Dating After a Divorce
May 7, 2012 - 1:05:25 AM
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Getting a referral from a physician that one of their patients is beginning the dating scene after a divorce is a common occurrence in my practice. It’s tough out there, and somewhat scary. If you’ve been married for a long while, the dating scene may overwhelm or frighten you. If you are asking how you will know when you are ready, there is a question you can ask yourself. Ask yourself if you feel that you need a partner or if you would like to enjoy and share another’s company? If you still feel that you need someone to complete you or your life, you aren’t ready. This feeling of need will lead to a poor choice of a partner as well as you most likely getting taken advantage of. This feeling of need is many times a signal that you are starting to date too soon. The loneliness and constant re-playing the tape of your partner’s betrayal may trap you into feeling alone and undesirable. Medicating with a new person is a temporary pain patch, and many times those temporary patches are temporary for a very good reason. Sacrificing your own physical and emotional health to get a “fix” of feeling desired again is never a good idea.
When you are ready, and enough time has passed since the divorce or breakup, it is wise to tell everyone you respect that you are actively looking or open to meeting new people. People you respect have respectful friends, and therefore they usually are your best option with securing a date with someone you will like. If you don’t have many friends, it may be helpful to begin searching different groups you could join to meet other singles. Cooking classes or groups, poetry readings, yoga, church groups, plays, and sporting events all provide opportunities to connect with others who appreciate the same things you do. Being with other singles will help build your confidence, and provide feedback about how you present and appeal to others. Being married may have enabled you to not focus on your looks, your mannerisms, and your lifestyle. Dating forces you to evaluate all of those qualities that may have been taken for granted or not explored.
One of the most popular options for singles is online dating. It is a wonderful option in its ability to date on your own time, ask a lot of questions, and get to know someone in the comfort of your own home. It is alarming in its ability to provide a “cover” for someone to lie, take advantage of someone by saying what they want to hear, and to basically be serial dating without the other person knowing. Therefore, caution and intelligence is required if you are going to online date. Remember from the beginning that dating online is going to afford you dating experience before you take a risk with actually getting dressed up and meeting them. Therefore, focus on the experience rather than any set expectation. Below are a few suggestions and red flags to look for when online dating. This list is not complete because I date online vicariously (I am a relationship psychotherapist), but it will help you avoid problems.
Tips for Online Dating: In general, the more you spend with a dating website, the more mature, responsible partners you are going to encounter. If you sign up with a free huge dating website, you may go on a zillion dates, or find the partner of your dream; but most likely, you will become a triage center for possible nut cases, total nut cases, or creepy nut cases. If you are serious about a relationship, invest in a serious online dating site.
1. Stay anonymous with your user name, personal information and phone number. You and only you should decide when you are comfortable giving this information out. Remember, once it is out there the other person can harass you or pressure you until you get together with them. If you don't know this person enough to trust them, DON’T.
2. Be cautious in making decisions. The same behaviors that work well for physical dating are valuable with online dating. Don't move too fast…one conversation is not enough to meet someone in person.
3. Look at several different photos of the person. Who are they with? Is anyone cut out of the photo? Has it been photo-shopped? Why? Ask questions. I would like to say it doesn't matter what you look like, but that would be a lie. Most people cannot trust someone until they see their photo.
4. Talk to the person on the phone at least once before you meet them (hopefully more than once). A voice tells you a lot more about the person. Online dating is a little bit like putting a puzzle together. The pieces of a person's life should make sense when you see them together.
5. The greatest asset of online dating is you can take your time to meet. Make sure when you decide to meet you are at a public place. Tell your best friend or several people where you are going and the person’s name and phone number. Trust your gut when you see the person. You can always back out at the last minute. If the person tries to pressure you or argue with you in any way about meeting, that is a red flag. Do not go.
6. Always take yourself to the meeting place. Never let them pick you up and don't have someone drop you off unless they can come at any time to pick you up. This is setting you up to be vulnerable and this is not the time to be vulnerable. If you are meeting someone from another city, state or country, make your own travel plans. Do not tell the person where you are staying or any of your travel details. Have a set meeting place in mind and meet them there at a set time.
7. At any time if you feel you are unsafe with this person call the police. They will give you counsel in regards to what you should do. A patient of mine decided to meet someone they met online in Colorado. She became frightened after dinner because she went to his place and he wanted to have sex. Of course the guy was also into asphyxiation and almost killed her. She told me she felt a bad feeling in her gut when she met the guy, but did not honor it.
Dating after a divorce is all part of the journey you found yourself on after signing the papers. It isn’t easy, but it is an opportunity to grow and explore. Stay open, and allow yourself to experience the experience. Being older with dating has its advantages. You are wiser, and understand the fragility of relationships. You no longer need a person to fulfill you; you are looking for one to share your life with. Take your time, and enjoy the experience. –Mary Jo Rapini
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