Nelson Vinod Moses
The number of Indians getting separated and divorced has increased over the last decade. In Mumbai, 5,245 divorce cases were filed in 2010, and this jumped to 11,667 cases in 2014. Interestingly, a large number of those who are getting divorced are doing so within the first year of marriage. In Lucknow, for example, out of the 2000 couples who filed for divorce in 2014, 900 of them were married for less than a year. In 2009, the number was 300. The newly divorced in India are still relatively young, and look to date, and get married again.
But divorce all said and done is an exhausting process and can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety, lowered immunity, and not to mention; the risk of increased alcohol intake. Getting back to the dating game might seem terrifying. Just when you thought it was over, you are forced to go through the whole cumbersome mate selection process, once again.
We give you a step-by-step guide on how to navigate the choppy waters of the post separation or divorce game.
Are you ready?
This Valentine’s Day, if you are divorced and single, and wondering just how long you should wait before getting into the dating game, you are not alone. Those who are recently divorced are at their wits end when it comes to deciding when to throw their hat back in the game. Start too early and you risk scratching at the emotional scars before they are fully healed. Wait for too long, and you might miss opportunities with those who might be interested to date you, and may consider your unavailability as a sign of disinterest. Experts say that you should wait two years before you begin dating after a divorce. But there’s no right or wrong window of time before you begin dating again, for some they are ready from day one, and for others it may take years.
“Getting back to the dating game might seem terrifying. Just when you thought it was over, you are forced to go through the whole cumbersome mate selection process, once again.”
The first is readiness, both mentally and emotionally. Are you still thinking about your ex, and feeling that you are not over him or her? Are there residual feelings of anger, shame, grief, regret, guilt, hatred, vengefulness, jealousy, inadequacy or love? “First work on resolving the past and heal yourself,” says 44-year old Ashok Tyagi, who was married for 17 years, and has been separated for over a year now. The end of a marriage can be the same as the loss of someone close, it will carry the same emotional hollowness, and you will need time to get used to the loss of familiarity associated with your ex. And just like losing somebody, you need time to acknowledge the loss, grieve, pick yourself up and walk the road of recovery. Enrolling the help of a therapist will help you in this regard as they will help you deal with your thoughts, feelings, behavior and relationship patterns.
Become the best version of you
When 42-year old Haider Ali got divorced he had been married for a good 10 years. He admits that he had let things slide, he had adopted an unhealthy lifestyle, and was overweight by 12-15 kgs. He was constantly fatigued, felt unhappy and was low on confidence. Instead of jumping into the dating game, he took time to hit the gym, invested in a new wardrobe, spent money at the salon to get groomed and met his therapist regularly before he started dating. This resulted in Haider becoming confident, fit, energetic, oozing positivity and fun to be with. Needless to say, post his transformation, he didn’t have any trouble in finding dates. Divorce is essentially a second chance to find another partner and the best way to do that is to become the best version of yourself.
Enjoy being single
Don’t be in a hurry to start dating again and throw yourself back into a relationship. Reflect on all the things that you were unable to do when you were married. Consider doing them now. Jumping into dating because you are feeling needy maybe a bad idea to be with someone. “ If you find that the reason you want to date is because you are needy, then DO NOT go ahead. You should be comfortable with being single first and learn to enjoy your own company and rebuild your life by indulging in your passions before you consider dating,” says Anand Patil, a 39-year old, who has been separated for the past 18 months and has been taking solo vacations and bike trips, in a quest to enjoy singlehood.
“you need time to acknowledge the loss, grieve, pick yourself up and walk the road of recovery. Enrolling the help of a therapist will help you in this regard as they will help you deal with your thoughts, feelings, behavior and relationship patterns.”
Get out there
It has been said that 80 percent of all success is based on turning up. Once you have healed, let things go and have become the close to ideal version of yourself, it is time to get out and begin dating. It is perfectly fine to be anxious about doing this again. Maybe the last time you didn’t have to make an effort and your ex was your next door neighbor. Chances are you won’t land a date by just sitting at home. “Bangalore as a city is bursting with events across all interest groups. I was always invested in learning new things so it helped that I was now also meeting people through events,” says 30-year old Meena Johar, who quit her well-paying job after her divorce, and spent time travelling and doing things she loves. Join a gym, go for a pottery class, enrol for a film appreciation workshop, ask your friends to set you up, look around your office, reconnect with old friends and diversify social networks.
Get with the digital programme
While the best way to meet to someone is in person, but if you limit yourself to one location, you are most probably swimming in the same pool of potential dates. To spread your net, you will need to dive deeper. The modern dating game has changed from the time that you were single and mostly moved online. “Dating apps seem to have levelled the playing field in so many ways, and that was something that I found challenging personally. My dilemma was: how to meet people the “old fashioned way” since apps are not a personal preference to meet new people,” says Meena. To navigate the digital universe, it will serve you well to familiarize yourself with the rules and protocol of dating apps and websites. Ask a younger friend, colleague or family member to understand this.
Fast or slow
Start with coffee, it is a smaller commitment than dinner, because you have an exit strategy if the date doesn’t go too well. Avoid drinking on the first date, other then lowering inhibitions, it may also impair your ability to gauge what your date is all about. It is also not advisable to get physically intimate after a few dates. Instead spend time to get to know each other and understand whether there is long-term potential. One of the best ways to get to know each other is to take a trip together. But remember, it can be make or break, it is a high risk, high return strategy. The pace of the relationship should be something that you should be comfortable with.
About the ex
Be wary when talking about your ex. The topic of the ex, and what went wrong is bound to come up, and it is important not to skirt the issue. But it must be handled delicately. Be under no pressure to divulge all the details, but do so slowly, after investing in the process of getting to know each other, and building trust. Another thing to avoid? Comparing your dates to your ex. Whether you tell your date about the comparison or think it in your head, both can have serious repercussions. When considering a new partner, you don’t have to find someone who is the polar opposite of your ex. But at the same time don’t pick anybody who’s similar, especially when it comes to the negative traits.
“When you start looking to date again, go with the understanding that you are bound to fancy someone and that person might not reciprocate those feelings.”
Be ready to be rejected
One of the reasons why a lot of couples remain in unhappy marriages and those who are divorced don’t start dating is the fear of rejection. When you start looking to date again, go with the understanding that you are bound to fancy someone and that person might not reciprocate those feelings. For Ashok, this happened twice before he met somebody and started dating. “One fortunately was in the first week and we hadn’t met yet just chatted and spoken on the phone. The second one I met, but maybe wasn’t interested. I justified it as she was probably busy since she did say that,” says Ashok. Be prepared to be rejected. Also, in case you date somebody and they like you, but you don’t like them, let them know without hurting their feelings.
Introducing your date to your children?
If you have children, take your time to introduce them to your date, get comfortable with the idea before doing so. Firstly, it might make your date uncomfortable, and consider that children tend to become emotionally attached faster than adults. If the budding relationship doesn’t work out, you will have to deal with the broken hearts of your children, and yours. Introducing them to your children or parents should happen after you are sure that there is potential for a long-term commitment.