Stuck In A Dating Drought?

Are you out there again looking for love after a divorce, but nothing seems to click or stick? Here’s what to do.

By Nina Malkin

“After my divorce, it was like I could walk down Hollywood Boulevard in full Victoria’s Secret regalia and not get a nibble!” recalls Osa Blume, 44, a Los Angeleno who admits to being dateless for two years after her marriage’s demise. And that’s hardly a world record: It’s not unusual for the newly divorced to experience some dearth of dates.

The good news? It’s not only normal, it’s healthier than the more common rebound relationship. “The newly divorced person going through a dating drought is genuinely experiencing the hurt and confusion of
Avoid trying to recreate what you had with your former spouse.
divorce as opposed to numbing it with an instant coupling or frenetic attempts to date lots of inappropriate partners,” says Long Island-based psychologist Leah Klungness, Ph.D., co-author of The Complete Single Mother.

And what if you find yourself dateless—and fed up with the fact? To pull yourself out of this amorously arid place, you’ve first got to figure out why you’re there; then you can take steps to rectify the situation. Generally speaking, there are two main reasons for a post-divorce dating drought.

Reason #1: You’re really not ready to date yet
Your friends, your parents, maybe even your kids think your dance card should be filled by now. The media bombards you with the same message. And, yes, you may feel lonely, crave contact and intimacy. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to date. “Emotional preparedness for dating doesn’t happen magically because the final papers have been signed,” says Dr. Klungness. “Anger, bitterness, thoughts about betrayal and infidelity can linger. If these feelings aren’t worked through, they quickly surface, even in casual dating situations, and can sabotage any chance of romance.”

Think about the last time you were in a social situation that didn’t go so well. Did you give off an unapproachable or defensive vibe? Try too hard and come on too strong? Talk endlessly about your ex or your divorce? Simply feel shy and uncomfortable? These are all signs that you might want to put dating on hold. As a rule of thumb, says Dr. Klungness, “When the thought of dating starts with an ‘I should’ instead of an ‘I want,’ it’s a red flag.”

Instead of trying (and failing) to meet someone, you’re better off regrouping. “Recently divorced people should give themselves time to heal,” says Tammy Johnson, a divorce attorney at the Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Consider who you are and what you want from a relationship—it could be a lot different than what you were looking for at age 20.”

Think of the period as being all about you. “Get out of your rut, do things that make you feel good about yourself,” says Johnson. “The
People in marriages often put their spouse first.
key is to concentrate on you for a while. People in marriages often put their spouse first; now it’s OK to take some time for you.”

One sure-fire sign that you’re ready to date again is when people really start to look good to you! “Repeated instances of being attracted to different people suggests the authenticity of your feelings,” explains Jerald Jellison, Ph.D., author of Managing the Dynamics of Change. When you’re attracted enough to consider spending time with five different people, you’ve passed the dating preparedness litmus test, Dr. Jellison says.

Reason # 2: You’re dating mode is outdated!
If you’ve taken time to heal and reassess and still aren’t meeting people you really relate to, the problem may be more logistical than emotional. Are you going to the same places you went when you were single or with your ex? Do you associate finding romance with hitting clubs and bars on the weekend? Do you venture out only when single friends are available?

The dating strategies that worked when you were a younger single person probably won’t cut it now, so you’ve got to “grow up” your approach. Try online dating. Attend singles’ events. Get involved in activities that intrigue you and fit your schedule. Fly solo in a non-intimidating arena—a reading in a bookstore as opposed to the nightspot of the moment.

Don’t expect an instantaneous spark. “Do things with potential partners because you have common interests—exercise, hobbies, spiritual or professional growth,” advises Dr. Jellison. “After you identify people with whom you’re comfortable doing different things, then see if romantic feelings develop.”

Avoid trying to recreate what you had with your former spouse—and this one’s crucial. “The number one cause of post-divorce dating disasters is the desire to regain what was lost from the social life of the marriage,” warns Dr. Klungness. “Shared experiences, like dining out at a favorite place or a mutual love for a sports team, represent the best of times for this failed relationship, and many divorced people look for this familiarity as they resume dating.”

Big mistake—for you, and the person you’re out with, who shouldn’t have to hear about how “we” used to love this place or the time “we” saw the Kings win the Stanley Cup. “People interested in dating post-divorce should be ready for adventure and change,” says Dr. Klungness. “Better to say, ‘My neighbor raved about this restaurant, so I thought it would be fun to check it out,’ or ‘Do you like ballet? I’ve never seen a performance, but I thought it would be fun to do something new together.’”

Nina Malkin is the author of An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle.
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