Dating After Divorce: How to Set the Right Expectations

Love is beautiful. It can make you strong and weak at the same time. But falling in love again might not be as easy, especially if it is after a divorce—and a traumatic divorce at that.

But here’s the good news: it is not impossible for those who make an effort and work on themselves. By effort, I mean intentionally choosing to heal and restore your heart.

A while ago, I happened to speak to a young woman in her mid 30s. I clearly remember how she started her conversation. She said, “I’m sick of being single. But I don’t think I have the time and patience to handle a man either.”

As a counsellor, I’ve come across quite a few women who resonate with the thought. No one wants to be single, and at the same time no one wants added drama or chaos to their already busy life and schedule.

As this lady continued, she told me how she enjoys her personal space yet feels lonely at times. How she’s an independent woman and yet sometimes wishes to be taken care of, to be pampered. She admitted that she missed physical intimacy. She missed the togetherness, the joy of having someone around in the house. At the same time she didn’t want an iota of fights or arguments.

We sat there discussing the confusions, the dilemmas, the pros and cons of being in a relationship.

Our discussion still continues. However, a few things that we figured during therapy were:

Why did she need a relationship? 

How ready was she (mentally,physically,emotionally,sexually) to be in one?

What had she learnt from her previous relationship and what new elements could she bring into the new relationship?

How had she evolved as a person?

How would she set the right level of  expectations?

All these answers remain confidential and personal to her. But these are a few things anyone contemplating dating again must  think through.

We also decided to give dating a try, knowing fully well that she wouldn’t end up marrying the first guy she swiped right on in any dating app. At any rate, it was a brave move on her part to give dating a try.

Talking to random people having no agenda helped. She spoke to various men from different backgrounds, she talked about career, passion and things like that. It greatly helped because it gave her an idea of the kind of man she wanted to be with.

As she continued dating, we also worked together to understand the different shades of love. She clearly wrote down what she likes and dislikes in a relationship,how she expresses love and how she expects to be loved. She identified her strengths and weaknesses in a relationship.

Interestingly, we realised that how she loves and expects to be loved were similar. She values quality time. Without hesitation, she said she would give up an important meeting to be with her man, if he was having a bad day. And that she would take out one exclusive hour in a day just to talk to her guy on phone. Of course, she expected the same attention from her man.

Now what if she were to date someone who understands quality time but primarily expresses his love through holding hands, cuddles, kisses or sex? That is where she would need to understand that along with expecting, there has to be a fair amount of giving love in the way the other person  understands love.

I encouraged her to have a frank talk about these finer concerns early in her conversations. This is called setting the right expectations. None of us can read minds, and good communication makes life a lot easier.

Another major discovery was, as she spoke to these men, some conversations were good while some triggered negative emotions in her. This was a blessing in disguise, because it helped us work on those areas and heal them.

Slowly she uncovered parts of herself that needed more healing, more expressing and being comfortable in her own skin. The more she healed, the less scared she was to love again, less scared to lose, less scared of conflicts because she knew how to handle them. Best of all, she became more vocal about her desires.

The woman could now focus on how she felt on a date rather than concentrating on how she was making the other person feel.

Let me tell you: self-love is always empowering. We all feel lonely, whether we are in a relationship or not. And feeling lonely is completely okay. When that happens, just be by yourself, get a drink or phone a close friend. That is safer than getting into a toxic relationship just because we are emotionally needy.

Coming back to the young woman, she said, “Maybe I’ll find the one, which is okay. Maybe I won’t find the one, which is also okay.”

Meet the Writer: Sherly Mathew
Sherly Mathew is a freelance counsellor based in Delhi. She handles cases relating to trauma, grief, self-esteem, anger issues and mostly works with women who are going through or have come out of abusive or difficult relationships.

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