| January 10, 2017

"How will I know when I’m ready to start dating after divorce?"

This question is one nearly everyone who divorces eventually asks. And coming up with an answer to it is complicated by the fact that this question (hopefully) brings up other questions. Is there a difference between dating and a hookup? Where can I find someone to date? What is dating like today? How will my dating impact my kids? And on and on.

READ: 6 Things to Consider Before Hooking Up With Someone

Divorce is tumultuous and frightening, so it’s normal to have a bunch of questions as you start moving on with your life, and deciding if you’re ready to start going out again after divorce.

As confusing and complicated as it is when you first start contemplating whether you’re ready to begin dating after divorce, there are five signs you’re ready to get back out there and find love again:

#1. You love yourself.

Divorce takes a huge toll on your self-esteem. You start to question whether you’re lovable, not only to others but yourself too.

By being able to truly love and care for yourself before you start dating after divorce, you’ll know you’re ready to get back out there because you’re not looking for someone else to make you feel whole again.

#2. You understand your role in the end of your marriage.

This is important for two reasons. When you’re clear about how you contributed to the end of your marriage, you’re able to carry on conversations about more than the end of your marriage. It also means that you’re less likely to repeat the behavior, which will save you from heartache.

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#3. You know why you want to start dating.

When you’ve got clarity about why you’re choosing to get back out there, you’re able to make smart decisions about who you go out with.

If you’re not clear about it, you’re setting yourself up to be blown about by the whims of others which just adds more chaos to the mix as you’re getting your life back on track.

#4. You know the difference between dating and being in a relationship.

It’s extremely difficult to avoid falling into a new relationship when you start dating after the end of your marriage. (Although that doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing.) An idea to consider? Dating three people at a time so you don’t fall into another relationship before you’re ready.

#5. You are ready to have fun.

Dating after divorce is awkward, so approach it from the standpoint of having fun and learning more about you and what you do and don’t like about being around all kinds of different people.

READ: 14 Behaviors That Will Immediately Ruin a First Date

This list of five signs might seem daunting to you. If it does, you’ve got a little more healing to do before you’re ready to get back out there. And that’s OK. Be patient with yourself as you continue getting over your divorce, and be willing to ask for support to help you finish your healing.

Maybe you’re good with a couple of the items, but you're just not ready for a couple of the others? The thing to remember is that you’ve already made some great progress in creating a great life for yourself, and that you’ve got just a little more progress to make.

But if you read through the list and know that you meet each of the criteria, then you’re ready to start exploring a new and exciting phase of your life!

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach. She works with clients who are ready to move on with their lives after divorce.