Dating when you’re a fresh-faced teen, college student or 20-something is new, fun, exciting and, of course, sometimes stressful and emotional. But after you’ve been through the rodeo once, gotten divorced and maybe even have kids in the mix, getting back out there can feel daunting, unappealing and even pointless. Four women share their experiences of dating after divorce, good and bad.
Miste Bridge, 38, married 13 years
What’s the most difficult thing about dating after divorce? I have not dated.
How has dating changed since you got married? Match.com and other sites never existed. I usually hang out in a “family” environment, where there aren’t many people who are single and looking. Dating at this age and with children, sex is looked at different then most — being a Christian at 20 and 40 does not change. My beliefs are still one that would keep me from having “casual” sex.
Would you ever online date? I have not been on any dating sites and do not plan to in the future. If I were to ever become romantically involved it would most likely be because a friend “knows” someone who “knows” someone. I realize the odds are not in my favor, unfortunately.
Jen Cate, 38, married six years
What was the most difficult part of dating after divorce? I don’t only have myself to think about. Every decision I make affects my kids. I know pretty quickly if someone is worth my time. It’s valuable at this point. I refuse to bring my kids around anyone. I’m pretty protective, so that makes it difficult. Most people my age are divorced and have custody schedules. When they don’t match up, it makes it extremely difficult! The other piece to dating after divorce is trusting another person. I trusted my ex with everything, and I was let down. Therefore, it is hard to trust another person. I’ve learned to trust myself and my own instincts. My heart is not an open door.
What had changed the most since you last dated? Everything! Social media is probably the biggest change. The ability to find people to date online is crazy to me. Most people are not very honest on dating websites. Honestly, I don’t have the time or energy for any of that!
Do you use any dating technology, like match.com or Tinder? Haha. No. Never. Although I have browsed through my friends’ accounts occasionally just out of curiosity. It was a good laugh over a glass (or two) of wine!
Anonymous, 39, married 11 years
What was the most difficult part of dating after divorce? Deciding you’re ready to date, not giving in to the first person who asks and doing it responsibly by finding birth control and getting the HPV vaccine series before getting out there.What has been the most surprising part of dating now?
The reliance on technology. People don’t call each other and talk on the phone anymore — they text. You make plans, maybe communicating for days about what you’re going to do, when it will happen, what will happen, when he will pick you up, etc., but it is all by text. Also sexting, which is almost a given. I may have had to google some pointers.
What has changed the most since you last dated? There are so many things, I can’t pick just one. When I last dated, I didn’t have children or a career. I didn’t date men with children or even careers. We didn’t stalk people we were interested in online. Facebook can ruin you — or him. Also, sex with someone else after a failed marriage and years of baggage from lack of fitness, a bad physical relationship, etc. I didn’t think I had an appetite for it and was afraid at first. (Thank God I was wrong.)
Have you dated online? I haven’t.
If you’re not using technology, how are you meeting dates?
There’s an abundance of recently divorced dads among my extended career circle right now. I realize this will burn out soon, and I will have to adopt 21st century technology.
What have you enjoyed most about dating in this phase of your life?
Honestly, it isn’t the dating at all. It’s just finding myself again.
Anything else you want to add? If you have a child and he has a child, it is far too easy to fall into conversation surrounding our children. Kids are the common denominator for many adults when other polite conversation fails us. I realized that if this is your default on dates, you probably aren’t seeing the right person. It is healthy to talk about your kids, but you must find commonalities that are purely “adult” in nature.
It is also exceptionally difficult to maintain the same male friendships that I had when I was married. There’s no boundary now, and it makes it awkward for me, so I just kind of stay away from many of them. The recently divorced male friends are the worst offenders. They think, “You’re single, I’m single, so we should hook up” — and my response has been, “No thanks, I need our friendship.”
Lorre Swanson, 40s, married eight years
What was the most difficult part of dating after divorce? The hardest part of dating after divorce for me has been missing the intense connection of sharing your life with someone and then escalating a new relationship too quickly because that behavior or level of sharing was previously “normal.”
What has been the most surprising part of dating now? I did have the occasional meltdown of, “I thought I was past this chapter of my life” when I first started dating again. Once I got over that, I really enjoyed meeting new people, for the most part. Dating now, I am a lot more confident and insecure in the same breath. I am hella confident in who I am as a person and my convictions. And the vain side of me remembers dating at 24 with rock hard abs and long, slim legs, making the gray strands of hair and crows feet a constant reminder I am not drinking from a fountain of youth. I understand now the expression, “Youth is wasted on the young.”
What has changed the most since you last dated? A lot has changed. Prior to my marriage, I was just out of college the last time I actively dated. It was a time when the main mode of contact was a land-line telephone. I had an answering machine with a cassette tape (gasp!). Introducing the 24/7 constant contact of a smart phone, calls and texts can be a challenge. The expectations are different. Back to my 24-year-old self, if I was out running errands or having dinner with a friend and a man had called and left a message, I might return the call when I got home, depending on the time, or wait until the following day. Now I know when he called/texted almost real-time. I am inclined to respond to calls and texts a lot more quickly. Sadly, it removes some of the courting that my previous dating life included.
You’ve dated online — what did you like or not like about it?
I enjoyed dating online because it was a great way to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise. Actually, I met the man I am now seriously seeing online, and I can almost guarantee I would have never met him otherwise. We have been seeing one another for a year, and I am completely in love and cannot imagine my life without him in it. It has been a great online story. I can also share not-so-great stories, like a college professor who stalked me until I was forced to get the police involved and threatened him with harassment charges. Definitely not-so-great.Unfortunately, “ghosting” is a real thing. You can have a great connection with someone, go on several dates and then they disappear like the setting sun sinks into the horizon. It is still so bizarre to me.
This article originally appeared on Modernae.com