Getting back into the dating game after a hiatus due to heartbreak can be tough for anyone – but especially so if you’re recently divorced.
Unlike a regular breakup (which, for the record can be just as awful, we are not saying that being married is the pinnacle of love), there are so many layers to get over.
Maybe you own a home together and have to stay in touch until it’s sold, or perhaps you have children, meaning you will remain in contact forever.
Then there’s the shared possessions, the pets, the common friends, the in-laws.
Even if you both decide that divorce is the right thing to do, it can still be heart-wrenching to let go of the future you once imagined together.
There are a lot of questions after a divorce.
How do you know when you’re ready to move on? How do people date now? And should you tell prospective partners about your past straight away?
Here, we endeavour to answer all of these, and more, with the help of relationship experts.
How to know if you’re ready to date again
Rule one: don’t rush into something new.
‘Take your time,’ says Claire, a matchmaker and dating coach.
‘Consider doing some therapy first to work through unresolved feelings. You don’t need to attain perfection before you date again, but it helps to address any major issues you’re contending with before you aim to enter into a new relationship.
‘It’s hard to ever really know if you’re ready. Take some time to focus on yourself right after the divorce.
‘As a matchmaker, I am pretty judicious about taking people on in the first six months after a divorce.
‘This doesn’t mean that you can’t dip your toe into the dating pool, though. Worst case, if you’re not ready, you can stop and spend some time recalibrating.’
Dr Becky Spelman, a psychologist and clinical director of Private Therapy Clinic, agrees that therapy can be very useful after divorce, but also urges people to remember that many others are in the same boat.
She is right – according to research by the Office for National Statistics, there were 90,871 divorces in 2018 alone (between opposite-sex couples).
This means that in every 1,000 married men and women, there were 7.5 divorces.
‘Make sure that you are ready to get out there again, and that you are over your marriage before you do, says Dr Spelman.
If you’ve been married for a long time, the fear of being rejected is quite likely and it’s very understandable if you’re feeling anxious.
‘The best way to overcome this is exposure therapy, actually practicing dating and going into situations that initially make you feel really uncomfortable, like meeting a stranger for a date.
‘You’ll find that after a time, you won’t feel as embarrassed at all, you’ll start to feel quite skilled in the art of dating and confident.’
How to get back into dating after a divorce
How we date has changed substantially over the past 10 years.
Whereas before we mostly met our partners through work, mutual friends or at the pub in our local neighbourhood, in 2020 (especially with the pandemic in play) it’s all about online dating.
But take this bold statement with a pinch of salt, as it can depend on your generation.
As an example, a recent study by YouGov found that 13% of 25 to 34-year-olds met their existing partner through dating apps, a figure that has likely been exacerbated during lockdown.
Meanwhile, 11% of 40 to 44-year-olds hooked up with their other half through a traditional dating website.
While it might seem daunting to venture online for love, don’t let nerves get the better of you and keep an open mind.
‘A lot of people are reticent to put up a dating profile, but there’s no harm in doing it,’ says Claire.
‘You can always change it later or take it down. It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect.
‘Do some research and see what kinds of dating sites are appropriate for your demographic and what you’re looking for. Even if you’ve done online dating before, you may have better luck on a new site or app now.
‘Compare and contrast, and potentially leave a profile open even if you don’t go back to it much.
‘On dates, don’t talk about your ex too much, favourably or unfavourably. It’s a sign that you haven’t moved on sufficiently to start dating again.
‘If you find yourself doing this, it’s probably best to take a few steps back and reflect on why it’s happening.’
Not to worry, IRL dating is still a thing.
Rob Ryall, the founder of Date in a Dash, which hosts speed dating events across London, shares some of the lessons that he has learned from his years in the business – and what he has witnessed.
He says: ‘Sometimes people come to the events a bit too soon after the breakup and they have regrets/feel guilty or haven’t quite got over their relationship ending.
‘I would say that you need to make sure you have definitely got over you ex and healed before you start looking again. I have had people literally walk out after a few dates and say to me “I just can’t do this”.
‘One particular thing I have noticed is that men in their 50s and 60s who find themselves divorced after a long marriage seem to lose their identity.’
Rob’s top tip? Giving your wardrobe a clear-out before going on dates face-to-face and picking up some new clothes, to make the moment all that more special – and make you feel as confident as possible.
And remember, dating is a numbers game – so prepare to commit to it if you want results.
‘You want to set aside some time for your dating life; a few hours per week, just like anything else, you need to put in effort for it to succeed,’ adds Dr Spelman.
When and how to tell someone that you’re divorced
Being divorced is nothing to be ashamed of, so honesty is always the best way forward.
You can mention it before the date, if you want, or on the date itself. Many apps and websites also let you set a divorced relationship status in your bio.
Dr Spelman says: ‘In relation to telling people that you’re divorced, it’s a good idea to be upfront and mention this right away and not have any shame about it.
‘Remember that people who have never married have also had relationships that have ended.
‘It’s a matter of fact of life that relationships come to an end and there’s nothing odd or unusual to be ashamed of being divorced. You have nothing to hide.’
But be prepared for some difficult questions, as if you are recently divorced, the person you’re dating might wonder if you are really over your marriage.
So it’s equally important to be respectful of their feelings.
What to do if you start dating but realise you’re not ready
‘Whether the relationship lasted for a couple of years, or felt like a lifetime, whether it was mutual or not, divorcing someone and making that break away from a partner can leave us feeling hurt, confused, and vulnerable,’ says Natasha Briefel, UK brand marketing director at Badoo UK.
‘It’s normal to feel intense emotions after a divorce, and it’s important to not hide from them or suppress these feelings, because sometimes you can actually learn from them, and the pain we feel after a breakup can help us understand more about what we want out of future relationships.
‘Talking about these emotions with someone else, a friend or family member, can really help to alleviate the pain.’
While getting back into dating is important in order to move on, don’t force yourself to do it if you realise that it’s not what you need right now.
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