Dating after divorce can be challenging for parents regardless of the amount of time that has went by since the separation. Many people ask, "how long should I wait," or "am I wrong for not waiting longer?" The fact is, how long you should wait to date varies by individuals and circumstance.
There are a variety of dating after divorce tips (e.g., marriage.com, divorcemag.com) or "are you ready" quizzes online (e.g., Are you ready). It's helpful to read these resources as they can help you to think about things you did as you ponder getting back on the scene.
Individuals who get divorced often have this fantasy that dating or remarriage after their first divorce will be easier because they're older and wiser or know more about what to look for or what they want and don't in relationships. However, the reality is about half of all marriages end in divorce, and divorce rates increase with remarriages (e.g, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Psychological Association - APA ). Further, research has shown that individuals who remarry with children are at greater risk for relationship dissolution (e.g., see APA and Teachman).
You have gone through a lot with marital conflict, separation, and or divorce. Some things to think about before dating again:
How is your current emotional and mental health?
How have you grown since you were separated or divorced?
How have you changed?
How will this relationship be different?
Have you had time to learn to love yourself again?
How could your relationship with this person impact the health of your children?
Some therapists will say that you need at least 1 year. Yet, for some, a year may not be enough...while others believe they are ready to date in 6 months. This may also differ based on who was "the leaver" and who was "the left" (e.g., see Dr. Robert Emery's The truth about children after divorce: Dealing with the Emotions so you and your children can thrive). Give yourself some time to find yourself, get into new routines, and learn things about yourself that you never knew. According to Dr. Emery, one way you may know you're ready to date is "when you’re ready to tell other people–including your ex and your children–that you’re dating…Beginning to date after divorce is kind of like unprotected sex: You shouldn’t start doing it unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences.”
Some issues step or blended families may experience include
children's adjustments or fears (e.g., of being unloved or replaced)
grief over losing original family
uncertainty of family relationships or the future
changes in rules and expectations
exposure to conflict with the coparent, and
space or room sharing with new family members
Here are a few resources for dating and blended families:
Anderson, C. (2018). 14 Tips for dating after divorce.
Chapman, G., & Deal, R. L. (2020). Building love together in blended families: The 5 love languages and becoming stepfamily smart.
Gaspard, T. (2016). The Gottman Institute- 10 Rules for a Successful Second Marriage
National Stepfamily Resource Center. This information is provided by faculty at Auburn University who provide practical ideas based on current research and practice. Many different resources including a free online training for stepparents, lists of local support groups and many things to read.
Smart Stepfamilies, a site managed by Ron Deal, a family therapist who is also on the National Stepfamily Resource Center Board of Directors. This material has a Christian perspective, however, Deal also blends research evidence and best clinical practice into his advice. Videos, groups, daily podcasts, books and many other helpful resources for stepfamilies.