We don’t talk about dating after divorce enough to help people prepare for it. The culture of dating has changed, and dating after divorce or after a significant relationship has ended brings more challenges and more opportunities for growth.
How do you filter out what’s unhealthy vs. what’s healthy with dating after divorce?
- Figure out what your relationship with yourself looks like.
- When in a long-term relationship, it’s common to shift your identity into that of a married person. When the relationship ends, there’s a challenge in having to grieve the loss of your identity as a married person, while shifting to a new lens of being a single person.
- Explore your new boundaries. What boundaries and expectations will you go into the process of dating with? What does it mean to put effort into getting to know somebody long-term?
- Process and grieve. Grieve the identity that is changing and the loss of the relationship.
- There’s not a wrong way to try to start dating again after divorce. Do what feels like the best right fit for you. Have the willingness to meet that and explore that.
- In a significant long-term relationship, we place a lot of trust into the other person. But this is also about self-trust.
- Questions to reflect on: Why did the relationship expire? What’s my role in it? What do I want life to look like from here on out? How can I trust myself with these choices?
- If you’re not trusting yourself when trying to start a relationship, it’s easy to become co-dependent and continue unhealthy patterns.
Ownership and Accountability
- Ownership is not a behavior, but a mindset. Ownership is simply the calling out and owning of what you did. It is not self-blame.
- Accountability is the behavior that comes after ownership in healthy situations. It’s recognizing what you’re going to do about what you’re taking ownership of.
- Learn from it, and don’t beat yourself up for it. We are our own worst enemies.
- Know what you created vs. what you want to create now.
How do you navigate taking accountability and taking that into your new dating world?
- Transparency in dating. Understand what you want to be transparent about so you don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. Be upfront about what any potential partners can expect from you. If you’re working, have children, or have other parts of your life you’re setting boundaries for, set the expectation and follow it up with a boundary of what you will and will not do.
- Be aware that not everyone else will have the same level of transparency that you do. That’s okay.
How can you know if someone is being transparent with you or not when you begin dating after divorce?
- Love-bombing: Constant positive attention in order to get their needs met. Once their needs are met you may be ghosted or rejected.
- Ask yourself: Is their behavior realistic and sustainable?
- Remember your boundaries and expectations.
- It’s not selfish to prioritize yourself.
- Check in with yourself. Am I being accountable to the things I decided I wanted? Am I honoring those things?
- Your relationship with yourself needs to be held as sacred. Do the things that take care of the essentials as well as the things that bring you fun and joy.
- Accountability is non-negotiable. Find a way to care for yourself. Be flexible and creative.
Important points to remember when you consider dating after divorce:
Kelly Lynch is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, former EMT, certified life coach, certified Fitness Trainer, and certified nutrition coach. Kelly owns two businesses, a private psychotherapy practice, Turning Point Wellness, and a private life coaching practice, The Unapology Project. She has ten years experience as an EMT, and over eleven years experience as a psychotherapist. Kelly’s clinical experience is diverse, including working with children, families, and people with severe and persistent mental health disorders and substance addictions. She has contributed to the development of multiple emergency services programs, clinical programs, and education curriculums for emergency services personnel and clinical therapists, as well as having taught these programs. Kelly specializes in PTSD, along with anxiety and other trauma related disorders. Her superpower exists in the realm of language and story-telling, and she uses this to teach her clients how to define what it means to live life on their terms by being in control of themselves, the choices they make, and taking the best possible care of themselves.
Kelly also referenced Kristin Neff and her work with self-compassion. You can learn more at https://self-compassion.org/