Before You Begin Dating - Elisabeth Klein

On my second date with Tall-Shadow, I got a text from one of my kids outlining the most recent attempted shenanigan that had the potential to ruin our lives (I’m not exaggerating for blog-post’s sake…it was bat-crap crazy).

I remember standing there, mid-mini-golf-course, with my jaw on the ground. Tall-Shadow asked me what was wrong. I had about three seconds to decide if I were going to let him in or if I were going to play this thing off. I held up my phone so he could read the text.  It was potentially game-changing.  And I believe I said, “Feel free to run for the hills now.”

Thankfully, he didn’t. And thankfully, my stops through Crazy Town have become fewer and farther between over the past couple years, but it leads me to this.

When you are divorced and a parent and you begin dating, you have a ton of baggage. And if you start dating someone who is divorced and is a parent, they have a ton of baggage.  And it can be messier than you expect it to be.

I have been getting more questions about dating lately, and I’ve been reading some tall tales, so I have some suggestions for you before you begin dating post-divorce. Some you’ve heard me say before, some may be new, but all have been learned by me the hard way.

1) Do not date while you are separated. Why? BECAUSE YOU ARE STILL MARRIED, THAT’S WHY. There is no excuse for this one. I don’t want to hear how you’re the exception.  And I say this knowing that some people very close to me did this, and they would say they wished they hadn’t if they could go back and make better choices.

2) Wait one year post-divorce-date to begin a new relationship. Why? BECAUSE YOU NEED TO HEAL. And I say this with the re-admission that though I had been divorced over two years before beginning to date Richard, he was three weeks’ shy of his one-year divorc-ary before we began dating.  And we both agree that more time would’ve helped our situation.

3) Here are some great ways to heal up before tangling your life and heart up with someone else’s:

  1. Join DivorceCare or Celebrate Recovery, even if you think it’ll be cheesy. (But for the love of all that is good and pure in the world, don’t join to find a boyfriend. Oh my lands.)
  2. Get into counseling. And when you’re in counseling, don’t leave until you’ve answered these important questions:

-Why did I marry him? What drew me to him? Were there red flags that I ignored, and if so, what were they and why did I push through them?

-Why did my marriage fail? This is not just a listing of all your husband’s failures. I want you to look at the marriage as a whole. Why are you two not still together?

-What was my part in the demise of my marriage? This one is key. You want to be super clear in your own mind what you did so that you can make changes in yourself before your next relationship. AND, if you find a man who lists off the 101 ways his ex-wife is a nutcase, you might want to consider that as a red flag. Richard leading with all he did wrong in his first marriage, and then me watching him not do any of those things in our relationship, was HUGE in us moving forward. Humility and the willingness and ability to change are paramount in who you should want to be as a human and who you should want in a partner.

– Am I still intertwined with my ex-husband?
If you have hateful, bitter thoughts about him a majority of the time, you may have not forgiven him, and you are still emotionally intertwined.  (I say this knowing it’s a fine line if he keeps doing mean stuff to you.)

On the flipside, if you still communicate with your ex-husband over things that are not related to your children or if you Facebook-stalk him (or any other kind of stalk him), you more than likely still have unresolved feelings for him, and you are still emotionally intertwined, and you need to put time and space distance between you two. In other words, stop texting him, unless it’s an emergency about your kids. And if you struggle with this, the next time you’re about to send a text of any kind, ask yourself if it’s necessary. If it’s not, and you just want to insert yourself into his life and remind him you’re still out there or whatever, send it to a girlfriend instead who will hold you accountable in trying to break this habit.

Is my life a mess? Do you have huge issues with your children, either adjusting to all the changes or just in general? Is your health unstable? Are you struggling financially? Do you have problems at work? Any other family or friend relationships fractured?  Anything else that is weighing heavily on your mind? If so, you may be thinking about dating as a way to save yourself from drowning. You probably aren’t aware of it. But if most of your life is falling apart, I highly recommend taking an honest look at that first, and trying to get your ducks in a row. Because if you begin dating mid-mess, this will only serve to hurt you, the man you’re dating, and your children who are watching this unhealthy relationship play out, teaching them that it’s okay not to do the hard work of healing and it’s okay for you to throw your arms around a  man as if he can save you. Do the hard work first. Now, I’m not saying you have to wait until your life is perfect, because NO ONE’S LIFE IS EVER PERFECT. But if a majority of your life is out of control, think twice.

This all sounds like a lot, I know. And it may even sound harsh or judgmental. That is not my intention. It would only be judgmental if I hadn’t walked the road you are walking, if I hadn’t been hurt, if I hadn’t made some not-great choices of my own, if I hadn’t heard from so many of you sharing your post-divorce-dating heartbreak stories. I care so deeply about women, especially those who are hurting, and about your healing, and about – if it’s God’s plan for you to be in a new partnership one day – that you not replicate your first marriage or, worse (which I’ve heard!), you end up in a marriage that is even more horrible than your first because you didn’t take the time to heal.

So, because I care about you and your children, please, please ask Jesus where you’re at with all these suggestions, and listen and obey if he tells you to slow down. Let’s give ourselves a fighting chance this time around! Much love, sweet ones.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of… -Philippians 1:10-11 (The Message)

If you are dating – or even just thinking about it – you’ll want to read more suggestions like this in Dating after Divorce.