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Dating After Divorce: What It’s Like to Get Back Out There, According to 12 Men

Getting back out there is different for everyone.

Dating after divorce, much like divorce itself, is a different journey for everyone. That sounds like some psuedo Dr. Phil-ian babble, but it’s true. Getting back out there after the end of a marriage is tricky and everyone has their own timeline. For some men, there’s no time lost dating after divorce; they immediately get back out there, meeting people, tapping and swiping, and doing what they can to move on and put the past behind them. For others, dating is put on the back burner after a divorce, and they take time to focus on themselves and their families. The rule many experts like to quote is that it takes one year to get over five-to-seven years of marriage. However, it’s different for everyone.

But what is it like to get back to dating after divorce? We asked a dozen men about their experiences. Some took a lot of time, while others dove right into the singles’ pool. Issues of anxiety or trust were mentioned. A few men viewed dating after divorce as an exciting adventure into uncharted territory, while others viewed it as be a comedy of errors that ultimately resulted in love. (Or at least a good story.) All learned a lot about themselves. Here’s what they had to say about overcoming fear, boosting self-confidence, and realizing that divorce doesn’t have to be the end, but rather a new beginning.

1. My best friend eased me back into it.

“I got divorced about three years ago, and I was completely averse to dating. I was just anti-dating, anti-relationship. Didn’t want anything to do with it. My best friend and I were talking about it, and he convinced me to go out with him and a bunch of our other friends. Pretty harmless. We met some people, talked to some people. It was fun. Then we went out again, but it was just me and him. We struck up conversations with some women here and there and, again, it was fun. That kept going on until I realized he was basically acting as my training wheels — helping me get back some confidence and showing me that making new connections can be a good thing. It took a while, which also made me appreciate his patience and friendship in the process.” – Chris, 42, California  

2. I took it slow.

“After I got divorced, I just needed to breathe. I hate to be cliché and say I needed to ‘find myself’, but that’s kind of what happened. I didn’t actively try to meet women. I didn’t try to actively date. I just sort of existed and lived my life. I didn’t wait for things to happen, but I didn’t try to force them either. And it worked. I remarried about four years after I got divorced. My now-wife and I dated for a long time, took it slow, and completely ignored the pressure to get married. When it felt like the right time, we did. And it’s the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, by far.” – Mark, 39, Illinois

3. I took it fast.

“I just had to get back out there. My divorce was hard. My wife cheated on me, and basically left me for another guy. And once it was all said and done, I just had to keep moving, ya know? I downloaded all the apps, got on all the sites, and just tried to meet people so that I could focus on moving ahead instead of looking back. This was like six months before Covid, so I’ve definitely hit the brakes, and that’s been difficult. It’s like coming down off a high or an adrenaline rush, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’m sure I could’ve benefitted from slowing down a little to reflect and regroup, but full speed ahead seemed like the best idea at the time.” – John, 35, Missouri  

4. I forgot about my “type”.

“My wife was my ‘type’. Then she became my ex wife. So, I had to re-evaluate what my ‘type’ was and, really, what that even meant. Since I’ve been divorced, I’ve gone out with women I never, ever would’ve considered dating years ago. It’s really opened up my eyes to how shallow my marriage was, and how narrow-minded I’d become. My ex was athletic, blonde, bubbly, which was what I thought I wanted in a relationship. But the women I dated after the divorce showed me how young, stupid and superficial I was. I’m young, so I consider myself lucky. Even though it was hard and painful, I learned a great lesson.” – Evan, 28, Pennsylvania

5. I hid my kids…at first.

“I was afraid to tell dates I had kids. I have two girls, who are my world and my priority. But, man, it’s an awkward thing to bring up. Even if it was a date from a dating site — where I mentioned I have kids, and the woman knew I had kids — it’s sort of like the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Is she going to ask, ‘So, you have kids?’ Is there going to be a natural point in the conversation to bring it up? I think I psyched myself out on a lot of dates because of that train of thought. My current girlfriend has a son, though. When we met, our kids were all we talked about. I figure that was a good sign.” – Jason, 37, Ohio

6. I’m still not ready.

“I got divorced two-and-a-half years ago, and I haven’t been on a single date since. Covid gave me a year’s worth of rationalizing for not going out. Before that, though, I just wasn’t ready. I’m still not sure if I’m ready. I was in love with my ex-wife for a long time after we split. I hoped we’d reconcile. And so I devoted a lot of energy to wondering what I’d done wrong, and how I could reunite us. Thankfully, my support system has helped me move forward inch-by-inch, but I’m not sure when I’m going to feel comfortable or confident enough to go out on another date. Truthfully, I’m going to ride out the pandemic excuse as long as I can.” – Tyler, 36, Michigan

7. My kids didn’t like me dating.

“I have a ten-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. My wife and I had a pretty messy divorce and, even though it was almost three years ago, they’re still not crazy about the idea of me dating. It was really rough at first. They cried, they were confused, and they just didn’t understand why I had new female friends who weren’t their mother. I felt terrible. So I stopped dating. I didn’t feel guilty. It was more just like, ‘This can wait.’ Like I was protecting them, almost. I haven’t been on a date in at least a year and a half, but that’s okay. Even if I’m ready to move on from my marriage, I have to remember that they need to be comfortable with it, too. My time with my kids is precious, and I’m okay focusing on us for now.” – Brian, 39, Kentucky

8. I was angry, and it showed.

“I got back into dating way too early, and I think it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t over my ex. Or, at least not over the divorce. I went on a few dates that fizzled out, and then went out with one woman who saw right through me. ‘You’re a nice guy, but you’re clearly still processing your divorce, and I think it’s important you do that before we see each other again.’ That’s what she said. At first I was like, ‘Who the &%^$ does she think she is?’ Then I realized, ‘That sounds like the response of an angry guy who definitely isn’t ready to date yet.’ So, I was grateful to her. It took about five or six months for me to finally make peace, but I texted her and asked if she’d want to meet up again. We’ve been dating ever since.” – Josh, 30, Maryland

9. I took care of myself first

“My marriage was nothing but stress. It was just a mess from the start. I ended up gaining weight. My blood pressure spiked. I was diagnosed with anxiety. I’m not blaming my ex-wife. It was just an unfortunate situation. So, the first thing I did when we divorced was get healthy. I realized that if I was ever going to get into another relationship — which I knew I’d want to do, eventually — I had to be mentally and physically healthy. First I started yoga. Then I hiked a lot. I began to see a therapist. And when I felt like I was in a healthier place, I got on Match.com and started trying to put myself out there. I believe the person I became in my marriage was just a phase, and I’m much happier meeting new people as my current self.” – Robert, 43, North Carolina

10. I was terrible at it — but it worked out

“The only girl I’d ever dated was my wife. So, I was like a newborn foal taking its first steps the first time I went on a post-divorce date. Just awkward and stumbling. It was bad. Looking back, I can laugh at it. But at the time I was like, ‘Man, I’m never going to meet anyone else. She [ex-wife] was a fluke of luck, and now that’s over.’ Luckily, I didn’t give up, and eventually met my now fiancé. Our first date was a little less awkward than the ones I’d been on before it, but it was clear I had no idea what I was doing. But, she gave me a chance, and then another one, and another one. She said my awkwardness was endearing. I said, ‘Hey, I’ll take it.’ And here we are.” — Jeff, 37, Florida

11. I Need to Up My Tinder Game

“After I got divorced in 2017, I matched with two girls on Tinder and got their chats mixed up while I was talking to them. Long-story-short, I unwittingly suggested meeting them both at the same place, at the same time. I’ll admit that I was a fan of copying and pasting whatever seemed to work from chat to chat, and just changing the details accordingly. I forget exactly what happened, but it was something like I forgot to change ‘Tuesday’ to ‘Wednesday’, and they both showed up at my local bar on the same night half an hour apart. I wish I could say there was a fight, or a threesome or something exciting, but they just both realized they were wasting their time and left. I think even the bartender was shaking her head at my stupidity, which is fair.” — Sam, 35, Arizona  

12. I Tried Virtual Dating For the Low-Stakes Fun

“My divorce happened last January, so Covid crept in right around the corner. Before I knew it, ‘Virtual Dates’ were a thing. Since no one could go out, I Zoomed or FaceTimed with a handful of girls I met on dating apps. My approach was basically: there’s no lower stakes method of dating than this, so what do I have to lose? I’m not sure if that was the right mindset, but most of the dates were actually kind of fun. I gave one girl a guided virtual tour of my apartment. Another girl and I synced up a movie on Netflix and watched it at the same time. I don’t think anyone is anticipating a real love connection through virtual dating. But they’re fun. Sometimes that’s all you need.” — Cory, 42, Florida