After separating from your spouse, you might think you’ll never look for another potential partner. Figuring out if you’re “ready” to date again might be harder than you think, because you’re balancing your other emotions with some level of fear. Some people find it easier to determine when they’re absolutely not ready — the whole idea of dating will basically repulse you. When that’s how you feel, accept the feeling and wait it out. Gradually, you might start to feel more open to the idea. Though you, personally, might never feel fully ready, it’s crucial to identify when you’re waiting because you need more time or are waiting because you’re scared of making the wrong decision.
2. Figure out what kind of person you want
You might not be able to order a potential date the way you can customize your morning latte, but making a list about what you want can help. You don’t need to know exactly the type of person you’re hoping to find, but try making a list of deal-breakers and must-haves. Dating after separation can tempt people into looking for someone as far from their ex as possible, but consider the things you couldn’t stand about them and add them to a deal-breaker list without discounting everything about them.
3. Put your feelings about your ex in the neutral zone
If you’re still harboring significant levels of negative emotions about your ex, dating might have to wait. In certain situations, an amicable relationship with an ex might not happen for years. However, if you’re spending a lot of time dwelling on the circumstances surrounding your divorce or the way your ex still makes your skin crawl, it will be hard to feel positively about anyone else. The more neutral you can feel, the better.
4. Consider what you want from dating
Not all post-divorce dates need to be about looking for a relationship. Maybe you just want another person to see a movie with on a Saturday night. Maybe you want to feel attractive around someone other than your best friends. Wading back into dating without at least an idea of what you need from the experience can end in confusion and hurt feelings — for you or for potential partners.
5. Have a strategy for your child’s involvement
Most parents think about the timing surrounding when to introduce a new potential partner to a child. However, even seeing a parent dating can be a touchy subject for some kids, even if they’re not in direct contact with the people involved. Think about how much you’ll tell your kids and watch and listen carefully to their reactions when you broach the subject. Sometimes what they don’t say turns out to be just as important as what they do. Your children’s reactions shouldn’t be the determining factor in your decision to date or not to date, but at least consider their feelings and have an idea of how much to share and when to do it.