A Divorcée’s Guide to Online Dating

Recently divorced, writer Lisa Fields navigates the e-minefield of online dating in search of new and true love.

photo credit: shutterstock

Last year, after the dust from my recent divorce had settled, I felt ready to attempt a romantic relationship again. For the first time in my life, I created an online dating profile. I selected a flattering, wide-grinned photo of myself, explained that I was seeking a clever, charming man in my age bracket (give or take four years) and then sat back to find out what would happen.

I don’t know what I was expecting from the online dating community, but it certainly wasn’t this: For the first month that my profile was live, I was only contacted by men who were 10 to 20 years older than me, none of whom I would consider for a serious relationship while raising two grade schoolers.

After the third or fourth silver-haired doctor flirted with me electronically, I started to worry. Maybe the mention in my profile of my two children was holding me back. I began thinking about the dating website’s success stories that featured couples who had gotten married after meeting online, giving hope to unattached folks like myself. Most were stories about two single people who clicked, but two stories featured divorced dads who married single women, giving hope to the divorced demographic. Suddenly, it hit me: None of the stories had featured divorced moms.

Why Dating is Harder For Divorced Moms

Of course, I know that plenty of divorced moms get remarried. My kids have friends with stepdads, and I know PTA members with second husbands. But as a divorced mom with no serious online suitors to consider, I was feeling discouraged, and I figured that I wasn’t alone.

To see if my experience was typical, I reached out to Paula Bisacre, founder of RemarriageWorks.com. “Single moms often have a more difficult time dating,” she told me. “A higher percentage of men will remarry within five years of a divorce than women.”

I had to see those numbers. I found a U.S. Census Bureau report that showed that 87 percent of divorced men remarry compared to 65 percent of divorced women. And my hunch about older men and younger women wasn’t totally wrong: The age gap between spouses in second marriages is five years or more compared to 2.5 years for first marriages.Once I knew what I was up against, I decided to be more aggressive about my online dating. No more sitting back and waiting to get noticed.

Match No. 1

I tapped out a note to a cute, single 42-year-old who seemed interesting (although he sounded like a picky eater, and I’m an adventurous cook). For days, I hovered over my email, waiting for Picky to reply. Nothing. Gradually, it occurred to me that I was too old for Picky and he didn’t have the decency to tell me (just as I’d ignored a grandpa or two). He was seeking women aged 25 to 40 and he wanted kids. I was 40, so I qualified, but Picky probably wanted a younger woman so he could start his own brood, not join a ready-made family with my six- and eight-year-old kids.

After that epiphany, I thought that I might have better luck with divorced dads. They probably wouldn’t want more children, so why wouldn’t they date a contemporary? I began an online dialogue with a divorced dad who had similar interests: We both work for magazines and enjoy swimming. For days, Swimmer and I asked each other meaningful questions, and I began mentally preparing for my first date in 14 years. But then Swimmer disappeared. I’m still not sure why. It felt like a failed first date, even though we never met for the proverbial cup of coffee. At least he didn’t lie and say that he’d call me, I reasoned – the silence from our dating website was loud and clear.

Match No. 2

Next, I met a divorced dad from my town. We emailed for a bit; then he asked for my number. One night after the kids were asleep, Hometown called. He was nice, but I felt absolutely no spark. Our conversation was the mindless chit-chat that you have at a cocktail party with a stranger you don’t plan to see again. Still, I was pleased when Hometown asked me out. Maybe I’d have feelings for him in person. If not, the date would be good practice so that I’d be in better shape when I met someone I really liked. Scheduling our proposed date was tricky, though, because we both had our kids on different weekends. We had to settle for a day that was several weeks away. That didn’t give me a great feeling. How would I get alone time with this divorced dad regularly if I ended up liking him?

Finding The One

While I was contemplating Hometown’s pros and cons, I learned that I had a Secret Admirer. Amused, I checked to see who it was. My dating website prompted anyone who used its search engine to play its Secret Admirer game by clicking on people who were appealing. It seemed like a gimmick to keep people on the website poring over prospective dates, so I hadn’t given much credence to past Secret Admirer alerts. This time, I realized that my Secret Admirer had secretly admired me before, so I gave serious consideration to his profile. He was cute, witty, well-read and an adventurous cook. He was 40 and wasn’t sure if he wanted kids. I crossed my fingers that he’d be content with someone his own age.

I emailed him and soon we began texting. Within days, Texty and I were staying up past midnight, sharing deep insights about ourselves, thumbs tapping our smartphones. I’d never revealed myself this completely to a stranger before. I hadn’t even heard Texty’s voice, but it felt like a real connection.

A week later, Texty and I met for lunch. Part of me wished that Hometown had been available for that practice first date – I was worried that I’d be rusty after 14 years. But our lunch was as warm and intimate as our late-night texting sessions. After a two-hour meal, Texty and I were hooked.Sometimes I marvel at my luck: I found someone special after going on only one date. But I now realize that I actually had my share of bad dates before I met Texty – they’d simply happened online, via email and by phone.

A Fresh Start

A few months after our initial encounter, Texty met my son and daughter. He approached them with such enthusiasm and kindness (which they eagerly returned) that all of my fears about my children holding me back from a meaningful new relationship melted away. While everyone chatted comfortably, I revelled in the moment, smiling secretly to myself. Then I dove into the conversation with three of my favourite people.