Think nothing could be more stressful than going through divorce? Try dating after a split, which can be a major source of anxiety for recently-separated singles. Navigating the dating scene after divorce does involve getting out of your comfort zone — but it doesn’t have to be stressful, if you’re able to embrace a healthy mindset and follow a few basic dating rules.
“People expect, especially later in life, that dating is going to be the same as it was in their early 20s when they first were dating -– and it’s not at all,” matchmaker and dating coach Kimberly Seltzer tells the Huffington Post. “The pool is different, and people have life experiences and stress to contend with. The first thing to change is your mindset.”
Even though things have changed — both in your relationships and out in the dating world — meeting new people doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing process. Scroll through the list below for a 10-step guide to getting back in the saddle with less stress post-split.
1. Get In Touch With Yourself First.
Before you even think about going on your first date post-split, make sure to get back on track with yourself and adjust to your new single lifestyle. Seltzer recommends focusing on exploring new interests, cultivating a healthy lifestyle and renewing your image with a wardrobe update.
“The first step is getting back to basics and figuring out what your passions are, and also feeding your spirit and getting really solid with yourself,” Seltzer says. “It can be overwhelming, so really focus on you first before you get back into the dating pool.”
2. Find Some Single Friends.
Finding a group of single friends is the next step, says Seltzer (she adds, “If you don’t have ‘em, get ‘em!”). Going out and having a good time with friends can be a great way to both boost your confidence, adapt to your new single lifestyle and meet people. You never know who will catch your eye at a bar, coffee shop or play — and if you see someone who interests you, don’t be afraid to say hello (see rule #3).
If most of your friends are married and you’re having a hard time meeting like-minded singles, Seltzer recommends joining groups or clubs based on your interests or attending networking events.
3. Don’t Rush.
If you’re still experiencing anger towards your former spouse and haven’t moved past constant thoughts of your marriage, you may not be ready to start dating yet.
According to Marni Battista, relationship coach and founder of Dating with Dignity, you’ll know that you’re ready when you can talk about your ex without having to put him or her down.
4. Get Online (And Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help).
The new technology of dating can be very stressful, Battista tells the Huffington Post. “Texting, sexting, chatting, Skyping, instant messaging, dating sites…All of that can really stress someone out and they can get overwhelmed and they may not do it correctly, which reinforces many of their fears or beliefs that dating is hard.”
While you shouldn’t feel overwhelming by the changing role of technology in the dating scene, it may still help to educate yourself on new developments so that you can text and date online with confidence. These days, the stigma of online dating has all but vanished — so don’t be shy about turning to others for their wisdom when you’re struggling with that “about me” section.
“Spend some time doing a little research,” advises Battista. “Become educated with information. Seek out your friends and ask for help.”
5. Don’t Get Down On Yourself When Things Don’t Work Out.
Dating always comes with the possibility that things won’t work out the way you hoped. But by viewing dating as practice, you can minimize stress and anxiety around encounters that may not have gone as you’d hoped.
“Try to have a mindset that it’s just going to be fun, and that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get your Prince Charming,” says Seltzer.
6. Fake It ‘Til You Make It.
Although you don’t want to dive into the dating pool until you’re ready, if it’s been a year and you’re still afraid to go on that first date, it might be time to adopt the old “fake it ’til you make it” strategy to boost your dating confidence. There is scientific evidence that suggests pretending to be confident can actually make you more confident. In a recent Huffington Post article about how acting in love helps you stay in love, Dr. Craig Malkin discussed the benefits of this technique. The lesson is simple, Malkin writes: “First we act; then we feel.”
7. Don’t Dish On The Details Too Early.
You want your date to see you for all the things that make you who you are — not just as someone who’s recently gone through a tough divorce.
“Save the story of your past for when you have a connection,” says Battista. “Then they can put you in context with who you are now, not to just try to paint that picture against the backdrop of your divorce.”
8. Make Time To De-Stress Before A First Date.
First dates are nerve-racking for everyone — not just recent divorcees. But you can keep the jitters at bay (and make sure not to come across as too nervous) by taking a little time while you’re prepping to get yourself relaxed and centered.
“Take a moment to get calm and take a few deep breaths and envision you going on this date and having a great time,” says Battista. “Spend even 60 seconds imagining the date being what you want it to be, rather than what you’re afraid of.”
9. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks.
Dating can bring out our worst fears of the unknown, causing us to hold back and avoid taking risks when it comes to our love lives. Once you’ve gotten back on your feet and have established a single life that you love, then you can turn your focus to dating again.
“Ask yourself if you like your life the way it is now –- are you looking for a person to add to it, or to fill in the gaps? You [should be] dating from a place of opportunity rather than a fear,” says Battista.
To get past your fear of putting yourself out there, try to look at dating as an opportunity for self-discovery, rather than just a way to get a new love interest. This way, you’ll be focusing first on your own needs, which will make for a less stressful dating experience — and will help you to find someone who truly meets your needs and contributes positively to your life.
10. Don’t Take Dating Too Seriously.
Although it may be hard to think of dating as fun when you’re just getting started, that’s exactly what it should be. Look at your dating experiences as testing the waters, rather than a race to a new relationship — it will take the pressure off and help you simply enjoy the process.
“For the first three to six months, look at dating as an opportunity to practice. If you fail it doesn’t matter,” says Battista. “Go into it saying that the result is not a reflection of your lovability. Just use it as a practice ground.”