Dating After Divorce
This is part three of a four-part series, “Conscious Courtship,” in which we chat with professional matchmaker Amy Stevens and licensed marriage and family therapist Alisa Snell. In this post, we’ll explore their expert advice on how to navigate the dating world after a divorce. We also spoke with James Curran, a recently divorced LDS blogger and entrepreneur living in Utah. This is a supplementary discussion from an episode of Mormon Channel Daily.
Going through a divorce can be devastating emotionally, spiritually, and financially, whether or not there are children involved. It’s one of the most stressful and heartbreaking times of life and can bring with it a major crisis of faith. However, you can overcome the pain and move on with hope, faith, and happiness through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Because a divorce is such a life-changing event, Stevens and Snell suggest waiting about a year or until YOU feel ready before jumping into another serious relationship. Regardless of how your past marriage ended, you can move forward and fully recover with the help of the Savior. Pray for His assistance and discernment as you enter the next dating phase of your life.
Having gone through a divorce earlier this year, Curran said that he was initially excited to start dating again.
“I think I wanted to prove to myself that I … could find someone very quickly who was more compatible. It took me about three months of dating around to realize I needed to take a break and really take time to heal. I needed Christ and His love to help me transition to that next step, and it had to be on the Lord’s terms and in the Lord’s timing.” He said he would advise other recently divorced LDS members to do the same—to take enough personal time to heal and to be able to rely on the Lord for help.
Snell would also recommend taking your time because of the implications that being too hasty could have on your next relationship.
“Time is always a plus for everybody. Make sure you’re not being too vulnerable, because you can be abused and manipulated. [Ask yourself,] ‘How do they act 4–6 months into a relationship?’ Give a relationship time to predict whether or not you’re going to be a good fit later.”
Curran also suggested that before dating again, it is vital to reflect on what values are really important to you so that you can recognize someone who has similar goals for the future. “It’s very easy to be confused and waste your time with someone who isn't right for you again.”
He also commented that one of the biggest surprises he had while trying to date again was that people weren’t deterred by him having been divorced before. Realizing that there were other people who had also been through this gave him an opportunity to connect, gain insights, and progress personally.
“My testimony has increased by seeing just how much the Lord loves me. I don't know what I would have turned to for help if I didn't know in the back of my mind that everything was going to be OK. And even though I was hurt and prideful at times shortly after the divorce, the Lord put people in my path to lift me up and help me through the hardest thing I've ever had to do.”
If you or your new partner has children, Snell recommends sticking to this five-step process when beginning a new relationship after a divorce:
Stage 1: First Six Weeks. Focus on having fun, make the other person feel great, and practice good etiquette and flirting techniques. Since most relationships don’t make it past the first six weeks, Snell says, it’s best not to introduce your partner to your children during this early time period. Children can develop attachments and expectations and could ultimately be very hurt if a relationship doesn’t work out. As you prepare to go on dates, demonstrate to yourself and your children that you can set personal boundaries and take care of yourself. Have weekly date nights with your potential partner, but it is important for him or her to see that you are spending the majority of your time and energy with your children.
Stage 2, 1–2 months in: “Pre-Exclusive.” It is best to do a few brief introductions with your children or other family members at this point to see how they interact with each other. Make sure your kids’ needs are being seen and heard. You want to be able to know enough about someone, deepen a connection with them, and feel secure before you bring your family into the picture.
Stage 3: “Building the Relationship.” Focus on deepening the connection with your partner. Continue to get to know them better (without solving problems), create a secure attachment to them, and provide more frequent interactions with your children or family members.
Stage 4: “Solving Problems.” Tackle the big issues that are holding the two of you back from further commitment. When children are involved, this stage is a chance for you to focus on being one more person who loves these children and who can be a support to their parent.
Stage 5: “Getting Engaged.” You’ve worked through the issues that may have been holding you back initially, and now you can prepare to begin your new lives together as a family. Plan on having 1–2 date nights a week away from kids, and also do your best to fit dates in during the day when you can. It’s natural to feel really excited about your future partner at this stage, but make sure that the children still feel loved and important.
Stay tuned next week as we discuss the importance of continuing to date as newlyweds, with Snell and Stevens. And check out last week's post, Dating in Your 30s.