Tuesday, April 12, 2011

5 dating mantras for divorcees

5 dating mantras for divorcees

It’s no secret: Dating again after a divorce can be intimidating. Who? Me, out there again? I have no idea what to do, let alone how to meet someone.

One piece of reassurance: You’re not alone. Another: Finding the right approach for you can make the process a lot less unnerving — and yes, fun! Here’s advice from dating-after-divorce experts on how to get yourself in dating shape.

Mantra #1: “I won’t rush it”
The person you thought you’d share your life with is suddenly out of the picture, and the world as you knew it is changing. You need time to heal, and diving into a relationship before you have dealt with your emotions is a setup for failure. “All that emotion makes you super-sensitive to what the other person does,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Long Beach, CA, and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “If the other person does or says anything that reminds you of your ex, you’ll react and it’ll affect your self-esteem. You’ll find a way to push the person away.” It takes at least six months to really be ready to date again, says Dr. Tessina. Other signs to look for: You’re no longer reliving the events of your marriage, you’re not angry with your ex, and you understand your own part in what went wrong.

Deborah Slater, whose divorce from her husband of 12 years was finalized in April, says recovery time is key. “In the beginning, everything was a reminder of the past,” says the mom of two from New York. “Then I made a list of all the things I wanted to do that I didn’t get to because of marriage, distraction and children, and I checked them off as I did them. As time passed, I didn’t cry as much, and I started to be happier. That’s when I knew I was ready to move forward.”

Mantra #2: “I won’t repeat the mistakes of the past”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring the past — no one wants to revisit painful memories. But to really move forward, you’ve got to step back. “All human beings work in patterns,” says Tessina. “You don’t want to get into another bad pattern. Deconstruct your previous relationship. It’s not a mystery, and you can see your own part and the other person’s part. Make new mistakes, not old ones.”

If you need to, find a therapist who can help you start figuring out what went wrong and how not to go there again. Were you putting up with behavior from your ex that you shouldn’t have? Maybe you were too reactive, perhaps you expected too much or not enough? Understanding the roles you and your ex played and taking responsibility for your part will help you get over the past — and avoid repeating it!

Mantra #3: “I will have fun!”
Once you know what mistakes not to repeat, you should go out and zero in on someone who’s as different from your ex as possible, right? Wrong. Getting too picky too soon makes it hard for you to achieve your first dating goal: to get comfortable with the process. “Don’t worry about whether each new person you meet is The One,” says Michael S. Broder, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia and author of The Art Of Living Single. “Just go out, and have some fun. Relax, and get your feet wet a little.” That means reducing your expectations of what you want in the person you meet and not reading things into the person. Try to just socialize and live in the moment instead of calculating whether a relationship will develop.

Cari Nelson, who has been divorced for seven years, thinks this nonjudgmental attitude is crucial to enjoying dating. “You need to be open to meeting all different kinds of people and not relying on just your initial view of a person,” says the St. Louis native, who’s a member of Pink Peppers (, an online group for divorced women. “There could be good traits about a person that you’re not seeing if you dismiss him or her right away. It’s all a learning process.”

Mantra #4: “I’ll lean on my friends”
Chances are that when you were married, you lost touch with some, maybe even most of your friends. Now’s a good time to jump-start the connections again. Slater recommends looking up friends from your past who can give you a link to the person you were before you got married. Finding out who you really are will help you build meaningful relationships next time around.

“I called my college, high school, even elementary school friends,” Slater says. “They were very supportive. I had sort of given up my own identity, and it took me quite some time to find myself again.” Surrounding yourself with friends who will listen to you without judgment or advice is key, Slater adds. They’ll be there for you when you don’t want to be alone, and in sharing their issues and problems, they can help you see beyond your own sorrow. They can reconnect you with the things your single self used to enjoy. (And while new friendships can take a while to forge, they are a wonderful source of energy in your life. See the next tip for how to make some new pals.)

Mantra #5: “I will discover and pursue my passions”
You know how meeting people was a lot easier in school? That’s because you were thrown in with a group of peers, there was no pressure, and you got a chance to get to know people gradually. Try the same thing now, suggests Laurie Armstrong, a divorced mom in Texas. “Joining organizations, groups and associations that interest you is a good approach,” she says. “You learn something new, which is an instant boost to your confidence, and you meet new people. They may be older or younger, but they introduce you to other people.” And if some of your new friends are single, so much the better — they may make the best companions at this time in your life, when you want to be out and about rather than hanging out with your coupled-up pals.

Armstrong zeroed in on sports organizations, such as those for rock climbing and hiking, which not only raised her chances of meeting men who share her enthusiasm for being active, but also offered the added bonus of keeping her in shape. You can also try continuing-ed classes at a local college, cooking courses, attending book readings, gardening lectures, whatever piques your interest. Also check out local bulletin boards to find groups of people in your area who share your passions, whether that’s ’80s heavy metal or snow-shoeing. Discovering kindred spirits is a thrill, and, who knows, one of them might be a great person to invite out for a coffee date! 


Post a Comment