Dating during divorce: It’s so tempting, given all the pain and loneliness you are feeling after years of unhappiness with your spouse. What better to take your mind off your misery and boost your self esteem than a few dates with someone who is actually interested in you? And, if one of those “dates” leads to a more serious romance, even better!
Why not start your new life now, rather than wait until you have a stupid piece of paper in your hand that says your divorce is official?
7 Reasons Why Dating During Divorce Might Be a Bad Idea
As much as you might think that you are ready to move on, dating during divorce can have serious implications. Here are 7 reasons why you might want to hold off.
1. Dating during divorce can damage your ability to settle amicably.
It doesn’t matter that your spouse cheated on you 1,000 times while you were married, and this is the first time you have even considered going for coffee with someone else. No one cares that your divorce case has dragged on for well over a year. It makes no difference whether you are actually sleeping with a new partner or not.
Unless your spouse is as calm and spiritually evolved as a zen master, when s/he finds out you are dating someone else, it’s going to feel like s/he just got sucker-punched in the gut. That, in turn, will make dealing with your spouse way harder. It will also make settling your case amicably much more challenging.
2. Dating during divorce can reduce the amount of spousal support you receive.
Under the law, you are considered to be legally married until a judge officially divorces you. If you are having sex with someone else before you are divorced, in some states, you may technically be committing adultery. (Sorry!) Putting aside the moral aspects of having a fling while you are still married, the legal ramifications of your actions may be deeper than you counted on.
If you live in a state that still recognizes fault in divorce, then your “adultery” may affect your ability to receive spousal support. It may also reduce the amount of spousal support you receive.
What’s more, if you are not just dating, but are living with, your new love, you might as well kiss your chances of receiving spousal support good-bye.
3. Dating during divorce can affect your settlement strategy.
Most people assume that spousal support is paid in monthly installments over time. However, depending upon the law in your state, you may have the option of taking spousal support in a lump sum as soon as your divorce is final.
The problem is, usually the only way you can get a lump sum is if your spouse agrees to pay it to you that way. Most judges won’t order your spouse to pay you support one big lump sum payment.
If your spouse knows that you are likely to be living with someone else soon, s/he will never agree to pay you a lump sum for support. Instead, your spouse will opt for monthly payments. That way, as soon as you start living with someone else, your spouse gets off the hook. Spousal support ends when you move in with a new partner.
5. Dating during divorce can hurt your post-divorce parenting.
When you and your spouse are trying to make a parenting plan, each of you assumes that the other will be alone with the children during your scheduled parenting time. When that changes, making a parenting plan can suddenly get way more complicated.
It is not unusual for the non-dating parent to feel like s/he has already been replaced by the “other person.” That makes him/her even less crazy about giving up any time with the kids.
What’s more, the non-dating parent now not only worries about how the dating parent will raise the kids, but how the dating parent’s new squeeze will affect the kids, too!
All of this makes reaching a reasonable parenting agreement infinitely more difficult.
6. Dating during divorce can affect your kids.
Going through a divorce takes as much time and energy as a full-time job. If you already have a full time job (which you obviously need to keep because you now really need the money), that already leaves you with precious little time for your kids.
Yet, your kids probably need more of your time and attention now than they did before. Remember, they are trying to deal with their own emotions about the divorce. They are trying to navigate their own “new family.” They are trying to adjust to their own new reality.
New relationships, even casual dating relationships, take time … often a LOT of time. That means that you will have even less time and attention left for your kids.
You may think that your kids won’t care.
Don’t kid yourself. They will.
No matter how much you may tell yourself that if you are happier, you will be a better parent, the truth is, you need time. You have to have the time, energy, and enough emotional bandwidth to take care of your kids.
7. Dating during divorce distracts you from dealing with your own emotional stuff.
At first blush, embarking on a new relationship might seem like exactly what you need to forget about your pain. Nothing is as exciting (or distracting) as a new romance!
The problem is that, no matter how long you may have been thinking about divorce, or how dead your marriage may be, while you are going through a divorce, you are still not at your best. You’re not truly yourself.
In order to move on from your marriage, you have to deal with your emotions. Like it or not, you have to let yourself feel the pain, anger, sadness, and other emotions you feel. You have to take the time, and do the work, needed to allow you to truly heal your wounds.
Otherwise, you will simply repeat the same mistakes in your new relationship that you made in your marriage.
Hiding your pain in a new romance may feel great for a while, but, ultimately, it is nothing more than a temporary anesthetic. What’s more, once the romance fades, or the new relationship ends, you may find yourself picking up even more pieces of your shattered self than you had before you let yourself get swept away.
Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Speaker and Author. She provides divorce and decision coaching to busy professionals and business owners who want to make clear, confident decisions during one of the toughest yet most sensitive times in their life. Karen also helps them navigate through the divorce process with less conflict, expense, and damage to themselves and their children.
Karen is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally. She is also the creator of the online divorce program, The Divorce Road Map 2.0. You can connect with Karen on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as on her website at karencovy.com.