1. Remember divorce can happen to anyone
‘There is no such thing as the 100% divorce-proof marriage, just as no matter how healthy your life habits are, there is no guarantee you will never get cancer.’
This is incredibly important to realise if your self-esteem is left crippled by a loved and trusted partner abandoning you. This isn’t God’s judgement on you or the marriage. For a start, “Any human bond is ultimately surpassed by our individual identity as a much-loved child of God,” as one divorced woman of faith expressed it.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the conclusion of a renowned investigative journalist who made a documentary on divorce: “People throw away perfectly good marriages all the time, often for what appear to be very selfish reasons.”
But I am in absolutely no position to judge anyone. It seems to me that anyone choosing to read this, whatever any past actions, is someone who still values marriage, hoping and believing that a new beginning can be made possible by a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). Isn’t that what our God is all about?
2. Do the emotional groundwork before dating again
Accept the investment in time it will take to begin healing, so that any wounds aren’t so raw they infect new relationships. There also needs to be ‘clear blue water’ between one relationship and the next, i.e. don’t date until a marriage has been legally ended.
In your search for healing make use of whatever resources you find helpful. Books written by people who have been through a similar experience help you realise you are not alone even at this loneliest time of your life. My go-to book at the time was Jennifer Croly’s Missing Being Mrs: Surviving Divorce Without Losing Your Friends, Your Faith, Or Your Mind. There are divorce-recovery workshops and courses, counselling, and therapy. Do what it takes.
3. Do things for yourself as a single person
I found doing things just for me a useful way of reminding myself that I was no passive victim, but a woman worth spending time with, even if sometimes, it was just me spending time with me.
One friend looking back on the years following divorce from her first marriage recalled, “I don’t mind admitting that I bought a lot of clothes! I had a style and colour consultation, joined different groups, went to films and concerts if I saw something that interested me. I decided that if I wasn’t prepared to do these things on my own, then life would pass me by and I was not willing for that to happen!”
By doing this you are sending a message to yourself that you matter, you are worth bothering about and getting to know, which is a healthy mindset for starting dating after divorce again.
4. Ask yourself some important questions about the future
If some changes to your current life were necessary as part of a permanent relationship with someone special, would this be acceptable to you? Would you relocate? Adapt your lifestyle? Give up or take on new work? It’s worth trying on some of these ideas for size and seeing what your honest reactions are.
Do you have children to consider, or can you accept someone else’s children? It’s essential they feel loved and have time dedicated to them, just as you do for a partner. And when the moment for first meetings arrives, you need to feel confident a partner is stable and trustworthy enough to be introduced to any young ones.
5. Work out your boundaries for dating after divorce
Here are some ‘Dos and don’ts’ for dating after divorce that worked for me:
Do keep early dates light and cheerful. Ranting about your ex is not appealing and suggests you’re still too deeply invested in a previous relationship to engage properly in a new one. If and when you grow closer, a time will come when it feels natural to share more about the past and what you’ve learnt from it.
Don’t be tempted to mentally plan your entire future with someone on your first coffee-date. If you’ve been through a hurtful divorce the fact that someone is interested in you can make you throw caution to the winds, so take it gently. Over-eager can be as off-putting as not bothered.
Do be flexible and open-minded – for example, I’ve heard people say, “I couldn’t go out with a salesperson!” without even looking at their photo or reading their profile – but respect your core values.
6. Remember ‘Kairos time’ vs. ‘Chronos time’
During my own single years it was all too easy to wonder if ‘it’ would ever happen. That’s when I discovered the New Testament has two words for time: ‘kairos’ and ‘chronos’. ‘Chronos’ time is quantitative and linear, whereas ‘kairos’ is more qualitative, a sense of something coming to fruition at the right time. It could be translated as ‘God’s timing’.
As my husband-to-be had decided not to date until his son was more or less grownup, we didn’t meet for a number of years after our respective divorces. I’m glad I hung on in there. So take action, venture out there, and trust in God’s ‘kairos time’.