When I was 23, I got divorced. Among the many facets of unpleasantness was the getting back into the dating scene. It may be easy to imagine that once single, I would have felt a sense of romantic freedom.
When I was 23, I got divorced. Among the many facets of unpleasantness was the getting back into the dating scene. It may be easy to imagine that once single, I would have felt a sense of romantic freedom. That I would have seen the dating scene as a welcome reprieve from my stresses and I would be excited to get out and meet someone new.
Everyone’s experience is different, but for me, that wasn’t the case at all. After divorce, I’d felt hopeless, like I’d failed, and that there may have been something wrong with me preventing me from successful connection. I gave love a shot and it didn’t work out. The feeling of freedom was there, but very fleeting. Casual Tinder dates are one thing, finding someone who makes you feel worthy of love and belonging is quite another
I felt trapped by my situation. What would my romantic interests think about me being divorced in my early twenties? I thought my situation was a classic red flag. Surely, regardless of what positives there may be to dating me, there would also be the ever-nagging, “But he was divorced at 23, classic commitment issues,” “He already broke vows to one person,” “My first wedding would be more special to me than his second wedding to him,” and so on and so forth.
That was 5 years ago. Since then, I’ve been able to actually experience dating as a divorcee beyond just my fearful predictions. For this reason, I wanted to share some of my experiences from dating in the last few years for anyone who is divorced, getting divorced, or is dating someone divorced.
Many of my fears were unfounded. Many of the people I’ve dated have been really understanding. For one, there are quite a few people in my situation, the more rural, the more common. But even in New York City, there are more divorced people in their 20s than I’d anticipated. It actually serves as an entryway into deep conversations because of shared trauma.
For those who’ve never been married, there’s still a lot of people who have had long, difficult relationships. Usually, they’ll admit that they could have or would have gotten married at one point and for one reason or another it just didn’t quite happen.
Plus, the longer I’ve been divorced, the more it seems a lifetime ago and eventually, the past is the past. It was more difficult when I was recently divorced, which actually worked to my advantage because I definitely took some time to work on myself instead of jumping headlong into another relationship.
Some of my fears were founded. There’s been a small handful of times where, after a few dates, I divulge that I’ve been married and it has a negative impact. I see their smile falter, there’s an awkwardness to the conversation, or they’re surprised and think I was crazy for getting married. Sometimes these moments pass quickly and things are fine, other times it informs me or them that this is going to be a deal breaker.
It’s fair that some people have always pictured their dream wedding with someone who hasn’t already gone through the process. I, for one, as with many (not all) of the divorcees I’ve dated, cannot imagine getting married again. So it’s a reasonable fear for them to have that I won’t ever ask to marry them. I’m still in a place where I can’t imagine that. It’s worth noting that many people feel this way, not just divorcees. It’s a compatibility issue, so really there’s not much to be upset about, it wasn’t going to work out regardless.
Some new fears surfaced as well. People who’ve been married know what love is. I do. I know the kinds of insidious things that can break up that love for me. Unfortunately, those things stand out like a sore thumb now. I find it difficult to look past certain things, I find myself not wanting to go through heartbreak again, and being overly critical of perfectly lovely people.
The truth is, where I was once ready and excited to take a chance on love (to a fault), I’ve become a classic case of commitment issues. Not all divorcees have these issues, but I’ve dated enough of them to know someone who comes out of divorce without them is an exception to the rule. There are even times when I date a divorced person and realize that their issues along with my issues are probably going to keep us apart. Sometimes maybe that’s what we both want. It may not be healthy, but it’s somehow not as scary.
It makes creating meaningful relationships difficult and it’s something I still struggle with sometimes. That said, now in my late 20s, I realize that pretty much everyone, divorced or not, has been hurt and deals with this type of baggage. So really, it’s not strictly a problem because I’ve been divorced, there’s just a legal paper trail for my baggage that others don’t have.
As difficult as divorce is, and as dire as it has sometimes seemed in the aftermath, I personally feel better for it. I’ve gone through hell and come out the other side with hope, knowledge, and a fortitude to get through whatever comes next.
I am a better partner in relationships. I find myself to be more understanding, realistic, and patient. Sure there are things I need to work on, we all have them, but now more than ever I know what I want and am willing to wait for it. I feel confident that I won’t be forever alone, but I know that if I am, I will be okay. Relationships aren’t as stressful or scary because my happiness doesn’t depend on them. Dating is fun again, more than ever, and while I may have once thought the end of my marriage was the end of my life, I now see that it was just the beginning.
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