Let’s dig into dating after divorce, the dating strategies that you are currently using, and what you want to use to attract a partner who can and will love you well. We women all want to find a partner who will cherish us and build a post-divorce life that feels solid, stable, and secure, as well as fun, loving, and sexy.
I think we do a really good job on Instagram and TikTok talking about spotting red flags, understanding attachment styles, and knowing how these things impact dating after divorce. But we women also need to think about our toxic traits and our self-awareness in our dating strategy. If we don’t understand ourselves, we’re setting ourselves up for failure in the dating world.
How to Start Dating After Divorce By Knowing Your Toxic Traits
I was thinking about how, after a lot of self-work and discovery, I can see that I have this one toxic trait that shows up over and over and over again in all of my relationships. With my ex, in my current marriage, in my friendships, and in my family relationships. I am still working on shifting that, and it’s coming very naturally and very gently these days, which is great, but let’s talk about what it is.
Overcome Fear of Loss
My toxic trait is that I avoid, actively and subconsciously, saying my boundaries in the relationship.
I will avoid telling you that someone is approaching my red line. In my mind, if I tell you that, I’m terrified that you’re not going to hang in there with me and work to improve the relationship. You’ll just say you’re done.
How has that shown up in my life? Well, in my relationship with my ex, there were repeated issues to do with alcohol as we were dating. And it got so bad before we got married that I made a threat. But, it was an empty threat because I didn’t have the ego strength or the secure attachment style to be able to follow through with it. He did the thing, and we got married anyway.
That’s a very clear example of me saying where my red line was and then ignoring that, suppressing that, and moving forward anyway.
In all the other relationships in my life, I’ve been working to heal that wound of abandoning myself. In this scenario with my ex, I could say that he wasn’t willing to do the work, and he abandoned the relationship at that moment (which is not wrong), but ultimately, I abandoned myself.
Now, we could call this fear of abandonment, but as an adult woman, I couldn’t be abandoned, so what it’s fear of loss.
You can’t abandon beings that are capable of taking care of themselves.
It’s cute to call it abandonment, but it’s not. You can abandon newborn babies, and you can abandon houses because these things can’t care for themselves.
I’m continuing to heal my fear of loss.
I’m able to step forward and say harder and harder things in my current relationships. I can now be accountable for my fear of loss.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Looking back, I see how this has impacted my relationships. I can see how I had a fear of loss, difficulty speaking my truth, and a tendency to protect other people’s shameful places.
I avoided poking at their shameful, vulnerable, susceptible places because I was afraid they wouldn’t be willing to take responsibility for it.
My instinct was to protect myself from facing my demons to protect myself from loss.
Recognize Childhood Trauma
I can see how this trauma came directly from my childhood when I look at both of my parents as primary caregivers. Now, your story will have some differences to it, but when I sit down and look at how it felt to relate to my dad, how it felt to relate to my mom, and how they responded if I said hard things to either of them.
If I said anything, it would land in the punishment sphere, not letting me understand, no curiosity, not unpacking it together or apologizing. It was more gaslighting, blame, and punishment.
Now, I take that information and I look at how that shows up in my relationships.
In order for you to become clear on what your toxic traits are in relationships and how that shows up in dating after divorce, you need to look back at your childhood and map out how it felt to relate to your primary caregivers.
What was it like when you had to say hard things about how it felt for you to be in that relationship?
Producer Joy and I unpacked her childhood and how that turned into toxic traits for her. She had one parent who was punishing, gaslighting, and blaming her if she was saying hard things, and she had another parent who just kind of didn’t say much of anything about any of that, who was very passive and didn’t call out the other parent’s bad behavior at all.
What this means for Producer Joy is she avoids saying the hard things, but she also likes it when people take her side in an argument because she feels like the passive parent never took her side.
Leave the Codependency Triangle
It’s really interesting to be able to see how our toxic traits from our early childhood and how we women related to our parents lead us to who we attract in dating relationships, what we’re drawn to, what feels good to us, and what doesn’t.
And, what doesn’t get addressed in the dating world will become an issue that blows up in married life.
What do I mean by that? Well, before I married my current husband, I had a strong need for control, which came from that place of fear or loss. I would want to control a lot of the details of life and how things went because I would be afraid that if I didn’t control all the little details of how we parented our daughter, how I ran my business, how our house looked, something bad would happen.
I didn’t heal all that before I got married to my current husband.
Now, we are spending a lot of time in our marriage renegotiating what it looks like for me to give up control because I don’t want control anymore.
Now, I want a partner to co-captain the ship.
It’s taking a lot of intentional work for us to renegotiate that, as he also brings his toxic traits to the relationship. Now, what is the key ingredient to us even being able to do that?
It’s the fact that we are both willing to change how we show up in the relationship, and we’re willing to talk about the hard things and grow in painful ways.
It’s really important to notice that piece about wanting to grow. When we look at someone in a dating sphere, we say, “Oh, look, that person is willing to grow at their job. They’re willing to go to a coach to help grow their professional skills, or they have a personal trainer to improve their fitness skills.” Those are great places to see where people are willing to grow and change. However, it doesn’t feel as good to go face your shameful places and your deepest, darkest insecurities and grow in those ways.
Be Vulnerable: Find Your Match
Are the people that you’re dating after divorce willing to look at the shameful places and grow in those spaces? And more importantly, are you able to hold your line there?
My toxic trait is dancing away from the shameful places because I’m afraid that if I call them out, you’re going to get mad at me, you are going to punish me, and you will leave me.
If we women don’t talk about the shameful places and identify that you’re willing to go there with me, then in later stages of the relationship where we’re now co-parenting together or we’re now facing aging parents together, or we’re now facing financial issues together, these issues will come up.
Learn Healthy Conflict Management
Do you have a clear map of how you related to your parents? On hard things, the vulnerabilities, holding people accountable, being able to say painful, vulnerable things, or being able to talk about your shame?
How did your parents respond when you were talking about your shame or calling them out on theirs?
Feel your way through what it was like when you would talk about your shameful places with each parent and when you would call out their shameful places. How did that go? And now, I want you to look at how that has gone in the history of your dating relationships or romantic relationships.
Be Willing to Think Like a Team
Are you willing to be a team? Because that’s how we women get to conflict resolution, and that’s how we get to creative problem-solving in intimate spaces. What is marriage therapy other than two people coming to me because they can’t figure out how to resolve conflict on their own?
They can’t figure out how to work through shameful things they’re ashamed of, so they feel defensive, hostile, and blame-oriented around without a guide.
I want you to know how both yourself and the person you’re dating tolerate these conversations. Now, do you have to have all those conversations by date three? Not.
But I think that there are little clues for us even on dates one, two, and three. How do I know that? Well, because I think that you can get a sense of how a person talks about certain things.
How does a person respond when talking about sex or sexual issues on a date? Do they tackle those topics in a way that sounds like they have mutual respect, that they understand how a woman experiences issues around consent, issues around pregnancy, or contracting an STD? Do they offer to get STD tested upfront and show you those test results?
Deal with Guilt and Shame in Both Ways
In the first handful of dates, how a person talks about past relationships or past partners will tell you a handful of things about how they deal with their shame and how well they receive feedback.
So I think I’ve heard clients before say, “Well, he talked all about his relationship with his ex, and he talked about how hard it was and the ways that he felt betrayed and how he was hurt or injured through the marriage.” That’s beautiful.
But also, is the person that you’re dating after divorce willing to talk about the ways that they failed their ex, the ways that they didn’t show up as the best partner?
Those are the signs of vulnerability and humility.
Be Humble and Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Even if someone is just like, late to a date, how do they respond? Do they respond by making an excuse? Do they respond by being self-effacing? Are they dramatic about how they apologize, or are they just really kind of honest about what happened?
You can feel your way through a date and notice if someone will be understanding and compassionate and a person who would let their guard down. A lot of times, we women let our guards down in a dating scenario, and we do that damsel in distress thing really beautifully, and men do a really good job of receiving us well in those moments.
They say, “Oh, gosh, I hate that that happened to you. That was horrible. I really wish that I could protect you from that.” And they do a really good job of that, and often, we misread that as being mutual vulnerability.
Allow Men Being Vulnerable Too
In Brene Brown’s Escaping Me book, she talks about how women don’t tolerate men being vulnerable because we women like our men to be strong. We like them to be on white horses. We like them to rescue us.
So, can you tolerate the man you’re dating sharing and being vulnerable or does that feel awkward to you?
We women are not static creatures. How we are today is not how we will be ten years from now.
We are constantly evolving and changing. Your body chemistry is very different, especially as a woman. If you’re pre-menopause, your body chemistry is changing hormonally daily.
Dating After Divorce: Pre & Post Menopause
If you’re postmenopausal, think about the transition that happens for a woman. There will be changes that you are going to experience in your life after divorce that you cannot predict. You need to be setting yourself up to have a partner who can move through those changes with you. Retirement is a major life transition where all of a sudden you go from having a purpose and something to do every day to having a ton of downtime
But when we’re dating, we’re not necessarily thinking about that.
We women are just feeling kind of alone, and we’re feeling like we need to be touched, and we’re feeling like we need to be desired, and we’re feeling like we need to be cared for.
As you’re dating after divorce, keep your eyes on your toxic traits and be willing to be honest with yourself and your therapist, your accountability buddies, and the people you’re dating.
I want you to look beyond attachment styles or red flags.
I want you to look at your willingness to talk about your red flags and to catch your red flags. Shift the narrative from outside of yourself to inside of yourself and catch yourself when you are idealizing something in a way that doesn’t serve you in the long run.
Do It For Your Future Self
Use your future self as a tool.
The future self is that woman who has the wisdom to know that navigating retirement, for example, is trickier than you realize. Check-in with yourself and say, “Hey, future self, what decisions do I need to make today? What hard things do I need to tackle today to ensure that I’m moving in the direction of my goals so that I make it to you, my future self?”
When we women think about the loving, cherished relationship we want in the future, what are the steps we have to be taking today to have that future self outcome? You need to be having hard conversations and actively changing, as your current brain map for intimate relationships is the one that was developed by my parents.
We’re not blaming parents but there were relationship habits, patterns, and communication styles that formed our perception of intimate, romantic relationships. It’s understanding the skills with communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, intimacy, and vulnerability. It’s looking at the skills that were handed down to you or more importantly, were not handed down to you.
Keep Dating After Divorce and Don’t Settle
It’s important to be honest with ourselves and move forward.
Keep practicing dating after divorce because that is where we women learn these things. It’s where we spot the things that we then need to work on. Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t settle.
I love you so much. Peace.
Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins
...helps people crack open. Challenging the status quo, she integrates multiple modalities from EMDR to EFT tapping, journaling, homeopathy, and movement, embracing remedies that heal both the mind and body. Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins is on a mission to deliver life-changing therapy in an accessible, scalable, affordable way and make waves in the world of mental health with the same enlightenment that happens in her office. Part science, part essential oils, pure magic.