Dating After Divorce – How to (Properly) Get Back Out There


How are you feeling about dating after divorce? Are you afraid of missing red flags, or getting attached too quickly, of what to do or not do? Bela Gandhi, the founder of the Smart Dating Academy and host of the Smart Dating Academy Podcast, joined T.H. and Jessica on the Divorce etc… podcast to discuss post-divorce dating. 

Smart Dating Academy

Bela founded Smart Dating Academy 13 years ago to combat the lack of relationship advice out there. “It was to handle these things so it’s not so trial and error, so you don’t get the lumps and bumps and the bruises. Because we’re not taught how to do this,” Bela explains concerning dating. We aren’t ever sat down and taught how to date, what we need to expect, what our partners should do, and what they should never do – we only have models of relationships from others around us and from the media to emulate. 

Figuring Out What You Need

You may not know what you want even after divorce. What do you actually need in a potential partner? Needs can typically end up translating into quick validation rather than substantial needs. “I just wanted someone to tell me I was pretty or make me feel pretty, just give me a little attention,” T.H. recalls. “My standards were so low.”

Bela focuses on identifying these desires and what they mean. What are you really craving? Is it words of affirmation you never heard before, gifts that you may not have gotten from a former partner, or physical affection you never received? You want to be mindful of these desires because you don’t want to be love bombed by the first person that approaches when they’re not who’s best for you. 

Lowering Your Guard

If you’re coming out of a divorce, chances are, you’re going to have your guard up with any new people entering your life. So what do you do in this situation?

Bela simplifies her answer in a few points. First, think about what you need from a partner versus what you want out of a partner. A lot of people will put themselves out there post-divorce, get showered in love by the first person they go on a date with, and bam, they’re a goner. But Bela explains you want to try and take your time. “Real love, and what you’re probably looking for (unless you’re looking to hook up, then just discount this advice), then you want to do this really slowly and deliberately.” Be thoughtful and intentional with those you let into your life, especially when coming out of a long-term monogamous relationship. 

Finding the Right Person

“There’s some trial and error to this,” clarifies Bela. The whole dating process can be compared to interviewing for different jobs or interviewing different candidates. But there are some things you don’t need to learn through trial and error, like the obvious red flags you should never tolerate. Then there are things that you might be more inclined to accept when dating if you’ve been married to someone with certain red flag traits. But because of this, you’re likely someone who also has really high coping mechanisms because you’ve been through a toxic situation. So you have to address where you’re finding yourself coping with certain behaviors before re-entering the dating pool. You want to make sure you don’t just fall into the excitement of someone new you’re attracted to, settle for them after checking off only a few of your boxes, and then find yourself having to restart the process all over again with a different guy because this one didn’t work out. Just take a breath. Think about what’s really important to you and don’t fear that this is the last option you’ll ever have.

And don’t worry if you feel like you’re taking too much time figuring out if someone is the right person for you to move forward with. Good relationships take time. Bela’s clients don’t become exclusive with someone until 15 to 20 dates with a person, over 3 to 4 months. It’s completely normal to take things slow. 

“We’re taught we should fall in love, we should have electric chemistry, and you’ll just know,” Bela says. “That’s all bullshit.” That immediate connection you might feel with someone? That’s probably just because they remind you of your ex or someone before. That initial familiarity and chemistry are not always a good sign. 

“Every dude that gave me butterflies ended up breaking my heart,” Bela admits. Butterflies aren’t a good thing. That’s anxiety for you. Slow and steady will get you much farther in the long run. Need proof? Bela’s clients have had zero divorces in 13 years of business. 

Gut Instincts

While on the topic of these high coping mechanisms, you might be wondering if this might affect your gut instincts. Bela says yes, 100% trust your gut, but also take your gut instinct with a grain of salt. 

“When you have that really thick skin and those high coping mechanisms, because you’ve been through trauma and toxicity, your gut might steer you in the wrong direction sometimes,” Bela explains. “It might push you back towards the red flag people again.” 

So yes, trust your gut at times, but in terms of when things feel unsafe, or off in a situation. Our safety guts are good, but our guts might not serve us correctly if we’ve been in a bad relationship. That’s when you need someone to be there and bring you back to reality, someone to tell you when things might not be an acceptable reaction from your relationship gut. 

What to Watch Out For

You might not know what specifics to be on the lookout for. For one, if someone’s moving too fast, that’s not a good sign. Here’s an example: he offers to cook for you only a few dates in. Sure, that sounds nice, especially if the first couple of dates went well, but in his mind, he’s thinking, I’ve got two bottles of wine, Sinatra going, I’m on my turf – I’ve got a 75% chance of getting laid tonight. 

If a client comes to Smart Dating Academy with this scenario, Bela will tell them to reschedule. She suggests saying, “that is so incredibly thoughtful of you. I would love to do that maybe a couple of weeks down the road. Would you be open to ____ instead?” Answering kindly, from a good place, not assuming the worst. Then all you need to tell you how to proceed is his response. Does he understand and agree? Or does he get defensive and act like you are blowing him off?

This is the stuff that Bela and her company work with clients on regularly, identifying and understanding what’s a red flag, what’s a green flag, and what’s a yellow flag.

And sure, you might want to just agree to something like a home-cooked dinner. Coming out of a divorce, having a nice man/woman cook dinner for you, you might be into that right off the bat. But by doing that, you might end up sleeping with somebody too soon and bonding with them too quickly, which can cloud your judgment and lead you right back into those red flags you were trying to avoid. 

These are just some of the many things that are important when re-entering the dating pool post-divorce, and if you know someone navigating this too, be sure to share this with them as well so they can make sure they’re also focusing on the right things in order to find the right partner!

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