Written By: Jessica Tevaga
Entering the dating pool again as a divorced woman has taught me a lot about myself. I was married at 19 years old to a man I knew for 3 months and now after 14 years of marriage, here I am suddenly a 33-year-old single mom with 3 children. For the first time in my life, I am actually dating and yes, this entire situation is every bit as disastrous as it sounds.
After conquering trials, depression, poverty and obesity, I managed to become a strong, independent fitness model, beauty queen, business professional and published author. Yet when it comes to dating, I turn into a teenage girl; inexperienced, vulnerable and completely naïve. I honestly believe that we don’t really age. We stay the same until experience forces us to grow up and change. My life’s experiences have forced me to grow wise beyond my years; but when it comes to dating, I am a baby.
I was thrust into a sea of people much more experienced than I am. I envision myself as the elephant in Tarzan fearfully dipping my toe in the water screaming, “Is this water sanitary? It looks questionable to me!”
I know I’m not the only woman out here forced to face the daunting task of “getting back on the saddle,” afraid to get hurt, make the wrong move and have to start over. So, I’m here to share a few tips for anyone re-entering the dating pool after an extremely long absence.
1. Take your freaking time and keep your space.
It is so easy to slide back into the comfortability of a long term relationship with someone you just met. Heck, if you’re like me, you’ve lived with a man for several years and you didn’t even like him. It is extremely difficult to start the process all over again and go back to the awkwardness of being walked to your door at the end of the night. But it is worth it. Seriously though, slow down and take your time.
2. Know your standards and keep them.
Before you jump out there again, have a clear understanding of what your standards are. Are there things you aren’t willing to do? Do you have non-negotiables? How long do you wait until moving the relationship further? Know the answers to these questions and do not waiver. Every man is going to push you and test to see how far he can go and what he can get away with. It is okay to say “no” and when you do, he will respect you for it.
3. Know what you want and don’t waste your time with anything that doesn’t fit your desires.
Want a long term relationship? Don’t go out with a guy that parties all the time. Want something light? Stay away from the single dads. It’s really that simple.
4. Understand that you will feel lonely.
You will feel lonely and miss companionship but the worst thing you can do is rush into something new with someone who simply “fills” your time. Keep your standards and value high. The only person that decides how much you are worth is you.
5. Have a platonic guy friend that gives it to you straight.
Jay, an ex-NFL extremely eligible bachelor is my dating guru. I bounce almost everything off of him. Every time I have a question, he keeps it real with me. Recently, a man I hadn’t heard from for several months texted, “When can I see you?” Before answering, I sent a screenshot to Jay who quickly replied, “He sent that to 10 women, seeing who bites. It’s a numbers game, don’t waste your time.” (Thank you, Jay!) Having a guy friend who will tell you the truth is like having a spy on the other side. Find one!
6. Expect to mess up.
When you FINALLY find someone you like for the first time, expect to mess up… royally. I met a man I really liked and for the first time in my life felt jealousy. I did everything wrong. I didn’t know what I wanted, was in the comfortable mentality of a long term relationship, didn’t want to feel lonely and had no expectations. Because of this, I was a complete basket case, getting jealous and angry over the smallest things, wanting one thing one day and something completely different the next. I’ve never been called “crazy” in my entire life until that experience and I can’t say I disagree with it. I really feel sorry for the poor guy, being at the receiving end of my delayed dating self-discovery. When it was over, I didn’t even blame him. I learned from the situation what I should have learned 14 years ago and because of that, I felt gratitude for him and the experience. I didn’t beat myself up about it either, I just adjusted and grew.
7. Be brave
It is scary after being hurt in a bad marriage to trust again and start over. It’s scary to allow yourself to fall and fail because believe me, you will. You will discover parts of yourself revealing pain and insecurities from your past that you never knew were there. Be willing to fall, be willing to fail, be willing to feel pain, jealousy and other emotions that you may have never felt before. Become comfortable with the uncomfortable while simultaneously becoming an observer of your own life. Acknowledge your mistakes, make the adjustments and be willing to try again.
This is your second chance to get it right. Everything worth having in life requires you to stretch beyond who you currently are. Be grateful, be brave, be an observer, take your time and have some standards. You will be just fine, I promise.
Jessica is the mother of Kahili, Leihualani and La’akea Tevaga. She is a marketing consultant, Co-Author of “20 Beautiful Women,” fitness model and was featured on Dr. Dave’s nationally broadcasted radio show, “Health Mastery Café.” In addition to her roles as mother and provider, in 2013, Jessica’s broad achievements were acknowledged as she was crowned to represent the State of Illinois in a National Beauty Pageant.
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