Dating for Divorced Dads

Couple eating in restaurant, smiling together.
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Certainly, divorced dads know how tough it is to survive the divorce and its aftermath. Especially when you have been an innocent victim, or when you put a lot of effort into saving the marriage only to not succeed, there are some serious scars. So figuring out when and how to start dating after a divorce can be a real dilemma for a divorced dad.

Many dads take a long time to recover before they are ready to date again; and some are ready within a few weeks or months.

But when you are ready to start dating and developing relationships again, the dating scene for a divorced dad is loaded with pitfalls.

Divorced dads have some real challenges when entering the world of dating: a more-than-likely sour experience from the divorce and perhaps some negative feelings about women in general; a lack of recent experience in this arena and accompanying nervousness; often a self-esteem problem stemming from the divorce; and children, whether or not you are the custodial parent.

So, if you have decided to jump back into dating, just how do you go about finding women to date? How do you inject yourself into this new world?

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: Varies widely

Here's How:

  1. Be careful of the bar and club scene. As a general rule, bars and clubs are not great places to meet women. First, women there are sometimes on the prowl, and are looking to impress a man. A bar or a club is not conducive to seeing someone for who she is. And you will have to play the same game to even make a connection. So go there with some friends if you must; but don't make it the primary place to find a woman with whom you might want to be a friend.
  1. Networking still works. If you visit job search sites like the one at About.com, you will find advice about finding job openings through networking. The same rule applies to dating. Let your friends know you are ready to date again, and ask them to be thinking about women with whom you might be compatible. Sure, divorced men sometimes resist blind dates, but having friends invite you and a women friend of theirs over for games, drinks, coffee, etc. can make sense and be a positive experience.
  2. Volunteer! You might be surprised to know that many singles meet in volunteer settings. One nice reason this works is because we tend to pick volunteer activities based on our interests and passions. So if you love gardening, consider helping at a community garden, teaching gardening classes at a local nursery or tending a flower garden at a local community facility. You will probably meet someone there who feels as passionately about gardening as you do. Visit VolunteerMatch to find volunteer opportunities in your area.
  1. Internet Dating. There are many, many internet dating services that will help match you with a compatible dating partner. But be careful and understand that you usually get what you pay for. One of the best services of which I am aware is at Eharmony, where each participant takes a detailed personality assessment test and is matched with folks who have similar personalities and interests.

    Tips:

    1. Don't "over email" with a potential partner. Four emails each way is a good rule of thumb before arranging a face to face meeting.
    2. Plan to only spend 30 minutes at the first face to face. If you don't click in person, half an hour is a reasonable time to spend. And if you do connect, then it just whets the appetite for longer dates later.
    3. Beware of dating people at work. The annals of the nation's courts are full of lawsuits stemming from workplace romances. You have to tread carefully in this area to avoid being labeled a sexual harasser if the relationship goes sour or if your partner is a subordinate. And even if your relationship is good, your conduct may make others in the workplace uncomfortable, which also causes problems.

    Once you have met some women and want to start going out, you need a few ground rules. Here are some do’s and don’ts to improve your chances for success.

    Do be positive and upbeat. Many divorced dads tend to spend dates dwelling on the negatives of their lives. You don’t want to be a downer for your date. Pick some interesting activities for dates—not just dinner and dancing. Consider golf, stage plays, a board game night, and so forth.

    Don’t dwell on your ex-spouse. This is one of the most common faux pas committed by divorced dads. Even if your date asks, don’t go there. You need to look forward, not back, and it is an easy way to destroy an otherwise positive evening.

    Do take it slow. No matter how much you miss sex or physical affection, commit yourself to no one night stands and to developing friendships first. It is important for you, and for your children, that you start the dating process slowly and that you don’t have overnight visitors.

    Don’t get competitive with your ex-spouse. Your ex may already be dating. She might even be ready to remarry. But don’t let her readiness determine yours. You need to start when you are ready, not when she is.

    Don’t get serious on the rebound. All of us probably know men who have gotten married, engaged or had a live in lover on the rebound after a divorce. It is a natural thing to want to put your affection somewhere, but it’s important to watch out for the rebound process.

    Just knowing it’s likely to occur makes it easier to resist.

    Don’t be afraid of rejection. Let’s face it—you will have to date lots of women before you find another long term partner. And that means that you will reject some, and some will reject you. If you are afraid of failing, it will be harder for you to try and keep trying.

    If you get rejected, take it in stride. Understand that it is part of the process.

    One of the more difficult parts of the process of getting back into the dating scene is dealing with your children. Kids seeing their divorced parents beginning to date again often feel their own brand of rejection. They fear that dad will stop loving them if he loves someone else. They may be used to having dad all to themselves on their weekends with him (or at home if he is the custodial parent) and may worry about being replaced or alone.

    Remember, the kids are usually the innocent victims in a broken marriage and family, and it is our first responsibility to meet their needs and take care of them.

    So it is important to be sensitive to their concerns and fears.

    Here are a few ideas to help you deal with the kids once you decide to date again.

    "She is a friend." We talked earlier about going slowly in the dating process. You should not be looking for a love interest at the beginning, only for friends of the opposite gender. Keep the friendships at that level, and you can honestly talk to the kids about your new friend long before she is a girlfriend.

    Don't introduce them to everyone or too early. As you "play the field" at the beginning, leave the kids out of the equation. Wait to introduce them to your friends until the relationship has developed a little-like the fifth or sixth date. You don't want to hide things from them, but if they are aware and introduced to everyone you date, then they will be confused.

    No overnight visitors. This is a cardinal rule if the kids are with you. Once relationships begin to deepen, don't bring your date home for the night and for breakfast the next morning.

    This level of intimacy would be very disconcerting to the kids and would communicate all the wrong messages.

    Talk and listen a lot. You may become aware of concerns, objections or fears on the part of your children as you begin to date again. Make sure you create opportunities to talk and listen with the kids individually or as a group.

    Remember the rule of active listening - seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.