Sooner or later most people do venture into dating after divorce … we’re hard-wired for companionship … but you can start dating too soon.
Kyle Bradford, my current guest has been divorced for nine years and is now engaged to be married to his Queen. Based on his own experience of dating after divorce, Kyle advises waiting a year before starting date. Here’s Kyle:
I broke a lot of women’s hearts.
I’ve been a very successful person in the course of my career. I’ve been very blessed in that respect. I’ve got two great kids, I look relatively young for my age, I consider myself to be somewhat charismatic and once I get over the initial introduction, I can talk to anybody. I think that that has something to do with it. And I’ll say this. I preyed upon some of the most vulnerable women.
I was not a nice person. I would often prey upon the single mothers who probably didn’t have a lot of confidence in themselves, because they were single moms and whatever and I would show them a good time and invariably within a month or two months into the relationship, they would want something else and I would be done, because I wasn’t ready. It is a very unfortunate thing that over the course of those early years that I made some of the mistakes that I made and I hate that.
It’s something that I’m going to have to continue to deal with, because I’m a very smooth talker and I can kind of talk my way out of anything, but at the end of the day, you can’t hide what’s going on inside of you and you can’t lie about that. The truth always comes out. And quite frankly, I was using these women. If I had a man or men in my life speaking to me, saying, “You need to really reconsider what you’re doing here,” I’m convinced I would not have made some of those choices.
I did not have to leave dead bodies along the way and obviously I mean that metaphorically. I remember to this day and I’m not going to even lie about this. I remember when I got divorced, the online dating thing had really started to come out of the closet. It wasn’t seen as socially unacceptable anymore. Quite frankly, I felt that it was like shooting fish in a barrel. I remember one weekend, I kid you not, I had eight dates over four days.
I couldn’t even keep up with all of them and unfortunately, it was that type of thing. I lied quite often. When a married man gets divorced, he invariably goes in one of two directions. He either becomes the old hermit who doesn’t go anywhere or do anything or he goes back and tries to relive his 20’s again. I tried to do the latter.
About two years after my divorce I got into a relationship with a woman, we lasted for 18 months. That relationship ended rather abruptly and it wasn’t because of anything between me and her. I started to see things within her children that were impacting my kids from a behavior prospective and knew that it wasn’t going to get any better for her, so the relationship ended.
For the next year, I went back to my old way and then about six months into that one year span, I hit probably the lowest point that I’ve ever been in my life. I was to the point from a dating prospective, I did not know what I wanted. I just knew that if I did not have some sort of relationship, I did not feel whole. I did not feel like a man if somebody was not dangling from my arm.
Call it providence, call it my consciousness, if you will, whatever the case may be, the message got to me that I needed to look and re-evaluate my entire life and what I was basing my priorities on, what I was basing my manhood on. I spent the rest of that year in deep reflection. I mean deep reflection. I’ve always called it my “emotional winter.”
I went through that emotional winter and I came out the other side a different person than I was before. I finally was able to realize why I had done some of the things that I did, why I was attracted and why I found myself connecting with some of the women that I was connecting with.
Fortunately, during this entire several year disaster, I was able to keep my kids separate from my personal life. I literally lived as the parent and then I lived as the rock star single guy, but neither of those two met. I can only be thankful I was able to hide my mistakes behind their nap time. That’s all it was, their naivety. So many dads don’t have that and I talk about the fact that when you screw up and when you’ve got a kid that’s 11, 12 years old, they’re going to see everything you do.
I, fortunately, was able to mess up and not have that problem. But I came out of the emotional winter a completely different person, completely different set of priorities. My head was fixed and looking in a completely different direction and I shortly thereafter met “the Queen,” who I write about all the time.
The Divorce Coach Says
I do agree with Kyle in waiting to date after divorce until you have a better sense of who you are and like who you are.* I don’t think you have to wait until you have complete clarity on that – dating may help bring that clarity but you’ll definitely want to wait before you commit to another serious relationship.
It’s difficult to give a specific time frame for waiting. I don’t think you can say wait 12 months from the date your divorce becomes final because your emotional journey follows a separate path from your legal process. It could be that you’ve been considering divorce for many years and you’ve done much of that self-work before you and your spouse actually separate. In this situation you may be ready to date far sooner than someone who was surprised and shocked with the serving of divorce papers.
Even being done with the legal process isn’t necessarily a good guide – if your divorce is in litigation then that could go on for a long time. Some states have mandatory separation periods prior to divorce and you may not want to wait that long before dating.
Whatever your decision on timing, I feel very strongly that you need to be honest about your marital status to anyone you’re dating and if you’re not prepared to do that, then you’re not ready to date.
And btw … much of the conversation around dating after divorce is about “how soon.” But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with deciding you’re not interested. Date because you want to, not because you should. There’s no need to rush.
*If you’re feeling lost, uncertain, feel that you don’t know who you are anymore, then I have a free download – 14 Ways To Get To Know Yourself – available when you subscribe to receive email updates. Just enter your email address here:
Kyle Bradford is a divorced father and founder of the website ChopperPapa, ‘High octane observations on manhood, divorce, relationships, fatherhood, and other intellectual roadkill’. He also hosts a monthly podcast, FatherhoodWideOpen, ‘Intelligent conversation on issues facing fatherhood and masculinity with the people who think and write on them.’ He lives, writes, and works in Atlanta, Georgia.
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