Written by Karen Jerabek
“Should you wait until you’ve healed from your divorce before you start dating?” Several years ago, as I was going through my divorce, I would have irrevocably said yes! You should let yourself fully heal before trying to move forward. And that’s exactly what I tried to do. I cocooned myself in my one bedroom apartment. I focused on my job and spent a lot of time with my dogs hiking and pursued my passion for writing. It was very solitary and I felt proud of my dedication to fully focus inward. I didn’t date. And I was smug about it. Several of my newly divorced friends were pursuing relationships while they were rediscovering themselves. I didn’t want the distraction. I wanted to be fully focused on myself so that when I was ready to date, I was fully healed.
When I felt ready and whole, I ventured back into the dating world. And my smugness went right out the window as well as my view that you should be fully healed from your divorce before you start dating…because now I realize that’s impossible.
When I finally started dating, I was a complete mess. I didn’t know how to date or what to do or what to think. I felt pretty neurotic most of the time. Thinking that I was already healed, only made me more of a mess. During the year I spent with D, I thought I was fine and I was healed because I had spent months on my own. I didn’t realize till later that there are some aspects of healing that can’t be done alone. They can only be done while you’re dating another person. And it’s in that relationship or relationships that true healing takes place. And so, I’d like to thank D now for all the healing he helped me do even while I was denying that it was happening. Your patience is immeasurable. I know we were too different to ever have a successful relationship, but I will always value what I learned while we were together.
So, how do you date while healing from divorce?
1. Don’t allow your fears to keep you from dating.
2. Do take your time in forging a new relationship.
3. Do take time for yourself in order to reconnect to the core of who you are.
4. Do focus on what buttons you feel are being pushed – this is exactly the area you need to work through to heal.
5. Do have fun and lighten up. Whether you marry him or just date him, I promise it will teach you some things you didn’t know about yourself.
Does dating and healing really work together?
Our very own Michelle J. started dating someone soon after her separation. He’s the first and only guy she dated because she married him! She took time for herself and didn’t jump in too quickly into a relationship with him. But, she also recognized a great guy and wasn’t going to let him go. He was patient and kind and supportive while she worked through some of her issues from her marriage. When insecurities would get triggered, he’d gently remind her and reassure her that he wasn’t like her exhusband. As she was healing, they were building a strong, solid relationship. Today, they’re happily married with two children.
I didn’t find success with trying to heal on my own. I found that it came in waves as I started dating. Michelle J. found healing and great relationships when they took a more moderate approach. And, let me caution you, I know a couple people who have boomeranged into getting remarried without even taking a breath and I can report that they’re now on their second divorces so I don’t advocate taking that extreme of an approach either. As is true in most of life, moderation is the key. My advice is that taking time for yourself is great and needed in order to heal but you won’t be able to heal completely until you’re willing to open yourself up to dating.