How to Start Dating After Divorce

14 Tips for Dating After Divorce, According to Experts

How to Start Dating After Divorce

When it comes to the most stressful life events, researchers rank divorce as number two, right after the death of a spouse or child and before being imprisoned or having a health crisis—and for good reason.

It goes without saying that ending a marriage can make you rethink everything you thought you knew about love—and sometimes, even, yourself. But, it shouldn’t prevent you from finding happiness with a new person.

In fact, experts say that getting divorced in your 40s, or 50s, can actually improve the quality of your future relationships.

“I see one divorce as a good credential, actually,” says Fran Walfish, Ph.D., a relationship psychotherapist and consulting psychologist on The Doctors. “There shouldn’t be any shame in this. It can help you figure out what you really want in your next partner.»

Ready to meet people? Before you start dating, here are some ground rules for finding a match worthy of you in the Tinder era.

Know that chemistry doesn't always mean a long-term connection

«Lust is nature’s way of tricking us into attachment, so be very judicious about who you keep in your dating pool and who you 'throw back' to the pond,» says Bela Gandhi, founder of Chicago-based matchmaking service Smart Dating Academy.

When returning to dating after a longtime monogamous relationship (particularly one that ended badly), craving the excitement of a spark-filled romance is understandable. But Gandhi says you shouldn't discount a «slow burn.»

«Especially when we are dating after divorce, singles think immediate, blazing chemistry is the key thing to look for,» she continues. «Not true. Chemistry, especially for women, can grow over time—and may take many dates to begin to grow!»

Gandhi points to her own simmer-to-boil relationship with her husband, who she was friends with for six years before they began dating.

Make sure you're actually over your ex and ready to date.

The ink may be dry on your divorce papers, but that doesn’t mean you’ve completely moved on.

Of course, that's understandable, but if you can’t stop talking or thinking about your ex—whether you’re praising them or hating them—you may need some more time to process your feelings before getting back into the dating scene, says Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., a licensed professional counselor.

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“You have to take the time to heal, let go of resentments, and come to a healthy emotional place before you can be open to a new relationship,” she explains. Be patient with yourself and take all the time you need. Don't let well-meaning friends pressure you into dating before you’re ready, she adds.

Take it, err, slow on the first date.

No, this isn’t some prudish warning or an encouragement to play games. But if you're looking for your next relationship, considering every step carefully is key, according to Walfish.

“Anyone can hook up, but really pleasurable sex often requires good communication and feeling safe with your partner—and you deserve really good sex,” she says.

“Plus, asking someone to wait for sex can show you a lot about their character and motives.»

This is especially true for women who are in perimenopause or menopause, as hormonal changes can make sex more difficult—which is why having a patient, loving partner who is just as focused on your pleasure as their own can be an important part of the moving on process, she says.

Watch out for anyone who seems too perfect.

Never are you more in need of validation and affection than after ending a serious relationship. And while that’s totally natural, it can set you up to be victimized, Dr. Walfish says. One of the red flags that a date doesn’t have good intentions? They're flawless.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but if they check every single box on your list, shower you with gifts, text or call all the time, push for quick commitment, make incredible promises, or want to be the only person in your life, you may be dealing with someone who is looking to control you.

That mind sound a little dramatic—and sure, there's a chance you really have landed royalty—but Walfish points out that the harsh reality is there are a lot of people out there who aim to take advantage of women, and being in your 40s or 50s doesn't make you immune.

One way to stay safe? Get regular reality checks from close friends and loved ones who can offer an outside perspective of your situation.

Draw a relationship map.

Knowing where you’ve been and where you want to go is just as essential for relationships as it is for road trips and careers, Dr. Martinez says. Many of us jump immediately into new relationships only to find ourselves making the same mistakes. Avoid this by looking at what worked and didn’t work in the past—including what part you played in the breakup—and identify goals.

Visualizing your journey can help you see things you might have missed before, so take the time to actually write out your “relationship roadmap” in a journal. Not sure you’ll be honest with yourself? Talk it through with a therapist or trusted friend.

Forget whatever you think your «type» is.

You don’t have the same clothing style as you did in high school (and thank heavens for that) so why would you have the same taste in dates? While you absolutely want to look for someone with similar core values to yours, a divorce gives you the perfect excuse to let your ideal “type” evolve. “Take the time to figure out what is truly important to you—you may be surprised at who your ideal partner is now,” she says. “Then, be vigilant in seeking those qualities out in another person.”

Find a good therapist before you even make a dating profile.

One thing Dr. Walfish says is a necessity for women of all ages is a good therapist. “Being divorced isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it does mean you’ve got some things to work through, especially if you want your next relationship to be better,” she explains.

And if you think the breakdown of your marriage was all due to your ex’s problems, that’s even more reason to get therapy. A good counselor can help you work through all your complicated feelings and create a solid foundation for love, she adds.

Lock down your bank accounts.

“Being able to talk openly about difficult issues finances, fertility, children, and sex is key,” Dr. Walfish explains. “The older you are, the more complicated these issues become and it’s better to know initially if there are any major deal breakers.”

One thorny example that women in their 50s need to consider is retirement accounts, she says. You may have spent several decades building up your nest egg and you don’t want to jeopardize your future security by mixing finances with an irresponsible partner. This means you have to be honest and clear—and expect the same of the person you’re dating—even if it’s hard.

Don't hide the fact that you have children.

“Got kids? Put that fact right in your dating profile,” Dr. Walfish says. Too many people will dodge the fact that they have young children, worrying that it will drive potential dates away. But it’s better to know if someone isn’t ready to deal with kids right at the beginning—before you get emotionally attached, she says.

If you don’t have children yet and you know you absolutely do or do not want them in the future, you also need to be clear about that up front. “There are so many potential obstacles in a relationship, so why make it harder by withholding truth?” she asks.

Tell your kids about your dates…eventually.

When and what to tell your children is largely dependent on their age, Dr. Walfish says. Kids under 15 should not be introduced to someone until you’ve been seriously dating for at least four to six months, she advises. “Remember that your kids have recently suffered a major loss—their other parent—through your divorce and may still be hurting from that,” she says.

Teens and adult children can be brought into the conversation sooner. Just be sure to answer their questions completely but without giving the extra details you reserve for your wine nights with your friends, Dr. Walfish says.

Yes, age matters.

“The older woman-younger man dynamic (and vice versa) doesn't always work out long-term” Dr. Walfish says. Of course, there are naturally always exceptions to the rule. But Walfish adds, “Happy relationships are having a lot in common, similar goals and shared experiences—things that a large age gap usually prevents.”

Pay close attention.

“People will tell you who they really are if you listen carefully, so if someone shares something that seems a bit off, don't convince yourself otherwise,” says Linda F. Williams, MSW, a relationship therapist.

In addition, listening is a proven way to make yourself more attractive to others, as they will feel special and heard.

That said, if they're not listening to you (or worse, not asking questions) that could be a cause for concern.

Know that dating sites are not created equal.

From farmers to gluten-free folks (yes, really), if there’s a dating preference, there’s a dating site to fill that niche. While it’s perfectly fine to sign up for a mainstream site, using a niche site can help do some of the work for you by finding people who share the same values or passions as you do, Dr. Walfish suggests.

If you’re looking for something a little less serious, the Tinder app can be a fun way to dip your toe back into dating. Just make sure to set the age range correctly so you don’t end up getting invited to college ragers (unless that’s what you’re looking for!).

When it comes to taking your online interactions into the real world, there is no hard and fast rule about when to meet, but make sure safety is your number one priority, says Walfish. Don’t give out your home address or personal information, only meet in public, tell a friend about your plans, go easy on (or skip) the alcohol, and check out his or her social media first.

And finally, always listen to your instincts

If you have a bad gut feeling, end the date early. If they object to any of that, they doesn’t have your best interests at heart anyhow. On the other hand, if your instincts say that they've got potential, don't be shy about saying you'd to see them again.

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What It’s to Date Again, According to 12 Divorced Men

How to Start Dating After Divorce

Dating after divorce, much divorce itself, is a different journey for everyone. That sounds some psuedo Dr. Phil-ian babble, but it’s true. Getting back out there after the end of a marriage is tricky and everyone has their own timeline.

For some men, there’s no time lost dating after divorce; they immediately get back out there, meeting people, tapping and swiping, and doing what they can to move on and put the past behind them. For others, dating is put on the back burner after a divorce, and they take time to focus on themselves and their families.

The rule many experts to quote is that it takes one year to get over five-to-seven years of marriage. However, it’s different for everyone.

But what is it to get back to dating after divorce? We asked a dozen men about their experiences. Some took a lot of time, while others dove right into the singles’ pool. Issues of anxiety or trust were mentioned.

A few men viewed dating after divorce as an exciting adventure into uncharted territory, while others viewed it as be a comedy of errors that ultimately resulted in love. (Or at least a good story.) All learned a lot about themselves.

Here’s what they had to say about overcoming fear, boosting self-confidence, and realizing that divorce doesn’t have to be the end, but rather a new beginning.

1. My best friend eased me back into it

“I got divorced about three years ago, and I was completely averse to dating. I was just anti-dating, anti-relationship. Didn’t want anything to do with it. My best friend and I were talking about it, and he convinced me to go out with him and a bunch of our other friends. Pretty harmless. We met some people, talked to some people. It was fun.

Then we went out again, but it was just me and him. We struck up conversations with some women here and there and, again, it was fun. That kept going on until I realized he was basically acting as my training wheels — helping me get back some confidence and showing me that making new connections can be a good thing.

It took a while, which also made me appreciate his patience and friendship in the process.” – Chris, 42, California  

2. I took it slow

“After I got divorced, I just needed to breathe. I hate to be cliché and say I needed to ‘find myself’, but that’s kind of what happened. I didn’t actively try to meet women. I didn’t try to actively date. I just sort of existed and lived my life.

I didn’t wait for things to happen, but I didn’t try to force them either. And it worked. I remarried about four years after I got divorced. My now-wife and I dated for a long time, took it slow, and completely ignored the pressure to get married. When it felt the right time, we did.

And it’s the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, by far.” – Mark, 39, Illinois

3. I took it fast

“I just had to get back out there. My divorce was hard. My wife cheated on me, and basically left me for another guy. And once it was all said and done, I just had to keep moving, ya know? I downloaded all the apps, got on all the sites, and just tried to meet people so that I could focus on moving ahead instead of looking back.

This was six months before Covid, so I’ve definitely hit the brakes, and that’s been difficult. It’s coming down off a high or an adrenaline rush, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’m sure I could’ve benefitted from slowing down a little to reflect and regroup, but full speed ahead seemed the best idea at the time.

” – John, 35, Missouri  

4. I forgot about my “type”

“My wife was my ‘type’. Then she became my ex wife. So, I had to re-evaluate what my ‘type’ was and, really, what that even meant. Since I’ve been divorced, I’ve gone out with women I never, ever would’ve considered dating years ago.

It’s really opened up my eyes to how shallow my marriage was, and how narrow-minded I’d become. My ex was athletic, blonde, bubbly, which was what I thought I wanted in a relationship. But the women I dated after the divorce showed me how young, stupid and superficial I was. I’m young, so I consider myself lucky.

Even though it was hard and painful, I learned a great lesson.” – Evan, 28, Pennsylvania

5. I hid my kids…at first

“I was afraid to tell dates I had kids. I have two girls, who are my world and my priority. But, man, it’s an awkward thing to bring up. Even if it was a date from a dating site — where I mentioned I have kids, and the woman knew I had kids — it’s sort of the 800 lb. gorilla in the room.

Is she going to ask, ‘So, you have kids?’ Is there going to be a natural point in the conversation to bring it up? I think I psyched myself out on a lot of dates because of that train of thought. My current girlfriend has a son, though. When we met, our kids were all we talked about. I figure that was a good sign.

” – Jason, 37, Ohio

6. I’m still not ready

“I got divorced two-and-a-half years ago, and I haven’t been on a single date since. Covid gave me a year’s worth of rationalizing for not going out. Before that, though, I just wasn’t ready. I’m still not sure if I’m ready. I was in love with my ex-wife for a long time after we split. I hoped we’d reconcile.

And so I devoted a lot of energy to wondering what I’d done wrong, and how I could reunite us. Thankfully, my support system has helped me move forward inch-by-inch, but I’m not sure when I’m going to feel comfortable or confident enough to go out on another date. Truthfully, I’m going to ride out the pandemic excuse as long as I can.

” – Tyler, 36, Michigan

7. My kids didn’t me dating

“I have a ten-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. My wife and I had a pretty messy divorce and, even though it was almost three years ago, they’re still not crazy about the idea of me dating. It was really rough at first. They cried, they were confused, and they just didn’t understand why I had new female friends who weren’t their mother. I felt terrible.

So I stopped dating. I didn’t feel guilty. It was more just , ‘This can wait.’ I was protecting them, almost. I haven’t been on a date in at least a year and a half, but that’s okay. Even if I’m ready to move on from my marriage, I have to remember that they need to be comfortable with it, too. My time with my kids is precious, and I’m okay focusing on us for now.

” – Brian, 39, Kentucky

8. I was angry, and it showed

“I got back into dating way too early, and I think it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t over my ex. Or, at least not over the divorce. I went on a few dates that fizzled out, and then went out with one woman who saw right through me. ‘You’re a nice guy, but you’re clearly still processing your divorce, and I think it’s important you do that before we see each other again.

’ That’s what she said. At first I was , ‘Who the &%$ does she think she is?’ Then I realized, ‘That sounds the response of an angry guy who definitely isn’t ready to date yet.’ So, I was grateful to her. It took about five or six months for me to finally make peace, but I texted her and asked if she’d want to meet up again. We’ve been dating ever since.

” – Josh, 30, Maryland

9. I took care of myself first

“My marriage was nothing but stress. It was just a mess from the start. I ended up gaining weight. My blood pressure spiked. I was diagnosed with anxiety. I’m not blaming my ex-wife. It was just an unfortunate situation. So, the first thing I did when we divorced was get healthy.

I realized that if I was ever going to get into another relationship — which I knew I’d want to do, eventually — I had to be mentally and physically healthy. First I started yoga. Then I hiked a lot. I began to see a therapist. And when I felt I was in a healthier place, I got on and started trying to put myself out there.

I believe the person I became in my marriage was just a phase, and I’m much happier meeting new people as my current self.” – Robert, 43, North Carolina

10. I was terrible at it — but it worked out

“The only girl I’d ever dated was my wife. So, I was a newborn foal taking its first steps the first time I went on a post-divorce date. Just awkward and stumbling. It was bad. Looking back, I can laugh at it. But at the time I was , ‘Man, I’m never going to meet anyone else. She [ex-wife] was a fluke of luck, and now that’s over.

’ Luckily, I didn’t give up, and eventually met my now fiancé. Our first date was a little less awkward than the ones I’d been on before it, but it was clear I had no idea what I was doing. But, she gave me a chance, and then another one, and another one. She said my awkwardness was endearing. I said, ‘Hey, I’ll take it.’ And here we are.

” — Jeff, 37, Florida

11. I Need to Up My Tinder Game

“After I got divorced in 2017, I matched with two girls on Tinder and got their chats mixed up while I was talking to them. Long-story-short, I unwittingly suggested meeting them both at the same place, at the same time. I’ll admit that I was a fan of copying and pasting whatever seemed to work from chat to chat, and just changing the details accordingly.

I forget exactly what happened, but it was something I forgot to change ‘Tuesday’ to ‘Wednesday’, and they both showed up at my local bar on the same night half an hour apart. I wish I could say there was a fight, or a threesome or something exciting, but they just both realized they were wasting their time and left.

I think even the bartender was shaking her head at my stupidity, which is fair.” — Sam, 35, Arizona  

12. I Tried Virtual Dating For the Low-Stakes Fun

“My divorce happened last January, so Covid crept in right around the corner. Before I knew it, ‘Virtual Dates’ were a thing. Since no one could go out, I Zoomed or FaceTimed with a handful of girls I met on dating apps.

My approach was basically: there’s no lower stakes method of dating than this, so what do I have to lose? I’m not sure if that was the right mindset, but most of the dates were actually kind of fun. I gave one girl a guided virtual tour of my apartment. Another girl and I synced up a movie on Netflix and watched it at the same time.

I don’t think anyone is anticipating a real love connection through virtual dating. But they’re fun. Sometimes that’s all you need.” — Cory, 42, Florida

Dating Divorce divorce advice


9 Divorceés Share How Long They Waited To Date Again

How to Start Dating After Divorce

After a romantic relationship ends, sometimes you’re ready to get back on the market ASAP…and other times you'd rather gouge your own eyes out than start swiping through Tinder again (too far?).

The same is true after a divorce—if and when you start dating again is a totally individual choice, and there’s no right way to go about it. To illustrate how much the timeframe can vary, we talked to nine women about how long it took them to take that scary leap of faith.

'I Couldn't Get On Tinder Fast Enough…But An Actual Date…'

“I got on Tinder right away, because I had found out my ex-husband cheated on me. I didn’t actually go on a date, though, until about four to five months after my divorce was finalized.

It ended up being a total disaster—the guy was criticizing how I ate pizza—so I had to cut that nightmare short and have a friend come pick me up.

Another date I found out the guy was on probation, so it hasn’t been great yet.

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«I’m glad I waited a few months to go on dates. It gave me more time to get to a better place mentally and emotionally and sort through and address the feelings I was having. When I had initially gotten on Tinder, that was more about instant validation.

I have a kid, and I’m at a place now where I really want to thoroughly vet someone before I got out with them. It’s important to listen to your gut with dating, and not mask your feelings by diving into dating before you’re ready.

” —Derika, 21, Atlanta, GA

'My Divorce Wasn't Even Official'

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“I started dating before my divorce was even final. Looking back, I wouldn’t recommend that. A lot of that was age—I was in my mid-twenties and I wanted to go out and do what my girlfriends were doing and date them.

My ex and I were separated, and I wanted to put the whole thing behind me. I had moved to D.C., and guys I dated were perplexed that I could be so young and already have been married and divorced. On one date, I told the guy and he freaked out.

He said ‘I can’t handle that,’ and then just up and left.

«I met someone pretty soon after my divorce was final and that turned into a long-term relationship. I think it’s important to take a step back after a divorce, whether it was your idea or not, to evaluate what happened and take responsibility for your role…I didn’t want to repeat some of those negative actions in my new relationship.” —Frances, 38, Alexandria, VA

'Right After My Divorce Was Finalized—And It Was So Empowering'

“I got divorced about nine years ago, and I started dating as soon as I got divorced. I’m really glad I started right away.

I think when you’re the one filing and you want to get divorced, it can be an empowering time. Seeing myself through someone else’s eyes was a breath of fresh air.

I was unhappy in my marriage, so to go from that to having someone treating you kindly and complimenting you was so nice.

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«I’ve now been with the same person for the past eight years, and we’re recently engaged. Dating has been a really positive experience for me. Once you have your confidence back and you feel comfortable being seen out with someone else, you’re ready to start dating.” —Heather, 43, Miami, FL

'It Took Me Nearly A Decade'

“I didn’t start dating seriously until about six or seven years after my divorce.

My kids were in elementary school when we separated, and I wanted to wait until they were grown until I really started to focus on myself. My biggest fear was having a different boyfriend every Christmas.

It was also my second divorce and I felt I needed to regroup emotionally to figure out why I had made some bad or hasty decisions with relationships.

«After waiting several years to get serious, I was definitely ready to get back out there.

Some people are ready right after a divorce and for others it takes longer, but I think as long as you’re not doing it revenge at an ex or because of loneliness, then you’re on the right track.

My test was ‘when am I ready to share myself with someone else?’ It’s not just about what you want, but what you can give to a relationship.” —Jackie, 54, Greenville, SC

'I Was Alone For A Year'

“I was alone for a year before the divorce was final, and during that time, the thought of dating was overwhelming.

But recently I went on a tour of beautiful homes with friends, and we saw this incredible bathroom with a claw foot tub, fireplace and view of the lake out the window, and it was so romantic. I thought, ‘I’d to stay here with someone special.

’ About a month later, 18 months after my divorce, I signed up for a dating profile. I’ve started to get my feet wet again, and I’m excited.

«I’m really glad I waited as long as I did. Now I’m dating and am not focused on trying to escape or distract myself. I think that makes me good company and a great date.

I spent my single time volunteering, reflecting, getting my mind in a good spot, and asking myself tough questions. A few friends were pushing me to get out there sooner, but I knew it wasn’t the right time yet and I didn’t want to rush.

When you’re older, you feel waiting might mean you’re missing things, but you have to be ready.” —Judy, 57, Racine, WI

'The Second Our Relationship Felt Truly Over'

“I started dating about six months after our separation and then our divorce become final a few years later. I had known the relationship was long over, so for me, it was the right time. I trust how I feel about things and when people presented themselves and it felt right, I trusted my intuition.

My ex also started dating before me, and that opened the door for me, too. I think it’s important to honor any feelings you’re having and process those first, so they don’t interfere with your next relationships. If the motivation is to get back at someone, or you’re doing it pain or fear, it’s not settling yourself up for success.

” —Julie, 48, Leander, TX

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“We separated in 2005 and the divorce was final in 2008, and it just took me a while to start dating again. In the first few years after the divorce, I had no interest in dating.

My kids were 1 and a half and 3 and a half, and I just wanted to focus on them for a while.

I never thought I would be divorced, and I had this negative view of the divorcee on the prowl and that held me back, too.

«I started dating in the fall of 2008 because my friends set me up with someone. It didn’t work out long-term, but I look back on it positively. I’m glad I waited as long as I did, because I needed to heal my self-esteem from my marriage.

But I believe in putting yourself out there. My mom didn’t date after getting divorced and she was unhappy. I think you need a life outside of being a mom, so I didn’t want to repeat that.

After being with one person for 12 years, dating was weird and fun and everything in between.” —Leanne, 51, Toronto, ON

'Immediately…And I Met My Next Husband The Following Year'

“I left my husband in 1999, and I had known I was going to get divorced for a while, so I was emotionally ready to start dating right away. Still, I waited a few months to get settled. Then I started dating it was my job. I met my future husband in 2001 and we were married in 2002.

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«I think dating after divorce is all about experiencing different people. A lot of people end up staying with the first person they go out with, and then I think you fall into the same patterns of your past relationships. When I dated, it was a very interesting, fun time in my life. I figured out what qualities I d and didn’t .” —Melissa, 48, Detroit

'I Focused On Making Friends First'

“I got separated in December and started dating in February, but my divorce wasn’t final until April. I had been with my ex for 15 years and had never really dated, so I was actually really happy with my decision to get out there. My goal when I started wasn’t to find another relationship right away, but to test the waters, maybe make some friends, and see what was out there.

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«At about six months after my divorce, I asked myself if I felt ready to try to have a real relationship. I was, and then I went into dating with a different mindset. I met a guy who I really d and have been with him since.

«I think figuring out when you’re ready is a matter of being really clear with where you are in the process.

I found that a lot of guys I dated were ready to settle down really quickly, so I had to start making it clear on my online profile that I was just casually dating at first.

Once I did get serious, I expected it to take a lot longer to connect with someone, but the timing was just right.” —Michelle, 34, Philadelphia

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