For many of you, it has been a long time since you’ve dated. Jumping back into the dating pool may not sound exciting, especially after marriage, but there are a few things to keep in mind before moving forward.

1) Your next is not your ex

There are many reasons why people choose to divorce. Whatever those reasons may be, do not compare your ex husband or wife to the new person you meet. Dating is hard as it is, but once you start tacking on the baggage from the last relationship, it becomes more difficult and is a recipe for failure.

The new guy or gal has done nothing to you to deserve your criticism, ridicule, distrust, etc. You owe it to yourself (and him/her) to let it go. We’ve all gone through trauma in relationships, and a lot of those experiences helped shape who we are today.

Rather than living in the past, give the new person in your life an opportunity to build a new future with you. Forget the comparisons because the truth is, no one will measure up. They will either be better than or worse than, so let go and let God.

2) Find solace in friends

Your friends can be your best defense after a terrible breakup. They know you, your history, and provide the insight you will need to help you navigate through the tough terrain called dating.

Surround yourself with a positive support system, and ask for help when you feel like the process is too overwhelming. Dating is an emotional ordeal, but as long as you have a great team to cheer you up when things go wrong (because they will), you will make it through with flying colors.

3) It takes time

No one wants to be alone.  As uncomfortable as you may be with this notion, it is important that you understand that dating does not cure loneliness. In fact, dating can make loneliness even worse due to disappointment in prospects, rejection, etc. If you are not fully prepared for the journey, you are guaranteed to fail.

Take some time to evaluate your reasons for wanting to find love again, and decide if those reasons are strong enough to support the process. You may find that you are still healing, and if you are, let yourself heal! Trust that you will meet someone special when the time is right.

4) Don’t give yourself a time period. PERIOD.

(This is a follow up to It Takes Time) The very moment you add an expiration date to your search is the moment you may end up regretting for a long time. I have met so many divorcees in my matchmaker lifetime who have said that they wanted to be married or in a relationship in “one year;” “next fall;” “2012.”

Dating does not have a shelf life, and neither do you. You will not expire if you don’t meet and marry the man or woman of your dreams by next year. Plus, what happens if you don’t meet that deadline? It will make you feel more lonly and more depressed about dating, so why do it in the first place!!!!!

I have to admit, giving yourself a cutoff date reads a bit desperate. What will happen is you will begin choosing and dating men and women for the wrong reasons. “She doesn’t want children, but we’re discussing marriage! He’s been married four times, but he really is sweet.” You are grossly limiting yourself.

When dating after a long hitaus, it is crucial to let nature take its natural course. You may not meet “him” on the first 5 dates; you may not on the 10th, but what’s important is that you don’t give up, and focus more on making friends then finding a husband.

5) Leave the expectations at home

Dating after divorce can be fun and exciting as long as you keep your expectations to a minimum. Many crack under the pressure once they realize that what they are looking for is harder to find than expected.

I have said this once before – I am sure, but there is a reason why the game of love is called a game. Either you are on the winning side or the losing, but you always have a choice. You can win by choosing to expect the unexpected and look at dating as the adventure it is, or you can lose by putting too much pressure on yourself and the experience.

Step back. Relax. It’s going to be okay. Many who have divorced have gone on to remarry. Don’t rush the process and milk it for all it’s worth, because once  you meet your new love, you’ll have to give up some of the new “friends”  you made.