Dating and divorce aren’t words you often see in the same sentence. But the reality is that they often come together. It is entirely possible to do divorce and dating well, and at the same time, so we thought we’d set out a few tips and pitfalls we have picked up in our many divorce cases to help you do just that.
Divorce is a life change, and as you go through the process you are navigating towards a new chapter of your life – a new you. You’ll want to explore all sorts of questions – where do you want to live, work, what do you want to prioritise, how do you want to feel about yourself. And dating may well be part of that journey of self-discovery.
1. Don’t Let Your Old Relationship Define Your New One
The best start is a good ending. If you can manage divorce well you are far more likely to start a new relationship well. Why? Because if you can rationalise the relationship you had, what you drew from it in terms of positives and what you can happily leave behind, you will have worked out what you want for the future. You can then make engaged and conscious choices about what you are looking for in life, whether you want to date yet or at all, who you want to date and why.
So how to end a divorce well? Mindset is crucial. If you go into a divorce thinking it will be an awful battle, it will be. As a society we have an ingrained preconception that divorce is stressful, ruinously expensive and takes far too long. But it really does not have to be that way. You may not have chosen to get divorced, but the way you divorce is your choice. Don’t allow divorce to become something that is happening to you – take charge of it. If you get into a mindset of engaging and taking charge, you will immediately start to feel better and more empowered.
The most important message to understand is that divorce is a shared problem. The only way to divorce well, and by that I mean extricate yourself with an outcome which is legally fair to you, with dignity, for affordable cost and in a sensible timescale, is if you both divorce well. The reason for that is simple: either you both agree on an arrangement with regards to the division of your finances and/or the care of your children, or a Judge will impose a decision on you (after a long, expensive and often painful Court process). So the sooner you start engaging in what is fair for both of you, and your children, rather than what you each want, the better, because you will then be making choices in the way a Judge would.
But many couples do not know what ‘fair’ looks like in their situation. Legal advice is important, because these are huge decisions with lifelong ramifications, and because a Judge will only approve an agreement which is legally fair. Many couples, however, still do not realise that they do not have to instruct separate solicitors to obtain legal advice on divorce. One Couple One Lawyer services, as offered at The Divorce Surgery, enable separating couples to get joint impartial advice together from one lawyer for a fixed cost. You can read more about our One Couple One Lawyer services here.
2. Do Be Respectful Towards Your Ex
This is a person you chose to marry. Maybe you also chose to have children together. Unless you are extremely unlucky, there should be a significant amount of happy memories you created together. Don’t let the ending contaminate everything that went before.
Treating divorce as a shared problem is a really good place to start, because it will focus both of your minds on the benefits of working together. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, and of course can be fraught at times. When you find yourselves getting at each other take some space (even moving to another room if you’re in the same home). Remember you are navigating a process- it can be stressful at times but 42% of all married couples go through it. A good tip is to speak to your ex in the same way you would a work colleague – be civil and reasonable.
And when it comes to dating- don’t hold back in communicating with your ex. The instinct is to hide it for fear of upsetting your ex. But actually it’s much worse finding out about something after the fact than knowing in advance. If you want to start dating again, try to include this in a conversation as early as you can. And if you have children, please be extremely sensitive. There is no need for your children to know you are dating, and if you’ve met someone special and over time you decide you would like to introduce them to your children, speak to your ex about it first. Be prepared to be patient. It may take your ex a little longer than you to come to terms with this transition, but it will be so much better for your children if you can present a new partner with a neutral narrative both parents can agree on.
At The Divorce Surgery we often advise separated couples together on many issues surrounding post separation co-parenting, and this is one which often comes up. Please do reach out for joint advice if you think it could help you both- these can be choppy waters to navigate, but if you put in the effort to do it well it will be so worth it in the long run.
3. Don’t Be A Divorce Bore!
Your date does not want to hear about your ex. They don’t want to live your divorce drama (although if you’ve followed the first two tips hopefully the drama is to a minimum).
The best way not to be a Divorce Bore is to divorce well. If you’re going through a divorce process which is on the whole constructive and focussed, you just won’t feel the need to talk to your date about it. It’s also important to be able to engage properly with the person in front of you, and without hang-ups from your old relationship invading your conversation. If you’re unable to go on a date without talking about your divorce, reflect on whether it’s the right time for you to be dating yet or not.
4. Do Ditch The Guilt
If you take nothing else from this article, please take this: you have nothing to feel guilty about. 42% of marriages end in divorce. You are not a failure. You are just going through a life change. As a society we continue to stigmatise divorce, but we need to get over it. It is so damaging for your mental health to be in a negative mindset. So re-frame it. Think of the various challenges your family and friends are also going through. This is a challenge, yes, but one that you can and will overcome.
And don’t feel guilty about dating! Provided that you are separated and you have treated your ex respectfully then you are allowed to start exploring what your new life apart will be like. And that includes dating (if you want it to). Equally, if you find out your ex is dating, please don’t feel despondent. What’s really tough about the emotional fallout of divorce is that you will both go through the same stages but at different times. It’s extremely common for one spouse to start dating long before the other can even contemplate it. But that’s ok. It’s not a race. Far better to spend the time building yourself up, learning who you want to be with your newfound lease of life, than rushing into a relationship for the sake of it.
5. Do Be Open To New Adventures
Don’t confuse dating with commitment. You are coming out of a committed relationship- there is no need (unless you want to and you are ready) to launch straight into another one. Of course communicate openly with the people you are dating so they know where you are coming from, but use this time to have fun! And if you don’t want to date and can’t bear the idea of it- that’s fine too. Reclaim this time for yourself. Do not allow well-meaning family and friends to frog-march you into some dreadful blind date if you don’t fancy it. That’s three hours of your life you could have been having a glass of wine and watching Netflix!
Just be positive- focus on you and what you want and need, and whatever adventures are waiting for you will surely come.