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Dating After Divorce: One Local Shares Her First Experience on Dating Apps

Plus, readers tell us how they met their match!

By As told to Marie Tutko

Dating After Divorce

Dating After Divorce

Dating is hard enough as is, but what about when you haven’t been on a first date in over 20 years? There’s a seemingly endless number of dating sites and apps to choose from today, it’s a challenge to put yourself back out there after a divorce—and it’s even more difficult if you’re a parent. One local woman from North County, a 48-year-old divorced parent of two teenagers, gave online dating a try for the first time last year, and shared her story with us.

I got on dating apps last summer.

I was married for 20 years—got married at 23, right out of grad school—and filed for divorce nearly five years ago. It wasn’t finalized until about 18 months ago. I took my time deciding to date again because I needed to heal, evolve, and work on myself and be there for my kids. I had to go through the processing and counseling with them.

At first, dating wasn’t even on my mind. Then last year a lot of change just happened. I got a new job, and a change of attitude. Getting vaccinated meant I could start meeting my friends outdoors again for hikes and talks. And everybody kept asking me: “What are you waiting for? It’s been almost five years out; you’re in a really good place now. Why don’t you date?”

I did not want to do online dating. I wanted to meet people organically. But it wasn’t happening with remote work. So I decided to go on an app. I had the support of a couple of single friends and a family member, and that definitely helped, I think, because when I first got on the app I wanted to delete it the very next day!

Going Digital

None of the men I was being matched with fit what I wanted: education level, distance, values, things like that. That kind of turned me off, and then I figured out how to use the filters. When I decided to date, I made it clear I was looking for a committed relationship, nothing casual. So that was my approach.

Online dating didn’t feel impersonal, but it was a lot of work. I also sought advice from my niece and single friends who have experience with it. Honestly, I probably screened out about 90 percent of the matches: If they didn’t have a photo in their profile, if they were just looking for a good time, if they weren’t okay with the fact that I have full custody of my kids, or if they were too aggressive, I didn’t pursue it or respond.

Venturing Out

I finally matched with a man whose profile I really liked. It spoke to me, and I reached out and said hello. He was traveling, but wrote me back the same day. After messaging for a while, I gave him my number and then we had great conversations. We ended up talking for two months before we actually met in person. We felt like we knew each other, because we’d had many hours-long conversations at that point.

He lives in Orange County, so we met in the middle. Our first date ended up being seven hours long. We had a lot in common: hiking, volunteering, vegetarianism. We seemed to check off all the boxes, but after the date he didn’t text me and I didn’t hear from him for a while. When we did get in touch, we had a good conversation, and then we said we’ll just remain friends.

I was disappointed because I thought it was going great. But then I realized he was right. I took a break from checking the app and wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go back on. But my friends encouraged me to try again.

A Happier Ending

I recently met someone. He reached out to me on the app. This time, I was mindful of what my friends and my niece had told me: Don’t talk for too long before meeting, because then you get invested emotionally, or it feels like a relationship without actually being one. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to meet him. But he was very considerate. He waited until I was ready to exchange phone numbers and stuck with the app until then. He didn’t complain if I was a little slow to respond. He also agreed to a video call before we met.

He lives about an hour away. He’s a few years older than me, and about six years out of his divorce. We also had a lot of other things in common. So we met up for lunch. When I met him in person he looked better than his photos.

That’s something I’d love to put out there—photographs, even video calls, don’t give the whole picture of a person! And some people are just not photogenic or they come across very differently. We had a good lunch, and great conversation. But I still wasn’t sure. Because of my relationship background and my hesitance, I tend to want to friend-zone all the guys I meet. My niece said to me: “No, you’re not friend- zoning this guy!”

So I agreed to a second date. It was four or five hours long, and he asked to meet again the next weekend. By the end of the first month, we both decided we wouldn’t see anyone else. He was very honest after the third date. He said: “I’m not seeing anyone else. I’m closing down my profile. You don’t have to do the same thing, but know that I’m really interested in pursuing this.”

I admit I’m definitely surprised that it happened this quickly. My friends told me it was going to take months, maybe a year or two, to meet someone, and said I’d have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet a prince. So I planned to try the apps for a few months, not forever. But once I dropped my barriers with this new person, and made myself a little bit more vulnerable, I really started enjoying it. We’re definitely in relationship territory now.

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