Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I filed for divorce in 2018, and it's still not final yet. I'm reluctant to date until it's completely over. Thoughts?

Signed, Not-Yet Single

Dear, Not-Yet Single

There’s no right or wrong way to handle dating after separating from your spouse. Some people re-download dating apps right away; other people wait years until after their divorce is finalized. And some people regret waiting too long or jumping back in too soon. For the most part, the outcome of their choice comes down to two things.

The first is taking enough time to reflect and learn from what went wrong (and right) in your marriage. Whether you’re the one who filed for divorce or not, you can use this time alone to realize what didn’t work and search for something different in your next relationship. Skipping this step means you’re more likely to repeat everything that didn’t work out in your marriage.

The second is listening to your gut. Many people regret jumping back into dating too soon, but they did so because they thought that’s what they should do. They ignored their gut feeling that they weren’t ready and found themselves overwhelmed by the dating scene.

So now let’s talk about your situation. It’s been three years since you filed for divorce. How have you spent that time? What went wrong in your marriage? What qualities do you want in your next partner that your ex-spouse didn’t have? How could you have contributed more to your marriage?

If you’re unsure about your answers to those questions, it might be worth holding off on dating. Being alone is one of the best learning experiences anyone can go through. Use this time to establish clarity on what you want moving forward.

Let’s also focus on one particular word you used: reluctant. There’s no rush to get back into dating, especially since your divorce isn’t finalized. Three years is a long time to go through the separation process. That can be emotionally draining. If you’re reluctant to get back into dating because you’re still in the depths of your divorce, then, by all means, wait.

But if you’re reluctant to get back into dating because it’s been so long since you’ve been in the game, know this: you’ll never feel 100% ready. Divorced or not, plenty of people are nervous and don’t enjoy the initial stages of dating. It’s a lot of potential rejection, a lot of mixed signals, and confusion.

Yet, it’s necessary if you want to find a new relationship that is fulfilling. Sometimes we have to push past fear to get the things we want most in life. And one more note on that: don’t be worried about people’s reactions to you being divorced. If they can’t handle someone who committed to someone they loved and then had the courage to leave when it wasn’t working, then that person isn’t right for you.

Whether or not you date while still finalizing your divorce is entirely up to you. If you feel ready but are just scared, give one or two dates a try. If you want to wait until your divorce is entirely behind you, then do that.

Either way, there’s no wrong choice. There’s only your choice.

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