One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from clients during the divorce process (especially a long, drawn out process) is “when can I start dating again?”
My answer, like many answers, is “it depends.”
It depends on a lot of different factors, such as:
• how long have you been separated?
• are their minor children involved?
• how old are the children?
• is a party seeking alimony?
No matter what the case may be for you, if you are going through a divorce and are thinking about dating someone, I suggest you consider the following, before making a decision:
Dating during divorce can negatively affect your ability to settle your case.
It doesn’t matter that your spouse cheated on you 100 times while you were married, and this is the first time you have even considered going for coffee with someone else.
No one cares that your divorce case has dragged on for well over a year.
It makes no difference whether you are actually sleeping with a new partner or not.
Unless your spouse is as calm and spiritually evolved as a zen master, when they find out you are dating someone else, it’s going to feel like they’ve been sucker-punched in the gut. That, in turn, will make dealing with your spouse MUCH harder. It will also make settling your case amicably much more challenging.
Dating during divorce can negatively affect the AMOUNT of spousal support you receive.
Under the law, you are considered to be legally married until a judge officially divorces you. If you are having sex with someone else before you are divorced, technically, you are committing adultery.
If you live in a state that still recognizes fault in divorce (Maryland does), then your adultery may affect your ability to receive spousal support. It may also reduce the amount of spousal support you receive.
Also, if you are living with your new love, you might as well kiss your chances of receiving spousal support goodbye.
Dating during divorce can negatively affect your parenting arrangement.
When you and your spouse are trying to make a parenting plan, each of you usually assumes that the other will be alone with the children during your scheduled parenting time. When that changes, making a parenting plan can suddenly get way more complicated.
It is not unusual for the non-dating parent to feel like they have already been replaced by the “other person.” That makes them even less cooperative about giving up any time with the kids.
What’s more, the non-dating parent now not only worries about how the dating parent will raise the kids, but how the dating parent’s new squeeze will affect the kids, too!
All of this makes reaching a reasonable parenting agreement infinitely more difficult.
Dating during divorce can negatively affect your kids.
Going through a divorce takes as much time and energy as a full-time job. If you already have a full time job (which you obviously need to keep because now you really need the money), that already leaves you with precious little time for your kids.
Yet, your kids probably need more of your time and attention now than they did before. Remember, they are trying to deal with their own emotions about the divorce. They are trying to navigate their own “new family.” They are trying to adjust to their own new reality.
New relationships, even casual dating relationships, take time … often a LOT of time. That means that you will have even less time and attention left for your kids.
You may think that your kids won’t care. Don’t kid yourself. They will.
No matter how much you may tell yourself that if you are happier, you will be a better parent, the truth is, you need time. You have to have the time, energy, and enough emotional bandwidth to take care of your kids.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Dating during divorce distracts you from dealing with your own emotional stuff.
A new relationship might seem like exactly what you need to forget about your pain. Nothing is as exciting (or distracting) as a new romance.
The problem is that, no matter how long you may have been thinking about divorce, or how dead your marriage may be, while you are going through a divorce, you are still not at your best. You’re not truly yourself.
In order to move on from your marriage, you have to deal with your emotions. Like it or not, you have to let yourself feel the pain, anger, sadness, and other emotions you feel. You have to take the time, and do the work, needed to allow you to truly heal your wounds.
Otherwise, you will simply repeat the same mistakes in your new relationship that you made in your marriage.
Hiding your pain in a new romance may feel great for awhile, but, ultimately, it is nothing more than a temporary anesthetic. What’s more, once the romance fades, or the new relationship ends, you may find yourself picking up even more pieces of your shattered self than you had before you let yourself get swept away.