Back in the Game — First Dates After Divorce


Dating in the post-divorce realm. Not that easy to navigate. Luckily, Susan Winter, an internationally renowned relationship expert, has got us covered in this department. T.H. and Jessica spoke to her on the exEXPERTS’ “Divorce etc…” podcast for an in-depth discussion of what to look for, how to approach these dates, and where to go from there. 

The Selection Process

So you’re divorced and ready to mingle. First things first, we have to figure out the selection process. What are you looking for in a relationship this time?

A big mistake that Susan sees often is that people go for the old prototype. It’s time for us to update our criteria. “We need to think in terms of not what you would have chosen years ago.” It’s time to go back to the drawing board and seek out some qualities that you now know you desire.

We’ve all got that list of external qualities we’re looking for, where we’ve determined we want a certain height, certain age, or certain features in our prospective partner. But you don’t need to worry so much about these qualities. It’s time to focus on the internal qualities that will provide you with the right partner. Someone you can trust, someone with integrity, someone you feel comfortable around. Once you put these as the dominant traits you’re looking for, you’ll start to ease up on the appearance factor. They might not come in the package you had originally sought out, but these inner qualities will set you up for a strong prospective partner.

From Phone to Face

Many people make the mistake of chatting online for an extended period. It gets to the point where they start to like this person that they’ve never met. And when you go from something like that to actually meeting in person, sometimes there’s just no chemistry, and that’s no fun. The goal is to go from online to in-person as soon as you can, in order to limit the strictly disconnected conversation. 

Dates, Dates, Dates

Like T.H. and Jessica, Susan still prefers a proper date. You can start small, like coffee or an early drink (nothing too late at night), but a date nonetheless. 

What about Zoom or FaceTime calls? This type of “virtual dating” started happening more and more because of the pandemic. Susan says these are fine, too, because it’s still a way to ditch the dating app and move to a proper conversation. Whether talking on the phone or meeting on zoom, these can be great ways to get to know someone a little better before maybe driving some distance to meet in person. Ultimately, it’s all up to you and what you’re comfortable with. 

Is it a Match?

So how do you keep yourself under control and not get too caught up in things? Well, you can’t. You won’t know if you have a real connection until you get there and actually meet face to face. You might have a good dynamic and some fun banter via text, but when you meet the spark just might not be there. The match may present themselves in one way over a dating app or through social media that just doesn’t give you an accurate representation of what they’re like in person. 

It’s also important to remember that you aren’t obligated to do anything. You don’t need to force a physical connection right off the bat, or fake interest to make your date feel better. Be true to yourself and don’t rush into anything you don’t want to. 

Dating is learning about yourself. Coming out of a marriage and back into the dating pool can be scary, especially since you’re now out there testing the dating world with all this new information you’ve learned about yourself and what you want. But it’s important to remember that you’re going to make mistakes, learn new things, and grow as an individual out of this experience. And that’s all part of the fun!

Date Etiquette

It may not be as emphasized nowadays, but here at exEXPERTS, we do prefer a little more of a traditional method to the dating world. However, you will notice that there are men who aren’t actively going to pursue you. This is partly due to new societal standards, and partly due to those male coaches on YouTube who’ll convince men to avoid pursuing and let the women come to them. 

Don’t let this discourage you if you’re the one that wants to be pursued. Don’t assume he’s just being disrespectful either, because he may just have no clue. But that being said, you should still know what you want and put that information out there. There’s nothing wrong with making it clear right off the bat how you want to be wooed. 

Jessica recounts a date where the man picked up the bill at the end, but she did make the gesture to pay. He told her she shouldn’t ever pay for dinner on the first date and that the guy should always pay. While Jessica wholeheartedly agrees – at least at this age and stage of her life – she still thinks it was nice to at least make a gesture to pay. She says the problem is that you’re basically meeting someone you don’t know, so it’s hard to tell if you should assume they’ll pay. She laughs that she’s moved on from that train of thought, however, and has become perfectly comfortable simply allowing her date to pick up the tab on their first date. And, she admits that if she were on a first date and offered to pay and the guy accepts, she won’t be going out with him again.

Listen to Yourself

If you take away one thing from this conversation, Susan encourages you to listen to yourself. “Listen, take your own counsel, trust yourself, trust your gut, and learn to trust yourself.”

You’ll have a lot of people who want to have a say in your decisions. They might try to dampen your excitement over someone you like or try to influence your choices. Yes, listen to what your friends are saying because if they do happen to all be saying the same thing, there might be some truth to what they say. But for the most part, use your intuition and find your own red flags. You know what you’re looking for and what your expectations are, so go with your gut and trust that you know what you want and deserve.

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