The Ultimate Guide To Dating During Divorce

If you’re going through the divorce process, dating might be the furthest thing from your mind. Or it might be seriously tempting! Either way, there’s no judgement from me. 

Your divorce journey is unique to you, as is your decision about dating. If you are considering getting out on the dating scene, though, there are plenty of legal and emotional implications to consider. So here you have the ultimate guide to dating during divorce.

Let’s look at the legal implications first.

The grounds for divorce

Your dating activity could be classed as adultery as defined as ‘a husband or wife having sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex’. (That’s right – you can’t legally commit adultery in a same sex marriage or civil partnership!).

What are the implications? Well, it means your soon-to-be-ex-husband could cite adultery as the grounds for divorce. Does this mean you will be penalised by the courts for being the adulterer? No. The court does not serve moral judgement on the parties petitioning to divorce.

But there may be financial implications for other reasons – read on…

It may affect financial disclosure

If you enter into a stable relationship with someone else the court will want to know whether you co-habit or intend to co-habit. Even if you don’t co-habit but a regularly a part of each other’s households, this may have an impact on any spousal maintenance arrangements and financial settlements. 

Your new partner’s financial circumstances will be taken into account by a judge, as they relate to your financial needs. For example, if you move in with a new partner and share living costs, the court may consider your needs less than if you were managing those costs alone. 

Don’t be tempted to hide information from the court – it may result in penalties, and in the disclosure process being repeated, which raises the cost in time and money for everyone. But you may want to delay taking a fledgling relationship to a more serious level until your divorce is settled. 

Now let’s look at the emotional considerations.

Make sure you’re emotionally ready

You might find solicitors advise you to steer clear of dating entirely while your divorce is processed. But, with many divorces taking years, is that realistic for you? Dating can bring an injection of fun and confidence into your life, if done on your terms. 

So I’m not here to judge you if you want to hit the dating scene. But it is important to make sure you’re emotionally ready. 

If you are still in the midst of grief or anger about your marriage, wait awhile before dipping your toe in the water. You want your new dating adventure to be about your present and your future, not your past. So make sure you’re not spending all your time processing what’s happened in your marriage.

Keep it light

It might be tempting to run headlong into a new serious relationship, but aim to keep it fun and light hearted. As we’ve seen, there are financial implications if you enter a stable relationship with another before your divorce is finalised. 

Perhaps even more importantly, divorce is a stressful time. Time you need to take for yourself. Dating can either bring you fun, energy and confidence, or it can take it away. So make sure you don’t head for more emotional heartache while you’re feeling vulnerable.

Put boundaries in place

Before you put yourself out there, whether via dating apps, your friends or simply at the pub, think about how to stay safe. When I talk about safety I mean physically and emotionally. Stay in control of your decision-making and only agree to plans you’re entirely comfortable with.

Be wary of giving away too much personal information at once. Suggest meeting in a busy place, with an exit plan if needed. And let a trusted friend know what you’re up to. You can find more dating safety tips here. 

Watch out for red flags

Remember, you don’t owe anyone anything on your date. You don’t owe them good conversation, sex, information – anything. So, if you feel off about someone, make your goodbyes and leave. 

As you get to know your date, watch out for red flags. These might be them talking about their own ex-partner relentlessly (potentially a sign they haven’t moved on, or are obsessional). They might press you to get too serious too soon – remember you are in control. If they’re laying it on think after day one, it might indicate neediness, or the sort of ‘love bombing’ that narcissistic personality types employ to gain control of a relationship. 

Trust your gut. Remember, the main relationship you’re developing thorough your dating adventures is with yourself. Every date you go on will teach you more about what fun feels like to you, the sort of person you like to be with, who lifts you and who brings you down. So don’t worry if your dates flop. They’re not failures at all – they’re valuable lessons in being you again. 

Keep your date and your divorce separate

Just as it’s a red flag if your date is constantly talking about their ex, make sure you don’t focus on yours. Yes, divorce is a major part of your life right now. But it doesn’t need to be the centre of every interaction you have, especially with a potential new beau. So be honest about your circumstances, but don’t let divorce dominate. And don’t use your new date as your main processing partner for all the trials and tribulations your soon-to-be-ex and the divorce process are putting you through. Keep things light. 

Let your ex-spouse know tactfully

Breaking the news you’re seeing someone else can be like throwing a hand grenade into your relationship with your ex-spouse. But there are ways to minimise the damage.

Make sure you tell them yourself. It makes sense to know that your new relationship has legs before you break the news, otherwise you could stir up trouble for no reason. But don’t leave it so long that your ex-spouse hears it on the grapevine. That’s only going to lead to more resentment and bad feeling.

Keep calm and cool. You don’t want to rub salt into the wounds with your overwhelming joy and happiness – it won’t do your divorce any favours. But neither do you need to be the person who’s there for them as they process the news. It’s likely your ex-spouse will be shaken. And while you don’t want to make things worse, you don’t have to be the one to help pick up the pieces either. 

Just as we’ve seen how it’s important to keep your date out of your divorce, ensure that any divorce communication you have with your soon-to-be-ex doesn’t include your new partner either. Keep them separate. 

If you have children

Introducing your children to a new partner can be one of the most emotive aspects of divorced life. It’s wise to wait until you’re confident that your new partner is here to stay – if not for good, then at least for a good while. 

Tell your children while you’re alone. Don’t have your new partner with you at that first meeting. This gives your children more space to respond honestly – which might include some difficult emotions. 

Just as when you told your children you were separating, reassure them that this new relationship doesn’t change anything about how much you love them. Let them know that this new person will become more a part of your life, but that you’ll always be there for the children. 

Answer any questions as honestly as possible – that includes admitting when you don’t know the answer! If you have plans to co-habit, make sure your children are as involved as is age-appropriate. CBBC has a children’s drama called Millie In-between that might be helpful viewing for older children. 

Judge and jury

Once the news is out that you’re divorcing it can feel like you’re public property, with everyone having an opinion. That goes double when a new partner’s in the mix!

Remember that your true friends will stick with your thorough thick and thin. That doesn’t mean they’ll instantly like your new partner, but they won’t throw you to the wolves for dating before your divorce is finalised. 

As a side note, if everyone around you hates your new beau, just take a moment to consider why. It might be that you’re so in the throes of passion and excitement that you haven’t spotted you’ve got a narcissist or other suspicious character on your hands. 

If you are unfortunate enough to have judgey friends, stay away from them! Whatever they might think about your dates, you want your friends to stand by YOU.

Need a circle you can trust? 

Come and join us in The Absolute Academy! We won’t judge you for any dating escapades, whenever you have them. And if dating’s the furthest thing from your mind we won’t judge you for that either!

The sole focus of all the women in The Absolute Academy is getting divorce done their way. Not their soon-too-be-ex’s way. Not their solicitor’s way. Not my way, even! You’ll get all the support, legal information, advice, resources and courage you need to see your divorce through and live life on your terms again. 

Come and join us here. 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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