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Dating After Divorce
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
Divorce isn't just the end of an official contract; it is a legal surgery that separates two people whose lives have been joined. Particularly after long marriages, it is painful and traumatic (though, admittedly, sometimes the painful separation actually takes place long before the actual divorce); and people need time to heal afterward.

Moving on in a healthy way — healing from the pain of divorce — requires that you feel the pain. Otherwise, you are just covering a wound that is likely to fester under the surface, demanding attention at some later time. So, it is important to allow yourself to feel the hurt, anger, sadness, or whatever other emotional distress that your divorce inflicts upon you. Then you can actively take steps forward toward a happier future.

People often need to rediscover themselves as an individual apart from their spouse. Being alone in a home can take some getting used to. Going alone to parties can be painful. And, it can take time to rediscover old interests (like going to the theater) or find that old self that was worn away from the unyielding flow of unhappy years.

At some point, you will likely want to date again. Hopefully, at this point, you will have a life filled with many things and people that you enjoy. If this is the case, while you may very much want an intimate relationship, you won't be desperate for a new partner to fill a deep, empty hole inside where there is nothing else that makes you happy — and which can be too much pressure for anyone. Also, if you know what you are looking for in a person (i.e. respectful partner, someone to go hiking with) and relationship (i.e. just fun, long term commitment), then you are more likely to find it; and feel fulfilled by it.

Knowing what you want is also very important when you have children. Not only will you have to navigate your own way through this new territory of divorce and dating, but your children will need help too. Consider your child's age and personality as you decide how to proceed. Consider how much you want him or her exposed to your dating life. You will probably want to shelter them a bit from your exploration, as each new date might unrealistically be seen as a possible threat (i.e. taking your attention, dashing hopes of reconciliation with your ex-spouse) or savior (i.e. joining the family to once again make it complete).

Whether or not you have children, though, the idea of dating can be foreboding. Where can you meet people? How can you go about this? While it's not easy, it's not impossible, either. Your attitude is critical. Being happy, hopeful, and open to meeting someone can help you. While I am not suggesting that you pretend to be something you are not, I am suggesting that your effort to be happy with your life is not just a reward in itself, but it might also attract someone worth dating. Because dating can be a bumpy road, a positive attitude can also help you to bounce along without feeling too bruised.

In addition to your attitude, here are some concrete suggestions for finding a partner:

1) Let people know that you are interested in dating; you might be surprised who can set you up with someone and who that someone might be (hopefully the partner of your dreams, though you must also be prepared for the date of your nightmares).

2) Join activities or clubs that interest you; then you will be happy with what you are doing whether or not you meet a special someone.

3) Find out about singles activities and try some out.

4) Try online dating services. There are many of them; just a few popular ones are as Match.com, eHarmony.com, perfectmatch.com, and Lavalife.com

All of this said, it can be extremely helpful to talk with others who have been through, or are going through, what you are.

What was your own experience like dating after divorce? Share it here!
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Cleveland78 responded:
This is great information as I am recently divorced and I was just in a relationship with a recently divorced man. I read your previous responses to a few people here and was curious on your take of my situation which is very, very frustrating. I dated a few people after my divorce and about a year after my divorce I met a wonderful man. He too had just gone through a divorce and at the time I met him, was involved in a custody battle to keep his kids in the state with him while his ex wanted to move herself and the children 12 hours away.

Going into this, we had very open dialogue about everything from our divorces and what led up to theem, our children, our similarities and dissimilarities and I really thought (and still do to a degree) I found THE one I 've been looking for. We started seeing each other regularly 2-3 times per week sometimes less when he had his kids every other weekend. We both agreed from the start to not introduce each other's children into our lives until we affirmed our relationship. All the elements and chemistry were there, we had sex on probably the 3rd or 4th date, but no means was our relationship sexually based we enjoyed that the most in that we formed a very good friendship first. The sex was phenomenal though, to say the least! (continued next post)
 
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Cleveland78 replied to Cleveland78's response:
About 4 months into the rerlationship he got sick (nothing life threatening) but was diagnosed with a digestive disorder. At this point, he disappeared for days. We talked or texted every day and all of a sudden I wasn't getting a response from him. Of course, I panicked first thinking he just didn;t want to see me anymore then I found out a week later he had been in the hospital for more than 3 days and never bothered to tell me or any of our mutual friends. I showed up at the hospital when I found out just to see how he was doing. He was embarrassed, couldn't believe I was there, thanked me but said he didn't want visitors, his parents knew he was there and that's all that mattered to him. (Red flag - I know). After he got out, we decided to have a talk. We spoke over the phone for 3 hours as to why he didn't contact me, what was he thinking, etc.. He had said he wants our relationship to work, he wants to work his way back to me, but needs time to process what has happened to him. For a about a month, he locked himself up in his house, wouldn't go out, communicate with anyone, nor go to work. (Works for his father's business so getting fired wasn't a concern for him). After about 6 weeks, he was "ready" to go out into the world again and we started seeing each other every other Sat when he didn't have his kids and everything felt like it did before he got sick. Now, however, he didn't want to go out during the week anymore for a # of reasons, he had appointments, he was tired, etc.. He had said he was "tapped out" and the time he spent with me on the weekends was all he had energy for. We were now together more than 6 months and I wanted to start seeing him just a few days more. He had said he wanted things as they started, so I tried my hardest to do the things we did when we started dating and he just couldn't do it.

Meanwhile, life went on, court custody battle was still raging and it was getting closer and closer for the court to decide whether or not his ex could take his kids. I did some snooping on the court website and found out that right about the time he got sick, he was to have had a final hearing. His illness allowed him the opportunity to push the hearing back to June (this was now April). Over the next few months, we seemed even more emotionally connected. I had told him once already that I did truly love him and he said although he is not there yet, he wants to be with me. Things were great, I wanted him to start reconnecting with his friends, made suggestions to do more activities like biking, working out with me instead of just going to work, coming home and drinking beers as we was accostomed to. Couldn't get him to try the things that I enjoyed but he said he'd try nonetheless. I started introducing him to my friends, double dates, etc just to get him involved with more people, new people - didn't take. I started to notice when he was around me, he was comfortable and began to open up to me about things he'd never talk to anyone else about. But, with new people or around any people - he'd close up and act like he just wanted to go home. (Continued next post)
 
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Cleveland78 replied to Cleveland78's response:
July rolled around and the final court hearing came out. Unfortunately, the judge ruled for his children to stay with the mother and move away. I tried so very hard to confirm my support and understanding for him. That I'm here for anything he needed and I wanted very badly to go through this with him. He was on board with all of that until the ex wife told him the date she was moving and he disappeared again. I would ask him how he was holding up, how he was doing, anything he needed? I received no response until about a week and a half later he said he could not be in a relationship because he could not be there for me right now. I was miffed as I repeatedly told him it was MY time to be there for him. He openly said he didn't want to see or talk to anyone, was isolating himself, lost interest in everything. We eventually talked for a long time about this. I understand in fairness to me, he cannot expect me to wait for him to decide he wants to be around whenever that may happen. He said he needs to get through this himself and get things right on his end, which is a big step for him to admit, but very frustrating to me in that we had so much potential as a couple and agreed we both have very strong feelings for each other. I'm frustrated because I saw this situation as something I wanted to help him with and at the same time allow the situation to allow us to grow closer. He just shut down. I love him tremendously and he does love me. I just don't know where to go from here and all the "what if's" are pooping up, such as what if this is what is going to happen every time he has a problem? Should I give him time and stick it out again for the second time in 10 months or should I really move on? This is a tough one for me. Anyone been there?
 
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cjh1203 replied to Cleveland78's response:
Cleveland, it sounds like he's been really depressed. Unless or until he gets treatment for it, your relationship is probably not going anywhere. When you're depressed, everything is difficult, you have no interest in anything, or energy -- all you want to do is shut yourself away from everyone and everything.

I wouldn't push him about your relationship, but try to convince him to see his doctor. Untreated, his depression has the potential to ruin not only his relationship with you, but all the other parts of his life.

If he won't get help, there's probably not much you can do, unfortunately.
 
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Cleveland78 replied to cjh1203's response:
Thanks cjh1203, on several occassions we've talked I had mentioned to maybe getting some help or talking to an unbiased 3rd party just to maybe make him see things or understand things that neither me nor his family could make him see or understand. He got angry and accused me of saying he's "just f'd up". That was not the case. Nobody likes to hear "you need to get help" from anybody, but I do just care. It's hard to realize that there is nothing more you can do.
 
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cjh1203 replied to Cleveland78's response:
I know that it's very frustrating to see someone hurting and not be able to convince them to get help. Maybe you could just say something like, "I really think you're depressed -- please just think about making an appointment with your doctor" and just leave it at that.

Because it sounds like his depression has been triggered by events in his life, it could be that he doesn't even need counseling -- an anti-depressant could be enough to get him through this and feeling better again.

I hope you can get through to him, but I think you need to really tread lightly with him right now.
 
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Cleveland78 replied to cjh1203's response:
I've decided and we just recently talked after all of this, that I am going to give him the space and time he needs. I did tell him I would text and call every so often just to say hi and chat and he agreed to make it a priority to at least respond to me and he did this weekend. We agreed to see each other for dinner or a drink or to just hang out and watch a movie with no pressure of anything. I know him well enough that eventually he comes around, but without sounding selfish, I need to look out for me too. I can't stand by and wait when I don't really know what I'm waiting for and that there is a chance he may never be the same person I fell in love with. Treading lightly in the "help" idea is the tough part.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to Cleveland78's response:
You asked for my take on the situation, and in response to that, I think you are on the right track. It sounds like you are doing your best to be there for him, encouraged a relationship for both of you, and take care of yourself. It is, no doubt, a tricky balance. My guess is that, as you go along, you will fall too far in one direction and then need to correct in another direction-- and I think that's too be expected. It also sounds like you are taking the time to re-assess things as you move along, which is definitely wise given your situation. I do wish you well; either in making this relationship work, or in being able to successfully move on to another relationship if that time comes.
 
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Cleveland78 replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
Thank you! Do you see any merit in the fact that he may be depressed? If so, other than what has already been suggested, is there much more I can do?
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to Cleveland78's response:
Yes, he could be depressed. If you have this concern, then all you can do is talk to him about it-- and suggest he get help. Some people are willing to go to a therapist; others are more comfortable talking first with their doctor to see if it could be a physical problem. If he is open to going to a therapist, you could certainly get some names for him (something his physician can probably do, too). Other than that and continuing to be supportive, I don't think there is much more you can do; he needs to be willing to get the help he needs.
 
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Idaraesit responded:
Do you have this discussion with your parents? If not, try and discuss this issue with them and details your feelings, needs, and explore their feelings too.
Anyway, I think your parents should give your space and move on with needs and wants. It seems there are great parents and you are a good child.

Good luck!
 
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Emma_WebMD_Staff responded:
There are many aspects of divorce that are hard, but I'd say dating after divorce has to be up there. It's difficult to adjust from being married to divorced and dating.

Thanks for all the tips again Dr. BP!


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