Papers served, signatures inked, and lawyers paid—the divorce is finalized and you're free to move on. But are you really ready? Before jumping back into the dating scene, prepare yourself by reflecting on the three important issues below.
Tackle Your Emotions. Divorce constitutes an enormous life change involving myriad losses. Even if you initiated the break up and are completely happy to be out of your marriage, you still need to work through your feelings. This can be accomplished by consulting a counselor or life coach, or just scheduling weekly talks over coffee with a good friend. If you prefer solo introspection, journaling proves a helpful tool. Regardless of your method, be sure to set designated times to consciously grapple with the emotional fallout of your separation. Neglecting this step could adversely affect your future dating ventures. Themes surrounding your former marriage and ex-spouse might spill into conversations with potential partners. If this occurs, your dates will likely assume you're not over your ex and view you as emotionally unavailable. Alternatively, they may feel bad for you and stick around to help you out—relegating you to the "friend zone" and operating as a pro bono psychotherapist, as opposed to a potential life partner.
Own Your Part. It's easy to point the finger at your ex, but ultimately relationships thrive or deteriorate due to the actions of both members. Regardless of the circumstances, you need to recognize the part you played in the demise of your marriage. Denying any culpability leaves you vulnerable to repeating maladaptive dynamics in your next relationship. As one divorcée explained, "I could say my ex blind-sided me by morphing into an entirely different person than the one I married. And yeah, that's true in a way. But I also have to recognize that I enabled him for a long time. He became bitter and negative and I put up with it because of the kids and my commitment to our marriage. But I should have called him out at times. I bit my tongue for way too long." Recognizing your liability allows you to pick a partner better suited to you in the future.
Figure Out What You Want. The best part about a divorce (if there is a best part) is you clearly know what you don't want in a spouse. You've had ample experience in a relationship with someone who wasn't a good fit. Now that you're out, take time to determine the traits and characteristics your next partner must have, in addition to any possible deal breakers. Be mindful of the fact that you may find yourself still attracted to personality characteristics that ultimately don't jibe well with yours. The last thing you want is to endure the pain of divorce only to turn around and marry essentially the same person in round two! One divorcé put it this way, "I've always been drawn to smart, witty, beautiful women—who isn't? But my first wife's quick wit was too often mean spirited. I refused to deal with a snarky spouse again so I put kindness on my 'must have' list and promised myself to value sensitivity over intellect and good looks. Then I lucked out and found a sweet, brilliant woman who is even hotter than my first wife!"
Stepping into the dating scene after an ill-fated marriage proves simultaneously daunting and exciting. Make the most of this next stage of your life by doing your emotional homework so you'll be prepped and ready to meet the love of your life!