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The Dating Dad’s Wedding Season Survival Guide

Summer is here. The days are longer, the kids are out of school, and everybody you know is getting married.

Yes, summer means wedding season, and if you’re newly divorced, or in the process, or just haven’t found your way back to the idea that marriage is a good idea for anyone, helping friends and family celebrate their nuptials can be an exercise in self-control. It’s time to sublimate your cynicism, put on your game face, and be the supporting, loving person you’ve always been.

But it isn’t easy.

I remember going to my cousin’s wedding just a few months after my own divorce was finalized. I’m not sure my cousin understood what she was asking when she requested that I hold a corner of the chuppah – the canopy in a Jewish wedding. I’m sure she felt like it was a demonstration of how close we’ve always been. But considering I was still reeling from the recent upheaval in my life, and the same rabbi who’d officiated at my wedding was doing hers, I could only dread the experience.

And it wasn’t easy to stand there while my cousin and the groom looked lovingly into each other’s eyes, the rabbi talking about a forever commitment. It wasn’t easy to suspend disbelief on their behalf, to smile and lend encouragement when marriage seemed to me a sham and a lie and a false promise people make to each other. It wasn’t easy to stand at the front of the room, before my family members in the front rows. And it really wasn’t easy when the rabbi turned to me at a quiet moment, put her hand on my arm, and whispered, “You’re doing great.”

In the years since my divorce, I’ve been to many weddings, and have been in the wedding party of several of them. In none of them have I felt so deeply out-of-place as that first one. I felt like an imposter.

So the good news is that it will get better. But that first round of weddings is a bitch. You just kind of have to suck it up, not take yourself too seriously, and know that you’re not always going to feel this way.

Here are select tips to help the newly divorced (or divorcing) survive wedding season.

1. Prepare yourself.

Whether it’s a family or friend occasion, you can probably get a good idea of the guest list before you go. Will you have compatriots there who have your back? It’s the bride and groom’s day, so don’t count on either of them to be attentive to your experience. But if you have a cousin or a close friend who knows what you’re dealing with, it wouldn’t hurt to reach out before the big day and have a chat about it. Talk about any discomfort, and make a plan for what to do if things start to feel iffy for you, whether it’s to make sure you have plenty of bubbly (or bourbon) to soften the sharp edges, or a place to which you can retreat, or an escape plan.

2. Wear something that makes you feel awesome.

Make the effort to look your best — it’s better to be a little overdressed than a little underdressed. You’ll feel more confident, and it’ll show. So take the time to find the clothes that fit the occasion and also fit you well.

3. Pack a couple hankies.

As a man, I always carry a handkerchief in my pocket, but I’ve learned to carry an extra at weddings, just in case the waterworks start near me. But if you’re in the early days of being single again, you may need them both for yourself. It’s okay to cry, even if it’s out of self-pity. Weddings are an in-your-face occasion, and they can bring a lot of crappy stuff to the surface.

4. Be a snob.

If you can make a wedding fun for yourself, it’ll go by faster and be much more enjoyable. For me, I have this weird compressed conflict of thinking, “Damn, I’m not sure I could do all of this process and fanfare again,” combined with “But if I did, I’d never include a song by Bob Dylan in the ceremony.” And then I think of all the ways my next wedding would be superior to the one I’m attending. Which allows me to drift into the fantasyland of the proposal and the wedding and the honeymoon with some as yet unknown woman. But not the marriage afterward—yikes! It’s absurd, of course. But it’s a fun game, and it allows me to daydream myself away from the present while still being in the moment.

5. Be brazen.

The more you act like you belong there, the more you’ll believe it. And the fewer maddening expressions of concern you’ll have to deal with. For me, it was the looks and the questions that I hated most. The last thing I wanted to talk about was my feelings and heartache at a joyous occasion. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

6. Drink enough to lighten the mood, but don’t get sloppy.

Of course drinking yourself into oblivion would be an easy way to stay numb through the whole event. But you already know the many reasons why that would be a bad idea. Still, if a nip or a sip will settle your nerves, and you can keep the urge to binge drink in check, I say go for it. If cannabis is more your thing, the same rule applies—go easy. You don’t want to be the sloppy drunk or zoned out stoner who becomes the cautionary tale that everyone remembers.

7. Flirt (or be flirted with).

You may or may not be in the mood for love, but you can still surf the wave of built-in romance that always comes with a wedding, and see where it takes you. Maybe it’ll lead to a date, a tryst, a new friendship, or just a magical, stolen makeout session in a deserted hallway. Just make sure that doesn’t happen with the bride and/or groom.

8. You don’t have to stay for the whole thing.

If you’ve powered through the ceremony and the beginning of the reception, and you’re just not feeling it, make a quiet exit and feel good that you lasted as long as you did. You don’t have to stay for the cake ceremony. And you certainly don’t have to dance if you don’t want to. But…

9. You can dance if you want to.

Go for it. Be you. Smile, shake your hips, surrender. You have this.

Obviously, these are just shallow, surface-level tactics to help you power through the 3-6 hours (or, egads, entire weekend) of unbridled optimism and fraught emotions wrapped up in a wedding event. Whatever you do, don’t choose that time to sift through your own sentiments about marriage or dig into why you’re feeling the way you are. Save that for another time, and a safe space — like with your therapist, or best friend, or with a box of tissues and a binge-watching of Scrubs.

Eric Elkins has been divorced for 13 years, and writing his Dating Dad blog about the joys and humiliations of being a single father for more than a decade. He owns a social media consulting agency in Denver, writes books on the side, and travels often with his 16-year-old geek goddess daughter. You can find him on Twitter as @datingdad, on Instagram as @ericelkins, and Snapchat as @sazereric. Read more at datingdad.com.

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Overcoming Fear During Your Divorce

Whether you were surprised when your former spouse decided to file for divorce or you were the one who decided that it was time to untangle the knot and move on with your lives, the changes divorce brings to your life can be terrifying. However, overcoming that fear is a critical part of moving on with your life, seeing what’s on the other side, and learning to function in your new reality. It won’t happen overnight, but if you give yourself time, you’ll learn just what a strong individual you can be.

Live in the Moment

The future is, and always will be, a huge unknown. Maybe you’ve already considered new dreams and plans for your future, based on your new independent life, instead of life with your former spouse. Or maybe you’re still shaping those dreams and figuring out what you actually want. Whatever the case, the present moment is a lot less scary than all those unknowns. You’re doing fine, you’re handling things, and your current outlook really isn’t so bad. Sit down, breathe, and give yourself permission to live in the moment, instead of fixating on the distant future.

Appreciate the Little Things

There are benefits to being on your own. Regardless of the negatives, seeking out the positives can help you overcome your fears and come to enjoy your new single status. Consider this:

  • You have your entire bed to yourself (or can share it with a child or children at your personal discretion, instead of having to cater to your spouse) and can spread out as much as you like.
  • You can make your own meal choices, without considering your former spouse’s preferences. That fantastic meal that you love and they hate? You can have it whenever you like.
  • You have full control over the remote. There’s no need to negotiate on which show you’ll be watching tonight. Instead, you can choose the one that works best for you.
  • You can enjoy time with friends whenever you like and, in fact, you’re probably learning just how important some of those friends are in your life.

Being single for the first time in years may be intimidating, but it also offers an unparalleled freedom. Concentrate on those great positives instead of letting yourself dwell on the negatives, and you’ll be amazed by how much stronger you feel. It isn’t possible for fear to get the better of you when you’re focusing on all the good in your life.

Remember How Strong You Are

You’ve been through tough times before. Some of them may have left their mark on you, but you survived them all! Sit down with your journal and list those moments when you needed to be strong and were able to step up to the plate. Then, realize that you still have that same strength. You’ll be able to handle those scary moments when they come.

Give In and Imagine

If you can’t get that lingering fear to let go, try this strategy: let yourself imagine the worst-case scenario. Define your fear and name it for what it is. Then ask yourself, “What if?” How are you going to handle that situation when it arises? Develop a plan of action that you’ll be able to realistically put into place if that worst-case scenario actually occurs. Once you know how you’ll handle it, you’ll be able to lay the fear to rest and focus on more important things.

Your life will change dramatically over the next few months and years. You’ll deal with new situations, test your own strength, and discover that single you is even more capable than the married you ever dreamed. We’re here to help you overcome your fear and navigate the transition. Check out how we can help. We’ll walk you through the process and help you find the strategies you need as you evolve into your next chapter.

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10 Things You Can Look Forward to When You are Single

Let’s face it: Divorce is a heavy and depressing topic. There’s no way of getting around that. But, there is a bright side. Being single for the right reasons, versus staying with someone for the wrong reasons, opens up a whole new world.

First, let’s consider the bad things you lose — all the minor annoyances that added up, from the toilet seat that was always left up or waiting on your spouse while she changed three times before leaving the house. The passive-aggressive behavior, fights about money, those certain family members you dreaded spending holidays with. Gone! All Gone!

Now, let’s talk about what you gain:

  1. Kid-free time. Of course, you love your kids with all your heart. And, at first, it may be hard to get used to not having them around every day or weekend. And then… Imagine waking up on a Saturday morning and having absolutely no obligations until Monday. The weekend is yours. You can sleep in, go to the gym, get a pedicure, meet a friend for coffee, take a long bike ride, hit the town or stay in. You’re not transporting kids to play dates or birthday parties. The movie Frozen is not on constant replay on your TV, and you can go out to eat in sophisticated adult establishments where mac and cheese and chicken fingers are nowhere to be found on the menu. You don’t even need to find a sitter!
  2. Your own money. If you want to buy another pair of black shoes to go with the other 12 pairs in your collection, there’s no one to give you a hard time about it. New golf clubs? No problem. Of course, this is not to say you should go on a crazy post-divorce shopping spree without paying careful attention to your budget, but, the bottom line is, it’s your budget. No one else’s.
  3. Self-discovery. The extra time in your life allows you to explore hobbies you’ve always wanted to try. You have the chance to discover — or rediscover– who you truly are outside of the confines of a marriage that may have defined you and your life for so long. When you open yourself up to finding your true self and to the possibilities of what could be, doors will open all around you.
  4. Freedom. This is your life. And now this is your opportunity to live it how you would like. During your process of self-discovery, you may find there are things you want to change. Have you been dreaming about a career change? Do you want to travel more? You have the freedom to achieve these goals.
  5. The “spark”. Remember those butterflies in your stomach and the thrill of the chase (or being chased)? The excitement of getting to know someone new and all the milestones that come with that, including the first kiss, weekends away, feeling like someone is genuinely interested in what you have to say, and yes… the sex. When you are living in a bad marriage, those special moments get lost in the daily grind of arguments and tension.
  6. It’s your home. Decorate how you want. Make it your safe place in the world. Bless someone else by giving away anything that doesn’t “fit” into your new world. I remember bringing decor into my new home from the old, and it no longer fit who I was. Out it went! While I still have furniture to buy, rooms to paint and walls to fill — my home feels so comfortable to me!
  7. Watch what you want. Ever get those snarky comments for watching football, Fox News or Grey’s Anatomy? The remotes are yours with no color commentary. Enough said.
  8. Be a better parent. When you’re in a difficult marriage, it can be so hard to be the parent you want to be. So much of your energy is being drained within your marriage, and it’s common for your relationship with your child to suffer. Parenting alone gives you an opportunity to be truly present with your kids and create a more connected relationship.
  9. You decide the menu. Couples often have different preferences when it comes to food. One person may be trying to live a healthier lifestyle, while the other is bringing home doughnuts. This can easily lead to resentment on both sides. You can now eat in peace!
  10. You can take off your mask. No more pretending to be the happy couple and to be somebody and something that you are not. You finally get to live life on your terms and in your truth.

Not being part of a couple can definitely take some getting used to. I’m not going to lie — you may feel lonely at times. And sad. Even unsafe. But, it’s pretty normal to have those feelings in a bad marriage as well. Start embracing the simple pleasures of single life and you’ll discover how good it feels to find yourself again.

What are you most looking forward to about being single?

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