Staying single for a bit doesn’t mean you have to sit alone in your bedroom watching bad romcoms on your laptop. Friendships can go by the wayside when you’re coupled up, so post-divorce is a good time to reconnect.
Go At Your Own Pace
You know yourself best. If the time feels right, start dating again. This can go as fast or as slow as you’d like. And if you’ve never tried it before, this is a great time to experiment with online dating. Creating an online dating profile lets you put your best foot forward and highlight the things you like most about yourself.
Even if weeding out all of the no-thank-yous and hard passes speeds up the process of finding someone who meets your dating criteria, it doesn’t mean you have to go on a date immediately—or at all. If you’ve spent some time on an app and you get the gut feeling that you’re just not ready, close the app and walk away. It’s as simple as that.
Make Sure You’re Having Fun
Your friends may be pushing you to put yourself back on the market right away, and you may be feeling pressure to make up what you may view as lost time. Don’t listen to anyone but yourself—and your heart—on this. Your happiness exists outside of the realms of a relationship. You’ve got no one’s timetable but your own to hew to.
Even then, it can be worthwhile to do a check-in with yourself: are the goals you had for yourself before marriage—whether that’s five years, ten years, maybe more—the same goals that you have for yourself today? You may find that your experiences during your marriage helped bring into focus what works for you and what doesn’t.
Finding the right partner takes time, and it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that you’ve got to start over from scratch. But dating isn’t—or shouldn’t be—a goal-oriented activity. Go out, meet new people, and do things you’d enjoy doing on your own as well. Finding love can definitely take more time than any of us would like, but if it feels like a chore, stop.
The dating process is about finding someone who complements you. Shed the concept of an “other half” and come into your own as a whole being, living your life with your own goals and interests. The right person for you is out there, but that right person will love you for you. Don’t let the process make you jaded. You—and only you—really know when it’s right to date again. Listen to your heart.
When You’re Ready
If you’ve gotten through this blog and you feel like you are ready to start dipping your toe in the water, we’d encourage you to check out our list of the best dating apps for divorced people. These are incredible ways to step back into the dating game at your own pace, whether that be fast or slow.