The divorce papers have been sent. Time has passed, and you're finding yourself a little bit lonely on Friday nights. Of course, it doesn't take a psychology degree to know that dating was stressful the first time around. But what about now, when you're diving headlong into a new dating culture, scars still fading after the end of a marriage?
Why not try easing yourself in with dating online? It's low-pressure (as opposed to turning down the guy at the bar, you can just ignore his message online and spend much less time “saving this seat” for an imaginary friend that is never going to turn up), and a great ego-boost when you're feeling at your lowest.
What you like
It may sound really open-minded in theory to say “I like all music, except rap” or “I love food, but I'm not a huge fan of Vietnamese spring rolls,” but truthfully, that's not how it comes across. What if your perfect Parks and Recreations-loving, kid-friendly, emergency-room-doctor, knight-in-shining-armor prince charming is out there, but his secret shame is his love for Dr. Dre and LL Cool J? He's not going to see that you have things in common. He's going to notice the things about you that are different, and you might lose yourself a chance at a meaningful connection. Putting negative statements on your page are ineffectual means of sparking a conversation with the potential new love of your life.
Get specific, and let your freak flag fly! If you like minimalist running, IPAs from your local microbrewery, thrift-store shopping at the Goodwill downtown, vampire movies from the '80s and cooking in a tagine, say so. You never know what you might have in common with someone until you start putting information out there.
Of course, you should never reveal information about your schedule – even though you love the Monday night trivia at the bar at the end of the street, you shouldn't put out any information on the Internet that could let someone find you in the real world without your permission. As you would be with any personal information on the web, be cautious.
What you don't like
This may sound like a no-brainer: leave the ex out of of it. There will be things you'll have to say: I've been divorced for a year, my ex-husband has custody of my daughter on Saturday nights. Beyond that, you don't need to bring him up unless asked in the beginning of communication with a new romantic interest. If you're finding that you can't hear about Seth Rogan movies or Dan Brown books without thinking “John used to love those,” maybe you're not quite ready to get out into the dating world again.
Don't hide anything important. If you're separated, say so. If you're still living with your ex until the house sells, say so. If you've got kids, for god's sake, say so! Hiding something up front builds a false foundation for any relationship to be built from.
On the same note, maybe you've gained a few pounds this year that you're not proud of. Don't post pictures of yourself from last year of your vacation to Lake Havasu when you were tan and twenty pounds lighter. Remember – you want the guy to recognize you in real life. Beyond that, you should find someone that likes your body the way it actually looks, not an idealized picture of what you used to. Find a picture of yourself that looks how you look on a good day and keep expectations manageable.
Above all, keep a sense of humor about your online dating. Your marriage may be over, but that doesn't mean that your life has to be. You have a chance to date whoever you want, as many people as you want, for as long as you want. This is an opportunity, and though there will of course be pitfalls along the way, you can dodge the bumps.
Laugh at the ridiculous messages you receive. I got a message from a man who thought that using the Nigerian prince e-mail scam was an effective way of starting conversation. I also got a message from a man who asked me about my faith in Neosporin and what I thought of the Cigarette Smoking Man in old X-Files episodes. I live with him now.
Be patient and you'll find love online. Or maybe you won't, and that's okay too – though online dating is an effective way to cast a wider net and meet people you wouldn't otherwise come into contact with, you have a thousand different ways to find the next great love of your life, and the rest of your life to find him in.