Once you’re on the other side of divorce, it’s tough to tell how you’ll feel about dating. Romantic nights out can feel terrifying, electrifying, or simply overwhelming. The only way to find out is to try — and, usually, keep trying. Here are six women, whose names have been changed, on their most memorable dates postdivorce that left them feeling one thing and one thing only: happy.
“I ended up staying out until 3 a.m. with him, making out all over midtown.” — Zoe, 38, publicist, Manhattan
I’ve been single and dating for about a year now, and I’m pretty guarded after coming out of a somewhat traumatic divorce and unpleasant marriage. I’ve had a few “meh” dates — nothing special, no chemistry on my end. Then about a month ago, I decided to meet this guy from online, because he seemed cute and nice enough. We went to a bar in midtown and ended up having the best time! I don’t even really drink, but I ended up staying out until 3 a.m. with him, making out all over midtown. I even suggested a nightcap at another bar before we went home. All night, I was like, Who am I? I felt young, free, and happy, all tipsy, flirty, and slutty — something I never felt with my ex, not even in the honeymoon phase. We never once went out to a bar together and got drunk. Not in nine years together. He was always too stressed from work or dealing with his own shit, which is not my problem anymore. The point is I never saw this guy from the drunk date again. He kinda ghosted, but I didn’t care that much about having date No. 2. It was perfect the way it was and restored something in me I didn’t even know was missing.
“I know it sounds pathetic, but it blew my mind that a man existed who was cute, successful, and caring enough to value my words.” — Robin, 39, designer, Brooklyn
I’ve been divorced for five years and have gone on about 100 lousy dates in that time. I’m online all the time, swiping away. Only recently, I had my first great date. We chatted on Bumble for a few weeks, getting to know each other. Little details like my favorite foods and movies had come up. So when we finally found a date to meet up, when we were both in New York, he chose the place that I had said was my favorite restaurant — this place in Dumbo called Celestine. It was weeks before that I had even mentioned that place! Then on the date, he was so engaged and asking about all the bullshit we’d been texting about. This was a man who really listened! My ex never listened to a word I said. I know it sounds pathetic, but it blew my mind that a man existed who was cute, successful, and caring enough to value my words. We’re going out again this weekend. He suggested we find a place to take a cooking class together since, once again, I mentioned that it was something I’d always wanted to do.
“Three drinks later, I’m crying to him. But I’m kind of crying and laughing at myself over the crying.” — Shanna, 45, visual artist, Brooklyn
I was pretty shattered after my divorce, but I thought I was ready to date again. It had been about six months since we were officially over. I went out with a few guys who had red flags — one casually asked to borrow money, one was a recovering sex addict — then my friend set me up with her brother. The date was at the Wythe Hotel bar. This guy knew my backstory (the messy divorce and that I was a single mom) by way of his sister, so it was nice that I didn’t have to spell it all out for him. It’s hard to keep the vibe sexy when you’re telling the whole painful saga. Anyway, we each got a cocktail. I pounded mine. We ordered another round. I wasn’t that attracted to him, but I liked his energy and felt comfortable. Three drinks later, I’m crying to him. But I’m kind of crying and laughing at myself over the crying. And he’s just like, “I got you! It’s all good!” I was very raw, with no game whatsoever, and he was totally cool about it all. He gave me permission to be vulnerable. We ended up having the longest, tightest hug after the date. It felt cathartic. I felt safe, whole, and totally okay with my bruises — maybe even more beautiful because of them. We transitioned into friends immediately, and I still tell him how I treasure that memory. It was a major milestone for me.
“I was overcome with this sense of Oh my God. He’s my person.” — Laurel, 50, teacher, Queens
After being divorced for three years with no dates at all because I was a busy, single working mom and not interested in romance whatsoever, a friend invited me over to their house to watch a Celtics game with a few other Celtics fans living in New York. I walked in, immediately saw this guy there sitting on the couch, and I knew my life was about to change. It was electric. He got up, walked over to say hello, and I was overcome with this sense of Oh my God. He’s my person. As the day went on, we watched the game — and I do consider this our first date, because I was just, like, stunned by the feelings that came over me throughout the day while getting to know him. We talked about our exes, our parents, our jobs, about nothing — just chatting. I felt like nothing and everything was happening all at once.
We got married a year later and have been together for 16 years now. We’ve never even had a fight or a cross word toward each other. I see my first husband as my sperm donor and my partner now as my one true love.
“It was like a sign from the universe that I’d be okay.” — Fallon, 29, choreographer, Brooklyn
It was the first date after my divorce. Maybe four months after the paperwork was signed. I was very nervous. The date was with someone I’d met online, and in our chatting, I’d mentioned that after everything I’d been through, I deserved a trip to Paris. It was, like, a throwaway line — nothing I thought twice about or even remember saying. Anyway, when I showed up at a wine bar in Brooklyn to meet this man, he had a little Paris keychain for me wrapped in a box. He slid it across the table and said, “You deserve this.” It was such a sweet gesture. It made me cry. I was so touched. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really attracted to him and he wasn’t for me, romantically, but that moment warmed my heart. It was like a sign from the universe that I’d be okay and I was worthy of love again from someone somewhere — even if not him.
“We met at a bar a few towns over, because we didn’t want the entire town gossiping.” — Melissa, 43, aesthetician, Boston
I went out with a man from the town I live in outside of Boston. We were both renting our “postdivorce” houses on the same street. I knew him a little bit from the neighborhood and school events, but I’d always thought he was too attractive and successful to even look at me. We started talking a little every time I’d walk past his house with my kids, who would stop to play with his kids, and eventually he asked me to dinner. We met at a bar a few towns over, because we didn’t want the entire town gossiping. The whole thing was super-exciting and nerve-wracking. We drank and talked and talked and talked. He was just so funny. Then he was literally the best kisser I’ve ever experienced. We made out in the back seat of my car!
He was dating other women, and I knew it, and I was not ready to get involved so quickly after my first marriage, but all that worked itself out. Fast forward three years: We’re married and have blended total of six kids together. We have tons of sex, tons of date nights and late-night conversations. Life is fun! I fell in love. I fell in love hard. The fact that he was right in my backyard makes me feel like he was sent to me.