When going through something as traumatic as divorce, dating is usually the last thing on your mind. Dealing with conflicting emotions, confusing paperwork and a totally changed home life is stress enough without having to consider the intricacies of dates, schedules and — god forbid — dating apps.
A period of self-reflection and alone time after divorcing is necessary and healthy, but sometimes you can find yourself inadvertently putting dating off for longer and longer. One year turns into two, which turns into three, and soon enough, you feel rusty and out of touch.
But getting back on the proverbial horse isn't as terrifying and difficult as you think. Samantha Jayne, a relationship expert and dating coach, tells Now To Love that emotional roadblocks can often be to blame when it comes to putting off dating, post-divorce.
Even though some time may have passed between your divorce and now, your emotional state can act as a major obstacle to dating.
"When people get married, they think they are getting married for life, and in a marriage people will often put up with bad behaviour before letting go, or they may even experience the shock and pain of infidelity.
"Sometimes there may be feelings of inadequacy — a sense of not feeling 'enough', a fear of not being loved, or a fear of making the same mistakes and getting hurt again.
"The emotional roadblocks are the major obstacles to getting back out there, more so that the logistical things such as having children and spare time — you can always fit a sitter and make time if it's a priority," says Samantha.
Feeling out of touch and outdated is a major factor, but totally normal, factor in shying away from the dating scene.
"For others, they may not know how to get back out there. Maybe they were married for so long and the dating landscape has dramatically changed — they don't know how to use technology, they don't know anyone else that is single because all their friends are married, so they have no one to talk to about dating," says Samantha.
Having older children can also halt things in its tracks. "Sometimes if children are at a particular age they may get involved and try to prevent their parent from meeting someone new by acting out." Family considerations like this can cause you to feel guilty and give up on dating.
"Another roadblock for some is that they may think deep down there is a chance of reconciling their past relationship," says Samantha.
As for getting back out there and beginning the dating process, Samantha says timing and mindset are key.
"Once you have healed emotionally and you are feeling good about yourself and life on your own, then you view yourself as a gift and will only accept a man that truly enriches your life. When you are truly comfortable and happy being alone there is an energy shift. Be the best version of you, rediscover your passions, this is your opportunity to life the life you want.
"Mindset is everything. Be optimistic. Love might come to you when you least expect it and more than likely with the most unexpected person. When you are looking for love be sure not to put all your eggs in one basket, use this as an opportunity to meet lots of people and get social again."
Treating yourself to an image update is a good way to feel fresh and energised. Whether it's a new haircut, a fabulous dress you look great in, or even just a facial or a manicure as a gift to yourself, it's important to take care of your relationship with yourself before embarking on one with someone else.
"Be the best version of yourself, rediscover your passions — this is your opportunity to live the life you want. Go and get a new hairstyle, a new wardrobe, treat yourself to something that makes you feel special."
As for practical tips, Samantha suggests throwing yourself out there — even if feels uncomfortable at times. "If fear gets in the way, dive straight in. You'll remember how to do it again — just like riding a bike. If you're feeling down, lacking confidence or scared of making the same mistake again or rejection, you are normal! It's okay, it's human."
"I recommend joining a social group, getting out to singles events, trying online dating and do some proactive learning with a relationship coach, an online program or read a book about love and attraction. The more you learn the better decisions you will make."
"Most importantly, go and have fun! Just know divorce is not the end of the world and put things in to perspective. You will be okay."
Regardless of your nerves, your lingering ties to your past relationships, or even family-related problems, it's important to put yourself first sometimes and invest in your own future.
"Life is meant for living," says Samantha. "You only live once and if you sit back and dwell on the pain and the past, that is no good for anyone — not you, not your children, not your family. In the long term, you'll exhaust yourself.
"The longer you stay stuck, the harder it is for you to get out. Once you have healed from the pain, then get out there and find love! Love is the deepest human need out there, and it feels good to have it fulfilled."