Should I Date A Man Who is Still in the Process of Divorce?

Evan,

Currently, I am using online dating to meet new prospects, though I choose not to date anyone who is going through divorce. I am divorced and have been for two years and am of the opinion that there is too much other stuff going on in one’s life during a divorce to date, as well. Also, it seems that about 40% of the men who state they are divorced are actually still going through the process. Lying from the start just cannot be good.

That stated, I have come up to some heavy objection from both family and friends – hence I’m here. They have given many examples of relationships that began quickly after a separation/break-up, so I am beginning to wonder if I am selling myself short – being too rigid. 

As a dating coach/expert, what do you think of the idea of dating someone who is still in the process of divorce? Do you advise your clients to take the date or run as quick as possible?  Any advice would be wonderful- thanks in advance for your response!

Sara

Dear Sara,

We all make judgments based on our own experience.

You had too much going on during your divorce to possibly consider dating. Therefore, you seem to think all men should feel the same way.

I assure you, they do not.

But you are correct in proceeding with a sense of caution. Not so much because he’s too busy with lawyers. Not because he listed himself as divorced but is really separated. But, most likely, because he’s still emotionally reeling from the death of his relationship.

I wrote about this extensively here, in a post called “When Do You Begin Dating Again After a Long-Term Relationship or Marriage?”

In it, I concluded that it’s up to the individual. The exact quote was “if you’ve mourned, if you’ve healed, if you’ve made peace – then you’re ready whenever you say you’re ready.”

Allow me to correct myself. This isn’t entirely true.

We often think we’re ready even when we’re not. And just cause you WANT to move on from your previous relationships does not mean you’re really READY to. You’re not ready to give. You’re not ready to compromise. And you’re certainly not ready to love with reckless abandon. Generally, if you’re dating immediately after divorce, you’re hurt, reeling and looking for a safe harbor in the storm that is singledom.

I have a client who went out with a man who was separated. It wasn’t a question of whether he and his wife were going to divorce – the relationship was toxic, the lawyers were in place, it was definitely over. The real concern was whether this guy needed time and space after the demise of his marriage. He assured my client that he didn’t. They fell in love. They were well-matched and perfectly adorable together. Two peas in a pod for eight months. Until he freaked out. He needed space. He thought he was ready for another committed relationship but needed a break before moving ahead. Months of agony ensued. He told her he’d come back after he had time to sort things out. He said he missed her. He said he loved her. She believed him. And it just didn’t matter.

He just wasn’t ready.

This same script, I’m reminded, played out in the life of one of my favorite clients who fell in love with a separated man. He gave a lot to her during their time together, but, when it got right down to it, he really needed to sow his oats for awhile. It’s not that he didn’t care about her; it’s that he wasn’t ready for another commitment so soon after declaring his bachelorhood….

So, Sara, like most situations that stymie my readers, the answer isn’t as obvious as “dump him” or “go for it.” It depends on the man, the nature of his divorce, his emotional availability, and his ability to get in touch with himself. Very reasonable men want to love again, and are shocked to find out that it’s not possible. On the other hand, you’ve heard tales of men who went seamlessly from one relationship to another without a break. You can listen to all these stories, but they won’t inform YOUR situation.

Here are the three points I’d like you to take away from this blog post:

A person who hides his separation online isn’t necessarily a bad person. He’s doing what’s practical not to scare people off. The relationship might have been dead five years ago, but the paperwork is still pending. That’s not his fault.

A man who says he’s ready to move on isn’t necessarily ready to move on.

You can never know if he is or if he isn’t. After all, he doesn’t even know if he is or if he isn’t.

Because of these contradictions, you have to do a reality check and assess whether a) he’s invested in you as a long-term partner, or b) whether you’re his transitional woman as he segues into single life.

Like knowing when to sleep with a guy, this is about intuition, not hard and fast rules. All you can do is trust your gut and don’t second guess yourself every step of the way. You’re doing the best you can.

And if you want the support of others who have been through the process of dating after divorce, check out DivorceNet.com, a site where I used to moderate an online dating forum.

Good luck.

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Comments:

  1. 31
    Brad

    Sorry for the random words my auto correcting iPad as it blatantly interjected the wrong words..just read past them, please.

  2. 32
    Megan

    Thanks for this blog and all of the comments.  I recently went through an experience with a man who was married 30 years and 8 months into a separation.  I really fell for him and for the first month, I thought he did for me too.  We were so happy and excited to find eachother and he couldn’t wait to introduce me to his children and his family, which he did. 

    However, no matter how much my heart wanted it to work, my head was waving the red flags.  And then on our fourth date he told me “Well, I still love my wife and I guess I always will.”  He also told me that she had slept at their house to take care of their dogs while he had to work late.  After processing all of this for several weeks and going through the grieving process, I told him I couldn’t keep dating him.  It was REALLY painful.  He wasn’t happy about my leaving, but I think he is in the forest right now and doesn’t see that it couldn’t work right now.

    All I say is be very careful, listen to your gut instincts.  They are there for a reason.

  3. 33
    liez

    Thank you so much for this blog. I enjoyed reading it till the end.
    I am about to meet this guy a week from now, whom I met online thru a dating site. We are both Asian, and he lives in the US. I met him(online) almost a year now, we were talking and I can’t deny that I am liking him. But, distance is just hard to handle. So I told him to contact me when we is able to go back his homeland. So yeah, we started to chat again. I remembered him before that he said he was divorced but I just found out that they are just separated and is about to get a divorce only waiting for some amendments. I did not pay much attention until I have a gut feeling of whether or not to meet this guy or getting intimate. He wanted to meet me in his hometown, and introduce to his parents and the rest of the family, we will b spending days together. But a week from meeting him, he wasn’t able to replied my calls and finally we were able to chat and he said he was fixing stuff about his travel. He told me we can’t be having our planned holiday together coz he needs to fix something. I was like, WTF..Deep inside me, tells me to let go and forget about this guy, but part of me tells me to hold on and give him the benefit of the doubt.
    But reading all your sentiments, only scares me..
    I am crossing my fingers wither or not to see him next week.
    I don’t want my heart to be broken when I’ve seen signs..
    But life is like a gamble..I’ll just have to play my cards well..

  4. 34
    sensual

    this has come at just the right time- 

    and For those who are going through it- it is best page to read- I have been casted in all the roles above.. let me elaborate:

    Me and my ex separated when he cheated on me, after 15 yrs of marriage with a girl half my age, and I thought I am young, beautiful, successful and can find another man- another part of me wanted a secure home for my children for I know no man can love my children like their real father.

    6 months of separation- I met 3 guys (cosmos does send things in 3s :) )
    2 online and 1 in real life.. I have met all in person- so it is more or less real with all..

    1st Man- claimed to be divorced- and he could actually understand and talk to me about children and divorce and tension- he claimed to be in love and claimed to have legally separated from wife- we met a number of times for weeks- and there were some red-flags like him not being able to be reached on weekends when he said he went to therapy etc. (do not close your eyes to RED FLAGs- EVER)

    2nd Man- successful- younger and single (never married), he was online and met me later too- he claimed to be in love and wanted to marry me as soon as I got divorced, (I had filed for divorce but it took 2 YEARS to get it for custody of children was in contestation in court). This man loved me BUT I was projecting my issues on him since he was never married he had no idea of divorce and children issues which made me feel disconnected.

    3rd Man- a long time friend who was separated from wife for 3 years- wife left him, he and I got together to just chill out- before we knew we had a relation and loved eachother (this man I LOVED too- not the other two). 6 months of roller coaster, he has not even filed for divorce- 
    ………………………………………………………………………..

    …..now this continued for 1.5 yrs… here is the OUTCOME:
    1st Man- I found out- he is still legally married and shares a home with wife and he had been lying for 2 yrs and NOW he promises to file for divorce. I am so hurt by all the lies that I can not now trust him. – OVER

    2nd Man- He is the one who I consider a LOSS.. my own longitude of separation and divorce / custody issues have probably stretched too long. He just could not deal with it anymore. He offered me to move in with him for he wanted a real relation, I asked him to WAIT- WAIT- WAIT. after 2 yrs- he left – OVER

    3rd Man- Now after months of waiting he has still not filed for divorce- and I guess he wont be able to. We both were lonely and bed is cold when alone. We understand eachother’s issues YET the physical side that we have shared is now rendered us unable to be Friends as we were. I lost a friend and did not find a lover. We keep our disstance from eachother. OVER

    in last 2 yrs- I was first sorry for myself- then angry on my ex- then I lost my vigor- then I was split by what to do- and how to secure my future and now I lost all 3 men- the 2nd Man is the one who was READY not the separated or liars. Period

    now I am finally divorced and single and alone.. and now I just concentrate on my career and home, also all the men have gone from my life so suddenly- it is Empty- atleast there is no more guilt or turmoil. I did not lie to any of them Except that they had no idea there were others.

    I was not ready – and now that I m- there is no man. LOL

    well- at 38 – I feel old suddenly and my ex is now moving with a new GF again younger and I feel Men Handle is better than Woman. (my opinion)


    so separated men and women (me) are a NO NO- just befriend them and Wait patiently if you can- they will be able to love you once they start to love themselves fully, which will take time.

    thank you all for your responses and I feel good after writing it out.
    peace 

  5. 35
    Katarina Phang

    Wow Sensual, thanks for a well written post.  It succinctly sums up that there is such thing as not being ready for a relationship even when you think you are for both men and women (who typically just got out of a marriage/long term relationship).  You won’t know it though until new/same issues come up in the new relationship.

    There is no growth faster than what a relationship brings.  Transitional relationships are necessary for healing but not at anyone’s expense so to anyone who is involved in this kind of relationship, beware!

  6. 36
    Ray

    People who are separated or recently divorced are a bad risk.  I would not waste my time with men in that situation… especially if they lied about it. 

    Men have a hard enough time being giving and caring in the best of circumstances.  After or during a divorce, they are doing even more sucking you dry emotionally.  If you are the kind of woman who enjoys lots of ‘volunteer’ work and having a project, then go for it.  

    Personally, I prefer ones who have got their junk together and can prove it…

  7. 37
    SMV

    You hit the “Nail on the “Head”! , Ray….

  8. 38
    FruitFly

    I’m in a relationship with a man going thru a divorce. We met 2 years ago and his marriage had been on the rocks for about 5 years prior. He never hid his marriage and we became friends. After a few months things between us got more serious. I requested he tell his wife about us. He agreed. But before he could tell her, she approached him about it first. All of a sudden all the “love” we shared seemed like a dream. He was overwhelmed with guilt as was I.

    He moved out and they were separated for about 7 months before he told me she had divorce papers served. During the separation it was hell! His emotions and thoughts were all over the place. I basically felt like his emotional punching bag.

    A month or so after his divorce papers were given to him he told me he needed space. I felt disappointed but I didn’t feel like I could take anymore of his hot and cold. So we agreed to “cool” things down. It was more so HIS wish but I complied. It didn’t take long before he was back to seeing me again. But this time I made sure to be cautious.

    Flash forward 6 months and he seems to be in a better mode. He has more control of his emotions and what he wants for himself and his kids. I’m happy for this shift of attitude BUT I am very very cautious NOW more than before. I can’t predict the future but I don’t want to be left out to dry either. While he was an emotional wreck during his separation I was patient and forgiving because I told myself that he was just going thru a rough patch. But I don’t give him as much slack anymore and I make sure to tell him where I stand and how I should be treated regardless of the things he’s going thru.

    His divorce is in the mediation process. He told me about it the other day. He wanted to let me know that he’s taking steps to getting the divorce process moving forward and not just sitting around like a bump on a log feeling sorry for himself. Don’t get me wrong. There ARE still days where all the transitions of finding his own place and selling their house still stresses him. But it’s far less than in the beginning.

    Right now I feel we are NOT as bonded like we were when we first got together. But everyday is taken one step at a time. He stopped saying the L word to me back when we first agreed to “cool”
    things down and sadly the L word hasn’t actually reappeared per say. He says he loves me but never directly to me as in “I LOVE YOU”. He uses other words now and I’m ok with that for now. He said he’s not ready to be in a serious committed relationship with me because he wants to get all his crap settled first. I want him to too. But I’m not gonna lie. It hurts that we took 4 steps back and only moved 3 steps
    forward.

    So for my own protection and preservation, I make sure I don’t give too much of myself anymore or at least for now. I make sure I’m 100% clear on what I’m feeling and what I hope for. He is 100% clear on telling me what’s going on with the divorce and also what his feelings are and what he hopes for. I think this is prob the biggest thing that helps… communicating about what we want. I’ve already told him that as soon as I feel like I can no longer handle being in the background of his life that I will let him know. I feel he has taken this statement to heart and I DO see him making more
    effort.

    I don’t know how much longer I can take being a shadow while he goes thru divorce and starting his new life. But I DO know that I have not stopped living MY life. I make sure to spend time with others that love me and care for me. I’m
    NOT looking to replace him. I believe I have found the courage to realize my boundaries and limits. I DO still have faith in US and a
    future together…. But I know that nothings guaranteed. So with that in mind, I’m going to have GIRLS NIGHT OUT while it’s his weekend with his kids…

  9. 39
    Anonymous

    I do agree to a certain point but all situations are not the same. My marriage has been over for the last two years and I stuck to try and fix things. Went for counselling and that didnt even help. For two years we lived together and tried to make it work and things just deteriorated more and more. You get to a point where you have tried to fix things for so long that you have in the process mourned the end of the marriage and have drifted so far apart that when you decide that things are over ,they actually really are over.  I moved out eventually  and filed for divorce and two weeks after that I randomly met some one. My point is that when you feel happier with the person you just met than what  you did for the past 2 years (like in my situation) with the soon to be ex-spouse than why should it be a problem. Life is not going to stop and wait till you are ready, you need to make your self ready for life. Acceptance is the key.

  10. 40
    judy

    Ray 36 – it really depends on the situation and the person in question.  I was going out with a man who was in his own words, “nearly divorced”.  They had been separated two years.  And the soon to be ex-wife was trying to get as much as possible out of him financially (except he couldn’t see it).
    So, in my own true style, I said if you want to go out with me, I need you to divorce.  This made the soon to be ex-wife angry.
    They did divorce. 
    But our own marriage plans went flat because he was still emotionally too attached to her.  I chose to leave the relationship.
    Some people need more time than others.  For me, divorce was just a piece of paper.  I had left him emotionally two or three years before the paper was signed.  But all people suffer some kind of emotional damage – the more you force the a new relationship, the more it will go bang – either in the beginning or later.
     

  11. 41
    Sulay

    Like all these stories, mine is the same outcome. I was seperated from my ex husband when i met who i thought to be the love of my life. He was also separated but i never thought to ask how long he was separated for. By the time i asked we were together 2 months and i thought i fell in love. While we were exclusively dating my divorce gets final but i find out from him that he has been separated for 14 years and had no desire to commit to me to keep me waiting until his 17 yr old daughter graduates high school before he even began a divorce. Everyone told me he was my rebound man. We decide to give each other a break he moves 2 hours away for work ( which allows him to travel, which became another excuse why we couldnt date), I know i needed more time to work on my issues. The split in us dating was inevitable now. After not hearing from him for months i let it go only for him to pop up in text messages and occasion calls where he apologized. Now fast forward we had exchanged texts from time to time and he asked me to see if a spark had suddenly appeared thru our texts which would determine if we were to ever see each other again. I wanted him so bad. I went thru with this texting relationship always wondering when he would call me or when he would be wiling to drive 2 hours to see me.

    When suddenly I ask when am i going to see you. He replies in 2014. We are in November 2013 and by this time i havent seen him since july 2013. HIs daughter graduates june 2014 and its suppose to be the time when he files for divorce. He only texts and hardly ever calls unless he feels im going to leave. Since our last convo last week he has texted me “hi there”. I chose not to respond.

    Its really hard not responding when i went along in my fantasy that he was coming back to me for months. Its hard to turn off love. I should want to be single ? right?
    I never wanted to be single in the first place and i realized that my issue was more displaced emotions because i had never mourned my divorce in the first place now coupled with my feelings of my rebound guy parting ways with me and leaving me with out closure or any hope for the future in terms of a relationship. My heart is hardened and i cry every day about this. I should be happy being single. IM NOT

  12. 42
    Wiser

    I dated a man this year, after he separated from his wife last year. The Marriage was really over for those last 12 months before he decided to leave. He pursued me less than 5 months of moving out. I felt he was not ready for a relationship yet, so i backed off. We picked up contact again early this year and we started dating. As far as I was concerned we were in a relationship, he assured me he was ready this time, he said he loved me within the first couple of months and referred to me as his girlfriend. Then as we got further into seeing each other he started to become aloof, he never was really making time for me or us. Never making any solid plans, just talk. I could sense he was not himself and I think as the papers were being drawn up on some level all those issues came back to haunt him and mild depression and anxiety kicked in. I saw him age and put on weight and just withdraw into himself. I think he realized he had gone to far in our relationship, he may have had some deep feelings for me but not enough to see a future with me and didn’t know how to tell me. He said I don’t know if I can commit to you and the relationship you deserve and that he no longer had those feelings for me. I thought it was the depression talking but he just wanted out. I said I would step back but not break up so he can put his energies into himself and work out what he wants. I have since found out that no less than 2 weeks after that he was seeing another girl and now is in serious relationship with her. It hurts because I was cautious at the start about being his transitional girl, but I then fell in love with him. I gave him my all. He said what we had so special and he values it and he wouldn’t know where he would be without me for the 8-10 months. He wanted to give back to me what i gave him. We had some tender moments together but they seem jaded now. I think he was just BS me from the start.

  13. 43
    naria husong

    one reason not mentioned here is the stress when you are with someone who is separated that wants to be with you as much as you want to be with that person, but the wife gets jealous and refuses to proceed with the divorce. then what to do. it is not fun. in my situation, they had an amicable separation for years but the moment she found out that he had moved on she became a different person and is hell bent on ensuring his life doesn’t move forward positively, which includes refusing to divorce, dragging the process on as long as needed. 

  14. 44
    Heather D

    I find this so sad, but I do have to say I met my guy while he was married and we became friends. She had cheated and he had been trying to get out for a long time. After he left her and became separated we got together.  He and I fell in love and we could not be happier.  I am a step mom to his sons who try and call me mommy which we tell them not to but sadly his ex is not well and has had social services called on her a number of times so it makes sense why they love someone who takes cares of them and reads them bedtime stories. ANYWAYS I was very nervous thinking he might get back with her or perhaps he wasn’t ready even though he said he was. Turns out he really was ready. I think everyone is different and what the marriage was like. If there is still a lot of anger I would be afraid. Luckily for me he was not angry he honestly didn’t care anymore he was just tired of dealing with her ( She was physically abusive and a really unhappy person)    I happy to say he and I started living together and we are planning to have a baby within the next year. Just goes to show you sometimes you have to take a chance. It was scary for me, but everyday we say I love you and we have only had one fight when his ex lied to me about him going back to her at the very beginning when I was still unsure and afraid. Not all guys are as good as mine and I have dated a married guy who I didn’t even know was married and he wasn’t even legally separated and that was HORRIBLE. I walked away as soon as I realized, but the feeling of not being able to trust men stayed with me throughout relationships until I met my guy who worked really hard to prove things to me so I could trust again.  Keep up hope because everyone is different and you just never know. 

    Love comes in many ways!

  15. 45
    Michael

    Honestly, a guy knows:
    Coming from one, also a Daddy of 3, Airforce vet, and unfortunately not your average guy, as I am not afraid to speak of myself in emotional contexts, and don’t watch sports, but would be competitive in anyone you’d throw at me, minus wrestling, it’s completely playing for the same time ( if you know what I mean ( coming from a  str8 guy )).
    We know as in the aspect of not being felt correctly anymore by our ” women “. We love that aspect of feeling loved, but you being so generous to play it up to us being a ” Man ” and making us feel needed, when in fact you can and most times do a behind the scenes ” jack of all trades ” routine. We know it’s time to move on, when our hearts are ready to be filled once again, when time is ready to allow us back into a routine of trial and error of dating we seem to find a feeling, a burning, something drawing us towards where we want to be, and find out it’s closed off, reserved for another. You know you’re ready when you see another couple and instead of us just checking the women out, we are thinking about what else they enjoy together, and that need of having a friend who isn’t just a best friend but that 1st date experience, over and over and over… Making neither one of you want to leave sides. 
     
    It’s that point we turn into a more cognitive form of the male species, not just able to breed but able to be a Man to our Woman… 
      

    1. 45.1
      Julia

      Very nice : )

      Please Michael, tell us all how women are to know that a man is at that point??

  16. 46
    DB

    I was in a relationship with a separated man for over 2 years. He was separated for 4 years total now. I finally demanded he leave his estranged wife and I refused to be the mistress any more.
    So he broke my heart. Now I find him on match.com stating that he divorced (which is NOT true).
    Contrary to the author’s leanings, writing you are divorced when you are not, is very very deceptive for online dating. You are trying to establish trust and rapport. If you are not divorced, then don’t put it down. You earn a divorce. Pay your dues, pay the lawyer and go through the process. The paperwork will eventually come. Be patient. But don’t lie and don’t break someone else’s over your baggage.

  17. 47
    jenna

    actually it helps, I already knew this! Have known him for a long time, 29yrs. knowing that maybe I could handle waiting, but I cant. There not ready, leaving there family, the home , the kids, living in a room in a different house with strangers, that’s hard. I have to move on with my life because my life is not complicated with these situations. ‘We should of stayed friends, now I cant look at him without crying, now im mourning! yikes!
     

  18. 48
    Gina

    Exactly, a person may think they are ready to date again but may not be. I remember years ago a separated man was trying to pursue me, but I told him no because of the fact he was not divorced yet.  I am not saying it is a hard and fast rule for every situation but because I want the best for me my intuition at the time with facts I collected from the situation told me he wasn’t.

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