Dating after Divorce: Why Should You Wait?
Before my marriage of eight years ended, I went through a year of separation. It was a painful time in in my life, but also fruitful. I had that time to sort things out, evaluate my marriage, adjust to living alone and manage the financial implications that came with separation. Much of that time was spent hoping that my marriage would still be salvaged. It was a grief-filled, sad day to me when I went to court and the divorce was finalized. I thought that chapter of my life was finished, and it was time to move forward. I brought up the subject of dating at my next counseling session.
"Wait a year before you start dating," said my counselor.
My heart sank. It had been a full year of separation, and now the divorce was finalized. Wasn't it time to move forward?!
The Best Advice
Not only did my trusted counselor tell me to "wait a year", but a friend gave me the exact advice. It didn't make sense to me. I felt I had done my time during the separation. I wanted to move forward and above all, I desperately longed for companionship. However, I listened to that advice and deliberately chose to wait before becoming involved in a new relationship. Looking back, it ended up being some of the best advice I had.
Seven Good Reasons to Wait
Everyone's situation is unique, but I think there are some very good reasons to avoid dating (dare I say it?) at least a year after going through a divorce.
1. You need time to grieve. Marriage is a huge investment, and involves the whole person. Your entire being was involved in the marriage. Going through a divorce in most situations involves deep grief, similar to a person suffering the death of a close family member. You might be grieving the loss of your spouse, and you might be grieving what you dreamed your marriage would have been, or both. There many losses that occur because of divorce aside from the relationship itself. It is tempting to try to short cut the grieving process, but eventually, you will still have to work through everything. It's much easier when you aren't involved with someone new. Avoid making a decision out of loneliness that you might regret later.
2. Give yourself time to stabilize. Sadly, divorce involves the upheaval of almost every area of life. It often affects living arrangements, friendships, lifestyle, finances and much more. Putting yourself into a new relationship during this time just adds to all the other changes. The year after a divorce gives you time to settle your living arrangements and get adjusted to all the changes. Holidays have to be re-evaluated. Perhaps you need to make a job change during this time as well. Be willing to face and adapt to these matters, and you will benefit yourself in the long run. If a new relationship develops later, you'll be standing on firm ground.
3. Connect with family & friends and become a "hugger". Divorce is an ideal time to reconnect with family and friends. Friendships forged through the pain of divorce, can be one of the richest blessings in life.. You may possibly meet new friends that are going through the journey with you. I was amazed at the support I received during this difficult time in life. Not only did my friends and family help me stay accountable when I was deliberately choosing not to date, many were also encouraging when I started dating again. I wanted their truthful feedback, and they were invested in my life and wanted the best for me.
Though I had never been a "hugger" and it was a little awkward at first, I learned to ask my family and friends for hugs. I really missed physical affection, and it was a great comfort to me to get (and give) those hugs. Don't be afraid to become a "hugger", even if you've never been one before. It's a great way to give and receive physical touch in a healthy way.
4. It's an opportunity to get counseling. I found counseling helpful during my separation, but even more valuable after the divorce. There were multitudes of changes and adjustments in my life, and it was helpful to speak to an objective person who was outside of the situation. I talked regularly to both a professional Christian counselor and my pastor. The time I spent in counseling was a worthwhile investment, and I believe it helped me make good choices when I started to date again.
5. Figure out who you are as a single person. It sounds "trite", perhaps, to say such a thing, but it is good to learn who you are apart from your ex-spouse. Sometimes when you come out of a marriage you may have spent much of your time and energy invested in another person in an unhealthy way. Stepping into another relationship right away could set up a repeat situation. Take time to re-charge your batteries. Learn what you love, especially the simple things you may have forgotten. Going to college after my divorce was ideal for me. I also rediscovered my love of bike riding, and started to pursue hobbies I had neglected for several years. It's rewarding to find or rediscover your passions and talents and cultivate those, rather than thinking of yourself as being in a relational void.
6. Don't forget you are a spiritual person too. I grew the most in my spiritual life during the years of my separation and following my divorce. The Bible is a rich source of comfort. Prayer is an amazing tool of communication with God when you are lying in bed by yourself at night or any time. You can pour out your heart to Him. He knows it all, because He created you. I often talked to God in my car when the pain was the most intense. Worship times in church were balm and healing to my heart. The spiritual life after my divorce was rich, and I would have not experienced that season if I had been focusing on a new relationship. Making Christ the focus as the One who understands suffering during that time, still enriches my life today.
7. The best reason to wait, is that it's worth it! If you put in the time now, you will reap the rewards in the future of many happy and fulfilling years after the divorce. The repercussions of divorce will last a long time, and those memories won't fade easily. However, doing the true work of grief and recovery will provide rich dividends for you in the future, and provide a strong framework that you can draw on for many years.
What do you think?
Is it a good idea to wait a year after divorce before dating?
© 2013 Karen Fritzemeier