I have often felt like a social guinea pig.

Only with the benefit of hindsight have I been able to see a pattern (one of many) that has emerged throughout my life.  I have had many experiences requiring mental toughness far beyond my years, usually before any one of my contemporaries.

One such example is divorce.

When I became divorced, I was one of the few in my age group…or at least one of the few willing to talk about my experience openly.  This instantly made me a “go-to” for those who followed suit, on all divorce matters, including but not limited to:  legal resources, legal proceedings, real estate and asset negotiations, custody battles and, of course, post-divorce dating.

Divorce used to be considered “hard” by most.  I’m not sure if that’s true anymore (just look at the increasing number and popularity of “divorce parties”).  For me, my relationship and subsequent marriage was the tough part.  The divorce was easy.  For many of my friends, family and clients – the divorce is a war.  And, then of course, there are divorces that fall somewhere in between.  I believe it depends on the individuals involved and their personal circumstances.

Whatever your experience is or has been you are probably wondering when you should start dating or – if you already have – whether you’re ready.

As a general rule (one that has been well-researched, well-documented and often discussed), men “move on” (i.e. start dating) immediately and then mourn whatever loss their divorce may signify later, whereas women typically mourn first (sometimes while still in the marriage), and then move on after they feel healed.

Just because you’re legally separated or divorced, doesn’t mean you’re “ready” to date or to start a new relationship.  And just because you’re still legally married or physically co-habiting doesn’t mean that you are not ready to leave the relationship and pursue another one.  There is so much talk about people not being “emotionally available”; in the context of dating…but how do you know if you are?  The emotional, physical and financial untangling required to divorce tends to add so much complexity to an already challenging and oft-difficult-to-navigate landscape, that to deem oneself “ready” is a most ambiguous task.

So here are a few signs to watch for and consider when deciding if you are ready to start dating post-divorce:

Sign # 1: Soul Searching

You have done some soul-searching, you have identified your unhealthy relationship patterns, you have taken accountability for your role in the disintegration of your marriage and are prepared to make identifiable, quantifiable and/or recognizable changes in your choices.

People who are “not ready” tend to choose partners or love interests who are also “not ready”. This is typically done at a subconscious or unconscious level, so it’s not always obvious…hence the need for soul-searching, introspection and self-awareness.

Sign # 2: Ready to Invest?

You are genuinely interested in learning more about another person.  Hearing about the minutae of their day, learning their family members’ names, gaining an appreciation for their goals and dreams, and meeting their friends, doesn’t send you running for the hills, paralyze you with fear or feel like an energy vampire is sucking the life right out of you.

Your willingness and ability to invest your time, energy and emotions in another person is a good sign that you are ready once again for love – or at least open for that eventuality.  Conversely, if any of this seems tedious, onerous or unappealing – that’s ok.  It doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person; however, it should be your cue that you need more time.

Sign # 3: Time Management

This may sound like stating the obvious; however, you need to have physical space and time in your schedule to date.

There was a time where I was working 14+ hour days consistently and yet, still wondered why I wasn’t in a relationship. The truth is – I was over scheduled, over programmed, overextended and overtired. I didn’t have much to offer another person – on an emotional level – and could barely fit a coffee date into my calendar without booking it weeks in advance.

If this sounds familiar…call me…I might be able to help you declutter your life in order to create space for when that special person comes along. Maybe they already have and you’ve been too busy to notice?

Sign # 4:  You Like Yourself

You have a healthy relationship with yourself. While what this actually means may take on different forms depending on your level of spirituality and what you believe in, fundamentally, I think that your ability to form healthy relationships with others is largely related to how healthy a relationship you are having with yourself.

Sign # 5: Be Confident in Your Choices

You are not concerned with what other people may say about your new escapades.  This includes, but is not limited to:  your friends, your therapist, your divorce lawyer, your children, your colleagues and/or your meddling parents.

If you are preoccupied with what others may think, say or do, it could mean a few things.  Certainly, it could mean that you have too many people nosing around your private life but, more likely, it could be a warning sign that you have not yet cleaned up your backyard, so to speak and do not yet have the appropriate support network in place to encourage you along a healthy, productive, ultimately successful dating path.

Sign # 6: Ready to Attract?

You like who and what you see in the mirror.  Closely related to Sign # 4, how attractive you feel  is going to largely dictate the “vibe” you give off, the people you attract, and the frequency with which you attract people.  As silly and contrived as it might sound, sometimes having a professional make-over, image consultation, wardrobe audit and some personal shopping is just what you need to “re-launch” the new you into the dating marketplace.

Whenever you – or your parents, friends, kids, nosy neighbours – decide that you’re “ready”, then go for it.  You will never know unless and until you try.  Do not be too hard on yourself – or the people you attempt to date – and do not beat yourself up over any “mistakes” you (may) make along the way.  Just endeavour to learn from them.

There is a big difference between being “ready” and being “prepared”.  Do you remember final exams in university?  Even if you had adequately prepared by studying, did you always feel “ready”?  We prefer our clients to be prepared – and help them in doing so – rather than ready.

When I met my now fiancé and common-law husband – R.J. – I was ready, yet unprepared.  Thankfully, we figured it out but let me tell you – we had many “growing pains” as he likes to call them, and there were several times where we almost called it quits.  It was not easy but we’re both grateful that we stuck it out.  My point?  Even if you’re “ready”, if you’re not prepared, you could still find yourself hopelessly and inexplicably single.

Sign # 7: You Are More Than a Failed Marriage

You are able, willing and excited to carry on conversations outside of your: marriage, divorce, ex-husband/wife/partner, children, financial woes and hard knocks. This may sound facetious, but it’s not intended to. If you have little to offer by way of stimulating conversation outside of your recent (prolonged, dramatic, painful, etc) experience – no matter how good looking you are, no matter how much money you have, no matter how much your family and friends and kids love you – you will be inevitably setting yourself up for failure. You will either be deemed a bore, find yourself a new therapist as opposed to a lover‎, find yourself making excuses for why you didn’t want a second date anyway….you get the idea, right?

Sign # 8: Be Interesting

Have interests, be interesting. Along the same lines as # 7, bring something to the proverbial party. Having your own interests helps break the ice on a date, widens the spectrum of activities you can potentially share with someone new, attracts others to you, makes you intriguing, is great for your self-esteem and, most importantly, gives you something meaningful to do other than to dwell on the fact that you are newly single/divorced.

These are just a few signs to consider as you ponder your state of readiness to re-join the dating pool. Everyone has their own signs too, which must also be respected. At the end of the day, only you will know when you are truly ready.

E-mail me if you want some assistance preparing and readying for your next relationship.  It’s one of our many specialties and we would love to help you bridge the distance between this current chapter in your life and the next, untold, exciting one that awaits.

[su_heading style=”default” size=”13″ align=”left” margin=”20″ class=””]Stacie Ikka is Founder and President of Sitting in a Tree Inc., a dating and relationship consulting business. She can be reached via email at info@sittinginatree.com or by phone at (647) 278-4552. [/su_heading]