The Three Phases of Post-Divorce Dating
When I got divorced and entered the word of dating, I was absolutely terrified. And clueless. Dating has changed quite a bit since the last time I was single. I was not ready for the adventure. It was like heading out on a multi-day trail hike having only packed one water bottle, a few rubber bands and a spoon. Nothing made sense.
I had heard absolute horror stories from a good friend of mine who legitimately went on 83 first dates. They were bad. Really bad.
My friend actually went on a date with a girl who truly believed she was a druid and tried to convince him so.
I would remind him that I was freshly single and that his stories were mortifying to me. It gave me little hope for the future despite the fact that he had met an absolutely wonderful woman and they are now very happy together. He is a survivor. Druids be damned.
He laughed and told me not to worry. He explained that there were three stages of dating that I would go through. I shrugged them off. Little did I know how exactly right he was.
The first phase is hope.
It took me six months post-divorce to even consider dating. The idea just about made my skin crawl. This is not a good starting point. No one will want your pissyness. Put that away. You have to wait for that to pass.
When it does, you get to enter Phase One. This is where you psych yourself up. There will be mirror pep talks. We all did it.
The upside is that when you finally make the decision to date, it’s actually exciting. The realization that you no longer have to spend the rest of your life with one person hits you and it is glorious. You get to meet new people. You get to make out with them. Maybe you even meet someone who you think is absolutely delightful.
You will swipe happily. You will show your friends your matches. You spend a lot of time getting ready for dates. You feel like a teenager again and it’s god damn wonderful.
If you are in this phase, God bless you, you shiny beautiful thing. I’m going to apologize now for what happens later because Phase One eventually comes to an end.
Hope is hard to carry. It’s slippery. Hope is a terrifying thing that requires optimism. It means having the courage to jump into the deep end of the pool. Be glad you went for that swim. Just know when to get out of the water.
The second phase is depression.
This is where one of two things has happened to you.
1) You have gone on about 83 first dates that have gone absolutely nowhere. You feel an overwhelming sense of despair that you are never going to meet anybody and will spend the entire rest of your life in solitude with your eight cats. You resign yourself to being that old guy who sits in a lawn chair in the yard and yells at kids.
2) You were led through the hope phase by a seemingly wonderful person who held your hand and walked you straight into depression. This is where I landed when hope disappeared from the scene like it rear ended someone and had no insurance.
My first post-divorce relationship did not end particularly well. There was a lot of push and pull and on again, off again. I was afraid of losing him and afraid of letting go.
Looking back, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t want to lose hope. Once lost, depression replaces hope.
I’m going to tell you this: Shit gets weird in Phase Two. You will say and do things that are not good. Words will come out of your mouth and you will then look behind you to see who said that. Your friends will become concerned. I hid in my house a lot. I drank a lot of protein shakes because chewing just seemed like a drain of energy.
The last phase is joy.
The clouds will part. Your brain will shift gears.
You are finally comfortable in your own skin, have stopped giving a shit, are more open to people, know what you want, and have no problem expressing that. You have graduated from the weird stuff. You are on to the good stuff.
My friend, Niki Marinis, calls this IDGAF Island. When I landed on its shores, she greeted me with confetti.
You move out of Phase Two because you realize the negative energy just isn’t worth your time. In Phase Three, dating becomes less important. It’s an afterthought. It’s power has decreased. My emotional investment right now is in me, not dating. I’m sure there will be men that will earn that investment and allow me to give that.
Interestingly, people in Phase Three are the most attractive. There is a confidence that comes with the decreased level of concern you have in finding a mate. I try to find other people in Phase Three. They’re the fun ones.
I am allowing myself to have fun and just live. It’s beautiful. Wherever you are, move along with grace. And always forward. Backward is a losing proposition. Joy is one hell of a party to get to.