THE BLOG
08/06/2013 10:08 am ET | Updated Oct 06, 2013

3 Ways to Know You're Ready to Date After Divorce

I was encouraged to immediately start dating after my separation. After all, if you've tolerated a bad relationship that finally ends, why wouldn't it make sense to immediately start looking for something great with someone fantastic? A-hem. Seriously, what could possibly go wrong?

My friends rallied around me, told me "I still had it" and began introducing me to eligible bachelors, whether they were a potential fit or not. I dated a few nice people, but for sure my heart was not in it. I had yet to get my bearings, had not even begun to heal, and was certainly more than a little shell-shocked. At the time, even though I didn't know it, a finalized divorce was still more than a year out.

My therapist mentioned I needed two years of self-reflection and healing time between significant relationships, and was kind enough to inform me that the clock actually doesn't start ticking until I had a Divorce Decree in hand. As it turns out, the experts seem to agree.

You might be hearing from friends and well-meaning folks, "You need to get out there." But what you're probably feeling is either, "I don't think I'm ready," or "I don't even know where or how to start." Since I've lived through it, I'm a big believer in the two-year rule. Give yourself some time to get used to your new life, discover things about yourself didn't know, and settle into life as you now know it.

Then, when you're past the point of licking some serious post-divorce wounds and you've found some inner peace, you might be ready to get out there.

Here are 3 ways to know for sure it's time to start dating:

1. You've thought about what you want, what you don't want, and identified the deal-breakers. You'll probably want to attract a new relationship with someone who has at least a few characteristics that are the opposite of your ex. You may want to find someone with some of the same qualities, I mean, your ex wasn't all bad, right? In addition, you want to identify some deal-breakers. I had a few: all activities had to be completely legal, and he had to be completely single and available. Make a list, and be sure to make the process fun.

2. You're neutral about your ex. You may still have some good feelings of love and fondness, but you're not in love. On the flip side, you've let go of any anger and homicidal feelings. You can think of your ex with no spike in emotions, no pit in your stomach, and maybe even with some thoughts of well wishes.

3. You are actually at least a little excited at the prospect of meeting new people. This is a whole separate post, but if you can think of dating as a big fun adventure where you get to meet fun and exciting new people, you're good to go. So go!

Unfortunately there's a necessary time for healing and transition between the end of your marriage and the beginning of something significant that is also healthy and has long-term potential. The good news is, when you do the work you need to do to make it successfully through that transition time, you're gonna love what's -- and who -- is on the other side!

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