When Dating After Divorce, Start With Yourself
How to once again feel comfortable with flying solo.
The dating landscape is always in flux, and many co-parents will receive no small amount of well-intentioned advice from family and friends. Whatever the advice, good or bad, determining when you are ready to start dating again after a divorce or separation is an individual journey that often has no clear set of requirements.
One first step, however, will be the important task of once again becoming comfortable with being alone. But that can be an awkward process. After a split, many co-parents must complete the delicate operation of disentangling their social lives from their former partner's. Mutual friends may no longer be free for weekend adventures, and formerly shared activities can often become temporarily unappealing for their ingrained associations.
So if your social life pre-divorce primarily revolved around your children and partner, before diving back into the dating scene completely, consider dating someone entirely new: yourself.
Why You Should Date Yourself
Dating yourself may seem like a strange proposition. We already spend every waking moment with ourselves, so what good could come from committing additional time to doing things solo? But your divorce or separation will have likely led to a cascade of changes to both your internal mindset and daily routine. Acclimating to these new conditions may require more time and TLC than you were anticipating.
Define Your Goals
When our behaviors have been reinforced for years and years, changing them can be an uphill battle. Defining goals can be helpful for overcoming inertia, as long as you remember to keep them on the small side. The scale of grandiose ambitions can definitely feel appealing, but it makes for a much more difficult commitment. For added accountability, consider integrating the use of a motivation app like this one to your routine.
Dating yourself is intended to be fun, so choosing your first step should be an easy task. Do you find yourself opting to stay home when your children are with your co-parent? Make it a goal to dine alone at your favorite restaurant, one that does not necessarily have to be kid-friendly. Have old hobbies taken a back seat since having kids? Dust off that whittling knife (or knitting needles, or fly rod, or basketball) and dive back in. Choose a task for your free time that will help you become reacquainted with yourself, whether that’s reawakening old passions or finding new ones.
Feel Comfortable with Independence
That unexpected ‘free time’ that accompanies co-parenting, however, leaves many moms and dads feeling a mixture of perplexed and forlorn, with little motivation left for additional commitments. No longer eating with your children every day or tucking them into bed every night can wreak havoc on emotions. But a change in perception can transform those days and evenings apart from your kids into unique opportunities.
Being apart will never feel ideal, but for many co-parents, it will be a new and permanent facet of their family structure that needs to be faced. Reframe your attitude towards alone time by selecting an activity that excites you. If your preferred activity supports it, you can also reinforce your commitment by signing up for a class or community education course. Make your goal official and motivation will come much more easily.
Feelings of failure are not uncommon for parents after a divorce or separation. Many fear that the example they’ve set for romantic relationships will affect their children’s own relationships later in life. But two separate and happy co-parents will always be a healthier model for children than otherwise. And when parents exemplify fulfillment defer from romantic relationships entirely, children will have strong role models for leading rewarding lives of their own.
If you want your children to live rich and satisfying lives, filled with learning and excitement, there is no better way to reinforce that wish than pursuing the same for yourself. Participating in activities that are for your sole benefit will make you a happier, healthier individual overall, which can, in turn, increase your children’s faith in the stability of their new family structure. Be an inspiration for your children by making time to enrich your own life.
The immediate, positive effects of dating yourself will be personal. After a tumultuous divorce or separation, you may have trouble feeling comfortable in your own skin. Pursuing activities that focus on your own happiness can help by providing some much-needed recalibration. In the long run, it may also help your children by giving them a role model for personal growth and fulfillment. Whatever your motivation for “dating” yourself, make sure to have fun with it. And if you feel stuck and need help starting, you can always try rehearsing the following: “Table for one, please.”