Everyone has his or her own timing for when dating is appropriate after a divorce. Some people grieve for years before they're ready to move on, and others were involved with someone else before the split even happened. But for most of us, dating after going through a divorce may be intimidating and a little bit scary, but a part of us still wants to reach out again at some point in time. At the same time, no one wants to have their hearts broken all over again, or even worse, subject themselves to all the possible negative qualities a new love interest might have. Getting to know someone and trust someone again takes a lot of work, and a lot of patience. I am not the best at it, but I am learning how to accept and trust people again without getting involved with the wrong match.
I have found that for me, putting myself back out into the dating world has been one of the scariest but exciting things I've done in a long time. I enjoy the thrill of discovering shared interests, and the sense of possibility that new romance brings. But I also know that being recently divorced, I am very vulnerable. Sometimes I want to like someone so much that I don't always see the warning signs when they're behaving badly. Since my marriage failed, if someone gets upset with me I always just assume I am the one in the wrong, which is often true - but not always. Recently, I went on a first date with a girl who lives almost three hours away from me. It had taken me days to think of a good way to ask her out, and when I finally did, she agreed, but only if I would come to her, which I enthusiastically did. I didn't mind the two hour commute into the city, or the fact that I had to take two subways across town to get to our agreed upon meeting place, or that she arrived fifteen minutes late. The date went well, we shared many things in common, and we didn't part ways until the wee hours of the morning. Everything seemed to have gone perfectly, and I even had flashes of the thought that I could see myself with this person. But in the harsh light of the following day, I realized I may have overlooked some red flags.
Recognizing Red Flags
First of all, I remembered that over dinner, she made an off-handed remark that she had a problem with monogamy. Call me crazy, but I kind of like monogamy in a relationship. I guess I let it slip past my immediate concern because she just looked really pretty saying it. She also mentioned later in the night that she hadn't ever had a long term successful relationship, and I guess I let that slip past unnoticed as well, for the same reason. Then, she said she was not really emotionally available as a general rule, and I thought she was just joking. She wasn't. And here's a word of advice: if someone tells you they aren't good at relationships, believe them. Did you really come all this way, go through the heartache of divorce and take the plunge at dating again just to turn up with a person who is going to drop the ball from the beginning? No, you did not. Next.
Being Swept Away and Standing Up For Yourself
I know it isn't easy. I was confused and dismayed when my last date seemed so perfect for me, and things progressed so rapidly that I was sure she was the one. Unfortunately, all the red flags were there. No matter how beautiful and charming someone is, and no matter how much you have in common and just want so badly for things to work out, you have to look at the big picture. Now more than ever, you don't deserve to settle for someone who isn't going to put forth as much time and effort into the relationship as you are. As much as it feels good to be swept away by the passion of new romance, I realized after a few days that this girl expected me to travel to her exclusively, but wasn't willing to make the commute herself. This is an obvious sign of long-term selfishness, and even while seeing it plainly, it has taken a lot for me to let her go. Being swept away has its downfall, and I'm not quite ready to make myself vulnerable to being hurt again – not yet, anyway.
I think it's healthy to let yourself test the waters of dating as soon as you feel ready, but use caution. Go into it knowing what you want, what kind of person you're looking for, and what you can and can't put up with. No one is perfect, but certain flaws, like being clumsy, are not of the same concern as others, like not being able to commit, or showing obvious signs of being a narcissist. Respect yourself enough to know when you're not being treated fairly, and stand up for yourself when you need to. In my case, I think I'm ready to say, I'm sorry, but it's not me... it's you.
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