After a romantic relationship ends, sometimes you’re ready to get back on the market ASAP...and other times you'd rather gouge your own eyes out than start swiping through Tinder again (too far?).
The same is true after a divorce—if and when you start dating again is a totally individual choice, and there’s no right way to go about it. To illustrate how much the timeframe can vary, we talked to nine women about how long it took them to take that scary leap of faith.
'I COULDN'T GET ON TINDER FAST ENOUGH...BUT AN ACTUAL DATE...'
“I got on Tinder right away, because I had found out my ex-husband cheated on me. I didn’t actually go on a date, though, until about four to five months after my divorce was finalised. It ended up being a total disaster—the guy was criticising how I ate pizza—so I had to cut that nightmare short and have a friend come pick me up. Another date I found out the guy was on probation, so it hasn’t been great yet.
"I’m glad I waited a few months to go on dates. It gave me more time to get to a better place mentally and emotionally and sort through and address the feelings I was having. When I had initially gotten on Tinder, that was more about instant validation. I have a kid, and I’m at a place now where I really want to thoroughly vet someone before I got out with them. It’s important to listen to your gut with dating, and not mask your feelings by diving into dating before you’re ready.” —Derika, 21
'MY DIVORCE WASN'T EVEN OFFICIAL'
“I started dating before my divorce was even final. Looking back, I wouldn’t recommend that. A lot of that was age—I was in my mid-twenties and I wanted to go out and do what my girlfriends were doing and date like them. My ex and I were separated, and I wanted to put the whole thing behind me. I had moved to D.C., and guys I dated were perplexed that I could be so young and already have been married and divorced. On one date, I told the guy and he freaked out. He said ‘I can’t handle that,’ and then just up and left.
"I met someone pretty soon after my divorce was final and that turned into a long-term relationship. I think it’s important to take a step back after a divorce, whether it was your idea or not, to evaluate what happened and take responsibility for your role...I didn’t want to repeat some of those negative actions in my new relationship.” —Frances, 38
'RIGHT AFTER MY DIVORCE WAS FINALISED—AND IT WAS SO EMPOWERING'
“I got divorced about nine years ago, and I started dating as soon as I got divorced. I’m really glad I started right away. I think when you’re the one filing and you want to get divorced, it can be an empowering time. Seeing myself through someone else’s eyes was a breath of fresh air. I was unhappy in my marriage, so to go from that to having someone treating you kindly and complimenting you was so nice.
"I’ve now been with the same person for the past eight years, and we’re recently engaged. Dating has been a really positive experience for me. Once you have your confidence back and you feel comfortable being seen out with someone else, you’re ready to start dating.” —Heather, 43
'IT TOOK ME NEARLY A DECADE'
“I didn’t start dating seriously until about six or seven years after my divorce. My kids were in elementary school when we separated, and I wanted to wait until they were grown until I really started to focus on myself. My biggest fear was having a different boyfriend every Christmas. It was also my second divorce and I felt like I needed to regroup emotionally to figure out why I had made some bad or hasty decisions with relationships.
"After waiting several years to get serious, I was definitely ready to get back out there. Some people are ready right after a divorce and for others it takes longer, but I think as long as you’re not doing it out of revenge at an ex or because of loneliness, then you’re on the right track. My test was ‘when am I ready to share myself with someone else?’ It’s not just about what you want, but what you can give to a relationship.” —Jackie, 54
'I WAS ALONE FOR A YEAR'
“I was alone for a year before the divorce was final, and during that time, the thought of dating was overwhelming. But recently I went on a tour of beautiful homes with friends, and we saw this incredible bathroom with a claw foot tub, fireplace and view of the lake out the window, and it was so romantic. I thought, ‘I’d like to stay here with someone special.’ About a month later, 18 months after my divorce, I signed up for a dating profile. I’ve started to get my feet wet again, and I’m excited.
"I’m really glad I waited as long as I did. Now I’m dating and am not focused on trying to escape or distract myself. I think that makes me good company and a great date. I spent my single time volunteering, reflecting, getting my mind in a good spot, and asking myself tough questions. A few friends were pushing me to get out there sooner, but I knew it wasn’t the right time yet and I didn’t want to rush. When you’re older, you feel like waiting might mean you’re missing things, but you have to be ready.” —Judy, 57
'THE SECOND OUR RELATIONSHIP FELT TRULY OVER'
“I started dating about six months after our separation and then our divorce become final a few years later. I had known the relationship was long over, so for me, it was the right time. I trust how I feel about things and when people presented themselves and it felt right, I trusted my intuition. My ex also started dating before me, and that opened the door for me, too. I think it’s important to honour any feelings you’re having and process those first, so they don’t interfere with your next relationships. If the motivation is to get back at someone, or you’re doing it out of pain or fear, it’s not settling yourself up for success.” —Julie, 48
'ONCE MY KIDS WERE A BIT OLDER'
“We separated in 2005 and the divorce was final in 2008, and it just took me a while to start dating again. In the first few years after the divorce, I had no interest in dating. My kids were 1 and a half and 3 and a half, and I just wanted to focus on them for a while. I never thought I would be divorced, and I had this negative view of the divorcee on the prowl and that held me back, too.
"I started dating in the fall of 2008 because my friends set me up with someone. It didn’t work out long-term, but I look back on it positively. I’m glad I waited as long as I did, because I needed to heal my self-esteem from my marriage. But I believe in putting yourself out there. My mom didn’t date after getting divorced and she was unhappy. I think you need a life outside of being a mom, so I didn’t want to repeat that. After being with one person for 12 years, dating was weird and fun and everything in between.” —Leanne, 51
'IMMEDIATELY...AND I MET MY NEXT HUSBAND THE FOLLOWING YEAR'
“I left my husband in 1999, and I had known I was going to get divorced for a while, so I was emotionally ready to start dating right away. Still, I waited a few months to get settled. Then I started dating like it was my job. I met my future husband in 2001 and we were married in 2002.
"I think dating after divorce is all about experiencing different people. A lot of people end up staying with the first person they go out with, and then I think you fall into the same patterns of your past relationships. When I dated, it was a very interesting, fun time in my life. I figured out what qualities I liked and didn’t like.” —Melissa, 48
'I FOCUSED ON MAKING FRIENDS FIRST'
“I got separated in December and started dating in February, but my divorce wasn’t final until April. I had been with my ex for 15 years and had never really dated, so I was actually really happy with my decision to get out there. My goal when I started wasn’t to find another relationship right away, but to test the waters, maybe make some friends, and see what was out there.
"At about six months after my divorce, I asked myself if I felt ready to try to have a real relationship. I was, and then I went into dating with a different mindset. I met a guy who I really liked and have been with him since.
"I think figuring out when you’re ready is a matter of being really clear with where you are in the process. I found that a lot of guys I dated were ready to settle down really quickly, so I had to start making it clear on my online profile that I was just casually dating at first. Once I did get serious, I expected it to take a lot longer to connect with someone, but the timing was just right.” —Michelle, 34
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US