Getting ready for that all-important first date post-divorce is a big milestone in your new life. Before you get out there and risk further injury to your heart, here are some ways to tell if you’re ready to date again after divorce. 

By Diana Shepherd

Before you even consider dating after divorce, you need to make sure you’re past the “walking wounded” stage following your relationship breakdown. Here are some clues to let you know you’ve arrived:

  • the thought of your ex no longer generates intense feelings of anger, hatred, or grief;
  • you no longer feel the need to talk about him/her ad nauseam to whoever will listen;
  • revenge fantasies just don’t excite you anymore;
  • you’ve noticed that days/weeks/months go by when you don’t think of him/her at all.

If you have truly laid your last relationship to rest, congratulations! Assuming you’re interested in doing so, you may be ready to dip your toes back into the dating pool. There may be one more crucial obstacle to hurdle first, however: your relationship with yourself.

During and after divorce, your self-esteem can take a real beating — especially if the split was your ex’s idea. If you don’t think you’re a pretty great person with lots to offer the world (at least most of the time: no one can maintain this level of self-confidence and perkiness 24/7), you need to work on rebuilding your self-esteem before you go out in search of a soul mate or even think about dating after divorce.

You may have heard that you have to love yourself before others will love you. Although this is a very good idea, it isn’t, strictly speaking, true. Even if you totally despise yourself, you can always dig up a few poor souls willing to love you — or at least, start a very unhealthy co-dependent relationship with you. If the sucker you’ve attracted is a genuinely nice person, you’ll end up despising them. “After all,” you think, “I am a completely unattractive, useless excuse for a human being. If this person loves me, he/she must be a total idiot. What a loser: choosing someone as awful as me!” The only person you’ll fall for is someone willing to treat you as the loathsome pimple you consider yourself to be. And you can imagine how this emotional S&M relationship will go. Don’t even go there!

So the first thing to do is to restore your self-confidence to a healthy level so you can fully embrace your new life after divorce. At the same time, you should work on discovering your new, single identity. One of the opportunities offered by divorce is the chance to re-invent yourself: either as the person you were before marriage, or the person you’ve always wanted to be. You need to find out who you are now before you can start looking for someone to date.

Diana Shepherd, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® and Editorial Director of Divorce Magazine, has been writing about divorce-related issues since 1995.