Going through a divorce is one of the most challenging experiences in life. And dating after divorce comes as a close second to many.
Sadly, though, divorce rates are rising among older couples and getting back into the dating scene after decades in a marriage may be daunting for an increasing number of older adults.
Especially when you consider the more years you spend with someone, the more complex and difficult starting over and rebooting may this process will seem.
While marriage problems after retirement and, ultimately, divorcing can be emotional and overwhelming, there are ways to get back out into the dating world.
For those who have healed and are ready for romantic mingling again, we share five steps of dating after divorce.
But first, let’s quickly cover when it’s a good time to start dating again after a divorce.
When to Start Dating After Divorce?
Dating does not, and should not, end after you get a divorce.
We all know that timing can be everything, but what should you consider before jumping back into the world of relationships?
Many factors go into this decision — but one of the most important is feeling ready.
According to a study on grief and anger in widowhood and divorce, widows and divorcees report very similar levels of anger. The pain associated with ending a marriage can be debilitating and almost as intense as the passing of a spouse.
That’s precisely why you need to take time to go through the grieving process — and it can take a lot of patience and work to know if and when you’re really ready.
Of course, just like grieving, healing is such a personal journey with no one way about it.
What’s most important is to focus on self-care and getting to know your authentic self again.
Once you’re feeling healthy and healed, then it’s time to check out our five steps to dating after divorce.
#1: Determine What Went Wrong
You’re probably asking yourself, “What went wrong?” It’s a fair question, but it might be better to ask what you can do differently next time instead of resorting to blaming.
Reflect on your past relationship — what kind of things did you clash on?
Also, consider asking these reflection questions:
- Did you have communication problems?
- Was there infidelity (not only physical, but emotional)?
- Were finances an issue?
- Or were you simply not compatible anymore because you didn’t talk about your individual growth (or lack thereof)?
It is important to understand what caused the marriage breakdown for the best chance at success in future relationships so you don’t repeat the same learning lessons.
Worthy’s study on dating after divorce showed that 62% of the interviewed baby boomers are afraid they’ll just fall into the same patterns.
By determining what actually went wrong, you can prevent these fears from becoming a reality.
All it takes is a commitment to practicing self-awareness. And avoiding the glaring red flags in a potential partner.
#2: Get Clear on Your Goals and Standards
Divorce is never easy, but it can be liberating. If you’re looking to improve your life after the split, start by clearly defining your goals and standards.
And not just for your potential future relationship; it’s also for yourself (in a big way).
As a senior single, you have already been through several of life’s milestones. You know what you want and, more importantly, what you don’t want in a relationship.
It’s just a matter of drawing bright lines around what’s authentically right for you.
For instance, is getting married again something you want? What about moving in together?
According to Pew Research, 64% of older adults see societal benefits of marriage, while 35% are just as happy in a long-term committed relationship without official nuptials.
Do you want to remarry or be in a committed long-term relationship without getting married again? Image Source: Pew Research Center
Figuring out which category you fall into before committing to a serious relationship can help you navigate your relationship goals.
Evaluate what kind of partner would be good for you and what qualities are important in the person you date.
In a nutshell, use your life experience to find clarity and set goals, standards, and boundaries. Dating after a divorce can be empowering and enjoyable if you know what you truly want.
#3: Prioritize Healing Yourself
No matter the circumstances of your divorce, it is important to take time to heal. The last thing you want to do is settle for the first person who comes along (need we say rebound to fill a void?).
You need time to find out who you are again as an individual, not just as the person that was part of a married couple.
Try to figure out what makes the authentic you happy and how to have a good relationship with yourself before quickly jumping into another one.
(Hint: If you’re looking for ideas to rediscover your sense of self and purpose, check out our guide on 101 things to do when you retire.)
A study on the impact of divorce found that many turn to new partners to strengthen and support their resignified personal identity. But we urge you to build up your confidence by focusing on your personal growth journey.
Healing from a broken marriage takes more than just time — it needs to be intentional. In fact, research suggests that higher levels of self-compassion and self-love will empower you in your emotional recovery process.
The higher the self-compassion, the less emotionally affected you are by the separation. Source: Self-Compassion
As you heal from your emotional wounds, it’s important to put yourself first (without any guilt).
#4: Don’t Compare
Have you heard the old saying “comparison is the thief of joy”?
It’s so easy to compare your marriage with post-divorce relationships. After all, you’ve been through a lot with your ex-spouse.
But comparisons are generally a terrible idea.
Take the rampant role of social media, for instance.
In one study on the effect of social comparison orientation on social media revealed that heavy Facebook usage correlates with poorer self-perceptions and lower self-esteem.
Even favorable comparisons like “you are so much more attentive than ___ was” can have a detrimental effect.
Basically, try to stop comparing and let the past be in the past.
Every person is unique — as is every relationship. Embrace these differences and learn to communicate your goals, needs, and boundaries to your new or potential partner.
Not only will this lead to mutual respect, but it also deepens your new relations.
#5: Have Fun
Whether you decide to dip your toes in senior dating sites or would rather go the organic way, just remember to have fun. If you do decide to give online dating a chance, don’t miss these tips for writing an unbelievably good dating profile.
No matter your relationship goals and priorities, you should step out of your comfort zone and have fun. A great indicator of having fun is, of course, laughter.
Fun and laughter are more important than what we let on.
So much so that one study out of Turkey reveals that laughter therapy reduces anxiety, stress, and depression among cancer patients.
Imagine how fun and laughter can really improve your dating life.
Yes, dating after divorce might seem intimidating at first – but once you get over your anxiety about doing things “wrong” and push past that fear by focusing on being authentically YOU, you’ll realize that dating as an older adult is much more relaxed than when you were younger.
So, get out there and bust the myth that older people are boring (and bored).
The more you let yourself enjoy it as your authentic self, and have faith in this new phase of life, the more fun and sheer joy you will experience.
Finding Love After Divorce
At one point you probably told yourself that you’re never dating again after a divorce.
That makes a ton of sense, considering healing time is a must.
It’s also reasonable that you have doubts about meeting someone new — it can be a challenging process, but it’s definitely worth it.
With the right mindset and some self-reflection, you can find (healthy) love for both yourself and a potential new partner.
You just need to put in the work and use these five steps we outlined as a guide. Plus, here are some essential dating rules to help keep you on the right track.
Here’s to a more confident, self-aware, and happier you.
For more dating advice, check out our comprehensive Guide to Dating After 50.