Your palms are sweaty; so are your armpits.
You look nervously into your phone camera for the umpteenth time to check your hair – no grey. Teeth check - nothing disgusting showing. You feel a familiar flutter of nervousness mixed with anticipation.
A quick check of your phone shows you’re right on time. Your date must be trying to find parking still. At least that’s what you hope. No one likes being stood up.
Suddenly, you look up. And there he is. Walking unsurely toward you. A hesitant half-smile on his face. You mentally run down the list you memorized. Tall, dark hair, will be wearing jeans, flip flops and a white T-shirt. Yup – this is definitely your date.
You stand up to greet him. Somewhat awkwardly. You don’t want everyone in the pub to know this is your first meet and greet so you hug him like an old friend and say how nice it is to see him.
Welcome to the world of dating after divorce. It’s no different from when you date as a teen, yet it feels like there’s more at stake this time.
With an unprecedented higher divorce rate, there are more single people flooding the dating pools than ever before.
Every single one of these people – whether male or female – all come with one thing in common: they’ve literally “been there and done that.”
Now, they come with their own lists of expectations and non-negotiables.
No one wants a repeat of their failed marriage.
When I say “they,” I also mean me. I’m one of those people who is dating since divorce. So I can tell you this from a very personal point of view - and one that has been well researched by me.
What exactly makes dating after divorce that much more challenging?
We now have non-negotiables … and in many cases children. Unlike when you’re a teenager or young adult, there are now little, impressionable people involved in your dating life whether you like it or not.
The big question is when and if you introduce your dates to your children. So much is at stake in this scenario. I am incredibly aware that my kids, especially my daughter, have me somewhat on a pedestal.
I not only need to model what I want them to expect, but also what I want them to be.
I also don’t want my kids to think people are disposable, so for that reason, I have never introduced them to someone until I felt there was some progression in that relationship.
In some instances, that totally came back to burn me, when not long after the introductions were made, the relationship tanked.
But those are lessons you learn from and hopefully don’t repeat. So how do you know when it’s time to introduce kids to someone you’re dating?
I don’t think there’s a hard time line. So many factors can sway that decision, including:
- how old your kids are
- how well you know the other person
- how long you’ve known them
- what sense you have of them as a person – good or bad, partier or homebody, family person or not.
I will say, however, this is such an awkward introduction. I mean, for the most part everyone is on their best, yet totally unrealistic behaviour. It’s the one time your kids know they can get away with virtually anything.
They know you won’t show your true, “you’re in so much trouble” colours to your new romantic interest, so they do and say things they’d never normally get away with.
Please say I’m not the only one who’s pasted a sweet, twitchy smile on my face as my kids act like banshees around my new beau.
Then, there’s the previously mentioned non-negotiables. Dating after divorce is kind of like buying your second or third house.
The first time around, you may have been willing to compromise on a few things – like single or double garage or finished basement. But now - no way.
I want the triple garage, double-sink ensuite and built-in wine bar … with a wine butler who’s at least 5’11 with an athletic build … but I digress.
Back to the non-negotiables. Typically they’re biggies. Like the other person has:
- to be employed
- able to support themselves
- Get along with their ex
- Pay child support if applicable.
- Have their own home.
Thoughts on faith, possible re-marriage and retirement goals also tend to play a part this time around. So do your kids’ opinions and the dog’s.
You know what they say … if the dog doesn’t like someone, it’s a red flag.
And exactly how do you meet someone after divorce?
- Do you go for a co-worker (nope)
- rely on friends (sketchy at best)
- hit the clubs (is that ever a good way to meet someone?)
Then there’s online dating – it was my chosen vehicle to newfound love. There’s lots of sites to choose from, although you quickly learn that most of the same people are on all the sites. So really, one sign-up will do.
I tried doing the meeting someone at a coffee shop trick. I hung out many hours in the produce section of the grocery store. Joined a couple of extra-curricular clubs. All for naught. Anyone I ever met that panned out came from the Internet.
I know. I didn’t see that coming either.
But for all the bad press online dating gleans, it can also be good. And sometimes awkward if you come across someone else you know, but would never date. But again, I digress …
Meeting online is safe-ish. You don’t exchange numbers until you feel comfortable. And when you have enough info on someone, it’s pretty easy to check them out on other online venues like Facebook.
The major problem with online dating is how many people are content to just email and text the whole relationship. I mean it’s OK in the beginning to use those modes as a tool to establish boundaries and interest, but to continue that for weeks is frustrating and time-consuming.
It also uses up all the data on your phone plan too fast with the constant notifications and the lack of will power to not check them the second they come in.
I have to say that as an older-ish, but cool-ish adult, I’m totally shocked at how many other older-ish adults are wanting to just have a text/email relationship with the occasional meeting.
To be honest, it makes me wonder how many others they’re talking to or even seeing. To me, that’s a deal breaker. If you don’t or can’t hang out in person and establish real human, face-to-face contact, then it’s a no-go.
And no, Facetime doesn’t count as face-to-face.
Overall though, online dating appears to be the way to go until the next trend emerges. I think it’s because anyone can do it. Plus, everyone looks amazing, leads even more amazing lives, has the most amazing goals and values and perfectly compliments your own amazing life.
After four years of divorce, many first dates and a few short-term-that-I-thought-were-gonna-last relationships, I can confidently say I’m in a stable, loving relationship.
We met online and then later discovered we knew each other 20 years ago. We even share mutual Facebook friends … I know - I was in awe too.
I guess in summary what I want to say is this. Dating is a challenge at any age. From my experience, it definitely feels harder after divorce because life as you know it has evolved.
It’s not a bad thing – just a new normal to get used to.
You’ve changed. Likely and let's hope for the better. It’s OK to not settle for one who doesn’t check all your boxes. If the triple garage and double-sink ensuite aren’t there, it’s OK to pass. Because now, you’re more mature, more confident, more empowered.
There’s someone out there for everyone. And you too shall find yours.
Thanks for reading.