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Yes, there is life after divorce. But, like any point in your life, it requires your full attention. Even if you feel the divorce was the best thing that ever happened to you, choose mindfulness. Any type of major shift is stressful. If there are children involved, the stress factor rises dramatically. There are more emotions involved in this process than you may imagine.

A big part of post-divorce life revolves around the topic of dating. How soon? How often? What will it look and feel like? This is where your mindfulness will pay off, big time. Let’s take a closer look.

How To Start Dating After Divorce

To begin, we’ll introduce three major elements of this scenario.

Don’t Rush In

You may feel lonely. You may feel driven to hook up with…..  whoever you can. Part of you may want to “prove” something. But, practice some patience. In particular, it can be helpful to wait until the divorce is final and the ink has dried on the papers. Let that sink in, get your bearings, and make some decisions.

Ultimately, each person must decide how long to wait. Whatever course you choose, try to make conscious choices without succumbing to impulsiveness.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

The specifics aren’t the point. When a couple divorces, they experience a major loss. They will need to mourn this loss along with other, less obvious losses. Presumably, you got married with certain hopes, dreams, and plans. You believed in true love and trusted the phrase “till death do you part.”

You’ll need time to grieve the loss of:

  • Your connection with your spouse
  • Your innocence
  • A potential future that cannot happen now

Don’t underestimate the heaviness of this transition.

Learn From the Past

Far too often, people jump into relationships, contracts, and situations in an unconscious manner. We get married or have kids or choose a career or buy a home because it’s what we’re “supposed” to do. Well, regardless of circumstances, life is giving you a fresh start of sorts. Do some serious reflecting on what happened the first time around. Most importantly, take the time to identify what you wish you could do over. Take ownership – what did you do to contribute to the dynamic that led to the end of the marriage?

Even if you’re not interested in a committed, long-term relationship, it remains essential to re-evaluate how you connect with others — and why. Again, take your time.

Practical Tips

While you do the hard work necessary to deal with the big-picture issues discussed above, you can also work on the nuts and bolts of post-divorce dating. Some tips:

  • Talk with a therapist to explore your reasons for choosing to date, hook up, or immediately seek a mate
  • Get some help with the brave new world of online dating
  • Let friends and family know if you’re open to being matched up with someone
  • Practice safe sex
  • Be honest about your divorce status with another potential partner you meet
  • If you have children, never keep that a secret

Speaking of Children…

When kids are in the picture — whatever the custody situation is — the rules are different. Depending on your children’s ages, you will have no choice but to set firm boundaries and accept necessary compromises. No matter how anxious you are to get out there and meet people, the well-being of your kids must be heavily factored into almost all your dating decisions.

This is where divorce counseling becomes so important. You can speak with friends who have been through similar experiences. But what you really need is to drill down on your specific situation. Your weekly therapy sessions can be extremely useful in navigating the minefields of life after divorce. If that kind of help sounds good, I’m here for you. Let’s talk soon…

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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret which offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.