Dating After Divorce: When Is It the Right Time?

Woman hugging man

You can find love again. | Sam Edwards/ OJO Images

If you’re newly divorced or in the process of ending things with your spouse, you might be interested in dating again. However, you might not know when it makes sense to start seeing new people.

The Cheat Sheet spoke with Stella Harris, a coach for the Juicebox app, an anonymous platform for users to have conversations with certified sex and relationship coaches. Here’s what Harris had to say about dating after divorce.

The Cheat Sheet: How do you know if you’re ready to start dating again after divorce?

Stella Harris: Some people try to make guidelines like one month for every year of the relationship, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to your feelings. So, the short answer is, start dating whenever you feel ready. It’s a good idea to give yourself time to process your breakup. Counseling can help with this. It’s also important to reconnect with your friends and rediscover your hobbies. Dating again isn’t a substitute for getting used to being on your own. One of the best ways to know if you’re ready is to give it a try! Start with something low stakes like a daytime coffee meeting and go into it having given yourself permission to leave at any time.

CS: What’s the ideal time to get back into dating after divorce?

Woman talking to man

Don’t feel you have to rush back into dating. | julief514/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

SH: The only ideal time is when you’re feeling ready. So, this means you’re not looking for dates to avoid being alone or to seek validation. You’re going on dates when you think the company of someone new might add something to your life. It should feel like a want, not a need.

CS: What are some pros and cons of dating while you’re separated and not legally divorced yet?

SH: Dating before a divorce is finalized is a very personal decision. If the divorce is contentious, you might even want to check with your lawyer and see if it could be used against you. But if it’s an amicable split that just happens to be taking a while to settle, all the above rules apply. Are you feeling ready? Are you dating because you feel like you need a distraction or because you’re ready for new connections in your life?

Still being legally married does add the complication of sharing that with your dates, but these days that won’t be shocking. Many people are dating as part of open relationships, so if monogamous folks are turned off by your legal status, aim for people more familiar with these situations.

CS: What’s the best way to achieve emotional healing after divorce?

Young woman is drinking coffee in airport

Take time to heal and do things on your own. | s-dmit/Getty Images

SH: You’ve heard the saying that time heals all wounds? Well, it’s mostly true. I’d say it’s more like time and counseling. Time alone isn’t healing if you aren’t doing the work. That means processing any feelings of loss or failure you have around the split, as well as any wounds created by the relationship itself. If things have been rocky for a while, that can leave a deep mark.

When we’re paired off for a long time, we can lose parts of ourselves. We have couples friends and engage in couples activities. When we’re on our own again, our social landscape can suddenly look a lot different.

It’s important to take however long you need to remember what you’re like on your own, without any outside influences. What movies do you watch when you don’t have to compromise? What’s your sleep schedule? All these little things can really add up. At first being alone will feel scary, maybe even impossibly so. But eventually, you’ll find there’s a great freedom about getting to do exactly what you want, when you want. Try to get back to that place, getting to a place where you enjoy your independence. Only then can you make a clear-headed decision about who you might want to have in your life going forward.

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