Separation and divorce are two of the most emotionally draining, difficult, and painful life events someone can go through, and many married people will experience these stressors in their lifetime. While every divorce is unique, common themes and feelings are likely to emerge during this transition period.
Regardless of who initiated the divorce, emotions may weigh heavy and feel painful while grieving occurs. Potential legal issues may be time-consuming and can distract from other aspects of life. Anger, disappointment, and resentment may brew, especially if the blame game is being played, and hurt feelings may come to the surface as the loss of the marriage is processed.
Post-divorce is a time to separate from the role of spouse, redefine who you are, and accept a new identity and lifestyle. While emotionally charged, this time can also be exciting and liberating, filled with new beginnings, freedom, relief, and hope for a better future.
You may find yourself in a delicate or confusing situation if you’re dating a man going through a divorce. There’s nothing wrong with falling for a man going through a divorce. However, it’s important to understand potential complications and employ strategies to make dating him feel more easy, breezy.
Here are eight strategies for dating someone going through a divorce:
1. Let His Marital Past Come Up (In an Appropriate Way)
Dating 101 teaches you not to talk about your past relationships or ex-partners with someone new early on, but it’s natural to be curious, especially when dating someone who has been married before.
While you shouldn’t make his divorce the sole focus of every interaction, or let him vent uncontrollably, or trash his ex (all red flags), it’s essential that you give him opportunities to share with you as his marriage was a major component of his life.
Understand that his past is bound to come up, and this is a normal part of dating a separated or divorced man. You can learn a lot about him by listening to what he says of his marriage and his ex-wife and how he views his role in the marriage ending. You can be a supportive listener while also setting appropriate boundaries if you are uncomfortable.
2. Look for Signs of His Readiness to Date
Wanting to be ready to move on post-divorce is different than actually being ready. The difference between the two is based on a number of individualized factors. Consider his emotional availability, the circumstances of his marriage and divorce (Was it amicable? Why, when, and how did it end? Where is he in the legal process?), and his capacity to own and reflect on what happened.
Listen closely as he shares his past with you to better gauge where he is emotionally and if he has truly moved on and is ready to be a partner to you. Rather than focusing on the the length of time he has been divorced, you’ll get much better information by tuning into what he is saying and how it makes you feel. While the length of time he has been single is important to his readiness, it is not everything.
3. Understand the Dating Process May Be New And, Therefore, Emotional for Him
Specifically, the online dating process may be unfamiliar territory, so be gentle with him. No matter how ready he is, getting back into the dating scene may bring up insecurities and anxieties.
He may grapple with his worthiness and deservingness of having love in his life again. He may feel inadequate or insecure, despite really wanting to put himself out there again. Don’t play games with his heart or give him a hard time as he adjusts to dating again.
4. Date Him at a Slow Place
In general, moving too quickly does not breed healthy outcomes in the dating world. Especially when dating someone going through a divorce, it’s in both of your best interests to move slowly, take your time getting to know each other, and determine if you are on the same page about the present and future.
Also, don’t take it personally if he wants to move slow or keep your relationship quiet at the beginning (as long as he is treating you well and engaging with you). These preferences are common and are not necessarily an indication of his feelings toward you. Patience is a virtue!
5. Accept That He Has an Ex-Wife
Having an ex-wife is very different than having an ex, especially if there are kids involved. If you’re truly open to dating a divorced man, you must also accept that his ex will remain a part of his life.
Trying to erase her or ignore her existence will only cause resentment and dissatisfaction in your relationship. Understand he has a past that may resurface, but his previous marriage does not have to bring up insecurities in you.
6. Accept That He Has Children (If Applicable)
Along with him having an ex-wife, this is a fact you cannot change. Wanting him to be childless if he isn’t is only going to form a wedge in your relationship and create disconnection.
Understand that dating him will mean he will have to prioritize being a dad and being there for his children, affecting the amount of time he is available to spend with you. He will have to decide when it is appropriate to bring you into their lives.
Also, bad-mouthing his ex in front of his children is a complete no-no. There is no need to compete with their mother or put her down.
7. Beware of the Potential of a Rebound or Transition Relationship
And know how to tell if you’re the rebound woman. If you’re dating in hopes of a serious relationship, it’s crucial to communicate how you feel and look for signals of him being serious about you as well.
Signs you may be his transition relationship include him telling you he loves you or you are “The One” after just a few dates, him acting hot and cold, him asking to move in with you, and him wanting to make his ex jealous or acting bitter toward her.
These are all indicators that your relationship is not the real deal, and, while this reality stings, it is not about you. It shows he has a lot of work to do to process his divorce, and it’s best to stop dating him if you are looking for a genuine lasting connection.
8. View Him Having Been Married Before as a Positive Sign
The fact that he has been married before shows he is not a complete commitment-phobe, so instead of being intimidated by his ex or previous marriage, view his past in a positive light and as a signal he is comfortable with settling down. He has experience being in a committed relationship and understands what this means, which may make him a better, more attentive and supportive partner to you.
Word of caution: This advice goes out the window if his marriage ended due to him engaging in infidelity, which is a major red flag. Also, be careful with assuming just because he has been married before, he is open to being married again. His relationship goals need to be discussed and not assumed on your part.
Dating A Man Going Through Divorce: Take It Slow and Watch For Signs
You can absolutely find love with a divorced man as long as you are both present and emotionally available. You can decide whether to date someone going through a divorce on a case-by-case basis as there is no need to approach your dating life with rigid rules. What’s most important is evaluating the specific situation and remembering that healing takes time and every situation is different.