Divorced and Ready to Date


Jessica: So where are you with dating after divorce? Are you afraid of getting attached too quickly, of missing red flags? Not sure of the do’s and don’ts overall? These are some of the things we’re talking about on the Divorce etc… podcast today. We’re the exEXPERTS, Jessica and T.H. We focus on helping you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life. Please follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS, and check out for tons of free divorce-related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.

T.H.: Welcome to Divorce etc… today everybody. We are so happy to have Bela Gandhi here. She is the founder of the Smart Dating Academy and host of the Smart Dating Academy Podcast, and the knowledge source for anything related to dating. So listen up, especially after a divorce. Welcome to our show.

Bela: Thanks for having me.

Jessica: Thanks for being here. We’ve been huge fans of Bela and following her for quite a while. Then I was fortunate enough to do a TV segment where she was one of the guests at the same time. And so ever since then, we’ve been like, we really need to get her on the show and give you guys all of this post-dating advice. But your Smart Dating Academy is for everyone?

T.H.: No post-dating advice, post-divorce dating advice.

Jessica: Post-divorce advice. Yes, thank you.

Bela: It could be post-dating advice.

Jessica: It could.

T.H.: We dated, and now we’re not dating. Now I’m dating again.

Bela: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Jessica: But to be clear, I mean, this is obviously an area you have expertise in, but I mean, your Smart Dating Academy is really for everybody?

Bela: It is for everybody. It is never too early, and it is never too late to find love. So if you are thinking about it, and you haven’t done it well, you’re a little nervous, you’re scared, or you’re excited, you found the right place and you found the right podcast, because there is a better way to date, at any time, especially after divorce.

T.H.: So after divorce, I know for me, I didn’t even know what I wanted. I didn’t even know what I needed. I was a little bit of a mess. Then in the end, my needs were just simply like, I just wanted someone to tell me I was pretty or make me feel pretty, just give me a little attention. And so my standards were so low.

Jessica: The bar was so low.

T.H.: As long as I put on a little makeup, I was going to get what I wanted from that date. So when you’re coming out of a breakup or a marriage, and you haven’t dated somebody in a while, what are some tips for us? And not just women, how do you even approach this? Where do you even begin?

Bela: Well, I think what you just said was really interesting. I just wanted somebody to tell me I was pretty, right? Having that conversation with yourself, putting the mirror inward and knowing what am I really craving, is my cup empty of certain things, is it words of affirmation, was my partner super cheap and I never got any gifts, whatever it was, do you want to be hugged and touched, and then understand that you want to be mindful of that, because the first person that comes along that tells you you’re super hot, love bombs you, and pours into that cup is probably not going to be good for you. So you need to know, okay, if I need this, how can I, number one, give it to myself, or the people in my village can give it to me so your cup fills up so you don’t walk into the same disasters you just came out of.

T.H.: Right.

Jessica: It is one of those things, I think especially for T.H. and I and anybody out there who came out of a relationship where our exes had affairs, that whole desire of just feeling valued and respected and wanted. That’s what anybody would want. But I feel it might be amplified coming out of a relationship that ended way. And so I think one of the really scary things was just what you said, so then someone does tell me I’m pretty. Then all of a sudden, I’m like, “Oh my God,” when you really like them. 

T.H.: “I love him. I’m ready to get married. Let’s go.”

Jessica: Right. How do you make sure to be able to keep that distance but without having too much of a guard up, because I feel I’ve been in places where I’ve had my guard up so high that I’m almost not giving them a chance, versus accepting what it is.

Bela: It’s so hard when you’ve come through any sort of trauma. Let’s face it, divorce under any circumstances isn’t fun. I think we could talk for three hours about how to do this right, because we have a whole process that people follow. But I’ll tell you in a quick nutshell. Number one, you have to think about what you need out of a partner versus what you just want out of a partner. Then once you understand what your checklist really should be, then understanding you don’t want a one and done date. What does that mean? Most women get out there, and the first guy that says, “Oh, my god, you are so hot. I want to devour you. You’re so pretty. Let me make you dinner.” Hook, line, and sinker, we’re done for at that point. But now, real love, and what you’re probably looking for, unless you’re looking to hook up, then just discount this advice, but if you’re looking to actually find potentially another companion, another lid to your pot, then you want to do this really slowly and deliberately. The last thing you want to do is one and done date. You’re coming out of monogamy, this is the time I want you to have a dating funnel. I want you to be thoughtful and intentional but bring many people in just like you would bring many different assets into your portfolio, especially during a recessionary time. It’s the same thing with dating. Because especially as women, we see one and he looks decent, we want to get off the apps. He pours into the love cup? Game over. Three months, six months, two years later, you might end up flat on your back going, “How the hell did I get back into the same situation again?” Slow and steady, time is what you need, multiple people in your funnel, and someone helping you to navigate who’s good for you versus who has red flags.

T.H.: Yes. So I want to dig into that, because I’m just going to go back to my own experience again, I didn’t know what I wanted. I honestly didn’t even know what I needed. I also didn’t understand the ramifications and the collateral damage of my marriage because it takes a long time to heal from a bad relationship with a narcissist, or just a difficult person, or just a jerk, like whatever. You put yourself in that position, you obviously don’t want to be in it again. I think the only thing I knew was I want to be happy and I want to smile every day.

Jessica: I was like, “I just want to laugh.”

T.H.: I just want to laugh. Honestly, that’s what I wrote. And Jessica cleaned it up. But that is what I wrote.

Jessica: I was saying that about me. I just want to have it be easy and laugh and have a good time.

T.H.: That’s right. And I want to be me. I don’t want to work hard to make a connection. So that’s all I knew. Then as I went on dates, I learned more. I didn’t really learn much until I went on dates, what I didn’t want. I didn’t know what was right for me until I found it. And that was 10 years later. But really, dating was part of my learning. So how do uncover those things if you’re not out there really experiencing it?

Jessica: And before you answer that, because I feel off of what T.H. just said, it’s like, is it that you’re looking for what you want and need? Or is it that you’re going out to recognize and acknowledge what you don’t want and what you don’t need?

Bela: So, great questions. I think that there’s some trial and error to this. That’s what the whole dating process is about, right? It’s like interviewing for different jobs or interviewing different candidates for a job. But in this process, there are certain things you can know without having to trial and error, and those are red flags that you should never ever, ever tolerate, and things that you might be prone to doing in the dating world if you’ve been married to a narcissist and avoidant, somebody who’s emotionally unavailable, someone who’s a jerk and asshole. Whatever it is, know that you have super high coping mechanisms because you’ve been through toxicity. You’ve got a thicker skin than I do. So let’s say somebody was going to paper cut you guys and me. Your skin, having been through a lot of trauma, you may be like, “What paper cut? What piece of paper? I didn’t feel anything,” because you’ve had to deal with that death by a thousand of them during your marriages, right? Whereas for me, I’m like, “Wait, ow, that hurts.” So there’s so much that needs to be talked about and thought about around this before we just hop into the dating pool.

T.H.: I want everybody to rewind 30 seconds and hear that again. Because I lived with armor around me for at least four years and I didn’t hear it, it couldn’t hurt me, whatever. Then that’s how you make the same mistake again. Wow, that would have been a great aha moment for me a while ago before I had an almost six year relationship before this one. Because it looked different, sounded different, a super nice guy, but still made me feel the same way, even though it looks totally different.

Jessica: Because it feels different in the beginning. You’re kind of just excited and wrapped up in the fact that there’s someone new that you’re attracted to, and that they seem to be like–just that guy in particular, he really cared about T.H., not the right match at the end. But I feel the hard thing is that you feel they check some of the boxes, and you’re not sure what all of your boxes should be. You go down this road, and then it’s like “You know, he is a nice guy…” Then you get to a point where you’re like, “This has just run its course.”

T.H.: And also, I stayed in it because I was like, “Well, it’s enough of the boxes.”

Jessica: Right!

T.H.: “It’s enough.” It’s so not enough. It’s got to be all or nothing. Do not settle again.

Bela: This is the thing, and I’m so glad you guys are bringing these things up, this is why my company was founded 13 years ago, was to exactly handle the things you’re talking about so it’s not so trial and error, so you don’t get the lumps and the bumps and the bruises. Because we’re not taught how to do this, don’t shame yourselves because of your divorce and the fact that you might not know any of the information we’re talking about. You know what the biggest tragedy is? We’re never taught this stuff. We read Harlequin romance novels, we watch rom-coms, or we watch our parents. Maybe they had good relationships, maybe they had terrible relationships. We don’t know. But nobody ever sits us down and says, “Here’s the frequency with which you should date somebody. Here are things somebody should always do. And here are things they should never, ever do.” Can you imagine how different the world would be at 16 if we all were put through a mandatory course of that?

Jessica: I feel we do want to dig into everyone has their different checkboxes, and everybody has different red flags. I mean, listen, you don’t want a guy who’s a dick. That’s a red flag to everybody, right? But there are certain things that–

Bela: Not everybody. Some people like that.

Jessica: Okay, okay, but I what I really mean is that things that might be a red flag for me personally and who I am and my character, may not necessarily be a red flag for someone else. But I want to get into what are some sort of universal red flags that aren’t obvious in your face. Like, he’s an asshole, fine. You might be able to identify that just being out on a date the way he treated the waiter–

T.H.: Or she’s a bitch. We have to go both ways here.

Jessica: Or she, right, or she’s a bitch. It could be the way they treat the waiters, or they’re obnoxious when they’re texting with you and you’re just not getting a good vibe. But when you feel like you meet someone and they seem like a nice person, I think that maybe this is just really about me, I don’t know how to get past the fear of being able to allow myself to settle in and be like, “This is a good person.”

Bela: And you know what? It’s okay to do that. This is one of the biggest things that we’re never taught, good relationships take time. My clients don’t get exclusive with somebody until 15 to 20 dates with that person, over three to four months, not 15 dates in 15 days. 15 hours together doesn’t count as 15 dates. I hear, “Well, we spent a weekend together. Does that mean it’s like seven dates?” I’m like, “That means it’s one weekend, and that’s it,” So, slowing things down. We’re taught we should fall in love, we should have electric chemistry, and you’ll just know. That’s all bull shit. It’s false. You’ll know lust when it happens right away. That instantaneous chemistry probably means, newsflash, this person reminds you of your ex or someone before. When you feel that whoosh of chemistry, its familiarity, and that is so attractive in the beginning, and we don’t know this. It’s like, “Oh, my god.” How do I know this? Because how did I get into this business? I looked to my own bad dating patterns. Every dude that gave me butterflies ended up breaking my heart. What was that? Oh, wait, those weren’t little cute butterflies. That was full blown monster anxiety. That was my gut saying, “Danger, Will Robinson. Get out of here.” But I thought it was excitement.

T.H.: Yeah, I mean, wow. So we’re just going to pause for a quick minute here so that can sink in. We know it’s hard to get honest and reliable information about your divorce, so we’ve done the work for you. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get exEXPERTS in your inbox, and join our virtual open house events where you can ask questions to top experts live, and sign up for private sessions with us so we can help you move forward like we did. You can get all of this information at Now back to the show.  

Jessica: So Bela, I really feel before we get into signs to watch out for, for love bombing and red flags, we have to get back to what you just said, because I feel I’ve never heard that before. That if you meet someone and you’re feeling butterflies of what you think or excitement about a person, that’s actually not a feeling you want to feel when you meet someone. I feel there have been people I’ve met where you’re really psyched and wow, I really feel like we had a connection, and it wasn’t butterflies. You’re saying that’s the better situation?

Bela: That’s the better situation. That’s what I’m gaming for. Look, at our company, I’m telling you this works. We’ve had zero divorces in 13 years. And so everybody comes in thinking butterflies are good. Why? Because that’s what we’re taught, “Oh my god, butterflies are excitement!” Butterflies… run like hell. I’m not talking about the little butterflies you might get before you press record on a podcast or before you’re going to go on stage, that’s just a little adrenaline, which makes you feel like you’re alive. These are the churning your-stomach-flips-over when you think about this person. Oof, not a good sign after the first date. Your gut is smart. I see some reactions.

Jessica: My head is exploding right now because I’m really having a specific situation in my head. I’m like, “Oh, my god, if I’d only heard this from you before that.”

Bela: How true is it? How true is it?

T.H.: I don’t know if I had butterflies with the relationship that I ended. I think I was just excited that–he was fun and everything and it looked like I could be with this guy, like this could be great. My true partner for my life, who I live with now and I’ve been with four years, I blew him off the first time because I was on a dating tear and I was out of control. Then I ran into him at the vet when I went to pick up my dog.

Jessica: And did you have butterflies?

T.H.: I didn’t.

Jessica: But you said everything stopped.

T.H.: I did. I did. I did.

Jessica: Everything stopped and everything was still and I didn’t hear anything.

T.H.: I did. The room went quiet, he winked at me, and that’s all I heard. But I almost felt like it was so I would hone in on him. But then we did a lot of stuff over the next few days, so I really would have considered each of those dates, but we saw each other every single day. But it was a process to get really close and be totally organic and authentic with him. That was not an overnight thing. I was just kind of like, “What is going on here?” I was in a way better place and had grown so much more. But see, it’s not what you see on TV, everybody. It’s just not. No Ex on the Beach nonsense.

Jessica: I feel once you get divorced, and when you’re in the divorce industry, as T.H. and I are, you hear a lot of stories. I think that so many people coming out of divorce really do have their guard up and are very worried about things, like I said, the red flags of being loved bombed, just the things that make you feel you can’t tell is it real or is there something else happening. So can you give us some specifics about things that we should particularly look for or be able to decipher if something is authentic, or if you’re being loved bombed, etc?

Bela: Yeah, I mean, if somebody is moving too fast for you, now that you’re listening to me telling you to slow things down, and if you give someone the nice message like, hey, you know what, on the fourth date he asks you, “Oh my gosh, let me cook you dinner,” and we’re like, “Woah, where have you been all my life?” the answer is no. Because what happens when you go to his place? There’s two bottles of wine, there’s a little Sinatra going, it smells good, it’s his turf. He’s like, I’ve got a 75% chance of getting laid tonight. Amazing. That just is what it is. We coach a lot of guys as well. Now, let’s flashback now that you know that. If somebody asks you on the fourth date, “Hey, let me cook for you. Do you want to come over?” what we tell our clients to say is, “You know what, 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 meeting up for a drink on Thursday at the bar down the street?” So you answer it in a lovely way, from a good place, not assuming he’s a serial killer, not assuming he’s just trying to bed you. Now what happens at that point? What we look for is his response. Is he like, “I totally get it. I’m so down for that. Yes. Pick a place. Let’s meet” or “That’s great. Good bet”? Now, if he’s like, “What do you mean? You told me nobody took care of you. And here I am offering to make you dinner, and you’re telling me you’re not ready? Do you not feel the same way about me as I feel about you?”

Jessica: First of all, if any guy ever came back at me in an aggressive way like that, like, obviously, that’s done. That’s crazy. That’s how men respond? Or is it more like they’re like, “Okay, that’s totally fine. But I know you love whatever, and I make a mean whatever that dish is.” I feel like your response was just really aggressive. Is it just the idea that they might try to convince you, even if it’s softer than that?

Bela: You can see how they’ll play it, right? And this is the stuff that we work on with our clients every week is helping to understand is that a yellow flag, red flag, or a green flag? How did he respond? Was he like, “Oh, man, I’m super bummed. But I totally get it. That’s fine.”? Or if he’s really like, “Wow, I guess we’re not on the same page.” – Red flag.

Jessica: I feel like that’s a deal breaker.

Bela: Right.

Jessica: More than a red flag.

Bela: And again, it’s easy for us to sit here and say now, when you come out of divorce, and when you have someone who’s attractive and seems nice, and tells you you’re pretty, and he’s normal, and you can picture yourself with him, and suddenly, he’s like, “Can I make you dinner?” and you’re like, “Yes, alright.” So now–

Jessica: You’re entranced.

Bela: Exactly. You’re like, “Of course you can today, tomorrow, the next day, the next day, and the next day.” But now you’ll know that I might end up sleeping with somebody to quickly get oxytocin bonded to them too quickly, get my heart into this, my judgment will be clouded, I’ll miss red flags, and oh my god, am I ready for this? Do things eyes wide open. This is just our way at Smart Dating Academy. You might be going, “No way. Some dude offered to make me dinner? I would sleep with them.” Great; maybe that’s just what you need right now. That’s amazing. But then don’t be upset if he doesn’t call you next day. Eyes wide open.

T.H.: So what about trusting your gut? I feel like so much is based on fear of making a mistake, making a mistake again, looking like an idiot, having sex too soon, I haven’t had sex with someone in so long, or being like, “Oh my god, I have to have sex,” and like the condom conversation, it’s so much. But also, listen, if it doesn’t feel right going to his house for dinner, or getting a drink after dinner, or whatever, if it doesn’t feel right, being brave, that was my hardest thing was like, “God, it just didn’t feel right that he’s given me an English muffin for dinner on the floor in his house, which is cold, and watching TV.” My therapist literally called this other guy, not that guy, but the other guy, the English muffin guy. She’s like, “All you got from him was a stale English muffin. Is that really what you want?” But at the time, I was like, “Okay, I’ll take an English muffin.” Then it evolved, but I was afraid to listen to my gut because I wanted it so bad. I just wanted it to be easy. “Oh, I found the guy. I’ll deal with an English muffin. I’m good. I could take this off my plate. I already found a guy.” He’s so not the guy.

Bela: He’s so not the guy.

T.H.: It’s really trusting your gut and not being afraid to vocalize what your gut is telling you. I think that, for me, was the hardest thing through my marriage, and then even with these relationships.

Bela: Yeah. 100%. So trust your gut. But again, 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. It might push you back towards the red flaggy people again.

So I give you a qualified should I trust my gut? Sometimes yes, but it’s about getting into relationships with people. Maybe you need a coach or somebody to put bubble wrap around you so that you don’t get dinged up during the process. Trust your gut if something feels unsafe, if you’re like, “Hmm, no, I don’t want you to pick me up at my house.” Girl gut is good, okay? Our safety guts are good. Where our guts aren’t always going to serve us is when we’ve been in bad relationships. That’s when you need someone to be like, “That’s not okay. It’s not okay to be given an English muffin on the ground.” Your therapist called that out, like, “That’s not acceptable.” And you’re like, “But why? He gave me a muffin. He gave me a muffin. That’s more than I’ve had in years.” Again, and this is where we get into the other issue of he’s better than my ex. Your ex is your ex for a reason. He’s not in the comparison zone anymore. You need a clean slate, and you need to only compare him to who is your dream person. Does this person fall in suit with that? Not that he’s less of an asshole than my ex. No, you’re on a slippery slope, my friend.

Jessica: First of all, I mean, we are going to have to wrap it up. We’re out of time. But we have to have you back on. I literally feel like I’m sitting here and I still am not over the comment that butterflies are not like a good thing.

T.H.: So you guys can’t see Jessica, but when Bela said that, she moved so far away from the microphone. It’s like someone just scared her.

Jessica: I feel like I just had a major aha moment that explains a lot about a prior relationship and the current relationship that I’m in. I just think that was really mind blowing. So I hope everybody listening got something out of it as we did. Bela, we definitely are going to have to have you back. For everybody out there, if you enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast with the exEXPERTS today, then can you help a girl out or two girls really? Because when you subscribe, rate, and review our podcast, it actually helps us get the word out so we can support more people like you going through divorce and beyond. Click the show notes for more info on Bela Gandhi and the Smart Dating Academy and the Smart Dating Academy Podcast. And of course, share all of this with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Have a great day.

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