Dating 101 – It’s Different Post Divorce
The Good, The Bad and The Not Expected
Like anyone who is suddenly confronted with death, Ellie Slott Fisher was blindsided when her husband of fifteen years suddenly died. But a second surprise came when Fisher began to once again hit the dating scene and was swept off her feet by a man who, after a two-and-a-half year marriage, became her ex-husband.
“And I found myself dating again,” said Fisher, author of the new book, Dating for Dads: The Single Father’s Guide to Dating Well Without Parenting Poorly. “But this time I was a widowed and divorced woman,” Fisher said. “And getting out there, well, it’s not easy.”
But singles and divorce experts alike agree that Fisher is not alone. According to Deborah Moskovitch, a Canada-based divorce consultant, there are several phases that a newly-single man or woman can experience when he or she begins dating. “Dating after marriage is certainly not the experience that it was before marriage,” said Moskovitch, author of The Smart Divorce.
For many people, Moskovitch explained, self-esteem may be at a low point and they must first heal those wounds before beginning to even think about dating someone new. In these situations people are often more cautious about and sometimes a bit closed-off to dating. “Other people”, Moskovitch said, “jump into a relationship right away. This occurs because in a sense, newly single people are looking to prove to themselves that someone can be attracted to them. As a result, they are just not ready for a serious, committed relationship.”
Fisher, who experienced a similar situation to the latter that Moskovitch described, said she made a ton of mistakes during her first round of newly-single dating by rushing into a second marriage and not giving herself time to properly consider the magnitude of the decisions she was making.
“I was so caught up in the ensuing whirlwind that I became oblivious,” Fisher says during a description of her quickie second marriage in her first book, Mom There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe. What’s more, Fisher laments, she saw the dating world through very different, perhaps muddied glasses after she was divorced. “As a widow dating I had been trusting, naively assuming that all marriages were like my first one,” she says in her book. “As a divorced woman, I spotted red flags even before a guy split the check for a cup of coffee.”
WHEN YOUR EX BRINGS TRIXIE HOME
One aspect of dating after divorce that many exes have to tackle is the truth that one of them may begin dating before the other. “When one ex starts dating and the other is not emotionally ready, it can be very traumatic and trigger feelings of anger, bitterness, sadness and jealousy,” said Moskovitch, whose own divorce taught her much about re-establishing oneself in the dating scene.
But Paul F. Davis, author of Breakthrough for a Broken Heart and Adultery: 101 Reasons Not to Cheat, says, “People really just need to live your life your way, on your terms and don’t compare yourself with others.” Davis also stresses that it is important for a recently divorced man or woman to keep in mind that we all heal differently.
Moskovitch agrees, adding that it is important for a freshly-single person to make sure he or she is surrounded by a support network, including friends and family, a therapist, or a support group. “These feelings are emotionally destructive and prohibit you from moving forward,” Moskovitch said, referring to the emotions an ex may experience when his or her former spouse begins dating.
Move forward is exactly what Lori Quaranta, 50, of Shelton, Connecticut did when her ex-husband began dating before she did. “The more I was uncomfortable with it, the more he loved it,” Quaranta said. “My best retribution was to live well and focus on making my new life as happy as possible. The rest just falls into place.”
NOW, LETS CONSIDER THE KIDS
Fisher said when she began dating after her first husband died, her cyclone-like romance caused her to sometimes leave behind one very important aspect in her life, her children’s feelings. “While I thought I was providing them with a replacement for their father, they saw the man as different from their own dad as Ozzie Osbourne is from Ozzie Nelson,” Fisher says in her book.
“Things to consider,” Fisher says, “are that children need to be treated with respect and also wants to feel like he can trust the person his parent is dating.” This happens when a child is convinced that, first, his parent is happy and, secondly, that this new significant other is genuine about getting to know him.
“Every single kid I have ever interviewed just wants his parents to be happy,” Fisher said. “[Parents] think we just want our children to be happy. What we don’t know is that they want us to be happy, too.”
“A child’s happiness when a parent begins dating, however, can be affected by a parent who decides to speak poorly of his or her ex’s new dating life,” says Los Angeles-based divorce attorney Stacy Phillips. “Saying to your kids, ‘Oh, well dad is dating Trixie and she doesn’t have a brain in her head,’ is not a good idea,” said Phillips, who is also a certified family law specialist. “And ‘not good idea’ is an understatement.”
Fisher agrees with Phillips, and says that rising above the situation is the key factor in ensuring your kids are not unnecessarily affected by a parent beginning to date. “If you can not stoop to this level, then it benefits your relationship with your ex and your relationship with your children,” Fisher said. “It is sometimes so hard to do this, but if you can, it’s a win-win situation.”
OH, BY THE WAY, I’M DIVORCED
While many people may see the divorce factor as a pitfall to getting back into dating, Davis suggests that people need to get rid of that notion. “The stigma of being divorced can bring a preconception of having ‘baggage,'” Davis said. “See yourself new and fresh apart from your past in order to facilitate a new beginning.”
Like, Davis, Phillips agrees that putting all of the so-called baggage in the luggage rack where it belongs is the best thing that a newly-divorced man or woman can do before hitting the singles ads. “You need to say, ‘You know what, I have learned from my mistakes and now I know what I want,'” said Phillips, who is the author of Divorce, It’s All About Control: How to Win the Emotional, Psychological And Legal Wars.
Quaranta said the honesty Phillips describes is really what always worked best for her. “I’m the type of person who puts the cards on the table,” said Quaranta, who is currently in a solid relationship. “It’s a good character trait to display as far as I’m concerned. I like surprises, but not that kind!” But, while honesty is certainly the best policy, too much information can be a deterrent. “The number one tip,” she said, “on which all divorce experts agree is: Stop reliving it.”
“You can’t begin to start dating if you find your thoughts centered on you former spouse,” Fisher said. “No one wants to listen to you talk on and on about your ex.” Fisher recommends that singles keep it short and sweet and avoid detail until you develop a relationship with a person. “Just come clean and let go,” she said. And Davis seconds that thought: “Don’t live life looking in the rearview mirror.”
FIVE GREAT READS FOR NEWLY-SINGLES
1. The Single Girl’s Survival Guide: Secrets for Today’s Savvy, Sexy, and Independent Woman by Imogen Lloyd Webber
2. The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again” by Tina B. Tessina
3. Find the Love of Your Life After 50! by Alice Solomon
4. Mars and Venus Starting Over: A Practical Guide for Finding Love Again After a Painful Breakup, Divorce, or the Loss of a Loved One by John Gray
5. Congratulations on Your Divorce: The Road to Finding Your Happily Ever After by Amy Botwinick