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Dating After Divorce

So now you've moved through most of the crud of divorce. You're still grieving, but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You're wondering about dating. You're wondering about moving on with your romantic life. This page guides you gently into this good world.

Before Your Divorce is Final

Whether you should refrain from dating before your divorce is final is both a strategic and moral question. The answer depends on how your state views fault in divorce, on how long you and your spouse have been separated, on what your lawyer thinks about dating during divorce, and finally on how you feel about dating while you're still married.

Even if your state pays attention to fault in divorce, the longer you've been separated from your spouse, the less likely that your having a relationship with someone else is going to have a big impact on the issues of your divorce. Judges typically are concerned about affairs that they think caused the divorce. It's just hard to attach too much blame to an affair that began several months after separation.

Peter was getting impatient. At my suggestion he was going slow on his divorce, because neither he nor his wife was spending much money on lawyers, and his wife needed some time to adjust to the reality of divorce. "How long do I have to wait?" Peter asked. We talked it over. Peter and his wife had been separated for seven months. Although Peter and his wife lived in one of those states that pays attention to fault in divorce, Peter decided it was more important for him to be unhurried about divorce than to have a pristine record of no romantic involvement. Peter started dating again - nothing serious, but it took the pressure off. Shortly after he made his decision, Peter and his wife reached agreement and settled their divorce.

After You're Single

If you're divorce is final, you're no longer concerned about the impact on your court case, except to the extent it might be used against you in a custody fight. You can now focus on whether it's right for you. At this point, I will be simplistic. You should begin to date when you decide it's time to date. Don't let other people rush you. Don't let other people slow you down. You do it when it feels right for you.

And do it with the person who feels right for you. Resist the temptation to find somebody who's totally different from your exspouse. Remember, there were a lot of things about your exspouse that were appealing at one time. If you're attracted to people who are different, that's fine; just don't feel that you can't date someone who has anything in common with the person you once loved.

Your First Relationship

There's a special role your first love plays after divorce. It can be a time of delightful discovery, a chance for you to rediscover your playful side, to have some fun. Goodness knows, you deserve it. Your first relationship, though will almost never be a stable long-term relationship. I don't know why. It just is. The first serious relationship you have after divorce will be wonderful, and hopefully you'll look back on it with pleasure and gratitude. Just don't expect it to be the basis of your next marriage. This is a common issue after divorce, so there's a separate page on Rebound Relationships After Divorce.

Tom sat across the lunch table from me, glowing with excitement for his new love. He couldn't stop talking about her. It was obvious that she had touched him and that he was convinced that this was the "real thing." I quizzed him for details. He was less than two months away from a painful divorce, and she was still embroiled in hers. Both were the left.

I had to give Tom some painful news. I told him that odds were not in favor of their love surviving, because neither of them had taken the time to reestablish their own personal identity. And the really painful news was that if he backed off, the odds were that his new love would find another man, simply because she needs a relationship, any relationship. Is it any wonder that I say with such conviction that Divorce Stinks?

Enjoy your first relationships after divorce. They're part of the healing process. Just resist the temptation to jump in irrevocably. You're probably less ready than you think.

Dealing With Your Children

Remember, your children have gone (or are going) through the same grieving process you did, and they may be at any number of points in the process. Just like you did (and maybe still do), they may jump wildly to different points. That's their job.

What that means, of course, is that there may come a time when they want to be supportive of your moving on with your life, but they simply can't bring themselves to support it. Quite unintentionally (or maybe intentionally), they will sabotage your dating plans. They will whine when you're on the phone, misbehave when your date arrives, fail to give you messages, and otherwise throw a wrench into your best-laid plans. Understand that this is neither malicious nor uncaring on their part; they are dealing as effectively as they can with their grief over your separation and divorce.

So what can you do? Mainly, be patient. Make it ever so clear that your dating is an adult issue, that your date would never and could never replace their other parent. It will take far longer than you would like, and there will be promising improvements followed by disappointing setbacks. Eventually, your children will come around.

Resources

Here are some of the many resources available to single people on the web:

Stop the Divorce! | How much child support?
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