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Psychological Facts About Dating After Divorce

by Jill Avery-Stoss

Divorce can be stressful at best and devastating at worst. Entire families are impacted. There is emotional, financial and even social turmoil -- potential relocation and distancing from friends, schools and workplaces. When these effects have been integrated into the lives of those immediately involved, one or both divorcees may begin dating. While the desire for new romance is generally reasonable and expected, it requires a period of adjustment.

Reintegration into the World of Dating

While socialization continues after you are settled into a marriage, the dynamics of a new romantic relationship become unnecessary to maintain. After couples divorce, however, they face the daunting task of readjusting to the dating world. For instance, a woman married in the 1980s at age 20 may be taken aback by the development of Internet dating. Potential dates are likely to be older and established in their careers. They may have ex-spouses, children and custody issues. Adulthood is no longer new.

Self-Esteem Struggles

Recovering from a separation that was tumultuous or even abusive can be exhausting and traumatizing, according to Esther Giller, president of the Sidran Institute, which provides traumatic stress education and advocacy. Giller points out that trauma can occur whenever your ability to manage stress becomes overwhelmed. Some effects of trauma -- decreased self-esteem, anxiety and fear of rejection -- can accompany you into the world of dating if not adequately addressed. You can manage these issues by seeing a counselor, developing healthy means of coping, exercising self-care, communicating assertively and setting firm, healthy personal boundaries.

Your Relationship Value

"Social Pricing" is a term coined by David Anderson, associate professor of economics at Centre College in Danville, Ky., in his article for Psychology Today, "Dating After Divorce." This means that you adjust your standards based on your own perceived value. For example, if you are caught in a rut of self-doubt and unsure of your ability to contribute to a relationship, you may inadvertently lower your standards and date someone with whom you would not normally be comfortable. You decrease or misinterpret your social value. Anderson writes that, "The more you have to offer in a relationship, the more you can expect in return, thus increasing your appropriate social price."

Motivation for Dating

Divorce can be harmful to your confidence because it can be perceived as a failure, according to Richard Kennedy, relationship coach and creator of RelationshipPsychology.com. Kennedy encourages divorcees to give themselves time to rebuild their confidence before dating. Otherwise, you may look for a partner to help ease loneliness and pain or to make you feel attractive and desirable. While these might be understandable motivations to date casually, neglecting your needs is unhealthy and can hinder your ability to contribute to a relationship.

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

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