When I first got separated, I really hated when people tried to give me advice about dating after divorce.
People who had never gone through a divorce would say to me, "You don't need to date right now. Just take some time for yourself." Or, "Why would you want to date? You should be focused on your kids." Or, "If I were you, I'd go out and have tons of sex." Or, "Just have fun. Date a bunch of guys. Don't get serious with anyone."
I had major issues with all of these things and wanted to say, "Butt out! I don't want your advice." The thing is, they were all speaking about what they would do if they were in my situation. How did they know the complexities of how I was feeling?
Of course I wanted to focus on my kids. But I wanted to date, too! Just because I was separated, did that mean I was being punished? Was I grounded for a certain period of time before I was allowed to mingle with the opposite sex?
On the other hand, did I want to date a bunch of guys? Did I want to have tons of sex? Hell no. I just wanted companionship. Being separated is a terribly lonely feeling. Also, I wanted to flirt and feel sexy and pretty. A bad marriage makes a person feel terrible about themselves, inside and out.
Every newly separated man or woman has a unique situation when it comes to dating. There are no rules. That's why there should be no judging by others.
A lot of times when people separate, they have been single in their minds for months, sometimes years. So, they are absolutely ready to date. They might have mourned the relationship in their mind for a long time. So, they've already "taken time for themselves." They've already felt alone and lonely.
The opposite scenario: A woman leaves her husband for another man. She blindsides him. He is absolutely lost. He is traumatized. Is he supposed to go out and date after a certain period of time? Just because it has been six months, should he be ready? No. In this case, it might take years before he decides he wants to date.
As I've gotten older, I've realized that a huge component of life is just about enjoying ourselves. So, if you are newly separated, why do you have to decide if you are dating or not? Enjoy your life and just take things a day at a time. If you meet someone you'd like to have coffee with, just do it. If you don't want to, don't. BE SELFISH in this regard. If you'd rather watch a movie on a Saturday night instead of going out on a date because "that's what you think you should be doing" then go for the movie!
Another suggestion is just try one date. You'll know immediately if being on a date with someone feels okay. And if you're not, what have you lost? A couple hours? You might be surprised and you might meet someone you really like, even just as a friend.
In closing, when is the right time when it comes to dating after divorce? In my opinion, the timeframe spans from the first day you are separated to never. Each of us gets to have the life WE want. Isn't that a beautiful thing?
Sometimes I think it's good to push ourselves and take chances. Other times, I think it's okay to stay in our comfort zone for a little bit.
Here's the thing. No one should judge anyone when it comes to dating after divorce, and no newly divorced man or woman should care what anyone thinks about their love life!
However, I can't conclude this blog post without a few no-no's when it comes to dating after divorce:
1. Don't purposely hurt someone you're dating because you are hurt.
2. Don't drink excessively before your dates.
3. Don't have unprotected sex with random people.
4. Don't blame your ex for dating someone right away. You have the right to do that too.
5. Don't not date because you are afraid. That's just silly.
6. Don't date because you feel like you are under pressure to be in a relationship.
7. Don't be too hard on yourself. Newly separated people make stupid mistakes when it comes to relationships. It's okay.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling. She is also the author of her new divorce novel with the same name, as well as her other divorce novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter and columnist for Sun-Times Media. She lives in Chicago with her two kids. Oh, and she's divorced!
Follow Jackie Pilossoph on Twitter: www.twitter.com/divorcedgirlJP