When should people over 50 start dating after a divorce?

Are you ready to start dating after a divorce? The range of answers to that question runs all the way from “Nope, never” to “Already started,” and each approach has its merits.

When you’re an older adult, rejoining the dating world may present extra challenges, including getting familiar with online dating services that are beneficial to your age group and moving beyond the idea that you’re too old to date.

Psychologist Carmen Harra told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that those over 50 shouldn’t give up on dating after a divorce.

“Once you feel detached from a former partner and at peace with the situation surrounding your divorce, you owe it yourself to seek the love and affection you deserve to have,” said Harra, who is the author of “Committed: Finding Love and Loyalty Through the Seven Archetypes.”

The timing can get tricky, though. Here are tips from Harra and other relationship experts:

Follow your own schedule

“There is no set time frame when you should step out and start looking for potential suitors,” Harra said. “It all depends on how ready you feel inside. There are people who are ready to start dating while they’re still in an old relationship because they’re already emotionally detached from their ex, and there are people who need years to truly heal and close old doors. Your emotions will dictate your course of action.”

Recognize your readiness

A 2009 study indicated that it takes on average 18 months to get over a divorce, while a 2017 survey determined most adults take about six months to recover from a breakup.

It may be more helpful to determine your outlook instead of monitoring the calendar, however, according to the SAS for Women divorce support blog founded by certified professional coach Liza Caldwell and trained coach and educator Kimberly Mishkin.

“If, after divorce, you say to yourself whenever someone suggests you should get back out there, ‘What? Start all over? It’s so much work,’ this is a sign that you’re not over your divorce,” SAS for Women experts said. “The idea of dating feels like a chore, a series of boxes to check off a list someone else has generated, rather than the adventure it can really be. So, don’t do it. Focus on yourself and what you need to discover about putting your life back together. Until you do this work, you will only be showing up half-heartedly or damaged.”

Know when you’re ready to move on

People “often discover they’ve ‘moved on’ almost unconsciously,” SAS for Women said. “They wake up one morning, and the sadness they’ve been carrying feels different, less of a weight than a kind of memory. You’re in the middle of a conversation, for instance, or you are out shopping in the grocery store, and you see the latest tabloid announcing another celebrity divorce when you remember your own divorce, what you’re supposed to be grieving, or ‘missing’ or reverberating from. Only you don’t so much. You feel stabilized.”

Cues you’re ready to date include feeling “a twinge of excitement at the thought of meeting someone new, then some part of you might be ready to move on—at least in the romantic department,” SAS said.

Set guardrails before you embark on dates

“Be choosy,” said Suzy Brown on the Midlife Divorce Recovery blog. Brown has operated support groups for those overwhelmed by the prospect of divorce since 2003.

Before opening your heart once more, Brown recommends creating three lists that establish deal breaker, must-have and nice-to-have qualities for potential dates.

Whether you’re looking for romance or friendship, “those lists are really, really important! Why waste time with someone who has characteristics on your ‘Deal Breaker’ list?” Brown said. “Liar? Arrogant? Disrespectful? Controlling? Self-centered? Smoker? Not over his first wife? Do not waste a minute of your precious time trying to cultivate a real relationship with someone who has any of your deal-breaker qualities.”

The “must haves” and “nice to haves” help clarify your purpose in dating.

“The more clear you are about who you are and who you want in your life, the easier it is to find people who share your bigger life vision,” Brown said.

Slow your serious relationship goals

“Especially after a messy divorce, you should take a deep breath and set the pause button on serious relationships,” Brown said. “Trying to start a new relationship before you have fully recovered from your last one is a recipe for disaster.”

Brown’s rule of thumb is to not aim for a serious relationship “for at least six months, or 12 months, or whatever you decide,” she said. “That will make your dating after 50 more relaxed and fun. Who knows what delightful things might happen?”