You’ve probably heard recommendations from other experts about how long you need to wait after divorce before you start dating. These other experts recommend that you wait anywhere from just 1 year to 1 year for every 4 years you were married.
I disagree with these one-size-fits-all recommendations. I believe that the only requirement for you to be able to successfully date after divorce is that you’ve finished your time in the Divorce Pits. The Divorce Pits are where you experience the most painful feelings of divorce – grief, anger, guilt and rejection.
I hope you can agree with me that you wouldn’t want to date someone consumed with the Divorce Pits. So, if you’re consumed with them, you’re probably not going to find someone who wants to date you either. (You can find out if you’re still in the Divorce Pits by taking the assessment here.)
Once you’re out of the Pits, you’re cleared to date. There are all kinds of ways you can meet people to date and I’ll save a discussion of that for some other time. The point I want to get to here is that your dating should be helping you to determine what you do and don’t like about yourself and others in a relationship. There are all kinds of things that people do and don’t want in a relationship, but the one thing that EVERYONE WANTS is to be able to trust their partner.
Take It Slowly When You’re Re-Learning How To Trust After Divorce
For many of us post-divorce, our ability to trust another isn’t quite working ideally. That’s why I recommend you build your trust in yourself first (read more here), then build your trust in friendships (read more here), before trusting someone in a committed relationship. The question I always get from my clients about this is how do I know if I can trust someone?
You can feel pretty confident about trusting someone in a committed relationship by using 8 different keys. These keys are things that you need to examine both in the other person and in your ability to give to them.
We’ll start with the first four keys today and save the other four for next week’s article. (Read part 2.)
The first 4 keys to trust in a post-divorce relationship are
- Clarity – Clarity refers to the ability you and your partner have communicating with each other AND in the clarity you each have individually about being in the relationship. Are you both open and clear about what you want from the relationship? Are you both clear about what needs you’d like to have the other meet? Are you both clear about what you are and are not willing to do in the relationship? The important point about each of these questions is that you’re clear individually without any pressure from the other person or fear of losing the relationship and that you’re able to clearly communicate this to each other. (You should also be aware that after divorce we all change a lot, so just because you’re clear about what you want today, next month, next quarter, next year, your needs of the relationship may change and you both need to be willing to continue being clear for the duration of the relationship.)
- Compassion – Compassion refers to the ability you’ve each got to care for the other. Compassion in a healthy relationship MUST be two-way. There are times when one partner may need more compassion than another, but if the flow of compassion is only one-way, the relationship isn’t conducive to building the level of trust necessary for a long-term committed relationship.
- Character – Character is who you each are as individuals and in the relationship. It’s not unusual for people to behave one way in front of others and another way in the privacy of their relationship. If you find that you’re not behaving like yourself in a relationship, that’s not a healthy relationship for you. If you find that you don’t care for the way the person you’re dating regularly behaves, then they’re not the right person for you.
- Competency – Competency can sound like a funny criterion for trust in a dating or love relationship, but it’s really important. Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who is simply incapable of meeting your needs of the relationship? I doubt it. That’s why I believe it’s critical that you get some clarity on what you want in a relationship and what you’re willing to give to a relationship. Once you know that, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you’ve both got the competency to be in a relationship together.
I know that this is only half of the list, but it’s a lot of information! These aren’t necessarily simple keys. They require careful thought and a deep awareness of your feelings. But armed with these first keys, you’ve got a great starting point for figuring out if the person or people you’re dating are right for you to enter into a deeper relationship with.
Your Assignment For Learning How To Trust Someone Again:
Get clear about what you want in your post-divorce relationships. You might be looking for your next great love or you might be looking for someone to hang out with and just have fun. It’s important that you get clear about what you want so you’ll be able to know if dating someone is in your best interest or not. AND so that you’ll be able to have clarity telling the other person what you want.
How might you determine if the other person is compassionate? In my experience, this is one of those keys that takes time to evaluate. You might be able to tell enough about someone’s lack of compassion quickly. However, if it’s not glaringly obvious that the other person isn’t compassionate, then seeing how you both act in stressful situations is probably the quickest way to determine your level of compassion for yourselves and each other.
If you’re in a relationship with someone, do you like who you are when you’re with them? For most of us who divorced, when we take an honest look back at our marriage we can usually find something about ourselves in the marriage that we’ve since changed or are in the process of changing. There was something about what our marriage had become that caused us to be less than ourselves. It’s so very important that you not enter into another relationship that might cause you to not appreciate yourself 100%. So, if you don’t like whom you are when you’re with someone, it’s time to end that relationship. If you do like who you are when you’re with someone, the relationship just might be working and you might be closer to building trust.
Is the person you’re in relationship with capable of meeting your needs? Are you capable of meeting theirs? If your answer is “yes” to both questions, you’ve got another key for building trust in this relationship. If not, then this relationship probably isn’t in your best interest to continue for long.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to go through this alone. I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor. I’ve been divorced and I know what you’re going through. My specialty is helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress, pain and uncertainty of divorce. You can join my anonymous newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
If you’re looking for more help with putting together your post-divorce life, you’ll want to read more at Life After Divorce.
Dating after divorce can be confusing. After all, it’s probably been a while since you last dated and things have CHANGED since then.
One of the biggest changes in dating over the last 10-15 years is the number of people who use online dating services. Did you know there are even websites dedicated to letting you know who the top online dating services are? These services are a BIG business and it’s OK to use them. When my clients decide to start dating, most of them use an online dating service or two. Heck I even used one to meet my 2nd (and current) husband.
Online dating, just like any other kind of dating, is terrific IF you’re aware of these three pitfalls.
The first pitfall is lack of safety. I’ve heard stories from both men and women about some positively scary situations they found themselves in when they met a date. Here are some key things you can do to be a bit safer when you date online:
When you’re using an online dating service, be careful of your identity. Don’t use your full name on your profile that’s open to the public.
Ask the other person for their number, don’t freely give yours away. It’s OK to block your number and make your first call(s) anonymously.
For heaven’s sake, DON’T give someone you’ve never met your address to come pick you up. When you’re ready to meet someone, arrange to meet them someplace public. Park someplace where there are lots of others coming and going. It’s also a good idea to let someone know someone know where you are going to be meeting your date and have them call if they haven’t heard from you in a couple of hours.
The second pitfall is looking for a spouse instead of learning to date. One of the most common things I see people do when they’re starting to date again is to focus on finding a spouse instead of focusing on dating. There’s a big difference between the two!
When you focus on finding a spouse, going out becomes a lot more serious, a lot more intense. You might even start to worry about how many dates you go on before you decide if you want to be serious with this person. Sometimes you don’t go out with more than one person at a time because you want to make sure you give the current person the benefit of the doubt.
When you’re focused on dating, the whole thing is a bit more casual. There’s less stress and pressure to impress and more emphasis on figuring out whether or not you’re enjoying yourself. Focusing on dating is a great way to learn what you do and don’t like about others and yourself when you’re around them. This knowledge will allow you to move on when it’s right for you. One important point here is that you need to be up-front with the people you’re dating to let them know where you’re coming from and so they don’t get the wrong idea about your intentions.
The third pitfall is thinking you must respond and/or date everyone who contacts you. You have no responsibility to the people who reach out to you. You don’t have to respond to everyone and you definitely don’t have to go out with all of them either. You deserve to be picky about who you spend your time on and with. Your time and how you spend it is how you create your life, so be picky about whom you spend time with!
I want you to think of dating as cultivating friends and learning about yourself. Most people aren’t ready to get into another serious relationship right after they get divorced. They need some time to rediscover themselves and figure out what they do and don’t like about other people. That means going out with other people to have fun.
Dating is supposed to be fun and using the online services can be a great way to meet some amazing people. Just be sure to avoid the pitfalls!
Your Online Dating Assignment:
Do some research. There really are a lot of sites out there to help you meet people to date. Each site has its own personality. Check out a few and decide which site or sites best fit you.
Be open to learning about yourself. The dating experience should be fun and put you and your date in new situations that will allow you both to learn about yourselves and each other. Successful dating requires that you be ready to learn stuff about yourself without the expectation that you or your date be perfect.
Are you ready to date? OK, this probably should have been the first step of the assignment, but I saved it to last so you’d be sure to see it. There’s no rule about when you’re ready to date, but generally, you want to be through the worst of the emotional part of your divorce. If you’re curious to know where you are on the continuum of being through with the emotional part of your divorce you need to check out the Fisher Divorce Adjustment Scale (FDAS) at http://drkarenfinn.com/work-with-me/how-long-does-it-take-to-recover-from-divorce
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.