The dangers of dating post divorce
After being in a long term relationship or marriage, it is a big adjustment to date again. Once you do feel ready (see our article on dating post divorce), there are some very common dating mistakes post divorce that we are prone to make (and to be honest, some these mistakes apply to non-divorced people too).
This person is THE ONE!
One of the most common mistakes is jumping to a conclusion that someone is the right person for you. It is normal to be think this way as we want to avoid loneliness and find love. Therefore the optimist in us will hope that someone we like is THE one. If you do this, don’t be harsh on yourself, it’s normal and you will get over the disappointment. The journey to finding love is full of ups too so embrace the roller coaster and enjoy the ride.
You can very easily build up a fantasy person from online chatting which bears very little resemblance to the reality! It’s impossible to guess what someone who is three dimensional and moves around is like from a static picture. We all project our own wishes and needs onto the person based on online messaging. Meet them after just a few days of not too much messaging and be on your guard not to reveal too much during that time. Phoning and skyping first can help. People are disappointed by their dates in real life probably 70% of the time. (I just made that % up but I reckon it’s roughly true!)
Ignoring the warning signs
At first, you may be so relieved to meet someone you can talk to and let your guard down with, that you ignore things that aren’t right about the person for a while. As you date more people, you’ll learn to notice these and become more picky early on. Read back over the messages AFTER things don’t work out and you’ll spot the signs ….
The illusion of connection
You’ll become aware of the illusion of a “strong connection” with someone. It happens more often that you’d think and it’s not the basis for a relationship. You’ll soon realise that there are other considerations, like shared values, emotional responsiveness, empathy, listening skills, how they deal with difficulties, etc. Don’t let the emotional power of the connection cause you to put up with mediocrity or being treated badly!
Withdrawal – the spark quickly dies
Dating can often involve a lot of attention, hundreds of messages, quite intense emotions and a lot of sharing of personal stuff at the beginning. This can often wear off quite quickly, especially after sexual intimacy, and you can feel the other person withdrawing. At this stage it can be easy to become insecure and start wondering what you did wrong, but this is just a very common phenomenon in today’s dating game. After dating a few different people, you’ll find it happens to you too. It just means the person didn’t turn out to be the perfect partner you thought they would be. You’ll learn to be more sceptical at the beginning and not get so swept up in the hopeful euphoria of thinking you’ve finally met the person of your dreams!
Expect (and try to enjoy) short-term experiences
Remember that at this stage you won’t be ready for a serious relationship. Accept that you’re most likely to have a series of short-term relationships while you’re adjusting to your new life and discovering who you are, what your needs are and what kind of person you’re looking for. If you take this approach, you will protect yourself a little from getting hurt.
Dating more than one person is OK
You might think this is crazy and you might not have time for it … But don’t just arrange a first date with one person. Arrange several. It’s a great way to stop yourself getting involved too quickly, good for your self-esteem, and it makes you less likely to put up with stuff. It’s like buying a house or a sofa …. You need to try out a few to compare before you know what you want. You also need to be aware that dating several people is the norm for online dating, so don’t assume your date is only dating you.
Emotions can be intense and for more than one person
You may experience intense emotions that perhaps become associated with a particular person, even if they’re not right for you. They are probably partly grief for previous relationships, partly a need to feel loved and understood, partly an expression of the depth and complexity of the human experience. If you date more than one person at a time you’ll see that it’s quite easy to have these strong feelings for more than one person, meaning that it’s not really about the other person. Try and learn to relax and enjoy your feelings while remaining essentially self-sufficient.
Endings are not rejection – you just aren’t right for each other
When ending a dating experience or relationship, many people say something like “I’m not looking for a serious relationship”. This is code for “I don’t think you’re someone I want to get serious with”. You can learn to treat each other like a mutual interview, rather than feeling like you’re the one on trial and not getting the job. Just because you’re not right for someone, it doesn’t mean you should value yourself less.
Grief can be surprisingly intense
You will probably find that when your first dating experience/ short-term relationship comes to its inevitable end, that you’ll suffer quite a lot. It’ll bring back many of the feelings you had when you split up from your long-term partner, and it can feel even more painful than that. Treat it as part of the grieving process. It’s like when a new bereavement brings back the pain of a previous bereavement – it is a necessary stage that we have to go through. When you’ve experienced a few endings, it’ll become easier. Endings are inevitable.
Keep your eccentricities in check
If you’ve been in a relationship a long time, you will have developed some little quirks or ways of relating that your previous partner just put up with, but that you need to change! For example, you’ll have to keep any critical comments to yourself for quite a few weeks or months. So it can be good to get feedback from a date to find out what these are, if your ego can cope. Of course they may tell you anyway…..
Wait longer than you want to introduce your new partner to your family
It is not a good idea to new relationships to your children or the rest of the family too quickly. The intensity of a new relationship may very well wear off after just a few weeks. Be very cautious.
Take your time, be discriminating and protect yourself emotionally. I wish you all the best in making new connections and finding friends and love!
* have any dating dilemmas that you need to discuss
* need advice on setting up an online profile
* want guidance on how to message people on the dating websites
* think you might benefit from coaching to improve your conversation skills on dates
Dr Isabelle Hung is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and clinical psychologist. Having got through her own divorce just three years ago, she is now remarried and happy to report that divorce really is an opportunity for growth and positive change.