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Dating after divorce is one of life's scarier prospects. After years with the same person — and perhaps no longer in the first flush of youth — putting yourself 'out there' to be chosen or rejected by strangers can feel overwhelming.
But it's not just 'ordinary' people who struggle. Singer Louise Redknapp, 47, revealed to Fabulous magazine this week that her teenage sons Charley, 17 and Beau, 12, are 'encouraging' her to date again, several years on from her split from ex-husband Jamie.
The former footballer turned TV pundit recently married model Frida Andersson, who is pregnant with his child.
Louise has remained single since the split in 2017, and recently said, "(My kids) always say 'When are you going to date?’ she explained in a new interview. "All my boys care about is me being happy – whatever that is."
But she is still wary of meeting someone new, insisting that her focus is still "being a mum and stocking up the fridge.. (being) a solid part of their life and right now, that’s enough for me."
She added that she and her sons are "so close, they know everything about me – good, bad and ugly.
"They’re my best friends in the world."
Watch: Dating After Divorce: 3 pitfalls to look out for
It's not surprising that Louise is reluctant to get back out there, having been married to Jamie for 19 years. Back when they married, Louise was still in her mid-twenties, and Tinder wasn't a twinkle in the internet's eye.
She's not alone. Mid-lifer divorce is on the rise — in 2019, there were 107,599 opposite-sex divorces in Britain, an increase of 18.4% from 90,871 in 2018, with lockdowns driving many more to the solicitor's office.
That means there are thousands of newly-single 40 and 50-something men and women emerging, blinking, into the light after years of being cocooned by coupledom.
So how do you approach dating as a divorcé, post-pandemic? And most importantly, how do you build the confidence to 'get back out there'?
Tiffany Harnsongkram is founder of From Divorce to Destiny. She says, "You don't have to spend a year single to "find yourself" - your dating experience has very little to do with the "dating scene" and everything to do with how you see and value yourself," she adds.
Read more: Adele opens up about dating after divorce
"Love is around every corner if you're not blocked off to it."
Rhian Kivits is a Relate-trained sex and relationship expert.
She explains: "Dating after divorce can be daunting. You may feel like you’re out of practice with dating, lack confidence or feel uncertain about whether you’re ready for a new relationship.
"It’s only natural to be cautious," she goes on. "Nobody wants to jump out of the frying pan into the fire and you may tell yourself that you want to avoid the risk of more relationship disappointments in the future."
But sooner or later you may want to take a chance.
Here are Kivits' tips for getting back on the dating scene - without a meltdown.
Make sure you’ve processed what happened in your marriage. There’s no need to repeat the old patterns in future relationships when you’ve reflected on the lessons you’ve learned.
Be very clear about what you’re looking for in a partner, especially if you want to attract someone who’s very different from your ex. Successful relationships are built on good communication, flexible thinking and having things in common. Don’t be afraid to weed out potential dates who don’t match your requirements so that you’re not wasting time and energy on incompatible suitors.
Remember there’s no need to rush. Take time to get to know your dates and know that it’s okay to make dating casual and fun, since you may not be in a hurry to commit. As long as you’re honest about what you’re available for, nobody needs to get hurt.
Be aware that your dates may feel just as cautious as you do, especially if they’ve also been divorced or have come out of a long term relationship. So take a relaxed, curious approach as you get to know each other and in time, your confidence will grow.
Consider your boundaries because you don’t have to get serious or physical until you’re inspired and ready. You may need time and space to work out how you’re feeling and whether you’d like a relationship to move forward, especially when you’ve been through the disappointment of divorce in the past. Dating on your own terms will help you feel secure and in control of your experience.
Watch: Ask the expert: Dating after divorce