Dating is always tricky, period. It was overwhelming in high school, complex in college, and even more complicated as an adult-and that's if you've never been married before. If you're a 30-something navigating dating after a divorce, then meeting someone new can come with an entirely different layer of challenges.
вЂњThe average age for first-time marriage in the U.S. is 27 for women and 29 for men, so people can stigmatize someone for being in their 30s and already divorced,вЂќ says Kelly Campbell, a psychology professor at California State University, San Bernardino. вЂњThis stigma could cause a person to wonder whether there is something wrong with them for having divorced at a young age, and their self-esteem could suffer.вЂќ
But the issue of possibly being judged for a previous marriage isn't the only one that this group has to face. Campbell also notes that it's more difficult to meet someone period, since the number of available partners has diminished by this age, and coupled friends are less likely to go out to help you meet someone. вЂњHaving friends who are mostly in relationships can also feel lonely because there aren't people in your cohort who can relate to you,вЂќ she continues. вЂњSo you may spend more nights home alone than you'd prefer.вЂќ
At this point, it may seem like dating after a divorce in your 30s is a hop, skip, and a jump from a mopey Bridget Jones impression. Campbell says that it's challenging-as dating is, of course-but it's not impossible. We asked her to describe the mindset and approach someone in this position should have if they're ready to start dating again, and her tips should make a tricky situation feel more manageable.
What Mindset Should You Have?The Style Stalker
вЂњPeople who have gone through divorce should work to ensure that the issues they faced in their previous relationship are not affecting their outlook on subsequent relationships,вЂќ she says. вЂњWhen people avoid or bury the pain, there is a risk that those issues will continue to affect them and their relationships in the future. So, the best way to make sure they are ready to date again is to process their feelings and experiences in real time and often with a therapist.вЂќ
People can use divorce as an opportunity to grow and become a better partner for the next relationship.
вЂњThose who process the pain in real time are more able to make sense of their experience and live more fearlessly. They also know they can handle the pain and can move forward,вЂќ she continues. вЂњIt is also important not to feel like a failure. Divorce does not equate to failure. So much can be gained and learned from both the marriage and divorce. People can use divorce as an opportunity to grow and become a better partner for the next relationship.вЂќ
How Should You Approach the Subject of Your Previous Marriage?The Style Stalker
вЂњWhen people approach the topic of their previous marriage, they should do so without feeling ashamed. The divorce is a part of who they are, and if a prospective dating partner can't accept that, then they aren't a good fit,вЂќ Campbell says. вЂњI'd recommend the topic be raised during a first date. People don't have to force the topic, but whenever prior relationships naturally come up in the conversation, they should mention their divorce.вЂќ
вЂњIf they've properly processed their feelings and experiences and are truly ready to date again, then this won't be a sensitive topic for them to bring up,вЂќ she says. вЂњThey should be able to talk about the experience in matter-of-fact terms, knowing what led to the breakup, what they learned, and what they will do differently in the future. If the divorce resulted from something like being cheated on or abandoned, it is especially important to process feelings, ideally with a therapist, so that when it's time to date again, their self-esteem is high. They should feel confident in what they have to offer a new partner, and they should set appropriate boundaries and expectations in their next relationship.вЂќ
What Should You Keep in Mind When Starting to Date Again?The Style Stalker
Work on yourself. вЂњThis is, by far, the number one thing people should be doing as they date again,вЂќ Campbell says. вЂњThey may have lost touch with who they are as an individual while they were married, so they need to reconnect with themselves. They should do things like eat right, get in shape, and pursue important interests and valued goals. These things will boost self-esteem. When self-esteem is high, they will naturally feel attracted to people who treat them in accordance with their self-worth.вЂќ
Create balance. вЂњThey should be making time for work, hobbies, friends, family, and themselves,вЂќ she says. вЂњAs they start dating, they need to maintain this balance because otherwise they risk investing too much into the new relationship and losing themselves again.вЂќ
Avoid making lists. вЂњI would avoid making lists of what type of partner they want because lists can limit who they allow into their life,вЂќ she says. вЂњBut what I would recommend is to know personal values. If someone doesn't respect those values, they are not a good match.вЂќ
Keep an open mind. вЂњAllow yourself to experience new things, and don't stay stuck on one type of romantic partner just because that's what you sought in the past,вЂќ Campbell adds. вЂњWe can learn about ourselves by getting to know others. Don't close the door because someone has interests that differ from your own or because they don't fit your idea of what a partner should be.вЂќ