While most dating experts and divorce attorneys agree that it’s usually best to wait until a divorce is finalized before dating again, the truth is, divorce can be a long, drawn out process—sometimes taking years. As a result divorced dating really isn’t all that uncommon.
If your divorce isn’t finalized yet but you feel ready to get back out there, go for it. Legally, there is generally nothing preventing you from dating during divorce but there are some dos and don’ts the experts say you should keep in mind.
DON’T date unless you’re ready.
This isn’t so much a question of time but of where you are emotionally. “Many people have emotionally left the marriage long before they file for divorce. Others are still dealing with the end of the relationship. If your spouse still gets you emotionally charged, your focus needs to be on healing,” says dating coach, Lesli Doares.
DO familiarize yourself with today’s dating world.
You’ve been out of the dating scene for years, but dating is totally different today than it was 10 years ago. “I recommend researching the best dating apps, getting a fresh new look, and trying new places to meet new people,” says Amanda Rose, Founder of Dating Boutique.
DON’T date friends of your ex.
Even though you’re separated and may resent your ex, you still need to be respectful of his or her feelings. “Put yourself in his or her shoes, and use that as your guide to acting responsibly,” says Amy Osmond Cook, PhD, CupidsPulse.com divorce expert and founder of the Divorce Support Center. Think about it, how would you feel if you saw your soon-to-be ex walk into your favorite café with one of your work friends?
DO stay away from places you used to go with your spouse.
Or places they might still go. This is also true of their family members and possibly their friends. “One of the challenges during divorce is that members of your extended circle are dealing with your breakup as well. If only one of you wanted the split, this will be even harder for them. Being respectful of their feelings, when possible, is always a positive,” says Doares.
DO keep a new relationship under the radar.
That means, don’t go flaunting a new flame all over social media or bragging to your ex about how great your new partner treats you. Carolyn Woodruff, a Family Law Specialist based in North Carolina says, “Insinuating a new person in your life before the last relationship is finalized can flame the fire and make settlement harder or more expensive.” Especially if kids are involved.
DON’T hide that you’re going through a divorce.
If directly asked by a date, you should be honest but brief. They don’t need to know every little legal detail. “There are many different situations (i.e., financial concerns, custody issues) that delay the process of a divorce. Most people are understanding and if they’re not you don’t want to be with them anyway. Being honest and open about the status of your relationship is essential to developing trust,” says Cook.
DO pay attention to how you talk about the divorce.
If you can’t discuss your divorce without getting angry or emotional then it’s probably a good indicator that you shouldn’t be dating. “If you’re able to talk about the experience, calmly and fairly explain what happened. If your date still decides it’s a deal-breaker, then you’d be better off finding somebody else anyhow,” says Scott C. Trout, CEO, of the divorce firm, Cordell & Cordell.
DON’T get too caught up, too fast.
It’s common to romanticize new relationships and quickly get caught up in the whirlwind of falling in love all over again after divorce. “Even if you know your divorce was for the best, it can take some time to truly move past your ex. A recent study in London found that men have a more difficult time recovering from breakups than women, and if you start dating too soon it can sabotage your next relationship,” says Trout.
DO know it could turn people away.
Depending on how long your divorce takes, you may find that a lot of people may not want to date someone who is in the middle of a divorce. “If you chose to mark the box “divorced” when you are still separated expect that it might give you more matches, but it might turn away people,” says Stef Safran, a matchmaker and founder of Stef and the City.®
DON’T have too high expectations.
The grass may seem greener but it’s really just different grass. “If you had issues with your ex over something, don’t assume that it’s only your ex. Expect to realize that whomever you meet will have issues. Expect to have some highs and lows as a new relationship can make you forget that the honeymoon period does end,” says Safron.
DO be cautious when introducing your new date to your children.
It isn’t just you and your spouse going through the divorce, but family, friends, and, if you have them, children. “[Children] are adjusting to your divorce too, and introducing a significant other too soon (or someone who isn’t a positive influence) can have damaging psychological and emotional effects,” says Trout.
DON’T think dating is easy after a serious relationship.
Often we compare the new dates to our old relationship. We need to be mindful that this is a new person with a different personality, behaviors, and values. “Try to focus on getting to know the new person without focusing on the old. When we focus on the old we often block new relationships that could be amazing from forming,” says Rose.
DO focus on your feelings.
It takes time. You’re probably not going to fall in love with the first person you date after your marriage. “The trick is to maintain a level head and realize that you have a new opportunity to find everything you’re looking for in a partner again. Just take your time, get emotionally healthy, and make smart decisions,” says Cook.
No matter how you came to the decision or what your relationship with your ex is, coming out of a divorce and dating again can be tricky. If anything, because it’s been a long time since you’ve been out there. Use this advice along with your good judgement and enjoy meeting people again.