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Why Wait to Date?

This is a question that I’m asked in therapy all the time– by clients that are either in the process of a divorce, or just on the other side of it. I completely understand the desire to move on with life, to begin again, and to want to get past all the ugliness that usually accompanies separation and divorce. That said, there are very good reasons to wait to date, including the data driven dynamic that today, 50% of first marriages, 67% percent of second marriages, and 73% percent of third marriages fail.(1) Let’s look at why these numbers are so high.


The failure rate for first marriages is often blamed on youth and naivete. Interestingly, post pandemic, the average age of those marrying for the first time is between thirty and thirty-two. Not as young as in decades past, but young enough, when you consider that neuroscience has revealed that the human brain is not fully formed until the late twenties. The early thirties are also the time when careers are demanding, the biological clock is informing decisions on having children, homes are being purchased or renovated, and life is busy. These circumstances put a lot of stress on relationships, and when disappointments occur, young couples often feel ill-equipped to work through them together. This is where things can get tricky. Communication gets harder, old coping mechanisms become default behaviors, and when this occurs, couples often stop spending time together. When intimacy is lacking, some people seek connection by becoming emotionally or physically involved with someone else – infidelity is a contributing factor in 60% of divorces.(2) Others isolate and dwell upon the assumptions that they’ve made about their partner and their marriage. This is often when talk of divorce begins. First marriages that end in divorce usually last about eight years.(3)


Second and third marriages fail for a variety of reasons, including finances, blending families, missing the good things about a former spouse, substance mis-use, moving too fast in rebound-mode, and simply marrying for the wrong reasons – like the fear of being alone and never finding another partner. When people begin dating during or after divorcing their first spouse, there is a hopefulness and an expectation that things will be better the next time around. Typically, people don’t give themselves enough time to work through the loss and grief from their first failed marriage. They’re glad that the pain is behind them. With shared custody, they may also have some nights and weekends to fill, and sitting at home alone, in the discomfort of their feelings, can be overwhelming. So too can be the idea of finding new friend groups and developing new interests. 


The most common denominator in all failed marriages, is that people don’t do the work they need to do on themselves before entering another committed relationship. There’s a hesitancy to take responsibility for their own role in the demise of their previous marriage. It’s hard to look in the mirror and face the reality that you had something to do with all the pain experienced. Additionally, when people pair-off for the second or third time, there’s usually a lack of understanding of each other’s core values and relational expectations. Most couples don’t spend a lot of time exploring their own, and each other’s way of being in the world. They don’t consider their differences to be consequential, and they don’t work together to develop good communication patterns or ways to manage conflict. It’s not easy to talk about the hard realities of relationship, and after a failed marriage, people just want to have some fun. The reality is that once you start having fun with one person, and things are moving in a direction of commitment, it’s hard to extricate yourself from that relationship, even when you have some doubts. Paired with having survived one divorce already, the possibility of another doesn’t necessarily register as disastrous. This thinking can lead to the number one reason that marriages fail, a lack of commitment. (2)

To be well prepared to start dating, it’s a good idea to give yourself at least six months (and preferably a year) to simply be. During that time, you can work on becoming the very best version of yourself and figure out what you truly want and need in a partnership. Do some therapy. Read some books on what it takes to have a good and lasting relationship. The likelihood is that after a divorce, you will remarry. Statistics show that 52% of women and 64% of men enter into the institution of marriage again in their lifetime.(4)



1.     Psychology Today. What is the Divorce Rate, Really?

2.     National Library of Medicine. Top Reasons for Divorce

3.     U.S. Census Bureau. Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces

4.     Pew Research Center. Eight facts about love and marriage in America

Katey Villalon, LMFT, IRT

Call: 512-537-6339  Email:


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