There's nothing like a fresh start — knowing in your heart that you're ready to move past the divorce and date again. Before that little black dress comes out of the closet, ask yourself: Do I know how to make a better choice this time around?
"Things will be different," we tell ourselves. And things really can be different, of course. But only if you're different in the way you approach your next relationship. Whether you're in search of Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, unless you want to attract "Your Ex: The Sequel," consider these tips to help you choose wisely:
1. Pay attention to warning signs. Red flags wave for your attention, alerting you to a potential problem or a man's character defect. If you think back to the days of your courtship with your ex, in hindsight you can see the danger signs displayed during that time. What might not be so clear is why you dismissed the warning signals.
Did you deny the potential problems because you loved him and thought that was all that mattered? Did you think he'd change, especially if you got married or had a baby? Did you tell yourself your concerns weren't a big deal? Did you think he'd be different with you than he'd been with the women in his past? Did you jump into a serious relationship from early infatuation? Were you so needy, you latched onto him so you wouldn't feel lonely and empty?
2. Trust yourself and those close to you. By becoming clear about how you denied potential problems in the past, you can catch yourself before making a similar mistake with the men you date. Have faith in your intuition. Whether your intuition speaks to you in a still, small voice; a gut feeling; a hunch; or some other sensation you need to follow the messages you're given. If your intuition tells you something is wrong, it probably is.
Don't be dismissive of your family or friends; be open to what they're telling you. If two or more people give you the same feedback, pay attention.
3. Take a look at his past. Does he put the blame for the breakdown of previous relationships on the woman? Does he admit to cheating? Does he make excuses for not interacting with his children? Does he use a poor or dysfunctional childhood as an excuse for his current behavior? Does he tell stories about himself (or his close friends) in a light way, showing he lacks ethics in some areas?
4. Beware the "I'm-a-changed-man" line. When he says meeting you has made him a different man, it may sound wonderful to hear. But don't put a lot of credence into that statement. Most of the time, men don't change their character because they've fallen in love. He needs to undergo the life-changing experiences that made him a better man before meeting you.
A change in character or behavior patterns come only after steadfast work on personal growth. Has he gone to therapy, had extensive coaching, become religious and is active in a church, joined a 12-step program, embarked on a course of self-help reading, attended personal growth seminars, or taken purposeful steps to become a better person?
5. A dose of caution is good for romance. Who doesn't love a sweet fairytale? A made-up love story can be great for entertainment. But if you want something real — in a friend or a lover — don't get caught up in a fantasy. Remain vigilant about the details he shares about himself. As you well know, from your most recent relationship, some of those details can come back with a vengeance. Caution will help you screen out those men who look good on the surface, but won't be good for you.