Navigating life as a single woman is more difficult than driving a car, operating heavy machinery or figuring out how to assemble an Ikea book shelf. And yet all of those things come with detailed instructions and a tool kit.
What if dating did come with an instruction manual? What if we could learn from the many, many women who have gone before us? The wise ladies who’ve already lived through the meet, the proposal, the wedding, and the end of a marriage—the ones who have invaluable wisdom for all the single ladies looking to find (and keep) The One.
Dating is hard, divorce is harder, and with the end of a marriage comes a certain clarity about what could have been done better and smarter. That’s why we tapped into the collective wisdom of these whip-smart divorcees to find out how to better at being single.
You Don’t Have to Get Married
Vicki Larson, co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels and blogger at OMG Chronicles
When I was young, I never felt great pressure to get married, nor did I dream about white lacy gowns, weddings and Prince Charming. I just expected that I’d get married one day and I did…twice. Once at the ridiculous age of 20, when I knew nothing, and once when I was 32, when I thought I knew enough.
Now that I’ve been happily divorced for 14 years, I don’t know much but I sure have been thinking about it a lot more, and here’s what I’ve learned:
No one needs to get married nowadays — we can have sex, babies, financial independence, and a live-in partner without saying, “I do.” So it’s really important to know why you want to tie the knot and if you really want to — is it because you want to have children, or you feel pressured, or all your friends are getting married, or you think something’s wrong with you if you don’t, or you’re afraid you’ll live and die alone, or all of the above?
I thought relationships and marriage looked a certain way. I didn’t know that there are other ways to be a committed couple without living together, being monogamous or even getting married. If you decide to live with a romantic partner, craft a cohabitation agreement to be sure you’re on the same page.
Most importantly, don’t let romantic relationships consume you. Give yourself time to be alone, to be with friends, to be with family. Romantic partnerships come and go, but good friends are forever.
Choose someone with whom you argue well. My ex-husband and I were incredibly suited for each other in terms of life vision, politics, senses of humor, and generally enjoying the world in the same way. But we were horrible fighters. Not only did we fight a lot, but we fought dirty, loud, rehashed issues over and over and with the goal of one of us being right, the other wrong. Life is full of disagreements and issues to resolve. Choose someone fearless about facing conflict, and willing to argue fairly, kindly, and with the goal of resolution and moving forward.
Ask the Hard and Weird Questions Early
Jackie Pilossoph, creator of Divorced Girl Smiling
When I was dating in my twenties and thirties, the criteria I looked for was: someone I was attracted to, someone who was fun, and someone who made me laugh. I didn’t care what kind of car he drove, what he did as a career (as long as he didn’t complain about it all the time) or how much money he had.
While I still think all of those things are very important in being happy with someone, there are many things I failed to put on the list. First and foremost, when dating, I think it is wise to ask yourself, “Do I truly trust this person?” and “How would he be if I got sick, God forbid?” How would he be if we had a child and the child got sick? What if we lost all our money and were struggling financially? Would he fall apart? It is important to really think through scenarios where character is really tested. When things get rough, is he going to cope by cheating or drinking heavily or being abusive? Or is he going to lean on me and say, “Let’s get through this together”? Trust and loyalty are two really really big factors in a successful relationship.
One more thing. Say what’s on your mind. He is your best friend so you should be able to say whatever you want and not worry. Also, he is your best friend so whatever you say, word it so that you don’t hurt your best friend. And finally, have sex with your best friend. A lot. It is a great way to stay connected romantically.
Keep Your Friends Close
Amy Koko, author of There’s Been A Change of Plans, A Memoir On Divorce, Dating and Delinquents in Midlife and creator of Ex Wife New Life
Make your girlfriends a priority. I’m talking about the girlfriend who sits across the table from you unfazed while you ugly cry (snot dripping, the whole thing) because your Uber driver called you “sir” after you got the Robin Wright haircut or your blind date showed up in a t-shirt with Yoda on the front. She is the one who will see you through. Even if you’re in a new romance that requires your constant vigilance, weekly waxes and minute by minute texting that may take you away from the things you girls usually do together, don’t let this friendship get away from you. Do your weekly girls’ night even if it means a night away from your honey. Take the trip you guys had been planning before you met him. Check in with her to see how she’s doing. Be THAT friend. Maybe this new guy will be The ONE. Maybe not. But she’s your sure thing. Hang on to her.