Dr. Val FarmerDr.Val
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Ten Guidelines For Courtship After Divorce

October 17, 2005

You are on the verge of being thrust back to the years of dating, rejection and sexual politics. There is a definite "yuk" factor. It was trauma enough the first time around. Your self-esteem, judgment, and self-confidence will be put to the test.

Here are ten guidelines to consider as you re-enter the singles world.

1. Children. If you have children at home, you need to consider their needs first. They are your responsibility. They need time to grieve and adjust to the divorce and custody arrangements. Be patient. You may be ready to date, but they won’t be.

Keep the relationship out of their sight and don’t encourage bonding with dating partners unless you know your relationship will be permanent. Be careful of dating partners who find fault with your parenting and are anxious to give advice or take over.

2. Finalize your divorce. Cut your ties except for parenting issues. Don’t have flings with the ex-spouse. This will confuse everyone, especially the children.

Don’t start dating until after the divorce is final. This will anger your partner by flaunting how easily he or she can be replaced and this will possibly prolong the divorce and make custody fights even worse.

3. Timing. Delay dating for at least six months if not a year. Socialize, don’t date. You need time to regroup, figure out who you are, and stabilize your new living and income arrangements. You are vulnerable to loneliness and poor judgment. Socialize, not date. Learn to be comfortable being alone.

Don’t let friends rush you. You will know when you are ready.

4. Getting help. Get into counseling. Find a support group. Read the literature on divorce adjustment. Talk to friends who have been through this. Process the divorce, your feelings, and your own role in the marriage problems. Sort through your goals and aspirations.

You need to overcome feelings of fear, desperation, negative self-thoughts, loneliness, and low self-esteem. If you have been subject to trauma, you need to work through those issues to regain trust. Get rid of bad habits and unhealthy cravings.

Come to believe you have a lot to offer someone and also to expect a lot from a future companion. Value yourself and act with self-confidence. Your confidant actions, body language and communication style will make you more attractive in the dating world.

Overcome your fears about your inability to choose a new partner. You know more. Trust yourself.

5. Appearance. Get a new haircut. Work out and get into shape. Join a gym. Buy flattering clothes. Get a make over, a facial, a manicure, new shoes, dye your hair, or whatever else makes you feel more attractive. It is how you feel about yourself that will radiate an inner beauty.

6. Enjoy your freedom and single status. You had a loss but you gained your freedom. This is a time when you can concentrate on yourself. Reestablish your own identity. Explore your interests. Try new things. Get past the "needy" stage and then date when it seems like fun.

Discover your playful side. Have some fun. Dating doesn’t have to be so serious.

Lower your expectations that your first relationship will be the one and only. Face disappointment. This is a learning experience. By being open, you will also experience rejection. Not everyone clicks. You will be doing your fair share of rejecting also.

7. Intimacy. Define your standards for sexual behavior and personal morality and be clear with your dating partner what they are. Your personal faith plays a huge role in whether you can enjoy or even engage in pre-marital intimacy. Be true to yourself.

Dating rules may be relaxed and different from your past. But your rules are your rules. Be patient and you will find someone who feels the same way you do.

It is also strategic not to engage in sex early in a relationship before the relationship has grown and matured into love and commitment. Being willing to abstain from sex heightens your value in the eyes of the dating partner.

Look for the chemistry but then focus on building an underlying friendship. Good relationships take time to develop your knowledge of a partner, trust, and commitment. Sex rushes a relationship and can interfere with the foundation a relationship needs to mature into a lasting commitment.

8. Aggressively meet the opposite sex in normal settings. Enlist the help of friends, relatives, and work colleagues. Use your network. Join a church social group for singles. Be active. Join a club or take a class. Try the Internet. Figure out all the things you wanted to do but couldn’t with your ex-spouse.

It is a numbers game. No one is going to come knocking at your door. The more people you meet, the greater your odds of connecting with someone who will be a future life companion.

9. Develop a new support group. Face it, you are in a singles world. Your old friends may lack interest or compassion or have taken sides. Find new friends who are in the same boat you are in. Get their ideas and perspectives.

10. Dealing with pitfalls. Take charge and make plans for holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and other occasions that will be loaded with memories. These occasions may not be the best but by good planning you can take a little of the sting out of them.