Moving on

Dating after divorce

"When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care far more profoundly about other people. The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be towards others."
E. LeShan

We have placed this article in pole position basically because it is the most talked about subject on the site, after legal advice.

Introduction by Sheila Ellison from 'The Courage to Love Again.'
(Written for women but, of course, applies to everyone.) This is the sequel to her single mother book. Both 5 star books.
'What force is strong enough to push us from our cozy cocoon of single life into the world of relationships with men again? Could it be that our bodies, souls and mind need to feel that we are not alone?
Most of us long for companionship and the sahring of our days with someone who cares about us and listens to us. Maybe we are bored with our own lives - the problems, stories and experiences - and we are ready to be entertained by someone else's tale . We do not want to be alone in bed. We want to feel desirable and in turn to feel the power of desire obce more, the way it takes over our thoughts, replacing pain and self-doubt. Strongest of all is the urge within us that makes us crave a man, his scent, the rough feel of his skin. We want to fall in love again, to feel sensuous again, to bein, to be new with fresh hope for the life we want to create.'


Am I still attractive?
Will anyone fall in love with me again?
How do I meet people?
I am so out of the dating scene, haven't the rules changed?
Hopefully, here we provide some pointers to how you can find answers to these questions.

Am I ready to date again?
Perhaps a good way to answer this frequently asked question is to examine the following quote by Oscar Wilde.

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."

In order to move forward, you need to look back and reflect on why the marriage ended? What was your part in this? Do you know why you acted how you did? Or did you just attract the wrong the sort of partner? But what will stop you from attracting 'the wrong sort' or from behaving in a negative way in the relationship?

Counselling can be an excellent way to draw a line under the marriage and to examine what went wrong so that you can draw up some mental guidelines when you are ready to look for romance or just friendship again. Every relationship needs to have honest boundaries so you can feel safe and nurtured. For advice, see the Relationship Experts

Some well-meaning friends could encourage you to look for a date but this can misfire if you do not feel ready. True, having a date could lead to more self-confidence but, on the other hand, it could have the opposite effect if you are again rejected. If you truly do not love yourself and your self-esteem is at a low ebb, you could possibly attract the wrong type of person if you enter the dating scene too soon. Perhaps the right time to dip your toes in is when you actually feel that you do not need to but it would be fun to do so.
Until you feel confident about yourself, you could play safe by enjoying the company of your friends and maybe taking up new hobbies or interests as the best way to meet new people is through the things that you do naturally.

"What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be."
E. Burstyn

Isn't it too late?
No, it is never too late to find a rewarding and satisfying relationship based on an underlying friendship that satisfies both partners. Both men and women yearn for this. The end of your relationship marks a turning point but not an end to romance. As Jeanne Moreau said,

"Age doesn't protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age."

What would anyone see in me?
As much or more than they did before. This is a good question to ask your best friend. What did your ex see in you? How did it feel to be loved? If you can reflect on the good times and the positive emotions that this rekindles, then you can focus on your good qualities. The divorce process can bring out the best and the worst in people and this, in most cases, can leave your self-confidence a little dented. But it can also lead to a greater enjoyment of life as you start to move on and take pleasure in the opposite sex again.

What happens when you start behaving as if everyone is innocent?
You get lighter because you are no longer carrying around the weight of all those suspicions...You perceive things more clearly because you are in the moment - listening, thinking, and responding to what the other person is saying right now...You can quit protecting yourself and accept the love they have to give.
Rhonda Britten, Fearless Loving

What am I looking for in a date?
Be honest with yourself. This could be friendship, flirtation, romance, sex, a long-term relationship or marriage. When you decide, you could draw up a list of the qualities you are looking for. Differentiate between the ones that are vitally important to you and those that you could do without. What were the qualities you admired in your ex or a previous partner? What are your personal boundaries? It is so important to set these in advance if you hope to achieve a rewarding and fulfilling relationship. It is also important to acknowledge your own part in the ending of your marriage. Could you bring the lessons you may have learnt to the new relationship?

What's the best approach?
The general opinion seems to be that looking for friendship is the best way to handle dating again. After all, an evening out can do little harm if planned properly and if you are the parent looking after children, some adult company could be your most important objective. If there is some chemistry between you, that's a bonus but it normally takes a couple of meetings at least for anything to develop. Look at it as practice. Practise getting to know yourself better, get to know the dating game and, above all, practise having some fun.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."
Plato

But what if I am rejected?
If you want to find a new relationship, you have to be open to love. When you are open to finding love, you grow and become more outward looking. If you close yourself off to new possibilities, you stagnate and become inward looking. But the downside to this is that with openness comes the possibility of rejection. You will, however, become better at handling relationships. Take the chance and kiss a few frogs. Oh, to be held and kissed again!

Where can I meet single people again?
Your local area
The best place to start is with your friends and work colleagues. Try networking. Tell them that you are ready to move on and do they have anyone they could introduce you to? Don't be afraid if you are a silver surfer; age is no longer a barrier. Joining activity clubs such as tennis or rambling is also another way to meet new people when you are single. Evening classes and school associations are also popular.

Lonely Hearts
Responding to or placing an advert in your local or national newspaper or magazine is another option. Check out how others do this and if there is a facility to listen to the advertiser's message, you could get a better idea about the person. Preparation is important as adverts can cost quite a lot and it is not unusual to be charged at £1 per minute. And the minutes add up as the service provider offers quite a few instructions. When replying, have your text written down in front of you and decide how you want to be contacted. Most people opt for a mobile number and do not give out personal details until they get to know the person better. The other drawback to this service is that there is no-one controlling it. As you both conjure up a picture of each other before meeting, the subsequent encounter can be disappointing. On the other hand, many find this a good way to socialise and have some fun.

Case study
Our researcher, Sarah, met her lonely heart in the local hotel and wished she had suggested the next town. There were only three men aged well over 60 and she was shocked when one of them approached her as she was expecting someone in their late 40's.
On her second attempt, she met a rather handsome and intelligent Irish gentleman and was looking forward to the next date he had suggested. He did not ring back. Her third attempt was, however, quite delightful, she reports.
Sarah says that you have to have a sense of humour and adventure to do this. Chat for a few times before getting together and then meet in a safe place after telling a close friend where you are. Always arrange your own transport and carry your mobile.

Singles clubs
Some areas have their own non-profit making clubs, particularly for the over 40's and advertise in the local paper. They hold social events such as barbecues and trips to see a concert. They aren't usually regarded as dating clubs, more of a social club.

Internet dating
Our researchers had great fun working on this one and found this method to be quite positive, particularly as a way of gaining self-confidence without having to agree to meet someone personally. You could take things at your own pace as you retain your anonymity by using a site name as emails are exchanged via the service provider and your personal email address is not published. In fact, you write your own personal details, usually referred to as your profile and describe the type of person you are looking for. You can say as much as you want to (don't go overboard) and once more, do a bit of research on the site first. Only supply details that you feel comfortable with.

Is it safe?
The main advantage is that most sites are governed by a set of rules and as long as you communicate on the site, you are safe. If, however, you give out your personal email address or phone details, please be most careful. Set your boundaries and be guided by your instinct. Another advantage is that most customers provide a photo, although there is no guarantee when it was taken or whose it is. Before meeting, it may be wise to check out their home phone number and not just the mobile. Also give details of your date to a close friend and ask them to call you, say 20 minutes into the date.

Membership
Many sites offer free membership but you normally have to subscribe if you want to send and read any messages you receive. Perhaps you can use this option to look at the type of people who are members, decide if it is your cup of tea and then consider a period of membership. The longer the term of membership, the cheaper it works out. We would point out that you should contact the site to discontinue the use of your credit or debit card once you decide to end your membership and print off a copy of your instruction. Some try to charge an extra month's membership.

Case studies

Michael, 32, joined after only six months' separation from his wife. He was flattered when he received frequent messages but, after his first meeting, he decided that he wasn't ready for the dating game yet. He had too many issues to resolve. He found that he just wanted to talk about his wife and children.
Perhaps it is a good idea to ask how long your prospective date has been separated or divorced. There are, of course, many single people too.

30 year old Tricia, however, now has a very active social life and says she has regained her self-confidence. Although her first date was not a huge success, he only wanted to talk about golf and his work, she has since met Alan and is seeing him regularly.

Anne, a 44 year old, says to watch out for men who want your personal details after the first email. Just like in any normal meeting situation, there are certain telltale signs which are not as they should be. She once had a message from someone who wanted to travel five hours to meet her and they hadn't even talked on the phone. Although this seemed flattering, Anne declined the offer after discussing it with her best friend. Others are happy to chat forever and have no intention of ever meeting up. Anne says that she has made some friends, particularly women, as she contacted a few on the site to ask how she should go about things. Everyone was very friendly.

Don't be afraid to be rejected
The annoying group, however, are those who do not reply to a cheery "hello," report our researchers or suddenly end the communication without any reason. We can't expect everyone to behave as we would and it is better to know this. Messages were 99% friendly and supportive. It's good to know you are not alone out there although the experience of publishing a photo was a bit scary and should take some careful consideration. Ask a friend for advice and look at others on the site. On the whole, the researchers found the experience to be a good one and after many months of trawling through various sites, they have decided to recommend Dating Agency. We shall be adding other sites.

We plan to publish details of dating sites, introduction agencies, dinner parties for singles, speed dating and singles events in your area. Don't forget that Gingerbread hosts many events for lone parents with children and this is thought to be a good way to meet people too. Details are in our Parents section.

"If you can learn from hard knocks, you can also learn from soft touches."
C. Kenmore

"Age doesn't protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age."
Jeanne Moreau

Here we hear from Jill Curtis, our resident analytic psychotherapist:

'Never Again' are words often heard from a man or woman with a broken heart. And yet, as you may already have found, there comes a time when there is an urge to look for a new partner to share your life with.

It can be hard to get back into the dating game again, and you may already be tired of friends and family who suggest they know 'just the person' for you. Perhaps they tried too soon before you were ready, and it is only now that you feel you have the strength and interest to get to know another person in that special way.

Whether or not you decide to let chance play a role in finding someone, or whether you make a determined effort to go out and look for a new partner, be prepared for some difficulties along the way. It will inevitably be hard if you had a long-term relationship, which you have left behind either willingly or unwillingly. There were shared jokes and memories, and starting again at the beginning may seem too much like hard work.

On the other hand, if putting your toe in the water of the dating game just doesn't feel right - wait a while and then have another go.

A question I am often asked on my website is 'Have the rules of dating changed?' Well, yes and no. If it has been a while since you were 'out there' you may find that sex is higher up on the agenda than when you were first looking for a partner.

Although I have altered the names to preserve confidentiality, here are some comments I have received in the past few months:

Jenny: 'I met a nice enough bloke and I thought I would like to get to know him better. But he came right out with it at the end of the evening and he said 'Are you up for sex? I don't want to waste my time if you are not.'

Hugh: 'I am sick of meeting desperate women who are single with kids and who are looking for a father for them.'

Gemma: 'I was married for thirty years when he left. Am I too old to look for a new partner? Where do I start?'

'How do I meet people?' is a question I am asked again and again. Women may find it hard to believe, but I get this from as many men as women. In this busy world it can be hard to get to know new people. Somehow there just doesn't seem to be time.

Newspapers and magazines are full of adverts in personal columns of 'Single solvent males seeking slim ladies' and 'Attractive, warm women seeking loving partners'. But do these endless lists of apparently suitable partners ever come to anything? Anyone who has ever placed an ad or replied to one has plenty of tales to tell. Of course it can work, but beware that the 'attractive GSOH who loves animals' may turn out to be quite another cup of tea on closer inspection. Take care, if you do arrange to meet up, that you are in a very public place, and make sure that someone knows where you are going to be. Be prepared, too, for an excuse to get away fairly promptly if you can tell from the start that this was not a relationship made in heaven. Yet do give this new 'friend' a chance because looks can be deceptive, and you may find yourself drawn into an unexpectedly different relationship.

The Internet? Well this seems to be a good place to meet people. But take time, and above all take care, because information received over the Internet is not always what it seems. However, I have heard of several very successful relationships starting this way.

So, wait until you feel you are ready and can free yourself from the push-me pull-you feeling of wanting, but not wanting, to move on. Cast aside any doubts you have about your ability to choose a new partner, and don't be fearful of making a mistake. On the plus side remember you have been in a long-term relationship before, and now you know more about what makes a relationship work. You will know that nothing should be taken for granted, and as unreal expectations and assumptions are behind you, you should know more about yourself and what makes you tick.

Remember faint heart never won fair lady, or gentleman. No one is going to come knocking on your door looking for you, so take a deep breath and have a go. If your heart is truly available once more, then, with a little bit of luck you will find a new and loving partner.
© Jill Curtis 2003-10

Internet dating has, of course, changed over the last ten years and there are more sites attracting different types of people. So do take Jill's advice and tread carefully. Do not be pushed. If you do not like a site or its responses, do try another one. Be careful not to tie yourself to monthly amounts if you are watching your pennies.
Look out for offers.

One interesting site is www.eHarmony.co.uk
It focuses on the person rather than looks and wishing to meet gsoh non-smoker with beard, car and profession. Or bubbly blonde 5'2''.
It takes you through many questions about what makes you tick, your morals, beliefs and who has influenced you. Quite a nice change. Let us know if you try it.

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