Divorcee’s and singletons who recently exited over five-year long relationships, take heed: a brave new datingverse emerged while you were coupled up. Whether you’re the wring-your-hands-and-fret type, or the cool-cucumber-pretend-dating-doesn’t-exist type, it is clear that you’re going to want to meet someone special eventually. While I can’t tell you what the dating landscape will look like if you choose to wait five more years to jump in, I can share with you the memos you may have missed while you were married:
Texting: Everyone is Doing It, and You Will Too
Both impersonal and intimate (sometimes at the same time), texting has become a sign of both “I’m not that into you yet” and “We’re basically BFF’s.” This may feel bizarre, but don’t read too much into it (pun fully intended). Normal texting behavior includes arranging a first date, follow up thank you for a date, or idle chitchat. If you’re more of an old fashioned phone-call guy or gal, you may have to be the one to break the silence. There’s a lovely Aziz Ansari clip about dating and texting that explains some of this here.*
Okay, you know about texting, which seemed like the most important thing. Now onto a few quickies that probably should come before texting.
Rebounds Are Real. Pick a Good One
It’s unlikely the first person you date post-breakup of your marriage is going to be THE (next) ONE. That said, select a new gal or guy the way you might pick a pair of sneakers – for comfort, how they’ll leave you feeling, how long you think they’ll last and attractiveness (yes, in that order). This person will likely make or break your conceptions of dating from here on out. So…pick a good one.
At Some Point, Just Be Single (and Possibly Sober)
No, really. Put dating and relationships on the back-burner for at least a month or two (before or after a rebound, your choice). You may want to even lay off the booze, as comforting as it may be. Time to clear your head with a clear head is vital to having a meaningful, healthy relationship.
There is No Rush.
Honesty About Your Past Is Your Responsibility
Clearly, you have a history (aka, an ex). While “I used to be married” does not have to be first-date conversation fodder unless you’re expressly asked, it does need to be mentioned early on. You’ll feel weird bringing it up – do it anyway. Say it over breakfast out in a straightforward manner. Why breakfast out? When was the last time someone got riled up over pancakes? Also, it implies that this is no big deal. And it puts both you and your date on an even playing field – there’s no home court advantage here. Bringing up your past significant relationship demonstrates a few things:
1) Consideration for your date’s feelings and curiosities about you. They’ll like you more for bringing it up.
2) Your own maturity. If you can’t say it, you’re probably not ready to date. (Trust me, I learned this about myself the hard way.)
3) And really, just be honest about most things when the subject comes up after a first or second date (those first few dates you can be elusive instead of outright honest). Personal tip: I often lie about my religion (it’s a long story) and wind up having to admit I don’t have the spiritual/cultural background I say I do. This is always awkward, even though it’s mostly silly.
STD Talk is Also Your Responsibility
Remember the last time you got a sex talk? Me either. Even if you’re planning on celibacy for the foreseeable future, read this section anyway:**
1) Before you have sex, you have to talk about STDs. No really, you have to. I don’t care if you do it when your pants are still on and you’re playing Scrabble or you do it when you’re in compromising positions with minimal clothing. I do care that you do it.
2) Address the topic clearly and simply, but do not act as though you are bringing up something horrible like a parent entering hospice or cancer. Say, “hey, before we have sex I think we should talk about STDs, methods of protection, and what happens in case of an accidental pregnancy.” If your partner balks (which many will), push through. It’s like talking to a teenager – just keep talking and know it’s sinking in. Personal tip: I usually mention that if they have an STD it’s not going to prevent me from having sex with them in the future. This tends to ease the situation.
3) Know your stance on being pro-life or pro-choice, and be open about it. Ask your date/potential sex parter about their feelings. And seriously, if you would not want to have a forever co-parenting relationship with the person you hoping to get frisky with, reconsider the sex. (Easier said than done. In fact, maybe only said and never done. But, I had to at least say it.)
Bringing Kiddos Into the Mix
There are probably at least a hundred other people more qualified to speak on behalf of dating with kids than me, but as someone who has dated parents, I’ll throw my thoughts into the ring:
1) No matter how you meet, online or out and about, be clear that you are a parent. (Again with the maturity thing, the consideration thing, etc.) If your kids live with you, that should come out too. Kids do not make you undateable, but not mentioning them will.
2) Be a parent first. Yes, you deserve a partner and you deserve to be loved. But your kids deserve a parent who is attentive and available. Balancing this all is really hard and probably sucks, and it means you’re going to have to find dates who are understanding.
3) Don’t wait too long to talk about if you want more kids (or if you’re not a parent, if you want kids at all). It does not have a to be a dealbreaker (aka, something that means you shouldn’t date) if you aren’t on the same page about having more kids. But you owe someone you’re considering a relationship with that information – and they owe it to you.
Have an Open Mind – aka, Date Anyway
No one is going to be perfect. We all have flaws and quirks and habits and baggage we bring to our relationships – and online dating (or merely Google searching) can make these “imperfections” a lot more obvious. I have to say, go on a date anyway. Date people who don’t have everything you’re looking for but seem like decent human beings. Date people who you find remotely attractive (and remember those online photos can often lie about attractiveness in either direction). Go on a date with someone if you have no good reason to say no. It’s an hour out of your life, and you just never know if they’ll wind up being a good person to have in your network, a friend, or yes, even THE (next) ONE.
Online Dating Profiles
Okay. This deserves a whole different post. The basics though:
1) Be concise but give people reading something to think about/ask questions about. (ie: Say “I’m a teacher” instead of “I teach middle school biological sciences.”)
2) Do not put photos of you and your ex up, even if your ex’s face is blurred out. Heck, even if you cropped them out of the photo. In fact, just don’t put up photos of you with anyone else, cropped or not.
3) Don’t say “I’m new to this” or “I am embarrassed to be here.”
4) When you accept a date, make sure you tell someone where you are going and give your date’s contact info to that person. It’s like college – you’d never go out with someone without telling your roommate where you were going.
Oh Right, Open Relationships
This is a thing that a lot of people are talking about: buzzing about, really. Sometimes called monogamish, sometimes called polyamory, often just called open relationships. Do some research, see what you think about the concept, and try not to be judgmental. It’s a thing, and it’s possibly not going away.
I know, I know, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Enjoy!
*If you get really into dating theory, which I don’t recommend for awhile because it’s infatuatingly heartbreaking, you may want to consider reading this interview with Aziz. Or reading Sex at Dawn. Or maybe The Game.
**If you need this reinforced, go listen to as many Dan Savage Lovecasts as you can handle in a row. He’ll pound this into your brain. Maybe listen while you sleep? Or put his column under your pillow and try osmosis?