Dating After Divorce: How Soon is Too Soon?

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Does dating immediately after divorce mean you’re on the rebound? Or have you really moved on and are ready to explore new possibilities? Is there such a thing as the perfect moment to start dating again?

The most common rule for dating after divorce is to be alone one year for each of the four or five years you were married. This is supposed to give you time to get back to the real you.

But do you really need a rule to date after divorce? The only ‘don’t’ you must adhere to is that you shouldn’t date to get over your ex. You might be using this new person to help yourself heal, but he is likely to get hurt in the process. Too many times, people go through divorce and the first thing they want to do is find someone else. It might seem like a good idea but if you think about it, it makes more sense to wait until you have completely recovered from the trauma of your divorce (and possibly the bad relationship that preceded it). If you start dating too soon after divorce, you might not be healed yet.

Still, a lot depends on how long it took you to leave your marriage and how long you were emotionally detached from your spouse before you finally divorced. There are as many variables as there are divorces, so there is no hard and fast rule that applies to everyone.

You date when you feel ready to date, period. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

It’s a good idea to focus on yourself and work on your own issues before getting involved with anyone else again. Rediscover yourself first. Heal your mind and heart first. In the process of divorce, you’re likely to have a new house or apartment, you may lose some of the friends you shared as a couple, and your economic situation may change. You may have primary custody of your kids and be a single mother for the first time. Get your new life in order first, before you look for love again. When you realize that you’re no longer bitter over the divorce and can remember the good times spent in your marriage, you will have found a perfect time to date. Accepting your role in what went wrong in your marriage is another sign that you’re ready to move on.

If there are children in the picture, their needs should come before your desire to date. Remember that you are not alone in the healing process; they also need some time to adjust to the divorce. You are an adult and you might find it easy to move on, but children don’t. It can be confusing for them to see their mother or father move from one lover to the next. On the other hand, it is also important for kids to see their parents happy. So give them a reasonable time to adapt to the changes in the wake of your divorce, but don’t sacrifice your own happiness forever. Children learn what we teach them, but they learn more from what they see from us.  It is important for them to see that life is about happiness and that even when things end, new things come along and we can always strive to enjoy life and be happy.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-half of first marriages end in divorce. The number of women living alone has doubled to 14.6 million, and the number has nearly tripled for men, jumping from 3.5 million to 10.3 million. This data would suggest that there are plenty of single people out there available for dating. But the older we get, the less we date: only 25% of 32-year-olds go out on a date at least once a week.

In the majority of divorces, both ex-spouses have begun dating before the divorce is final. Depending on the length of time needed to finalize a divorce—which varies in each state—some divorces can take up to two years to be technically finalized. So it’s natural that a man or woman might want to date even before a divorce is final.  However, one soon-to-be-ex-spouse might have a problem with the other dating before the papers are signed. This can increase the emotional turmoil and can turn an otherwise civil divorce into a vicious battle. Legally however, the longer you’ve been separated from your spouse, the less likely it is that your new relationship will have a big impact on your divorce proceedings. Judges are concerned about the affairs that caused the divorce, not the ones that began several months after separation.

You should begin to date when you decide the time is right for you (and your kids, if there are children involved). Don’t let other people rush you or slow you down. Do what feels right to you, and with the person it feels right to do it with.