What Went Wrong? 8 Frequently Asked Questions about Dating when Divorced

Dating when DivorcedIf you’re a divorced guy, you don’t need to hear it from me: divorce sucks. Big time. Basically every student that attends our weeklong residential program in Los Angeles who’s divorced tells me that it’s the hardest thing he’s ever gone through in his life. What’s more, guys who have been through a divorce generally aren’t in a huge hurry to get back on the horse and start dating again.

And I get it. At least as much as someone who has never been there can. Sure, I’ve had my share of breakups that were hard to get through. Divorce, however, is on a whole other level. When you go through a divorce a big part of who you were before changes. No matter how independent you are, to some degree your identity is tied up with being married and being married to her. Even if you’re the one who wanted out, there’s still going to be a big hole in your brain where your relationship used to live.

So I decided to sit down and come up with an FAQ / survival guide for divorced guys who are looking to get back in the game. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s necessary for you to completely heal and move on. What you’re about to read is what I’ve learned by talking to hundreds of guys who have been through a divorce plus all of the research I have done over the years.  This list focuses on the things I coached them on that worked and helped them to get through one of the most hellacious periods of their life.

Why Some Relationships Fail

Before getting into the meat of what to do, I’d like to take a little bit of time to share with you statistics about relationships. To put it simply, some relationships work out and others don’t. However, when we look at relationships that prosper and relationships that end, there are some common themes. It’s not that one or another characteristic is going to make or break your relationships, past, present or future; It’s just that successful and unsuccessful relationships have, broadly speaking, some patterns.

  • It was originally thought that living together negatively impacted the chances of a marriage surviving. However, more recent studies, such as the one by Arielle Kuperberg, an assistant professor of sociology at UNC Greensboro, show that it was more about couples moving in together when they were young; 23 is the magic number that you shouldn’t shack up before.
  • According to a National Marriage Project and confirmed by Rutgers University and the University of Virginia, the problem with living together before marriage (especially at younger ages) is referred to as “the cohabitation effect.” This effectively means that people living together get married not because they want to, but because it “seems like the thing to do.”
  • Here’s something that will probably make you perk up just a little bit in spite of yourself: According to the Marriage Foundation, second marriages are significantly more likely to succeed than first marriages — to the tune of 50 percent. Several factors are in play here, including age and the experience of going through a first marriage.
  • If your parents are still (happily) married, you’ve got a 14 percent less chance of getting divorced.  If your parents are divorced and remarried, you’re a whopping 91 percent more likely to get divorced.
  • The college educated are likewise 13 percent less likely to get divorced than those without a degree.
  • Couples with children are 40 percent less likely to get divorced than the childless. Though, those with daughters only are 5 percent more likely to split than couples who just have sons.
  • Couples who argue frequently about finances are 30 percent more likely to get divorced.
  • Cigarettes smokers are significantly more likely to get divorced than nonsmokers — somewhere between 75 and 91 percent.

Here are some assorted demographic factoids about divorce that are worth checking out (http://freenortherner.com/2013/06/21/sexonomics-odds-of-divorce/). While it’s not a necessary strategy, you might want to consider seeking a partner who balances out your chances of divorce. However, at the end of the day, what you really want to do is work your best on yourself. That’s the best insurance policy against having to go through the painful experience of divorce again.

Want to get back into the dating pool, but aren’t really sure how? Here’s a rundown of how you can start moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

Will I Ever Date Again? Learning to Move Forward

Of course you will. It’s just a question of when. In fact, dating is part of the process of healing when it comes to your divorce. Anyone who has ever been through a breakup knows that you’re never going to fully get over it if you’re not moving forward. To a certain extent, moving forward means getting out there and meeting someone new, so there are definite advantages to recently divorced dating.

But knowing that isn’t going to make you want to do it. What’s more, getting out there before you’re really ready is a formula for disaster. And at the same time, you might never think you’re ready, so when do you know it’s the right time?

That’s something you need to answer but until then you need to find productive ways to spend your time other than dating. Some productive things to do include:

  • Work: Show up an hour early, leave an hour late. This is pretty much my go-to advice for any guy who’s having a hard time adjusting. Throwing yourself into work can be incredibly liberating. While it can, in extreme examples, become pathological, it’s a productive way of ignoring how hurt and messed up you are; Think of it as the exact opposite of drowning your sorrows in a bottle. Instead, you’re putting your head down and channeling those negative emotions productively to better your career.
  • Hobbies: On the other hand, maybe you want to spend your time doing things that you always wanted to when you were in a relationship, but never had the time for. Collecting, building, repairing… these are all great uses of your time. There’s a certain magic that exists when you work on your car, build something or invest in something you love. Again, you can go too far into this and it can be bad — but call me when that happens and we’ll talk about it. For the most part, you’re not going to be wasting time by throwing yourself fully into your hobbies.
  • Volunteering: Another thing that people often want to do but rarely find time to do especially when they’re in a relationship. Well the good news is you can now spend your time helping others. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get a candidate elected to public office, feed the starving masses or making shelter animals feel loved and cared for. The point is that you’re spending your time doing something that you believe in on a very deep level. Not only is that going to give you something to do with your time, it’s also going to nourish your soul, make you feel good and forget about the divorce.
  • The Gym: Mad? Hit the weights. Sad? Hit the weights. The point is that no matter what negative emotion you’re feeling right now, there’s a cure: Hit the weights. A friend of mine once pointed me to “Iron and the Soul” by Henry Rollins. It’s basically about how when everything is bleak and grim in life, you’ve at least got the iron to whip you into shape. I live by that. When life is hard, hit the gym. Because anything that’s in you that you want out only needs some weight.

Will Anyone Want to Date Me?

Of course they will. And on some level you already know this. In fact, there are some people to whom you might even be more attractive to than your wife when you were married.

In the first place, you’re more experienced, which is always a good thing. And from that comes a stronger idea of what you want and what you don’t want. When you’re dating that’s a really strong asset. A lot of guys don’t have that. Not only does it make you more capable at choosing who you want to spend your time with, it also makes your choices more meaningful. You’re not at a point in your life where you’re going to date women out of inertia; You’re looking for the right woman to spend your time with.

One brief thought before moving on: If you have kids, remember this: There are tons of women out there who also have kids and guys without kids tend to treat them like a third rail. They’re looking for good men and good fathers to bring into their lives. So there’s that.

Is Dating Different After a Divorce?

After coaching hundreds of guys who have been through divorce, I can tell you this much: it is different. So how is it different?

  • You might be a bit gunshy. Yeah. Divorce is hard. And when you’re recently divorced and dating (or trying to date), it can be especially scary. It can make you reticent to get back out there and start meeting new people. That’s normal and natural. Don’t overthink it.
  • You’re going to be pickier. Even if you’re just dating around and having fun, you’re not going to have time for people that aren’t worth your time. The upside of this is that your time now has a far greater value than it used to.
  • You’re divorced. You’ve been married and now you’re not — and people have an opinion about that. It just is and there’s nothing you can do about it, but know that it’s real.

When Will I Be Ready?

There’s really not an answer to this. It varies from one man to another. But the short answer is: sooner than you probably think.

Recently Divorced and Dating | What Should I Definitely Not Do on Dates?

Dating after a divorce can be difficult because of the changes in your life. This causes a lot of men to make mistakes regarding their romantic life. So here’s a quick list of things you definitely should not do when it comes to dating after your divorce:

  • Compare her. Don’t compare any woman that you’re dating now to your ex, good or bad. She already knows you’re divorced. Comparing her is one of the worst ways you can remind her of it. In general women don’t want to be compared to other women. When it’s an ex-wife, it’s especially toxic.
  • Talk too much about your divorce. Even if she invites you to talk about it, even if she says it’s OK, I promise you that she does not want a blow-by-blow of your divorce. Talk about it in very cursory terms if you have to. Otherwise talk about it not at all.
  • Badmouth your ex. The only way you should talk about your ex is in very general and neutral terms. She doesn’t want you to like her, she doesn’t want you to hate her. More than anything, she doesn’t want to think about the fact that she exists.

Now let’s end things on a positive note. What should you do in the future?

What Should I Definitely Do?

Just as there are things you should never do when you’re recently divorced and dating, there are things you definitely should at least try to do:

  • Open yourself up to new experiences. This is a new chapter in your life; A time to start fresh. Let yourself experience new things. Don’t close yourself off to new experiences.
  • Get out there sooner than you think you’re ready. But not much. You’ll basically never think that you’re totally ready. Some part of you is going to have to force some other part of you to get out there and make it happen.
  • Be selective about who you spend time with. You’ll probably want to be, so follow that instinct.

I love helping guys who have just been through a divorce start living the life they’ve always wanted to have. They’re some of my favorite people to work with. If you’ve read all of this, remember: It will get better, you will move on and you will eventually come to a place of peace and closure. But perhaps more importantly, you will get to a point where you’re doing much, much better than you are now; A time when you look back and think that it was all, in some sense, worth it to get where you are now.

AJ Harbinger - author of 1049 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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