Am I Ready to Date after Divorce?

Eventually, you’re going to meet someone – or maybe you already have. But how do you know if you’re ready to date again after a divorce? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but our Hello Divorce team has rounded up some indicators that tell you when you are ready and open to finding a new partner. 

If your spouse left you, you’re probably hoping you will find love again. If you’re the one who initiated the divorce, meeting someone better suited to you was probably a deciding factor in why you wanted to end your marriage. Let’s first look at dating during divorce in case your paperwork is not yet finalized. 

What are the rules for dating during and after divorce?

In general, it’s best to avoid dating until after your divorce is finalized. It’s a personal choice that only you can decide, but be aware that you could face negative consequences if your ex finds out you’re seeing someone new before the ink is dry on your papers. Here are some ways dating before your divorce is final could work against you:

  • If you live in a fault state, your ex could cite your new relationship as a reason for your marriage’s demise.
  • If you decide to reconcile with your spouse, you will have a lot more work to do in rebuilding trust.
  • Your reputation could suffer. As much as you say, “I don’t care what others think” or “It’s none of their business” – people do talk and judge. Consider the potential career impact or negative reactions from your friends and family.

Once your divorce paperwork has been signed and you have your divorce decree, the rules are up to you. Dating after divorce can be challenging, though – especially if your feelings are still raw, you have ongoing conflicts with your ex, or you are dating again for the first time in years. There are some things you can do to set your new dating life up for success, though. Let’s look at how to know you’re ready (and what to do to get back in the dating pool).

How long should you wait to date after a divorce?

There is no hard and fast rule, but there are certain signs you are (or are not) ready to date after your divorce. The number one way to know if you are ready is if it just feels right, but here are some other questions to ask yourself to help you know if you are ready.

Have I been taking care of myself?

You know the saying, “You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself.” It’s true – at least if you want a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Spending time reflecting on the reasons your marriage ended and what you need (and can’t tolerate) from new partners is a big step toward finding love again.

Did I grieve the loss of my marriage?

Even the worst marriage is still a loss. Your old life is gone, and you have a new identity. Taking time to honor the good and let go of the relationship that ended is essential for opening yourself to new love.

Adjust to your new normal and prepare your heart to love again with help from an online support group geared toward moving on after divorce. Try Circles online and app support groups.

Am I working through negative feelings toward my ex?

You may not be totally over the hurt, but you should have at least started making progress toward healing. Would you want to go out with someone who constantly talks about their ex or trash-talks them when they do come up? It’s best to keep conversations positive and focused on the future, not the past (at least not your past relationships). If you can’t overcome bitter feelings about your ex, it may not be time to meet someone new.

Will I be dating for the right reasons?

Don’t start dating again to appease others’ expectations. Even years after your divorce, you might not feel ready, and that’s okay. Don’t date just because other people tell you that you should or because someone is interested in you and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

You also shouldn’t date just to fill a void, have financial support, or because you are lonely. Look inward and nurture your relationship with yourself and your friends and family before you seek a connection with a romantic partner. The goal should be an improved partnership, right? While settling for some companionship might help temporarily, you’re setting yourself up for long-term disappointment if you go into a relationship to “fix” something. 

Do I have enough time and money to go on dates?

This is a practical one. Do you have free time and someone who can watch the kids or pets when you want to go out? Can you afford the costs of going out (don’t assume your date will pay)? These may be small matters, but they’re worth considering if your finances are different now that you are on your own.

Dating after divorce when you have kids

Of course, if you have children (especially minors or adult children living with you), dating is a little more complicated. While dating is a personal choice, a new person in your life can impact your kids. 

Be mindful of their feelings, boundaries, and time. It’s best to be honest with them without oversharing. For example, it’s good to tell them your date’s name and where you are going but not all the details about how you are feeling and all the things you are doing together. Your child might feel like you are abandoning them or that you like this new person more. They might also be strongly siding with your ex … or even hoping for a reconciliation.

Do what you can to ensure they feel comfortable. You may not want to introduce someone to them until it gets serious. Be sensitive to their feelings and personal space, too. If you’re thinking of inviting a new dating partner into your home or along for outings, talk to them about it first to gauge if they are ready for it. 

Post-divorce dating tips

Okay, so you’ve decided you are ready to date again. Here are some tips to get back out there and hopefully meet someone you’re really excited about.

1. Try a dating app

Dating apps and websites are a comfortable way to scope out the dating scene. Some of the most popular ones are Hinge, Bumble, It's Just Lunch, Coffee Meets Bagel, and the new women-created S'More Date App. Of course, the old-fashioned ways still work, too – attending social events, going out to bars or coffee shops, and meeting others through friends. But dating apps can be an easier way to connect with others looking to date. They also allow for greater transparency about being divorced and what your deal breakers are.

2. Set expectations

Do you want to date more casually so you have someone to do fun activities with? Or are you looking for your next life partner? The app you use or the people you’re open to might differ greatly. Consider the end goal before you’re sitting across from each other on that first date so you aren’t disappointed later (or struggling to break away from someone who is way more invested in you).

3. Keep nurturing your uncoupled life

Divorce no doubt forced you outside your comfort zone and into a much more independent role. Hopefully, you learned a lot about yourself and set post-divorce goals that have nothing to do with a romantic relationship. Again, loving yourself and being okay with solo time sets you up for the kind of love you want and deserve from your next partner.