Dating Diaries: Here's What I Learned From Dating After Divorce
For February, we're introducing the Dating Diaries — a chance for women to work through their romantic lives and teach us a little something in the process. Whether they're single, taken, or some kind of mixture in between, these women are ready to dish on all the dos and don'ts, the ins and outs, and anything else they care to share about modern dating.
Following the separation from my ex, I couldn’t imagine dating someone new. I felt relief removing myself from the tension and pain that led to the demise of our relationship – I felt free. My daughter, who was five at the time, and I had a new home and I was ready to just focus on her and work. I couldn't fathom what dating after divorce would even look like.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov
Alternate weekends without my daughter were tough initially — really tough — but I knew she needed time with her dad and it gave me time to catch a break. I'm the primary caregiver, except for two weekends a month, and single motherhood can be exhausting (although rewarding in many ways, which is another story for another time).
A girlfriend who had already finalized her divorce came over on one of my kid-free weekends and shared stories and photos of her latest pursuits – the carefree Brazilian photographer she met on location (she has a cool, creative job that sends her all over the world), the French suitor she met while traveling in Paris, the Los Angeles dude with the cool apartment she met online.
We giggled like teenagers, but it still felt like it was so not for me. My new home was my happy place – I didn’t want anyone in it who could change that. I needed to heal.
Photo by cottonbro studio
Finally, one sunny weekend in a Trader Joe’s parking lot, I opened Bumble just to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t even realize I'd created a public profile before men in my area were swiping right.
My first date was with a guy in San Francisco, where I lived before the separation. I was getting a haircut in the city and asked him to meet me after. Funny enough, he was the former CEO of a dating app!
We met at an outdoor cafe and the conversation was so energizing. It was so refreshing to talk to a man without tension or resentment (yeah, it was bad). I was giddy, however still not ready to commit — but I was happy it was a pleasant experience. Dating someone in SF when I only have two weekends a month didn’t make sense (it’s an hour away from Sonoma, where I live now), so we kept the conversation going for a bit but it eventually fizzled out.
My journey in online dating was very non-committal at first. It was 2020 after all, and I had a daughter at home and really no time to date. I went on hikes mostly to keep it outdoors. I eventually dated someone for 8 months and it was exactly what I needed: we had fun together when I could meet up, but there was never any talk of anything more. After a year of dating though, I was in a different place, healed maybe, and realized I did want more.
There were dates and a couple short-term relationships until I met Dan, another journalist in nearby Napa, on Hinge. We met at the Napa Wine Academy where wine nerds waxed poetic about blends, balances and bouquets and let us sip from their very expensive collections. That turned into dinner, great conversation (travel, divorce, career), and a kiss at the end of the night. That was two years ago and he has since developed a relationship with my daughter and my dog too. ;)
Top Tips For Dating After Divorce
Photo by Kampus Production
So after all that, I had a lot to take away. If you're in a similar boat and thinking about kick starting your own romantic life, here are my tips for dating after divorce — online and IRL.
Take your time.
Post-divorce is a major life change – you’re back to being single but you’re also a kind of a different person with different priorities, especially if you’re a mom. Take the time you need to heal and get back to self.
My friend, who just recently divorced, was excited about the first guy she met online but then she didn’t hear from him for a few days. She started to freak out. “I like him, but I don’t want to be too demanding if I’m expecting too much,” she texted me.
I (now the expert, lol) texted her back: “I found the key to making yourself sane is to be easy breezy for the first couple months until you know for sure that you want more. Keep yourself busy with other dates! It will help you get through the quiet periods. Everyone can be a little cautious, especially after divorce.”
Start by casually socializing and making new friends with little expectation. This can help you ease into dating again without putting too much pressure on yourself – or them.
Try IRL activities if online dating isn’t for you.
Find the things you love to do: cooking classes, improv, hikes, etc. Just being outside of your home will open up new experiences and encounters. Online dating isn’t for everyone – find connections IRL can be exciting too.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov
Listen to yourself.
Think about what you want in a new relationship. What are your priorities, values, and deal-breakers? Listening to how you’re feeling along the way can help you navigate the dating scene in a more honest way.
Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Not only can feeling healthier make you more attractive, but focusing on self care can help you prioritize your needs first. I started meditating, doing hot pilates, and swimming at the gym. I felt great!
I started therapy after my divorce to understand the patterns (not listening to my instincts, people pleasing, and so on) I wanted to break as I started to date again. My therapist has been amazing in my journey to understand myself better, manage a difficult co-parent, and navigate a new relationship. Therapy can help you make better choices in your next relationship and process your feelings and experiences post-divorce.
Photo by Elevate via Pexels
Try to be patient.
Finding the right person may take time, so be patient and don't rush into a new relationship. Focus on enjoying the journey and meeting new people along the way. You’ll know when you know!
Enjoy the ride. Dating after divorce is a chance to rediscover yourself and learn about new people while learning more about yourself. I had very few bad dates as I went into it without expectation. I enjoyed meeting the people I met, who had lived through cool experiences and were mostly in the same boat as I was. Embrace the journey and have fun with it!
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Header image via cottonbro studio
Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.