Dating After A Divorce: How Soon Is Too Soon?

11/03/2016 7:20 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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dating after divorce

Recently, in a surprisingly frank interview with Vanity Fair, actress Jennifer Garner opened up about the end of her 10-year marriage to actor/director Ben Affleck.

She discussed the past 12 months (which she refers to as the “year of wine”), her decision to step away from media, breaking the news to her kids and, finally, the prospect of dating again.

"I don't know. It's just that, [from] everyone that I know that is dating, it just seems, well... men don't call anymore. I want flowers; I don't want to text. What does that make me? What kind of dinosaur am I?" she told Vanity Fair's executive west coast editor, Krista Smith.

Which brings us to a very important point. Even Jennifer Garner -- Hollywood star, Golden Globe winner, face of Capital One and Neutrogena -- is freaked out about getting back into the dating game after her divorce.

In short, it's totally normal to feel apprehensive. On the other hand, you might feel to feel like it's time to jump back on the horse. Only one question remains -- are you really ready?

"There are four main questions I would ask myself in this situation," psychologist and dating coach Melanie Schilling told The Huffington Post Australia.

"The first is 'do I feel like ‘me’ again?' It's only if you say 'yes' to this question that we can then delve a bit further.

"Then I would recommend paying attention to your thinking and your 'self talk'. What kind of things are you telling yourself about dating? Are you saying, 'I’m really looking forward to the next date?' Or are you more in the head-space of, 'I don’t think he or she will like me? Why would they be interested in me?' I think it's important to identify whether your self talk building you up or dragging you down."

The next thing Schilling advises is to check in with your emotional state.

"Think about the idea of going on a date -- what emotions come up for you?" Schilling asked. "Keep in mind it's normal to have some first date anxiety, but not if it's overwhelming or you're finding you're not able to focus on other things. If the thought of going on a date is interrupting your everyday life, it's a sign you're not ready."

The last thing Schilling recommends is taking stock of your own behaviour. After all, you might be talking the talk, but are you actually putting your money where your mouth is?

"Have a look at your own behaviour and the actions that you're taking to move you towards your next relationship," Schilling said. "Are you being open to social engagements and being prepared to put yourself in new situations where you can meet new people? Or are you still in self-protective mode where you don't want to leave the house?

"If you are negative on any of those criteria, it's a sign you’re not ready and you need to spend some more time investing in yourself. Take the time and make it about you. Build up your confidence and resilience again. Focus on the things you really like about yourself."

bad date

Step one: work on how you're going to tell your divorce story.

If you do feel like you're ready go start dating again, Schilling says there are a couple of things you can do to prepare. The first of which being how to relay your 'divorce story.'

"You need to get clear on that story and figure out how you are going to share it," Schilling told HuffPost Australia.

"If you are still telling the story with daggers and bitterness, it's probably a sign you're not ready to share that story. Plus it's not attractive.

"The idea is to be able to tell your divorce story without too much emotion."

Referring back to Jennifer Garner, if the 43-year-old actress confesses to feeling like a "dinosaur", it's little wonder those exiting a 20 or 30 year marriage might feel out of touch with advancements in the dating game.

"There is a certain amount of 'get with the program' in this case," Schilling said. "It's very common. People who have been married for 30 to 40 years and are coming out the other side may need to upskill themselves on the digital world of dating. The fact is, it is the new reality.

"You might need to also develop a new appreciation for different communication modes. Accept if someone sends you a text thanking you for a date, that’s actually a huge compliment. It's not an inappropriate or rude thing to do. I think there's a bit of re-education that needs to happen there."

Finally, be prepared for other people's (possibly unrelenting) opinions and advice -- though there's no need to take any of it on if it's conflicting with your personal feelings.

"There can be a lot of external or social pressure when it comes to dating after a divorce," Schilling said. "My advice would always be to go back to those four points. You are the only one who will know whether you’re ready. Always come back to yourself."

If you are dating again and feel like you want to talk about it, Schilling recommends getting a 'dating buddy.'

If you have a friend also divorced, or someone in a similar situation, create a little dating club," Schilling advised. "I see this a lot. What will happen is they will go on a coffee date at the same time -- though obviously with different people and in different places, and then meet up afterwards to debrief.

"It's important to have a supportive environment around you."

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