After my ex and I separated, I threw myself into dating with the single minded idea that I needed to discover if I was still date-able. Due to the nature of our separation, I had my doubts. Don't get me wrong, my ex isn't a bad guy. Now. But at the time, he was an alcoholic who compensated his insecurities with well-timed, "helpful" barbs.
"You'd better find a dad to date," he told me casually, in the beginning of the separation when the ache in my stomach and heart made me feel as if I was being torn in two.
"Why?" I asked the man who'd been my best friend for almost a decade.
"Dads know what to expect if you guys sleep together."
"What do you mean?" I tried to keep my tears at bay.
"Stretch marks and," he waved his hand at my stomach, "stuff."
I nodded at his sage advice, still too much in the throes of co-dependency to understand a person who is your friend would never say such hurtful things and a man who claimed to love you would kick the ass of someone who would.
I narrowed my search to dads. I scrolled through the profiles of men who, in those early stages, didn't compare to the man I'd married. And then I did what most women do in those sorts of situations: I dated someone his physical, intellectual, and emotional opposite.
It was, of course, a mistake.
My girlfriends watched as I dated man after man searching for myself and then, they sighed a sigh of relief when I stopped.
So how do you know you're ready to date after a separation? As someone who caused herself more pain and emotional turmoil than necessary, I have a few words of advice:
1. Take your time. As I found out after more minor heartbreak, I should have taken time for myself before dipping my toes in the dating pool. As a good friend pointed out, after getting out of a long term relationship, it's a good idea to discover yourself again before trying to discover another partner.
2. Don't try to replace the man you were with, even if the new guy seems different. I was so accustomed to being part of a couple, I attached myself to the first lonely soul who was seeking the same. Recently out of our marriage, he and I clung to each other in spite of our many differences.
3. Don't settle. I know. I know. It shouldn't need to be said, but it does. I was so concerned that I'd never find another man at my "advanced" age, I was willing to overlook some very serious issues.
4. Find focus, not just for yourself but your new life. There will be a lot of changes occurring: new home, new job, a big empty bed…find your focus and concentrate on becoming comfortable with who you are now.
5. Be kind to yourself. So you ignore my advice—something I myself did—and start dating too soon. Don't cry over the guy who doesn't wink. Don't obsess over the first man who texts. And above all, be kind to yourself. You're amazing.