By Guest Blogger Clare Jordan

Today’s post is the second post in a four-part series that explores lessons learned through divorcing, dating, remarrying, and blending two families. If you missed Part I, click HERE. Stay tuned for Part III!

Becoming suddenly single, for really the first time since college, is a very strange thing.

Like most things, it’s different for everyone, but for me, once all the big decisions were made and the initial paperwork was signed, I was ready! Ready for what? –  I didn’t know exactly.

In my mind, I was considering it “The Year of Clare.” I wasn’t looking to make any commitments to anyone else (other than my three girls, of course).

I remember when I told my father that we were divorcing, he had two big concerns:

  1. He felt that my former spouse had been a “good provider,” and as my father, he was naturally concerned about my well-being.
  2. He told me regarding dating and my future, “You have baggage.” I was so taken aback and surprised by his comment. “Baggage,” I said. “By that, do you mean children?”

I’ve never seen myself (or my children) as a potential burden to anyone I might meet, and I was interested and willing to see what the rest of my life might hold in an eventual new relationship. I’ve always pictured myself as part of a loving family, and didn’t see any reason why my divorce should change that. And here is a key piece to my dating: I let it be known that I was interested in meeting people, and that I wanted to be married again someday.

My oldest daughter was 13, and my twins were 9 at the time of our divorce. While there is no such thing as a “good time” to divorce for your children, they were very understanding and resilient throughout, even including seeing their mother date.

I had several dates early on, but frankly none of them were memorable or particularly impressionable to me. I’ve always met people easily and was willing to go almost anywhere with some sense of adventure in my newfound freedom. I never tried online dating or any form of matchmaking, but didn’t mind asking friends to think of me for potential introductions. In this case, it is important to take the lead in letting other people know what you are thinking and what you want.

Given our custody schedule, I could arrange dates for evenings when my girls were not home, so they saw very little of their mom’s dating life. I had fun meeting people, and I made it clear that I wasn’t looking for anything serious; just wanted to meet people and enjoy life.

A close friend asked me a good question that I think anyone newly single should consider: what do you want in a mate? I didn’t have to give it much thought to answer, partially because I’d come to know so well what I didn’t want. I think I had my sights set high, but I also recognized there is no such thing as the perfect man, and I was willing to meet a few frogs to find my prince.

In my case, it definitely proved true that you meet the one you’re meant to meet when you are not looking. (This sounds so cliché, but it was true for me!)

A long-time friend once mentioned a friend of his who he thought I should meet sometime. Eventually this friend and I met, and realized we shared many connections, having grown-up in Winston-Salem at the same time. Our first “date” was very casual – we drank a few beers at our neighborhood bar, and wound up talking for hours. I wasn’t seeking or expecting a relationship, but I knew that night that Fred and I would always be friends (and it turned out to be so much more than I’d ever expected!).

Entering a dating relationship after being married and having children is different. We were both fairly newly divorced when we met, but it turned out beautifully for us. The following is some advice shared on the basis of my experience:

  1. Be happy with YOU first. You won’t be any good to date until you are happy being alone. If you are not good with just YOU, you are not ready to be good with anyone else.
  2. No expectations. Don’t rush in with your big list of must-haves; stay open to meet and be met without restricting those you’ll meet to preconceived notions of your “type.”
  3. No rules. We had a friend who shared her “rules” for dating with men on the first date. Although you may be led by some personal guidelines or limitations, keep that to yourself. Maybe once you’ve gotten to know someone well enough to share such thoughts, you’ll find it’s not even necessary at all.
  4. Be willing. Are you willing to meet, willing to talk and willing to listen? Is there room for someone to date in your life? Who knows what will happen if you are open to let it happen.
  5. Don’t unload. Keep all the down & dirty from your divorce to yourself. Nobody really wants to hear all the hard parts right away. Of course as things get more serious with a potential partner, you’ll open up about past relationships, but even now, I’m sure there are parts of both of our former marriages that we just don’t need to get into.
  6. Be ready. Flat out – if you’re not ready to date yet, do everyone else “on the market” a favor, and DON’T!
  7. Don’t be afraid. People who have been hurt by their divorce are often hesitant to open themselves up to potential hurt again. I believe that by making that choice you are also limiting yourself to not being happy again. The joys are so much greater to those who truly know the pains of life as well.
  8. Take it easy. There is no hurry. Don’t feel pressured by a society where you perceive everyone is part of a couple. Everyone is NOT.
  9. Set your own personal boundaries. You’re an adult and you need to decide for yourself what you want and how far you’re willing to go in dating experiences. I’m not giving any advice here, other than to say – give it some thought, know your own limitations, and stick to your personal principles.
  10. Tell people you want to date. When you’re ready to meet people and date, let it be known. Don’t be shy about telling people you know and like that you’d like to meet really great men/women and want to be introduced. (It worked for me!)

By no means do I have all the answers. Most of the time, I feel like Fred and I just got lucky to have discovered each other when we did. But I also know that we both had to be open to it and ready for it to work.

I should add that even given my “fairytale” dating experience, making it all work is not always easy either. Just wait for my next installment in this series – about remarrying!