Whenever anyone asks me, “when can I start dating after divorce?” what they’re really asking is, “when can I have sex?” Which is a fair and necessary question. Because for the most part, they’ve been in a marriage, seemingly monogamous, and probably haven’t been on a date in awhile. Never mind had sex with a condom again after how many years! There is a valid period of adjustment and yet for most, there’s also a real need for company, especially being on their own again for the first time in awhile.
Dating after a divorce has a few rules to keep in mind so that you don’t get caught up in some fantasy about “finding the one” or something equally complicated. I’m not a big believer in fantasy after divorce which is one of the biggest pitfalls one steps into. Divorce isn’t a get out of jail free card allowing you to throw responsibility away. Divorce is a time for deep, personal growth - seemingly the opposite of sex and dating. But is it truly?
Let’s keep these 10 rules of dating after divorce on the forefront of your mind when you date during separation. They’re a must and you’ll want to know them by heart.
- Rule #1: Sex feels great. The lure of sex, the need for connection, the desire to be intimate are the strongest, most fundamental of all human urges. It’s incredibly difficult (News Flash: that is, nearly impossible) to escape the desire for sex especially when you’re just leaving a relationship. Know you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with you and you will crave the intimacy.
- Rule #2: Going on a date after divorce, know that men and women look at sex in different ways whether we want to or not. Men need a respite from the pressures of being men and women need intimacy and grounding. Well really, both sexes need intimacy - it is primal after all - but doing it during separation and during divorce shows up differently for the sexes. Men get grounded after sex as if all the chakras get a good clearing. Women are wired to worry about getting pregnant and starting families. Usually. (Often.) Which is where the rule comes in… guys if you want sex, be really clear about where you are emotionally and what you are looking for. I call it “saying the complete sentence.” Meaning words like, “You’re so hot, BUT I’m not ready for anything other than some fun.” Then you’ve given one another a fair shot at open and honest communication.
- Rule #3: Whom you date is completely up to you so know that women admire hotness too. We always think it’s just the older guy looking for a young girl! Women are attracted to hot, young men the way guys want young women. It’s super easy for an older woman to lure a younger man into bed if that’s what she’s into. So guys, take care of yourselves! Sex requires that you lose that married, baby belly you’re sporting and to hit the gym. You’re not the only ones who want healthy, hot partners.
- Rule #4: Whether you should date or not is your decision. But there is such a thing as rebound sex. Know that leaving a marriage men and women rebound. Always. Enjoy the rebound but stay out of your imagination! Rebound sex does not = new spouse. Rebound sex = “This feels great and I needed it. Thank you!” Rebound sex restarts the mojo. (See Rule #2.) Rebound sex helps everyone feel good again especially if leaving a sexless marriage.
- Rule #5: When to start dating is personal. Saying that however, if you’ve just moved out or your kids were just told that “mom and dad are getting a divorce,” you might want to slow it down a bit. If you don’t follow my rules above, and you fall for the person who’s role is to help you feel good, and you introduce this new person to your kids or are seen with them… that feeling of shame (that thing we all hate) is going to become much more difficult to shake. Slow down. Everyone needs a chance to accept the changes in your family.
- Rule #6: The etiquette of dating after a divorce has to be yours to figure out because our society doesn’t really understand this sex thing. We judge others. We encourage others. We play one-upmanship with others. We think we’re the only ones not having sex. What we don’t get is that we all need sex and yet we have our own personal stuff around it. Know what your personal rules around sex are before you get entangled with someone else’s. Sex isn’t supposed to become more complicated than the decisions around your divorce and it can easily become very complicated. Take the time to get super clear on where you are and what you need.
- Rule #7: Dating is a distraction and it feels great. But going on a date during your divorce can’t have you completely forget about dealing with your divorce. That ego of yours gets a boost and your friends who introduced you feel good. There’s fun gossip to entertain everyone. But your divorce is going to get dragged on if you begin to focus on a new love when you’re still wrapping up an old one. It’ll be difficult to stay focused on paperwork and parenting plans when the pull for intimacy steps in. (See Rule #1.) However, the repercussions of a dragged-on fight are brutal.
- Rule #8: When you get tired of dating after divorce you’re going to have to re-rack and get on the bench for a bit. You’re wiser and more scarred than when you were dating as a young adult. Things are different. You’re different. Allow that life experience to mean something. Respect the life experience that you’ve lived and look for people who can respect you and your life too. That way you won’t get so burned out from looking for “the one.” When you learn to respect yourself, they will too.
- Rule #9: Give more than you expect to get. You’re leaving a relationship that didn’t work. Dating post marriage is an opportunity to try on being kind again, gracious, warm, inviting. Not angry, disappointed, hating the opposite sex. It gives you a chance to experience love again without the years of built up resentments. It’s a great way to find your way back to yourself again.
- Rule #10: True Love is worth waiting for. You’re leaving something that doesn’t feel right in the hopes of finding a soulmate or a fun partner or just some sex after all. You may be thinking, “Who wants to get married again anyway?” But know that after the anger, the fight, the legal fees and the splitting of assets, most people couple up again. Many remarry. Many want true love with or without a marriage certificate. Enjoy the process of finding someone who’ll make you happy.
Take great care of yourself during your separation and divorce - use the time to recreate your life and to allow your heart to soften again. Balance your responsibilities to family and children with the lure of intimacy. Watch your heart open to the right people. Be judicious in your search for a partner. Use your dating to experience your best self - the one you enjoy, who laughs, who welcomes another into their arms. You’re entitled to intimacy, sex and partnership. Your deeply personal growth happens in relation with others.
If you’re having trouble figuring out this dating thing post-divorce, reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org let’s get you on to the path toward finding your true love.