Life After Divorce: Are You Ready for a New Relationship?

A guy kissing a girl on the cheek on a busy street.

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Maybe you're newly divorced, just having gone through the tumult. Or perhaps you've been out of the dating scene for a while now. Either way, you're now finding yourself at the stage where you want to date and/or build a new relationship with someone new. But how do you know you're really ready?

Knowing when to embark on a new relationship after divorce means that you must know yourself—and your healthy (and unhealthy) relationship patterns. And being ready doesn't just mean that you're physically primed to be intimate with someone. It also means being mentally and emotionally set, too. Here's how to know whether you can embark on another, healthier relationship right now or if you need to take further steps to get there.

Attitude Is Everything

Being able to look on the bright side of your past experiences is crucial to moving on in a healthy way. The end of a marriage is by no means an easy thing to get over, but if you let it destroy you by holding on to painful feelings and resentments, then you'll always be stuck in the past and unable to truly move forward. (And the longer you hang onto them, the more difficult it is to pull yourself out of that rut.)

Negative post-divorce feelings are natural: Allow yourself to feel them, and then go about processing them in a proactive way. Yes, divorce is an ending but it also opens doors to new beginnings. Instead of dwelling on old injuries, examine what's possible for the future you. Once you can do this, you're not only surviving, but thriving, and you'll be truly ready to embark on a fulfilling new relationship.

Accept Responsibility

You know the saying, "It takes two to tango"? Well, neither party is completely blameless in a divorce. Playing the victim won't get you anywhere, and any new relationship is unable to stand on such a foundation. A victim's mentality dictates that you had zero control over what happened in your marriage—and it will never, ever deliver the closure you need. Taking responsibility for your mistakes, and accepting the divorce for what it is, empowers you and enables you to close the door on that emotional baggage you've been carrying. If you don't, you'll only drag your past torments into your next relationship (and so on).

We all have our regrets: Maybe you weren't the best communicator, you acted poorly, cheated, or what have you. (Or, worse yet, you think your role had absolutely no bearing on the breakup.) If you're still pointing fingers at your ex and blaming them for everything under the sun, you're still essentially trapped in your past marriage and you're the one who's suffering.

Personal Growth Prevails

It takes determination and a willingness to heal old wounds before anyone—let alone a divorcé(e)—can be emotionally available to start a new relationship. The people who are most able to move on to rich, rewarding lives after their divorces are the ones who've taken ample time to properly restore, and work on, themselves.

"Holding onto regrets and bitterness will only keep your life from moving forward. Is your inner voice working overtime with all the “what ifs” and “if onlys”? asks Dr. Mark Banschick. This is normal for a period of time, but ask yourself… are these thoughts serving me or helping me feel better? 

Taking stock, being honest with yourself about your own shortcomings, owning the role you played in the demise of your marriage, and working to make necessary adjustments all prepare you for success in your next relationship.

Practice Forgiveness

Until you have let go of any bitterness, fury, and animosity you have toward your ex, you have absolutely nothing to offer to a new relationship. Yes, forgiveness is quite a loaded concept—and it's often easier said than done. But forgiving an ex doesn't mean you must actually tell them you've done so. Rather, it has to do with the release of the toxic emotions you're harboring—whether for your ex or yourself. Whenever we hold onto hostility, we emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically stunt ourselves and a newer, healthier relationship cannot be realized.

Nurture Yourself

Divorce simply marks the death of a marriage. But you're still very much alive. It's important that you not only show yourself some compassion but that you also nurture the inner and outer you.

Ensuring you're getting good sleep, ample exercise, and eating healthfully is a great start. Practicing self-care, too, works wonders: Facials, massages, and meditation relax us and stimulate emotional release. Likewise, getting back with friends, finding a post-divorce support group, and/or talking to a therapist—all forms of self-love—will also help tremendously if you're still unable to fully let go. Be kind to yourself: You only have one you.

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