Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ Dating After Divorce

Dear Dr V ~

I’m newly returned to the dating scene after being married for eight years (no kids). The divorce is over, and while I’m not bursting with joy, I do feel OK – OK enough with myself that I wouldn’t mind going out on a date or two. I think my concern is that after being out of the scene, I don’t want to end up feeling like a teenager getting all hung up on someone when they won’t call me back, or having to re-learn how to play all the silly games that go with dating – like not calling back too soon even if you’re sure you both want to see each other, that kind of thing. What’s your take on dating games?


Dear Evelyn,

My take on dating games? I think they’d be put to their best use if we bagged them and used them as fertilizer. In other words, I think they’re a tremendous waste of time and a source of unnecessary angst. I’ve heard some schools of mysticism hold that in the afterlife the only people in Hell are the ones who choose to be there, and I feel these “dating games” are similar: completely superfluous yet somehow we continue to force ourselves into these unnatural modes of behavior.

First off, congratulations on moving through the healing process of your divorce and starting to feel whole again. That is a tremendous step and I hope you are giving yourself the credit you deserve. You don’t sound bitter or vindictive, and that is more than many divorcees ever achieve after the dissolution of their marriages.

That being said, I do have to wonder if perhaps some ripples from this major event in your life are still being felt in your emotional ocean, so to speak. I say this because one line in your question really stuck with me: “I don’t want to end up feeling like a teenager getting all hung up on someone when they won’t call me back”. What that sounds like to me is, rather than anxiety over getting caught up in a passive aggressive bout of phone tag, it seems more like you’re saying “I’m afraid to get hurt again”. And who could blame you? You’ve just been through a tremendous emotional ordeal directly connected to the romantic/sexual/relationship aspect of yourself. I don’t say this to imply you need to somehow quell this fear before you can move on to seeing people, but more just so that you can have the emotional knowledge about yourself, so as to be better in tune with what’s going on inside.

As far as “re-learning” the games go? My advice: Forget anyone who would engage in those games. While to a certain degree we all have to follow cultural conventions we may not wholeheartedly agree with (Such as answering “Fine” when a complete stranger asks “How you doing?” when all they really mean is “Hello”), I think when it comes to matters of the heart and the relationships that follow, openness and honesty are without a doubt the best way to go from the moment the first sparks fly. There’s the overused cliché about never getting a second chance to make a first impression; I’d paraphrase it here by saying that you never get a second chance to lay the foundation for a relationship. Of course, as time passes two people can learn how to love and support each other in ways they may have not been aware of at first, but the early days of a relationship, that fabled “honeymoon period,” that’s when we can really lay in the best of ourselves to act as a bedrock for the future.

Now of course, I realize having just come out of an eight-year marriage the last thing you want to think about is “Oh boy! RELATIONSHIP WORK!” (And by the way I abhor using the term “work” for the action of two people learning how to be the best partners  they can be for each other). However, this is also a golden moment for you: you are, in an ironic way, a blank slate again. Of course you have the lessons from your marriage, previous relationships and life in general under your belt, but being aware of these things, you can move forward in life in a new way, free of the old habits and patterns of the past. Bearing this in mind, even if you were only going to date casually with no plans of ever “settling down” again, would you not want to do this unfettered?

My suggestion to you is, provided you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else and are remaining honest, open and empathetic in your actions and words, tell the dating scene’s silly notions about waiting to call back, not calling back at all, trying not to appear to excited and so on, to get bent. Of course, the marvelous upshot of this may very well be that by just being your genuine authentic self, you will broadcast that unique frequency of whom you are out into the world, and perhaps a partner with receptors attuned to find someone just like you will pick up on it. It could happen.

Just don’t do a kamikaze series of callbacks like the guy in Swingers. That wouldn’t be fun for anyone.

With Love and Light,

Dr. V

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