Love & Sex Magazine

Dating After Divorce – Middle-Aged Divorce, Baggage, and Responsible Dating

By Barbarajpeters @CouplesAuthor

Dating After Divorce – Taking the Time to Heal

“A look at dating after divorce : parameters to consider for successful dating and a new relationship. My guest blog by Dr. Feinsilber offers a few tips.”


 As divorce rates in the U.S. continue to hover in the 40-50% range, many adults of all ages are often finding themselves facing the difficult, unpleasant, and often scary process of divorce recovery and eventual re-entry into the world of dating. Like most therapists, I tend to encourage my clients to allow themselves adequate time to heal emotionally, and to cognitively process what has happened, before attempting to establish any new romantic relationships. This typically involves making a conscious choice to keep new relationships with the opposite sex primarily on a “friendship” basis for a period of time, usually about six to twelve months at a minimum. In general, the longer the duration of the former marriage, the more time that might be recommended to be put aside for this emotional recovery and self-examination process. There are usually valuable life lessons and personal insights to be realized following the breakup of a marriage that often become obscured when one becomes prematurely distracted by a new romantic relationship (although, at times, that is the initial intention!).

When the Healing is Done and the Dating after a Divorce Begins

The above considerations notwithstanding, eventually most divorced people ultimately begin meeting new potential partners through friends, Internet dating services, dating after divorceinterest-based groups, church singles groups, and other sources. The challenges that this process poses for those over the age of 40 can be considerable: for example, one will typically be facing fewer eligible choices; dealing with individuals (like oneself) who are more “settled” or “set in their ways”; often reckoning with the presence of children or teenagers (custodial or non-custodial); and trying hard to avoid choosing a new partner encumbered with that most clichéd but complex of commodities: “baggage.” As much as we may tend to deny it, by the time one reaches the age of 40 and beyond, it is virtually impossible not to have accrued at least some emotional baggage by that time of life that just couldn’t be left curbside. This baggage may be in the obvious form of ongoing life responsibilities (work, children, interests/community commitments, eldercare, etc.), or in the more subtle form of whatever emotional residue that previous marriages or other relationships may have formed within that person. This residue in turn shapes the attitudes, preferences, postures, and intentions that become part of the mid-life partnering selection process. Naturally, when we first meet new prospective partners, most of us tend to “put our best foot forward” and only disclose the nature or magnitude of our own particular baggage at some later time, which is a healthy choice for the most part.

In fact, measured self-disclosure and the ability to function effectively amidst the presence of emotional baggage are usually considered to be signs of good ego strength by most mental health professionals.

It is my belief that oftentimes the critical issue is more related to what one does to address one’s specific baggage than with the amount of it. If we accept the previous premise that as we age we all develop some emotional issues in one form or another, then it would therefore be illogical and unrealistic to expect to find a mid-life romantic partner with a pristine, squeaky-clean emotional dossier. What may be a more realistic and productive dating posture, as our potential partners gradually disclose their life issues to us over time, would be to watch and listen for signs of how they are dealing and coping with these issues. It has been my experience that the quest for emotional perfection in a partner often, ironically, blinds us to those real issues of theirs that may need to be taken note of and evaluated as far as determining the viability of the relationship. To paraphrase an old Jackson Browne song from the ’70s “…you look for the perfect lover and end up with the perfect fool.”


Mark P. Feinsilber, Ph.D is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience conducting psychotherapy with adults, children, adolescents, couples and families. His practice is in Cumming Georgia at 6030 Bethelview Road, Ste 401 and can be reached by phone at 770-205-5760.  Please visit his website at


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