Emerging from the Time Capsule: Five Tips for Post-Divorce Dating

If the last time you went on a first date was more than 15 years ago, brace yourself. “Being married is a little like being in a time capsule,” writes Claire Lower in her article entitled How to Date After a Divorce for lifehacker.com. “Successfully dating after the dissolution of a marriage is less about getting hip with the apps and more about creating an internal shift in how you think about relationships, romance, and sex.”

Dating post-divorce can be a great way to discover new things about yourself —as well as meeting some interesting people beyond your immediate circle of friends. But don’t expect to pick up where you left off dating years (or decades) ago. Many things may have changed since you were last single. When you were previously single, you may not have had kids (or grandkids), phones were stationery, and the only way to meet new people was to go out in public. Recognizing those changes will help you set realistic expectations for yourself and your dates.

Before you begin dating again, embrace the change and consider these five tips for dating after divorce.

Embrace e-dating. Think dating apps are just for Millennials? Think again. Online dating use among 55- to 64-year-olds doubled since 2013. Today, 12%  report using an online dating site or mobile dating app versus only 6% in 2013, according to a recent Pew Trust study on e-dating. Online dating can be a safe way to dip a toe in the dating pool again after years of living on dry land. But try to stay in the shallow end. Taking the plunge online doesn’t mean you’ll find your soulmate. In fact, at least one-third of dating app users have never gone on a date with someone they met online.

Approach e-dating like any other blind date: as a chance to make a new friend. Just be up-front about your intensions, or lack-thereof, so the other person doesn’t get the wrong impression. That said, approximately five-percent of Americans in a committed relationship say they met their match online.

Work on your conversation skills. Your ex-spouse may have been able to read your mind, but your dates probably can’t (nor should they be expected to!) It’s time to dust off those conversation skills, but leave your baggage at home. Save your divorce war stories for your therapist, attorney or best friend. There will come a time when you may want to share some details about your past relationships, but starting out with a dissertation on your ex’s flaws won’t endear you to your date. Likewise, shifting the conversation to the latest exploits of your kids or grandkids may seem a safe topic, but you are also limiting the conversation by not focusing on more personal interests. If you’re nervous about keeping the conversation going, read up on current events, and think of questions to ask your date if the conversation begins to lag.

Unplug. Leave your mobile devices in your purse or pocket. Even if you’re nervous, resist the urge to check your text messages or flip through Facebook while you’re on a date. Likewise, if your date seems more enthralled with his phone than you, don’t take it personally, but do recognize that he may not be that interested in starting another relationship.

Find a new type. We all have preferences, but as you rejoin the dating world make a conscious effort to meet people who are not “your type.” For example, if your ex was in construction and liked football, try dating a nerdy accountant who likes to bowl. “It’s possible that your ex was the perfect picture of what you’re attracted to, but it’s also possible you just think that because it’s what you knew, what you were used to, and what you had grown to love,” Lower says. “The worst thing that can happen is that you try something and it’s not a good fit, but then you get to learn something about yourself, which is never bad.”

Relax. Try to set aside all expectations. If you compromised your needs in your marriage, now is the time to embrace your time alone, focus on yourself, and rediscover friends and activities that you really enjoy. “You may get married again, and you may not, but neither outcome should affect your self-worth,” Lowers says. “A failed marriage is not a reason to feel guilty, and you don’t have to explain your divorce to anyone (besides a therapist, for therapeutic purposes, perhaps). You tried it, you did your best, and you deserve to be happy again.”