Dating Through Divorce Guest Blog
I’m delighted to bring you a very special guest blog that I thought some of my readers may find useful. Dating through divorce is a common issue that people have, so I’ve asked Samantha Woodham from The Divorce Surgery to give us her expert advice. I know that through my work as a dating expert that many of you will enjoy reading it.
The Secrets of Dating Through Divorce
You don’t usually talk about dating and divorce as being interlinked events. But the reality is that they often come together. And you can do both well, and at the same time, provided you do them right. I am a divorce barrister and co-founder of The Divorce Surgery so regularly meet divorcing couples, some of whom are also navigating new relationships, or just exploring the dating scene. I thought it might be helpful to set out some of the tips and pitfalls I have learned when it comes to dating through divorce.
Divorce is a life change, and as you go through the process you are navigating towards a new chapter of your life – a new you. It’s a huge opportunity to re-define every aspect of your life: where do you want to live, work, what do you want to prioritise, how do you want to feel about yourself. For some, dating through divorce is part of that journey of self-discovery.
Don’t let your New Relationship be Defined by your Old One
The best beginning is a successful ending. If you manage divorce well you are far more likely to start a new relationship well. Why? Because if you can properly come to terms with the relationship you had, what you learned from it in terms of positives and what you can happily leave behind, you will have a good road map for what you want for the future. You can then make engaged and conscious choices about what you are looking for in life, whether you want to date, yet or at all, who you want to date and why.
So how do you end a divorce well? A positive mindset is crucial. If you go into a divorce thinking it will be an acrimonious battle, it probably will be. Unfortunately as a society we have an ingrained preconception that divorce is stressful, ruinously expensive and takes far too long. But it really does not have to be that way. Always remember that even if the divorce itself wasn’t your choice, you can choose the way you divorce. Don’t be a passenger in your own divorce – take charge of it. If you get into a mindset of engaging and choosing the direction of travel, you will immediately start to feel better and more empowered.
The one message I wish I could give every divorcing couple is this: divorce is a shared problem. The only way to divorce well, and by that I mean extricate yourself with an outcome which is legally fair to you, with dignity, for affordable cost and in a sensible timescale, is if you both divorce well. Why? Because either you both agree on an arrangement with regards the division of your finances and/or the care of your children or a Judge will impose a decision on you (after a long, expensive and often painful Court process). So the sooner you start focusing on what is fair for both of you, and your children, rather than what you each want, the better, because you will then be viewing your situation and making choices in the way a Judge would.
But what is fair? Everyone’s situation is different, and so most couples do not know what ‘fair’ looks like for them, and certainly do not know what a Judge would view as fair for them. Legal advice is important, because these are huge decisions with lifelong ramifications, and because a Judge will only approve an agreement which is legally fair, based on an objective assessment of the facts. But if you want legal advice, that does not mean you each have to instruct separate solicitors to obtain it. One Couple One Lawyer services, as offered at The Divorce Surgery, enable separating couples to get joint impartial advice together from one lawyer for a fixed cost. You can read more about our One Couple One Lawyer services here . For many separating couples, this is the impartial injection of legal advice they need to reach a fair deal.
Do be Respectful
You made a choice to marry. Maybe you also chose to have children together. Unless you are extremely unlucky, there will be a significant amount of happy memories you created together. Don’t let the ending override everything that went before.
Treating divorce as a shared problem is a really good place to start, because it will focus both of your minds on the benefits of working together. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, and of course will be fraught at times. It’s much easier to fall out than be collaborative, but if you can work towards a shared goal of fairness you will be so much better off, financially and emotionally, on the other side. When you find yourselves getting at each other take some space. Remember you are navigating a process- it can be stressful at times but 42% of all married couples go through it. A good tip is to speak to your ex in the same way you would a work colleague – be civil and reasonable.
And if you do start dating- don’t hold back in communicating with your ex. The instinct is to hide it for fear of causing upset. But actually it’s much worse finding out about something after the fact than knowing in advance. Try to include the idea of dating in a conversation as early as you can. And if you have children, please be extremely sensitive. There is no need for your children to know you are dating, and if you’ve met someone special and over time you decide you would like to introduce them to your children, speak to your ex about it first. Be prepared to be patient – It may take your ex a little time to terms with this transition, but it will be so much better for your children if you can present a new partner with a neutral narrative both parents agree. At The Divorce Surgery we regularly advise separated couples together on many issues surrounding post separation co-parenting, and this is one which often comes up. Please do reach out for joint advice if you think it could help you both- these can be choppy waters to navigate, but if you put in the effort to do it well it will be so worth it in the long run.
Don’t be a Divorce Bore!
Your date does not want to hear about your ex. They don’t want to live your divorce drama (although if you’ve followed the first two tips hopefully the drama is to a minimum).
The best way to avoid becoming a Divorce Bore is to divorce well. If you’re going through a divorce process which is on the whole constructive and focused, you just won’t feel the need to offload to your date about it. You need to be able to engage properly with the person in front of you, and without hang-ups from your old relationship invading your conversation. If you’re unable to go on a date without talking about your divorce, reflect on whether it’s the right time for you to be dating yet or not.
Ditch the Guilt
If you take nothing else from this article, please take this: you have nothing to feel guilty about. 42% of marriages end in divorce. This is not a failure. You are just going through a life change. As a society we continue to stigmatise divorce, but we have to get over it. It is vital for your mental health to get out of a negative mindset. So re-frame it. Think of the various challenges your family and friends are also going through. This is a challenge, yes, but one that you can and will overcome.
And please don’t feel guilty about dating through divorce! Provided that you are separated and you have treated your ex respectfully then you are perfectly entitled to start exploring what your new life apart will be like. And that includes dating (if you want it to). Equally, if you find out your ex is dating, please don’t feel despondent. What’s really tough about the emotional fallout of divorce is that you will both go through the same stages but at different times. It’s extremely common for one spouse to start dating long before the other can even contemplate it. But that’s ok. It’s not a race. Far better to spend the time building yourself up, learning who you want to be with your newfound lease of life, than rushing into a relationship for the sake of it.
Be Open to New Adventures
You are coming out of a committed relationship- there is no need (unless you want to and you are ready) to launch straight into another one. Of course communicate openly with the people you are dating so they know where you are coming from, but use this time to have fun! And if you don’t want to date and can’t bear the idea of it- that’s perfectly fine too. Reclaim this time for you. Do not allow well-meaning family and friends to frog-march you into some dreadful blind date if you don’t fancy it. That’s three hours of your life you could have been having a glass of wine and watching Netflix!
Just be positive- focus on you and what you want and need, and whatever adventures are waiting for you will surely come. Dating through divorce is still very possible and can be great fun.
Samantha Woodham is a family law barrister and co-founder of The Divorce Surgery, a unique service which enables separating couples to share one lawyer who advises them both as to a fair outcome on divorce, for a fixed fee