Not surprisingly, smart dating after divorce requires a new approach. One that is reflective and thoughtful in a different way than you may have been before. It’s time to milk your marriage and divorce for information and take lessons from your experiences to make choices that work better for you. Sure, you can cast your net hoping for a good match based on chemistry. (How has that worked for you?) Or, you can seek to discern true compatibility on a deeper and more intentional level which also includes, but is not solely dependent on, chemistry.
While the right “timing” to start dating after divorce varies wildly by individual, thinking through these three things before wading back into the dating pool can make all the difference in the success of your next relationship:
Decide WHAT You Want
Are you ready to embark on your next long-term relationship with an eye toward remarriage, or do you simply want to find a dating buddy for some no-commitment fun? And, if you are ready for your next relationship adventure, what’s your vision of an ideal partnership? It’s worth taking some time to get clear on what you want and put words to it. While no relationship will be perfect, you have a much greater chance of matching up with a like-minded person if you can articulate your relationship goals.
Make a list of your relationship “top five” to help you hone in on and name what’s most important to you. For example:
1. We laugh every day and we are playful together
2. We balance time together with our individual interests
3. We’re very affectionate and enjoy a fantastic sex life
4. We both love to entertain and play host to friends and family
5. We share an interest in having adventures and staying healthy, fit and active
Make sure your top five focus on what you want, not what you don’t. You would say, “We’re both loyal, honest and true to each other,” instead of “Neither of us would ever cheat.”
When you meet someone with potential, ask that person to share their top five. This is worth doing to find out if your relationship wants and values are a fit. Remember, you don’t have to align perfectly. Just explore and discover if your goals are compatible and interesting to each other.
Decide WHO You Want
Like many of us, you may have chosen your Ex based on chemistry, physical attraction, and the excitement that’s present in the initial stages of romance when everything feels amazing. Now, you know from experience that those things alone are not enough to create a wonderful and lasting relationship (this information is a gift). Use the knowledge you’ve gained to consider what qualities are important to you for the long haul.
I suggest making a list of relationship requirements for next time. The list should include your “non-negotiables,” which are a handful of qualities that must be present in your next partner. This isn’t meant to be an impossible standard that no mere mortal can live up to. Instead, it’s a thoughtful examination of what qualities are most important to you, so you can recognize them when you see them and when you don’t.
To be clear, this isn’t about physical characteristics but rather about character. For example, a sense of humor, kindness, and integrity might be on your list of “must haves.” Also include the “nice to haves” such as mutual interest in learning new things, ballroom dancing or traveling. Again, you’re not going to find a perfect fit but, for example, knowing that dependability is one of your non-negotiables will help you weed out those who flake out on plans or do a disappearing act when you need emotional support.
Decide Who YOU Want to Be
Don’t wait to get into a relationship to live your best life. Be the kind of person that you’re looking for. The more you take care of yourself and become self-fulfilled, the more people will want to be with you.
—Make sure you’ve taken time to heal from your past relationship. That means it’s not first and foremost in your mind most of the time. You’ve forgiven yourself and your Ex, you recognize your role in what went wrong, and you are learning from it. You’ve let go of the anger and bitterness so you can be fully present for your next partner.
—Make a list of your relationship assets—that is everything you are looking forward to giving, contributing, and sharing with your next partner. This can include everything from your comforting bear hugs to your ability to listen without judgment to your famous BBQ chicken.
—Love yourself and get comfortable in your own company. It’s much better to be moving toward something you want rather than trying to get away from being alone. You choose from a much higher level when you aren’t trying to fill a gap in your life with a warm body.
If dating and finding love is your next big adventure, relax and have fun with it!
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