How To Pace Your Love Life

Here’s wise advice on moving at just the right speed as you get back into your newly single social life.

By Jennifer Benjamin

fter a divorce, many people take a “Woohoo, I’m free!” attitude, happy to have finally found a way out of their failed marriage. Some jump right into the dating scene, eager for a new relationship, while others are just not ready to get serious with someone new.

If you fall into the latter group, you may feel torn. Sure, you want to get back out there and
Being single again takes some getting used to.
meet new people, but are you really ready to date? What if it got too serious, too soon? Or what if you wanted to marry the first nice person you had a latte with? These may be some of the concerns swirling through your mind. The key is to keep things casual, maintaining just enough distance so that you don’t fall headfirst into another relationship before you’re really ready. Follow this advice for keeping things easy and breezy.

Stay busy
Being single again takes some getting used to. While you may enjoy the new freedom to do whatever you damn well please, it’s easy to get lonely. “When you feel a void in your life, the urge is to fill it, which is why so many people get into new relationships so quickly,” explains Katherin Scott, a dating coach in Snoqualmie, WA ( “If you fill your calendar with social activities and see a lot of friends and family, you won’t be as likely to latch on to another person too quickly.”

In addition to making time for people that you may not have seen so much of when you were married, think about finding some new single friends as well. With an election coming up this year, get involved in a campaign. Or, take a short course in a subject that’s always piqued your interest, whether it’s Italian cooking, film noir or 18th-century literature. Not only will it keep you busy, but you’ll meet like-minded people as well.

Plan “fun” dates
Long, candlelit dinners, walks in the park&mash;hello! If your dates are all about intimacy and romance, you won’t be able to keep the love train from barreling into the relationship zone. To keep things casual, your date activities need to be focused on fun, rather than creating a love connection. “Think about things that you might do with a friend, playful stuff
After all, that’s what casual dating is supposed to be about.
that takes the heavy, romantic stuff off the table,” suggests Liz H. Kelly, dating coach and author of Smart Man Hunting. “For example, suggest playing golf, going to a concert, or seeing a new art exhibit, anything that you might both have fun with.” Group activities are also an excellent way to keep things light, so consider going on a guided bike trip for the day or taking a yoga class together.

Be honest
If you do start seeing someone you like, but that person shows signs of moving too fast for you, be upfront about your boundaries. “Often people, especially women, are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, so they allow things to progress and then backpedal once things get serious,” says JoAnn Magdoff, Ph.D., psychotherapist in private practice in New York. “Rather than allow things to escalate, let him or her know upfront that you’re just out there to meet new people and aren’t ready for a relationship.”

If this person understands that you’re not looking to get serious, he or she will (hopefully) be less likely to push for intimacy or guilt you into dating more often. You can always change your mind later if you decide a person is worthy of giving up your single status.

Spread yourself thin
You? A player? Maybe not, but if you keep a few prospects in rotation, it’ll prevent you from getting too close to one person. After all, that’s what casual dating is supposed to be about. “Divorced men and women are so used to being with a partner that if they spend too much time with one person, they can easily find themselves back in the serial monogamy trap,” says Scott. “If you do different things with different people, mixing in friend outings with dates, you won’t get too attached to anyone before you’re really ready.” So, maybe you have one guy or girl that you play tennis with, another who likes trying new restaurants, and then a friend who is your date for the movies.

Congratulations! After years of being half of a whole, you’re now giving yourself the opportunity to be an unfettered single. Enjoy it!

Jennifer Benjamin has written for Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Allure and The Nest.
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