Chances are, you never thought you’d have another first kiss. You didn’t think you’d need to figure out what you talk about on a date, or how in the world people actually seem to get together; it all feels alien. But now, you can date again! What an opportunity! What an absolute minefield.
Now if you’re hoping I am about to reveal these secrets you’d better stop reading. I’m as clueless as the next person when it comes to knowing those things. So perhaps these are more pre-dating words of potential wisdom.
Divorce though, does open up the possibility of dating again which with all it’s ‘exciting’ and ‘new’ possibilities brings ‘slightly terrifying’ and the world of the unknown.
Becoming newly single might feel like the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Equally, it might feel the destruction of all your dreams. Either way, at some point the dating question might come up. People will likely begin asking if you’ve met anyone yet, the answer not being ‘yes I’ve met loads of new people’ and the obvious subtext being ‘have you met anyone you find attractive and would like to date?’.
But before you even begin to think about dating, be okay with being single. Enjoy being alone, even if that’s superbly difficult at first. And I don’t mean just feeling released from a marriage you may have been unhappy in. I mean enjoy being by yourself. I’ve lived through this advice the hard way – but actually, it’s incredibly worthwhile. Now I love being single – who knows, it might last forever, so I might as well enjoy it.
There is a lot that singleness offers us, in the same way that there’s a lot that dating offers, and marriage offers. For some, being content with singleness won’t be a challenge, and for others it will.
When I knew I would ‘soon’* be divorced, I made a decision. I wouldn’t date while I was still married. I felt that if God had called me to commit to and honour my marriage, then I would do so up until the end. It wasn’t (sadly) due to a flood of offers, but because I wanted my attitude to marriage to be one I could hold up to my own scrutiny and not find too wanting. So my second piece of advice would be think about the timing of your dating. Society would have us think it is a goal to be achieved, like a 100m sprint, but there is time. The moment you separate or that your divorce comes through isn’t the start gun to dating. There’s no hurry to find someone new. The best advice I ever heard was to run towards God, and then see who is keeping up. If you’re not a Christian – run for the heartbeat that’s in you. Don’t, as I think we’re all wont to do (hopefully it’s not just me…), run and look around as you go. World class athletes don’t spend the whole race looking over their shoulders. Pursue what you were made for, rather than focusing on the next guy or girl you find attractive. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing them too, but don’t make that your primary pursuit. No one person will fulfil all your dreams, so don’t be drawn in to finding perfection. Pursuing your dreams makes you more attractive anyway, so that’s a win-win scenario!
Something I have become increasingly aware of, is that if you are going to date, be intentional. I do not mean marry them. I mean, feel free to marry them in the end, but if you’re going to date, give your time to that one person. Maybe it’s for two weeks, maybe it’s longer. But while you’re seeing how things go, enjoy their company and choose to honour them by how you look at and interact with others. It’s all too easy in a world of internet dating to keep your options open once you’ve decided to meet someone. Be different, be intentional. Two weeks isn’t that long to invest in someone if you might want any sort of future with them.
Tempting as it is with the much missed closeness, jumping into another relationship also isn’t going to heal the problems from the last one. So take stock and reflect. I was not a perfect wife – so where could I have been better? This is also not saying you should marry whoever you date, but being aware of your own weaknesses means you can work through those and improve on them, or leave them behind, before you lug them into another relationship with you. No relationship is perfect, so while any new partnership might have difficulties and strains, let them be their own and refuse to create damaging patterns by considering your own behaviours and being released from these. This takes time. The longer I’m single, the more I seem to find things I can work on.
And finally, grow. As a Christian I would say grow in God, grow in patience, generosity, self control… But grow. Grow into who you are and what you love. Grow into a person who’s beautiful inside so that it shines out.
So while this may not help you get an actual date, hopefully it might help in keeping one. There are no time limits, there’s no ‘too quick’ or ‘too long’, and it’s not a race to the altar – there is time to grow, to consider, to enjoy and to reflect. And apply this to dating…while you might not want to date for five years and not know what will happen next, it’s not a race, and chances are you’ll learn as much along the way too.
*By ‘soon’ I mean the decision has been reached and the paperwork trail begins…turns out this takes a while.
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