Dating Right After Divorce

03/02/2015 05:38 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015


When you feel ready to start dating again after divorce, and can stomach the idea of having a new partner you'll find that choosing the right person won't be so easy.

You're not alone if the trust you have in your own judgment was been compromised with the marriage you've ended.

You probably feel like you made a bad investment with your last marriage and you're afraid of making the same mistake twice.

This is perfectly normal, and truly common.

Finding the right person after you've been married once or more takes on a whole new meaning than it did when you were making that choice for the first time.

As human beings we are evolutionarily wired to search out a partner that will give us the best genetically sound children, and to find a partner who will be a good parent or provider. Even if you didn't have children or never wanted them with your last partner you can't help this natural drive toward mate seeking for procreation.

After you have been married once, and particularly if you've already had children you have to be mindful of this inherent wiring that drives your mate choice this next time around. Choosing someone for the wrong reasons will land you in the wrong relationship.

You definitely don't want to end up with someone who isn't a good fit, and you want to consciously seek the person who's right for you right now.

Consider the following when determining the type of person you're looking for:

Life Phase
Where are you in your life phase? Are you heading toward retirement? Are your kids grown and you're ready to start traveling? Do you have small children and need someone who can co-parent with you? These factors will greatly determine who you choose and why. Consciously looking for the person who will compliment where you are in your life is one good and solid way to increase your chances for clicking well.

Personal Qualities
If you've learned anything from your past marriage you should have an idea of what qualities in a new partner you are looking for. If your ex was shut down you'll look for someone who is open and communicative. If your ex was a workaholic you may want to find someone who shares your values of spending time together. You're not necessarily looking for the opposite of your ex, but if you've acknowledged what didn't work in your marriage you'll be able to have a better chance getting it right the next time around

Dating is inherently challenging and not having a clear picture of what you want in a partner makes the process even more difficult.

You can't expect to just throw out a net and pull in what you were hoping to get. You need to seek it out and be clear about what you want so when you see it you can know it's right.

I usually have my clients think about two categories when dating.

Must haves
Must haves are the characteristics and qualities the person must embody for you to feel happy in the relationship. This doesn't mean your unforgiving if every single quality isn't there, but you need to have a base for what you fundamentally need. These could be qualities like kindness or patience and characteristics like extroversion or positivity. Knowing yourself will help in this process because if you don't know what you need you won't get what you want.

Bottom Lines
Bottom lines are the deal breakers you're looking for in a relationship. If you want children than this would be a deal breaker for you. Another bottom line might be self-employment if you want someone who can make his or her own hours, or retirement if you're looking for someone to be available all the time. You're bottom lines are boundaries that help you avoid getting into relationships that you know will never work but don't want to admit. Overlooking these kinds of important factors will lead to failure.

Mate choice after divorce needs to be very conscious and while you need to be compromising you absolutely need to realistic. This is why doing self-reflective work post-divorce is so important. Getting to know yourself and becoming clear about needs and desires paves the way for healthy and adaptive partner choices.

You're now choosing a partner based on your true authenticity not necessity.