Rules for Dating After Separation

by Christie Hartman

    If you’re separated from your spouse and getting divorced, you may wonder how to go about dating again. Because of your marital status and the complications of divorce, dating during separation is tricky, especially if your separation occurred recently. If you want to date without causing problems for yourself, your dates, or your family, it’s important to follow a few rules.

    Wait Until You’re Truly Separated

    In some cases, financial constraints or concerns for children can make it difficult for a separated couple to physically separate. For example, you still share a home with your spouse (even if one of you moved into the spare room or basement), or you’ve moved out but visit your former home every night to see your kids. If these apply to you, avoid dating for now. Dating before you’ve established a full separation can make you look dishonest (even unfaithful) in the eyes of your spouse, family, and those you date.

    Take Your Time

    It’s common for the newly separated to jump into a new relationship quickly; this is known as “rebounding.” Rebounding results from wanting to fill the void of loss and loneliness one feels after marital separation. However, because rebound relationships are based on filling a void, rather than being ready to move on, they often fall apart quickly. Instead of facing more loss, take time to grieve the loss of your marriage first. Then, begin dating casually. Eventually, you’ll know when it’s time to begin a relationship.

    Avoid Talking about the Divorce

    Anyone who’s been through divorce knows how stressful it can be. Dealing with your ex, taking care of children’s needs, dividing up assets, and dealing with lawyers can deplete anyone, and it’s tempting seek support from your date or partner. However, doing so is a bad idea – it’s a reminder that you’re still “involved” with someone else (even if in a limited way), and it turns your problems into their problems. To deal with the very real stress of divorce, talk to friends, family, or a therapist instead; these people can offer support without feeling burdened.

    Be Honest about Your Limitations

    Separation is a time to grieve your divorce. As such, you may not have as much to give a new partner as you would after your divorce finalizes. If you choose to date, be honest with yourself – and those you date – about your limitations. It’s okay to say you aren’t ready to get serious, that you need to focus on your divorce or your kids, or that you’re still hurting over the divorce. When you’re honest, instead of expecting you to give more than you’re able to, your dates can decide to accept your limitations or move on.

    About the Author

    Christie Hartman is a psychologist and author of five dating and relationship books. She has written for several online publications and has been published in numerous scientific journals in the areas of mental health and addiction. Christie earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images