Dating following a divorce: what to expect

By Kathy Rumleski, Contributor

In the final instalment of a four-part series, Toronto family lawyer and divorce recovery coach Leanne Townsend offers tips on how to successfully navigate the dating landscape after divorce.

Getting back into the dating scene following a divorce is not easy, so people need to give themselves time to recover from the breakup, says Toronto family lawyer and divorce recovery coach Leanne Townsend.

“There could be a great deal of trauma and people should not jump right into another relationship without doing the work needed to heal,” Townsend tells

People who are afraid of being alone have a tendency to “ping-pong” from one relationship to the next, but it’s not the healthiest path, she says.

“I always tell my clients that it’s important to spend some time on your own and rediscover who you are. You need to be comfortable on your own,” says Townsend, a partner with Brauti Thorning LLP.

“You’re going to have a better, healthier relationship if you’ve done those things, and you’ll be far less likely to repeat the same mistakes,” she says.

You can be alone without being lonely, Townsend says.

She says while it’s hard to know exactly how long the period of healing may take — and she gets asked that question on a regular basis — she recommends waiting at least a year before starting another relationship.

But dating doesn’t mean you’re heading into a long-term relationship again, Townsend notes.

“Some people are able to casually date, and some are not,” she says. “This is specific to the individual, though. People heal at different rates as they have been through different experiences.”

Townsend, who offers a five-week, divorce recovery coaching program, says dating can be more complicated for those with kids.

“That’s another element that comes into it. People have to consider their children and how new relationships may impact them,” she says.

For anyone who was married for quite some time, they should be aware that the dating world has changed significantly, Townsend says, adding online dating and singles websites can be a way to ease back into the dating scene.

“It can provide a route for you to get back out there on some level and have control over the process,” she says. “You decide if you’re going to reply or if you want to give out your email address. There is not as much pressure.”

Ultimately, Townsend says, if you want to meet someone, you have to put yourself out there, whether online or in person.

“Like anything, go in with a positive attitude and be open to trying new things,” she says.

However, there can be an element of risk, Townsend cautions, whether meeting in person or having an online romance.

“I was a Crown attorney as well, and have seen plenty of dates that have gone wrong, where someone has been the victim of a criminal offence,” she says.

Meeting dates in a public place is important as is being careful about what personal information you provide to virtual strangers, Townsend says.

“There are many lonely people out there, and they can be preyed upon,” she says.

If you’re ready to venture into the dating scene again, Townsend recommends pursuing hobbies and doing something you enjoy as a way to meet people with similar interests.

There are also meetup groups in places across the country, she says, which provide a broad platform of options for activities and networking.

That first real one-on-one date is likely going to be nerve-racking for most people, and that’s where a coach can really be helpful, Townsend says.

“They can help you prepare for the date and even role play so that you’re more comfortable. It is very different to date now than it was 20 years ago,” she says.

Old-style chivalry isn’t always the custom in today’s dating world, Townsend says.

“Learning what the current norm is can be helpful. The more information you have, the less nervous you’ll be. Also, approach it as something fun,” she says. “Be open-minded and don’t expect a soulmate connection on a first date. Look at it as an opportunity to expand your social circle.”

Click here to read part one, where Townsend provides tips and strategies for those looking to re-enter the workforce following a divorce.

Click here to read part two, where Townsend offers strategies to help newly single people get a handle on their finances.

Click here to read part three, where Townsend discusses steps newly single people can take to rebuild their social networks.

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