Don’t Date Right Away, Get to Know Yourself and Other Suggestions

Joining the ranks of the unattached after a divorce can be a shock to the system. But this time can be crucial for rebuilding your self-esteem and peace of mind. Experts offer five pieces of advice to help make the transition easier.

1. Don’t start dating too soon.

This is the number one piece of advice for a reason. Just about every therapist, relationship expert and life coach will say that this is one of the biggest pitfalls for a newly single person. One of the first things that I would tell them is don’t be in a hurry to get into a relationship. I think that’s one of the biggest problems,”said Toni Coleman, MSW, a psychotherapist, and relationship coach from Virginia. Coleman said that people who are re-entering singlehood tend to jump into a relationship right away because they are not ready to be alone with themselves.There are issues to be resolved, she said, and most people shy away from dealing with them. There is a sense of emptiness and a want to fill that void, and they just miss that relationship. The whole relationship idea,” Coleman said. Rushing into a relationship will not heal the wounds from the previous relationship, she said. It is a mistake to hurry into a connection with someone else just to have a companion. In fact, people often rush into partnerships with people who are distinctly opposite their exes, Coleman said. People are not trying to be with the person they were just with, and they are going in the opposite direction,” Coleman said. It’s often dysfunctional, just in a different way.”

2. Use this time alone to recover from the break-up.

People going through a divorce often think that the process is so common that they don’t have the right to be upset about it, said Robert Emery, Ph.D., a professor of psychology a the University of Virginia and the director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law.That is a mistake, he said. Instead, take time to grieve the end of the relationship and to work through the emotions of loss. This is an emotional time, and to recognize that, and to give yourself some time to become aware of your emotions, to focus on them, to talk about them, and to begin to understand and to work through them,”Emery said. Those emotions may not be just focused on a sense of loss. There is a swirl of emotions that emerge during the divorce process, Emery said. Often people get angry at themselves, their ex, or the world,” Emery said. People really need to pause and deal with their own stuff.”

3. Take time to get to know yourself again.

People in relationships, especially difficult ones, often give up parts of themselves, said Coleman. They may give up friends, hobbies or interests for the sake of more time with their partnersAfter break-ups, Coleman said, she advises her clients to take the time to discovering who they are. Spend some time on yourself, getting to know yourself, getting comfortable with yourself. Perhaps pursuing things you didn’t have time for because of the relationship,” Coleman tells her clients. This is the time to turn inward and discover who you really are, said Karen Jones, a Massachusetts life coach and author of “Men Are Great,” a book that helps women foster better relationships with men. Jones said that after divorce, there is no better time to determine what is necessary in your life to be truly fulfilled. She said she often asks her clients one question to guide them on their path of discovery: What would it take for you to have no regrets as you are breathing your last breath?”

4. Make yourself happy.

Get busy doing those things that make you, and no one else, happy. This is not a time to ascribe to someone else’s standards. Do what makes you happy, said Jones. It that’s reading a stack of novels at home curled up under a blanket, you go for it,” Jones said. No matter who initiated the divorce, the unhappiness for both parties could have been going on for a while, she said. After the end of the relationship, work on finding happiness alone. Jones said, Ask, ‘Am I happy doing it?'” If the answer is no, don’t do it.

5. Plan your future.

Think about what should happen next, whether that is something simple like learning a new hobby or something larger like going back to school. The plan is the key. Make a plan to move on with your life,” said Katrina Greene, MSW, a life coach in New York. Planning what you want is more likely to make it a reality. There is so much that can be done these days,”Greene said. Take a class, do pottery, see friends. Deepen your relationship with your self, spiritual relationships, or relationships with others.”

Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national research award for her work. She can be reached at