A Psychologist’s Guide To Dating After A Divorce

You may have just entered back into the dating scene and you may be feeling overwhelmed with how the rules have changed. ‘Virtual’ communication has become the norm and there are new dating traps to avoid but lots of new and exciting experiences to sample.

To help you through this new romantic landscape, psychologist and eHarmony relationships expert, Melanie Shilling shares her top tips on entering the dating scene again and some of the new traps to avoid.

dating-after-divorceimage via pinterest

Dating Trap 1: Using the wrong digital platform

The first problem I see with the new digital dating age is lack of congruence. I meet people every week who claim to desire a long term, committed relationship, but choose to engage with superficial mobile apps.

It’s like wanting to run a marathon but filling your training schedule with hurdle-jumping. The tactics do not add up to the end game.

eHarmony’s latest research has revealed that while modern dating rituals might have changed, our romantic desires haven’t. Australian singles are still looking for that special someone, but the influx of choice has left them confused and in dating burn-out.

The data suggests that Aussies are looking for that ‘spark’ and according to the research, fluid conversation (72%), a shared sense of humour (68%) and feeling at ease with one-another (67%) are the top three ingredients for spark.

The quick swipe method many daters are defaulting to does not establish any of this.

Dating Trap 2: Low emotional engagement

I am too often regaled of stories about swipe-happy daters sampling numerous dates per week and even going out with their friends, only to spend the night face-down in their phone scanning for better options. When they do connect with a prospective date, it’s all about keeping it light and avoiding any real connection, making it easy to move on when a better option comes along. Again, this is totally appropriate if you are looking for a casual encounter, but doesn’t hit the spot if you are looking for something deeper.

It seems that Aussies are shirking their interpersonal responsibility by hiding behind the anonymity of an app. They feel like they have less emotional skin in the game and are forgetting that people have feelings, which shows a real lack of empathy.

The common outcome of this mindset is a behaviour known as ‘ghosting’ (where a date unexpectedly disappears and withdraws all contact, without explanation or apology). According to eHarmony, 64% of Australians have been ghosted by a date in the last 12 months and nearly three quarters of ghostees have experienced a negative emotional impact as a result.

Ghosting hurts.

There is a deeper and potentially longer-term impact here. Whilst most people are aware that dating can be an emotionally risky game, the self-esteem hit can be blind-siding. For those in the study who were ghosted, 41% reported being hurt or upset, 34% felt like they were not good enough, 28% felt unattractive, 26% felt flawed, 20% felt worthless and 19% said they were ‘over’ dating. Not surprisingly, women were more likely than men to experience the post-ghost self-esteem dip.

How To Avoid Dating Disasters

1. Start by getting really clear about your dating goals – what do you want to get out of the dating experience? This will help you quickly and accurately assess whether a date (and dating app) is right for you.

2. On your date, ask some questions about values, lifestyle preferences and personality to help you see past the superficial and get to what really matters.

3. During the date, give yourself a ‘time out’. Go to the bathroom or find a way to get some privacy so you can check in with yourself and listen to your intuition. Ask yourself, how am I feeling about myself? How am I feeling about him/her? How am I feeling about the date? And importantly, do I feel safe?

4. If you notice that your date is non-committal, refuses to be pinned down to specifics, if their eyes are constantly darting around the room, if they are checking their phone and if they are inconsistent in their communication – listen to your gut! These are potentially early warning signs that they may have ghostly tendencies.

5. Gather together some single friends and form a Dating Club. This is a great way to support each other, debrief, normalise, validate and laugh at your dating experiences. Such support can help you feel OK when a date goes bad and help you to put it in perspective, rather than over-analysing and starting to question yourself. Meeting up with a friend for a post-date cocktail can do wonders for your self esteem.


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