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When to Start Dating After Divorce

Three signs told this writer she was healing and ready to get out again


(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)

Dating wasn't exactly a frequent topic of discussion for me after I filed for my divorce. It was for my friends, however, who all knew someone I should meet.

Uh, no thanks, I'd think to myself. I wasn't ready. Not even close. Being the ultimate extrovert (that woman who will talk to you in elevators), I knew I'd know when the time was right.

It occurred one weekend after a city league softball game ended, about six months post-divorce.

We must have lost that one, because I came right home instead of celebrating afterward, stopping off at a market for a slice of pizza and a soda to take home for dinner. While in line, I got a call from a new friend (also divorced, now my daughter's mother-in-law) reminding me about her friend's 60th birthday party that night. I'd met the woman once and hadn't really intended to go — it seemed awkward — but my friend insisted.

"Just eat your pizza and come over," she said.

I acquiesced. What else was I going to do?

(MORE: Why Middle Age Is the Best Time to Fall in Love)

At the party, I met the man who would become my first date. He was invited by the birthday girl's son to help serve margaritas. He served me mine, and I spent most of the evening chatting with him, not because I was particularly attracted to him, but because he made me laugh. One month later, we connected.

I knew it was time for several reasons:

1. I was getting out and doing things. Getting divorced doesn't exactly up the confidence meter. In fact, if the break-up has anything to do with a third party, you can literally watch that meter crash full speed into the ground like a failed rocket launch.

Thus, with my confidence in tatters, me, the extrovert, took up improvisation through a class. One to follow my instincts, I knew this eight-week class would help me return to my normal, smiley-face self. That's also where I got my flirting groove back on. When you're pretending, you're not worried about rejection. So get out there and practice first.

2. The signs kept appearing. The party fellow's name kept coming up. "Did you know he asked about you?" my friend said a week or two after that party. Another week later, I was on an assignment, and the person I interviewed mentioned his name. What are the odds? I thought this was a serendipitous door I might have to open.

Another week or two later, I looked him up online, found his email address, and sent a message. The next thing I knew, I had myself a date. So watch for the signs.

(MORE: HIV/AIDS and the New Rules of 50-Plus Dating)

3. My senses returned. Anyone who's ever been through a traumatic event knows a sort of numbness sets in immediately afterward. It's the body's way of helping you get through the pain. I experienced this when my second husband died, and I experienced it when my third husband left me. My senses just shut down.

At the same time, I was riding my bike every morning to relieve anxiety. Those earliest rides seem like a blur. But they had a function, and I trusted them. I was on one of those rides the first time I noticed color again — big orange blooms on the Bird of Paradise bushes. And I felt the cool morning air wash over my skin.

But it was the man whose cologne I smelled at a piano bar that really awakened me. I don't recommend trying this at home, but I actually grabbed a man's shirt collar when I got a whiff of him as he walked by my table. I asked first, but still, the friends with me at the time looked aghast. I, on the other hand, felt joyful. For the first time in months I smelled a scent that reminded me I was not dead. So let yourself feel alive.

All it takes is time.

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