Opening your heart to love again after divorce can be a beautiful experience for you and your children when you take a little time to pause first. Have you ever asked yourself if you are emotionally available for a healthy relationship after just ending another? I wasn’t, and I didn’t initially give myself the time I needed before connecting with a new partner, which caused me more pain. It’s been three years since my divorce, and I haven’t dated again. My ex-husband didn’t take the time to pause either, which hurt not only me and our children but also the woman he dated and her children. So, for my single moms out there, I know you may be considering a new boo, but I’d like to invite you to pause before dating after divorce. Here are some things to think about even before that first hello.

Here is a little tip. Just pause and focus on YOU! Relationships are difficult. 

What I Learned About Dating After DivorceMy First Dating After Divorce Mistake 

It doesn’t matter if your past relationship lasted 10 years, 10 months, or 10 days. Take a pause! The best thing you can do after ending a partnership is remember how to love yourself. This is especially true when you may have been lost or wounded by the relationship. Giving yourself a moment to pause allows you to reflect and reset before dating again. And that will help you, your kids, and your future relationships. I wish someone had helped me understand the importance of this kind of self-reflective pause. 

My situation is complex because neither of us actually wanted a divorce. However, sometimes an individual’s pain or unresolved trauma from past experiences can negatively impact the ability to maintain healthy relationships. And before the ink was even dry on our divorce, my ex and I were in new “situation-ships,” both heartbroken and still in love. That’s not the best way to start any new relationship. 

I had known my new love interest for 15 years before we reconnected. I was distracted by the novelty, the deep conversations, and the fun I was having getting out of my mom and wife comfort zone. I neglected to see the band-aid I had put on my pain. I even allowed myself to envision my new lover playing with my boys, helping them with their schoolwork, and providing calm for me during their sibling chaos. What was I thinking? 

Hurt People, Hurt People

I had no idea what being in a relationship with this man would be like or what type of role model or father figure he could be for my children. He said everything I needed to hear and looked at me in ways I had longed for. He helped me feel appreciated and safe. Something that had been missing in my life. I didn’t realize he was filling the gap of a door I hadn’t fully closed with my ex. And just as I started to like him more, he moved on to another single mom to repeat his pattern–one that I had been completely unaware of. 

Ultimately, he didn’t stay around long enough to meet my kids, which was divine intervention because, in the end, he turned out not to be such a nice person. They say, “Hurt people, hurt people,” and this is something he and I learned in our time together. We also lost all connection when we could’ve potentially maintained a friendship had we not dated. 

How Dating After Divorce Affected My Co-Parenting 

My ex made the mistake of getting involved with a single mom who was yearning for family, unhealed from her previous abusive marriage, and unaware of who my ex really was. Not only did he introduce her to our kids too soon, he didn’t tell me he was doing so in advance, which is never okay. Not communicating something so monumental will affect the health of any co-parenting relationship and potentially impact the children’s mental health. So each parent should have a say. 

To say I lost it would be an understatement! Yes, I am a professional woman and a therapist who helps others learn emotional regulation. But I am also human, and my fierce maternal instinct surfaced seeing my children in tears of confusion and hurt. The inner-city girl from Detroit came out like a mother grizzly bear. 

Not surprisingly, the situation between them didn’t last long either. As I’ve mentioned, my ex and I were still healing and hurting, still very much in love. His new partner also never paused after her previous relationship ended. While receiving very little gratitude in return, she consistently gave and tried to buy his and our children’s love. Those efforts didn’t save their relationship. 

It’s been over a year since that happened, and our children are still recovering. 

How I Gave Myself the Gift of Time

There is no shame in being a single mom. There is also no shame in choosing not to date. Allowing yourself to heal, work out co-parenting rules with your ex, and let any potential drama settle is one of the most brave and selfless things you can do. 

Give yourself time. And eventually, you may feel ready to start exploring relationships again. 

You are the only one who can determine how much time you need to move forward. I have had to consciously choose to give myself the time I should have taken before. I’m currently working on healing, communication, co-parenting, and my professional life. I’m building stronger bonds with my children and showing up for myself! I am living an unashamed single life, focused on understanding my emotions and heart before I ever share them with someone else again. So again, I invite you to pause before going from divorce to dating again. Your future self will thank you. 

If your child/children are showing signs that the separation from their father is difficult to express, consider individual or family counseling to support their adjustment to your new lives and, eventually, your new partner.