By Mandy Hale
The new survey by Worthy, “Jumping In: Dating After Divorce in 2019” reveals that eight out of ten women are already thinking about dating before their divorce is final. I’ve never been divorced, so I can’t speak on behalf of divorced women, but at age 40, I’ve definitely been through my fair share of break-ups. One with a man I was off and on with for over a decade that very much felt like a divorce. I’ve also been through a couple of self-imposed “dating hiatuses” over the years, where I’ve taken long extended breaks from the dating scene to heal, to recalibrate, or to simply just take some time to myself. Two different periods of five years each, as a matter of fact. I share all this to say this: While I haven’t been through the pain of a divorce, I have been through traumatic breakups as well as dating breaks, both of which have forced me to re-enter the dating scene with as much fear and uncertainty and hope and excitement as any woman re-entering the dating scene after a long period of time, and I’ve picked up some hard-earned lessons along the way. Since getting back out there after any amount of time can be absolutely terrifying…here are a few tips I’ve picked up to help make the transition back into the dating scene with as much ease and confidence as possible:
1. There’s absolutely no need to rush.
Hurt people hurt people, as the saying goes. Don’t feel like you have to get back out there and continue the mad pursuit for love prematurely. As we get older, it can start to feel like there’s a giant ticking clock hanging above our heads taunting us, particularly if you’re like me and you don’t yet have kids but still hope to be a mom. But here’s the thing: You will be toxic to any man you meet until you have healed YOU. Especially if you’ve just disengaged yourself from a long-term marriage or relationship. The best, most healthy relationships of your life will come on the other side of self-care and healing…so take the time, go to therapy, do the hard work on yourself, and ONLY get back out there again when you feel good and ready.
2. Once you are ready to get back out there, where and how to begin?
Dating in 2019 is definitely different from dating ten, even five years ago. And while online dating and dating apps don’t carry the same stigma that they once did, it can still feel scary and overwhelming to know which platform is best for you. While I don’t have one app or platform to recommend over the other, I will say it’s important to do your research. Read online reviews, ask your single girlfriends for their opinions, and hop onto some of the apps to explore them for yourself. If one doesn’t feel like a good fit, move on to the next one…just like with dating itself. And don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to find your rhythm and start connecting with people. It took me a good month to start making quality matches online and sometimes it can take even longer. The best thing you can do is have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously. Your happiness nor your worth are dependent upon how many people swipe right on you.
The most important thing when it comes to beginning again with dating is remembering that falling in love is great, but falling in love with yourself has to come first.
3. BE YOURSELF!
Both on dating apps and when you start going out on dates. Don’t be afraid to be very clear about what you’re looking for, and to keep it moving if you match with someone who doesn’t fit the bill. Always make sure your online dating profile showcases your personality and your REAL life, not some super perfect airbrushed version of your life. Don’t present yourself as a “lover of all things outdoors” if you’ve been hiking once in your life. Remember, eventually, you will meet some of these men in person and they’ll be looking to meet the woman you presented yourself to be. So just be honest…be funny…be quirky…be creative…be authentic…and above all, ease off the Snapchat filters! I love a good filter as much as the next person, but make sure at least half of your photos are unfiltered and show you in your most honest light. And also be sure to post recent photos, not ones from ten years ago. You never want to show up to meet someone for dinner and have them not recognize you because you look so different from your photos.
4. Stay Open to Organic
Online is great and can make the process of meeting someone easier, but make sure to stay open to meeting people organically, too. It can still happen! But remember, the chances of the perfect man being dropped on your doorstep are slim to none (though I DID once date my upstairs neighbor. But I digress.) so you’re going to have to put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone a little. Join a new gym. Take up a new hobby. Join a meet-up group or find a new church or volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. The best, most organic way to meet someone who loves the things that you love is by being active and getting out there and actually DOING the things you love.
5. Above all…be safe
One simple rule I have for myself is, I never meet up with anyone whose last name I don’t know (this might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t adhere to this rule). I like to vet the people I’m meeting thoroughly and scope out their social media pages and make sure they are 100% normal and not serial killers. I say that in jest but in this day and age, you can never be too safe. I always make sure I let someone, whether it be my parents or a friend, know where I’ll be and who I’ll be with. I’ve also shared my location with people before so they can see exactly where I’m at. And I always meet up with someone for the first time in a public, well-lit, well-frequented location, never at their house or my house or a remote park or wherever. I’ve never found myself in a situation where I didn’t feel safe, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And any man who is worth your affections is going to understand and respect you taking basic safety precautions.
Dating after a break-up or divorce can be scary and intimidating…but it can also be exciting and exhilarating! The most important thing when it comes to beginning again with dating is remembering that falling in love is great, but falling in love with yourself has to come first. And then everything else will fall into place. Look for love, hope for love, wish for love, stay open to love…but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love. You’re starting a brand new chapter of life on the other side of your breakup or divorce, and finding love is just one of those chapters. There are so many other wonderful chapters to explore! So pick up the pen and start writing. This is YOUR time.
About the Author
Blogger turned New York Times best-selling author and speaker Mandy Hale is the creator of The Single Woman social media movement that has revolutionized what it means to be single. The author of four books, Mandy’s empowering message reaches millions of women across the world every day. You can connect with her online at MandyHale.com, or on social media @TheSingleWoman.