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The stages of divorce you can't pass if you want to find true love again

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How do you know you're completely over a relationship and ready to dip your toes into the dating pool?

I'm glad you asked and since you did, it means you're already a step closer to being ready. Being aware of your needs and not afraid of taking a risk shows a boatload of courage on your part. Need I say, "You'll need that in the dating pool!"?

As I meandered through the murky waters of singledom after 15 years of marital bliss (or denial), I often wondered, "When will I be ready to find love again?"

Everyone has a different time frame for repairing their heart, but here are some steps you should go through:

I once met a woman in a bar who had similar experiences in life, love, marriage, family and divorce. She had about a decade on me in age, but our hardships were parallel, and comical. We even joked (seriously) that we should write a book together: Me being the ghostwriter for multiple projects, she having the "ghetto attitude" that apparently white women didn't have in relationships.

She said, "Girl, you put up with that because you're white. If you were a black woman, you would have gave him a piece of your mind."

Maybe she was right, but there are certain similarities in divorcees lives that go beyond race, age, ethnic background, religion or how assertive you were in your relationship.

Here is a list of stages you should go through after divorce before you can make a "healthy" relationship:

  1. Stage 0: Ground zero, "shock." It's too soon to even think about dating when reality hits and you're still in shock about your world turning upside down. Loss is loss even if you saw it coming, you initiated the divorce or were on the receiving end of not-so-welcome news.
  2. Stage 1: Grieving. It may only be the end of your marriage, but it's a loss just like losing a loved one... wait, you did lose a loved one: your spouse. Go ahead and follow the five stages of the grieving process (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finally moving on). Anything you do at this stage (put on 10 pounds or lose 15) is expected and necessary to go to the next stage. Embrace it, since you've graduated the trial of divorce!
  3. Stage 2: Need to re-establish attraction. My bar mate and I agreed that a necessary part of divorce is making sure that you're still attractive to the opposite sex, especially if you've been a "mommy" to several kiddos who see you anything but sexy. In this stage, one-night stands, casual flings and meaningless hookups are the norm to be sure you are still noticed as a sexual being in any age group.
  4. Stage 3: The rebellion to casual sex stage. I called this my "man diet," but there are several versions: "relationship hiatus, dating lite, celibacy, non-dating," and a slew of other related phrases. The main point is: You've been burned by the reality that there are people that will have sex with you, even though you're still grieving in some ways, and jerks would take advantage of your generosity/vulnerability. And you got angry... so angry that you decided to "quit" taking part in being treated like an object. Let them eat cake!
  5. Stage 4: Re-establishing trust in casual affairs or the possibility of a relationship. Part of growing post-divorce is accepting that nothing is set in stone and expectations are relationship-killers. You start to appreciate that casual affairs are just as important in your life as the meaningful ones. In fact, you may just discover something about your sexuality during the previous stages you never knew of during your marriage, making you much more choosey when it comes to new relationships.
  6. Stage 5: Need for a deeper connection. This is when (even though you enjoy your little sexual trysts) are aware that a piece of candy doesn't satisfy you like a thick cut of steak. That steak is your deeper connection in a consistent fashion. Monogamy du Jour. You crave someone more lasting than the quick fling or young meat served your way.
  7. Stage 6: The real deal. It's said that you find love when you're not looking for it. But in reality, we are always looking for it even when we're in a relationship and are missing it. When you come in with no expectations for a relationship and are OK with whatever your fling or possible relationship bring, you're ready for true love. After all, you've probably been to the puppet show and know the consequences of those who make promises they can't deliver. The final stage is all about being fine with whatever happens with this new prospect: Dating or casual fling, relationship or pleasure for tonight.... it's all good.

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