No matter where you are in life, dating is always tricky. It was overwhelming in high school, complex in college, and even more layered as an adult—and that’s if you’ve never been married before. If you’re a 30-something navigating dating after a divorce, then meeting someone new can come with an entirely different slew of challenges.
“The average age for first-time marriage in the U.S. is 27 for women and 29 for men, so people can stigmatize someone for being in their 30s and already be divorced,” says psychologist Kelly Campbell. “This stigma could cause a person to wonder whether there is something wrong with them for having divorced at a young age, and their self-esteem could suffer.”
Meet the Expert
Dr. Kelly Campbell, P.h.D. is a psychology professor at California State University, San Bernardino, and a licensed psychologist.
Our advice? Don't give up and try your hardest not to take any dating failures personally. Dating is tough no matter your situation, but as long as you are hopeful and positive, you will find someone you can connect with. Campbell says that finding love post-divorce is challenging—as dating is, of course—but it's not impossible. We asked her to describe the mindset and approach someone in this position should have if they're ready to start dating again, and her tips should make a tricky situation feel more manageable.
Get in the Right Mindset
"People who have gone through a divorce should work to ensure that the issues they faced in their previous relationship are not affecting their outlook on subsequent relationships," Dr. Campbell advises. "When people avoid or bury the pain, there is a risk that those issues will continue to affect them and their relationships in the future." It's hard to move forward when you haven't fully processed the emotional injuries from your marriage. Before you take the plunge and download a dating app or ask your friends to set you up with someone, make sure you are actually ready to date.
If you're not sure whether or not you're going on a date with someone because you feel like it's time or because you're excited at the prospect of meeting someone, try asking yourself a few key questions. Chief among those questions: Does the idea of opening up to someone new sound exciting or scary?
Address Your Previous Marriage
"When people approach the topic of their previous marriage, they should do so without feeling ashamed. The divorce is a part of who they are, and if a prospective partner can't accept that, then they aren't a good fit," Dr. Campbell admits. That said, you should not feel obligated to divulge every detail of your and your ex's split. The best thing to do is to tell your potential new partner sooner rather than later. In our opinion, the longer you wait, the more you may feel like this information is weighing on you, and it could start to feel like you're hiding something, which puts a lot of pressure on you.
Keep an Open Mind
"Allow yourself to experience new things, and don't stay stuck on one type of romantic partner just because that's what you sought in the past," Dr. Campbell notes. Think about it: If you married someone who perfectly fit your "type," you may have to come to terms with the fact that that type of person isn't right for you because you ended up splitting.
That said, you don't have to force yourself to go out with people you know you probably won't get along with, but stray at least a little bit outside your comfort zone. You may end up meeting someone you never thought you'd be so happy with.
"This is, by far, the number one thing people should be doing as they date again," Dr. Campbell emphasizes. It makes sense, too. Even if you maintained a strong sense of individuality during your marriage, you probably still identified as part of a couple. For instance, when you were married, you probably wouldn't have gone on a trip without your spouse. However, now that you're no longer married get back to doing things that make you happy before you start to identify as part of a couple again.