I Am Falling In Love With a Man Who Is Finalizing His Divorce. Should I Back Off or Can This Work Out?

Hi Evan,


Your blog has been really helpful as I find myself in an interesting situation. I’m 44, divorced with a son in college. Been divorced for a long time. Met someone at work and became friends over the course of 4 years. He’s been separated from his wife of 34 years for the past nearly 2 years. I didn’t realize he was interested in me as more than friends for at least 2 years, but found out 2 months ago. We started dating, held off on sex until last month, but he told me last night that he came to the realization that he’s not sorted through his emotions like he thought he had.


He still wants to see me, doesn’t want to pull away, but also doesn’t want to hurt me because he’s not sure what this will entail. He’s scared, has not felt this way before, and doesn’t know what is next. The divorce will be final within the next 2 months and I think it just really hit him, thought he thought he was doing fine. We get along amazingly well, laugh together, really care about each other and can talk to each other about anything. I’m not sure if I should step back even though he doesn’t want to, and let him work this through. Is there a chance it can work out? I think we can have something really special together. He’s as in touch with his feelings as a man can get, I think, so hopefully he can work through this and move on, hopefully with me. Any suggestions?




Dear Sunshine,

You’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya?”

Lots of women say they want the truth; few of them know what to do when they receive it.

Because this isn’t a matter about which I can give you any reassurance. All we can do is look at the facts objectively, and then assess your tolerance for risk.

The good news is that you’re with an excellent communicator. He has feelings for you, but has openly expressed his reservations as well. Apart from him declaring his blind love and devotion, you can’t ask for much more than that. Really. Lots of women say they want the truth; few of them know what to do when they receive it.

I know this from first-hand experience. Women always want to know what men are thinking, yet when we let you into our thought process, you immediately find fault – basically because we think things that you wouldn’t want to hear. That’s why we usually don’t say them.

“Yes, I’m attracted to other women.”

“No, I’m not positive humans are biologically programmed for monogamy.”

“Yes, I’m having reasonable doubts about whether we’re meant to be as a couple.”

These are perfectly fair thoughts that men usually don’t express, to protect you. Then again, just because we have a thought doesn’t mean that we don’t have equally contradictory thoughts.

“I’m very attracted to you.”

“I do see the benefits of monogamy, especially in raising a close nuclear family.”

“I may be having doubts, but I’ve yet to find a partner who makes me as happy as you.”

Clearly, I have some experience in this realm, and, as always, my wife is the exception to the rule. She had been burned before, by a cheating husband. And all she ever asked was to know exactly where she stood – even when it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. So when I openly expressed my reservations that I wasn’t “feeling what I thought I should be feeling”…she didn’t panic. She took it in and let me process. I proposed to her two weeks later and am EXTREMELY happy that I did.

Because you have clarity, you think it should be equally obvious for your partner. Alas, it’s not so simple.

To bring it back to you, Sunshine, your guy is in a position that millions of divorcees confront as they’re getting back out into the dating market. He likes you, he’s attracted to you, he desires a long-term relationship…but just doesn’t know if he’s ready to dive in again. He’s lonely. He’s made mistakes before. He wants to look before he leaps. But he just can’t help himself when he’s around you.

As such, he’s genuinely conflicted. And that’s the hardest part to deal with when you’re not conflicted. Because you have clarity, you think it should be equally obvious for your partner. Alas, it’s not so simple.

Be thankful that you have a man who respects you enough to speak his mind, be cautious that his reservations are legitimate, and be respectful of the fact that his process might be trickier than your process.

All I can say is that I guarantee that you will definitely not fall in love if you cut him off out of fear; you at least have a chance if you let him come to his own conclusions.

At least that’s what my wife thinks.

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  1. 31

    Jennifer #28, 29

    My sentiments exactly. Lots of semantic hair-splitting going on here. Labeling or implying that anyone is “dumb” or less sophisticated for wanting a serious relationship or marriage is pretty astonishing to me, especially on a website such as this one. Seems like a distraction from the LW’s original question about whether or not she should stick out a relationship (even one as yet undefined) with a not-yet-divorced man.

  2. 32

    @ Casey #30

    Maybe it’s just me, but when someone says they need space I interpret it as “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”

    “Stay in touch”? Could be just an attempt to be polite. Could be an attempt to keep someone on the back burner in case they wanted to come back for sex or something sometime. Or, maybe the person genuinely wouldn’t mind be contacted once in awhile just to say” Hi” and “How’s it going?” Hard to know which.

    I don’t know what you could have done different in your situation. It seems it was a case of HJNTIY.

    If you’ve been frustrated by well-meaning comments from your friends along the lines of “If it was meant to be…” etc., why don’t you just shrug it off with a “Nah, he just wasn’t that into me (insert sardonic laugh), who needs ‘im. Next!” What’s the point in getting a little pissy with people who are just trying to make you feel better?

  3. 33


    I don’t think wanting a serious relationship or marriage is unsophisticated or “dumb”. They require alot more giving of one’s self than *flings*.

    Some people though consider a relationship that only lasted 6 mos. to a year to be “a long term relationship”. Who goes about deciding they want a relationship that will only last a specific length of time and no less? And since you can never predict how long a relationship will indeed last…just makes the term ltr sound dumb to me. Comes across as one avoiding saying what they really want (a close, serious relationship?, a marriage?) for fear of sounding “uncool”.

  4. 34

    OMG!!! This thread just keeps getting more and more hilarious. I’m kind a bored and have cabin fever since there’s two feet of snow outside and I can’t get out of my subdivision. So thanks for the entertainment.
    As for the well-meaning friends and shrugging off their comments, I did and do. But, I don’t think it is wrong of me to look to them for some support and to help me learn from my mistakes, which I would think are good things…particularly since as I (and we all) get older, this type of situation will continue to be an issue. I prefer the truth, served with a little kindness and compassion, if possible, which is what I expect from my friends (and thank god…not something I expect from people who post comments on blog entries). I didn’t want platitudes and foolish, romantic notions straight out of a movie or book.
    I also wanted to thank Selena for her comments in post #33. There were some good little nuggets of information like: “Don’t call me, I’ call you,” “just an attempt to be polite,” and “Or, maybe the person genuinely wouldn’t mind be contacted once in awhile just to say Hi and How’s it going? Hard to know which.” Valuable and helpful information, which is what I was looking for…but you probably should have just left it at that.
    Because I have to say, throwing in the HJNITY and he might just want to come back for sex comments…not helpful nor kind or considerate for that matter and seems like they were thrown in as a dig (sort of a defensive move by you). Could be just me though.
    As I mentioned, he was the one doing all the bulk of the contact, making dates, etc. (as described in Evan’s how do you know if a guy is interested list), when he suddenly broke it off. That seems more like a guy who thought he was ready and turns out he wasn’t…rather than a HJNTIY or he was just hoping to get laid later situation, now doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it have made more sense and been more helpful, if you said something along those lines? Again, it could just be me though.
    Fortunately, I’m smart enough to see that on my own and not take the comments of Selena and a few other people to heart…or those comments could have been very hurtful to me.
    Seems to me like there are a few people on here who would do well to follow the advice…think more, post less.
    P.S. I was actually hoping guys on here would comment, because they will be able to provide information on this subject (backing off versus being supportive) from the male perspective, which I think would be useful. I know when HJNTIY or just hoping to keep having sex without commitment when I see it. So…I’ll say it again just in case it wasn’t clear in my last post…I struggle with appearing like I don’t care by being too unemotional and too independent, and I want to know how it looks to back off (without looking like I don’t care), but be supportive. This is something I have no idea what it looks like or how to accomplish.

  5. 35

    Okay Casey, a quote from writer Erica Jong seems apropo here:

    “Advice is what we ask for when we know the answer, but wish we didn’t.”

  6. 36

    Casey and all – i understand where you are coming from, and yes, i sense your annoyance, tho u certainly seem intelligent enough to know ur sending out a pissed off vibe…AND CASEY IF YOUR NOT READY FOR TRUTH YET stop reading right here ok. So some guy just did something that felt really hurtful, its making u feel hurt and cynical (ive been there a few times myself, havent you all?) and it sucks. You say your friends sugar coat, and you want truth, but then you get upset. If we were friends, id tell you staright up – Casey, you need an attitude adjustment. Casey, yes you are right, sugar coating is useless, as he most likely will never be back, and yes, you contacted him too much (in my opinion ANYTHING even a cc email after initial contact was too much), and instead of judging him or misplacing anger ( i dont think selena was being passive aggressive, she was just being real), something that REALLY helped me when i stood where you stood: instead of seeking to BE UNDERSTOOD, First seek to understand. If you can get in his head a little bit, my guess is, eventually, you’ll be surprised at the compassion you have for him and other men you meet. And people are attracted to that quality alone like a magnet. Trust me, if this post if any indication of your dates, you know its true. Lose the pissy attitude, lighten up, laugh and put that passionate, fiery, intelligent and from what i can decipher thru your annoyance, fun, witty and vibrant personality to better use. As far as what you wanted for advice from men, try looking up some of Evans recommended writers – i have never their books but some of the free email advice some of them send out blast email seem pretty on target and i forward lots of great stuff to several of my dating friends. However, my guess is once your past this guy, youll do just fine on your own. You seem pretty capable to me. and ditto on selenas final quote. Rings true to us all i suppose at some points in our life, and yes, right now to u casey.

  7. 37

    Ava & Jennifer: Someone sent me to this blog awhile ago to read a post about something she wanted to discuss about online dating and so I read a few posts and posted a bit myself. I’m already all partnered up and not dating (since it would disturb my SO and no reason for that, since I’m pretty darn happy with him). So I don’t know what EMK’s dating books or program say, or who they are so very clearly pitched to. Perhaps that’s the problem here, that I’m not in (or with) the program. I just remember posts from the “300+ women era,” when you had all kinds of singles (including men) writing in about who pays and when to have sex, and then there was a switcheroo to marriage/LTR/serious relationship stuff, except that nobody here seems to have one or be in one except for EMK himself, and he’s still a newlywed. All of the “single and dating” stuff seems to have fallen away in favor of the “looking for the one” stuff.

    And yes, it is my belief that women waste way too much energy in this fantasy of “the one.” But only people who have actually lived awhile and been through a lot of relationship stuff can tell you–there is no such thing as “the one,” as women seem to think of the glorified “him.” (I’ve never heard any guy talking about any woman like this, by the way, which is why I am talking about this phenomenon in relation to women.) And no real guy is going to be able to be or provide what women who engage in this fantasy seem to be looking for: a bottomless, unconditional source of love and happiness, mind-blowing sex, professional and financial support, and fatherly wisdom for the perfect children that will doubtless come along.

    The reality is that his interests in the relationship will be highly conditional and those conditions will be geared toward his needs and happiness, which may (often) be at odds with yours; he will never know your body better than you do and if you want to have great sex the resposibility will be on you to take that; if you do not have yourself together financially you are asking for big trouble in any sort of legal bond with a man who does; the work of raising the children will fall primarily on your shoulders.

    So no. I don’t support any of that kind of typically female delusional talk about “the one” and the prospect of whatever-you-want-to-call-this-pining for-a-relationship-that-you-do-not-have-and-have-never-had-and-don’t-know-anyone-who-does-have-it.

    As others have said on here, it’s not just getting to the LTR (for many of us, this part is not the challenge). It’s about what comes after. And what comes after is directly related to what comes before–what you have going on in YOUR life right now. No relationship can compensate for whatever you are lacking in other areas of your life. And if you have your act together you’re just a happy person and whatever comes to you (marriage, kids, no marriage, no kids, wealth, poverty, etc.) is fine.

    As someone who knows something about marriage from personal experience, and who is (gasp!) a feminist, I am concerned about women buying into the mentality that marriage/LTR is the be-all and end-all. It is not, I assure you. It is just another way of being in this complicated world, and one that is lied about more often than not.

    (Also, Jennifer, “not practicing a religion” is not the same thing as being an atheist. Just for the record.)

  8. 38

    Meant to add–feel free to rant away at me. I’m going skiing for the holidays with “the One” and won’t be reading.

    Happy holidays, all! I hope you find what you’re looking for!!!

  9. 39

    Why is it that the women on this blog who most adamantly tell us we shouldn’t care about being in a relationship, freely admit that they are happily partnered?

  10. 40

    Regarding ranting- nothing I’ve said falls remotely into that category. You seem to be the one with a problem with Evan’s posts and the point of view you feel is being discussed here- not me.
    A lot of the views you discussed in your post on relationships I agree with (for example, I don’t believe in ‘the one’ i believe there are many possible ones, etc.). I just don’t think that marriage is a dirty word, nor do I think everyone needs to qualify everything to death when they discuss wanting marriage.
    Despite your unwarrented snarkiness, enjoy your trip!

  11. 41

    39: Maybe cause they’re sick of hearing women moan and groan about not being married. Obviously they figured it out. So just do it already and shut up about it.

  12. 42

    “I know this from first-hand experience. Women always want to know what men are thinking, yet when we let you into our thought process, you immediately find fault basically because we think things that you wouldn’t want to hear. That’s why we usually don’t say them.”
    Above is so true it made me punch the air with my fist. OH MY GOD.

  13. 43

    I am currently dating a soon to be divorced man. We have been together for 6 mos. He has been surprisingly there for me. He appears well adjusted and happy. In contrast, the man I was dating before him had been divorced for 5 years and was sending very mixed messages because he didn’t know what he wanted and he was scared. I stuck it out for over a year and was miserable. I never really knew where I stood. Everyone depending on their individual experience handles it differently. The best advice I can offer based on my own experience is that you need to listen and watch. The truth will reveal itself. Take what he says to heart and then make a decision. You can decide to stay, you can decide to put the relationship on hold until he figures it out or you can leave. The bottom line is you need to decide what you are most comfortable with.

  14. 44

    Ava #39 Great point.

    Only a very foolish woman has the goal of getting married to any old body just to say she is married. I don’t know why some people want to assume that wanting to get married/have serious relationships means ‘at any cost’. It’s not difficult to find someone to marry…of course it’s about finding the right person.

  15. 45

    44: Because women seem desparate. They are always wondering if something is going somewhere. If its special. If your the right person. They read all those books that tell you that things happen by magic thoughts and how you can find a soul mate or be a princess. It’s kind of obsessive and very weird.

    When I ask a woman out I don’t care about the future because I don’t know the woman. I don’t want to get to know her either if I think she’s doing some kind of voodoo on me that she read in some dating manual.

  16. 46

    Jennifer #44

    Again, thanks, I agree.

    #41: I don’t think we are “moaning and groaning” here, just trying to respond to the LW. I’m glad it’s all so “obvious” to you. Happy Holidays.

  17. 47

    HRGoddess #43

    Oh, right, back on-topic!

    It’s good to hear that you’ve been having a positive experience. Doesn’t it also depend on whose idea it was to end the marriage? In my case, both men got dumped and didn’t want the divorce. I wonder what the situation is in your case?

  18. 48

    Joe #45- There are definitely women like that. I’ve seen them and it’s not cute. But those aren’t the women I’m talking about.

  19. 49

    Ava #47

    Oh yes, Ava, I absolutely think it makes a difference. The guy that I had a bad experience with – his wife cheated on him and then left him. He was a mess and did not want to trust anyone. The guy that I am dating now chose to leave the marriage. Big, big difference.

  20. 50

    Joe -45

    Voodoo… that’s funny! Silly women.

  21. 51

    Sunshine, what were you thinking? Oh yeah, you were thinking about your “needs” met…

    The guy you slept with is married – yeah yeah, he’s “getting” divorced but he is MARRIED.

    A friend of mine was dating a guy that told her he was divorced but one day let it slip that he was still married by saying he was so happy his divorce would be finalized next month. She dumped him on the spot! He said but in a month he wouldn’t be married so it didn’t matter. She said yeah, in a month, you being married won’t matter, but you being a liar will; and in a month, you’ll still be a liar.
    Sunshine, it’s a safe bet you’re not the first woman he’s tapped outside his marriage (maybe that’s the reason for the divorce) and it’s a safe bet he won’t be changing any time soon.

  22. 52

    Steven # 51
    Sunshine and this guy have known each other for 4 years and dated for two months before having sex. He’s been seperated for two years. What in this story leads you to believe that it’s a ‘safe bet’ to assume that he not only cheated on his wife before but that adultery was the reason for his marriage ending?

  23. 53

    I am sure you will not like what I Hve to say because I would not have when I was in your position. I would have interpretted Even’s comments as “just hang in there” and that is what I did FOR 4 YEARS!! I had been divorced for a few years and met a wonderful man who had SAID he was divorced…..he lived in a huge home so I assumed he was. On date number 3…he confessed…he was “close” to being divorced from his wife of 27 years and was thrilled he met me. I soon feel in love and stupidly got on a rollercoaster for 4 years with this man. He often was quite honest about his ambivilence….BFD!! if i even tried to pull away he would magically become less ambivilent and so it went. We vacationed alone all over the word and with our kids. Oh…by the way…..his divorce took 4.5 years!! After 4 years of me being VERY MATURE and letting him go through his process…ugh….he broke up with me because…and I am paraphrasing…”I know you are ready for more and I just am not ready to give you what you want. Besides…I know you are wonderful but i really feel that after 27 years of marriage…I should date around and get a POINT OF REFERENCE!!” Soooooooo….in a nut shell…..I helped him transition into singlehood. Yea for me!! He got his sexy back….and learned how to dress way cooler. All my friends say i should be thankful for the lavish vacations and gifts I recieved. I want my TIME BACK!!!! And my heart!! It has been a year since we broke up and I know I am not over him. I am defensive and angry and scared oh AND….a moment after breaking up with me he started dating another woman exclusively!! Not dating around at all……
    I saw him recently and asked if she was “the one”and he was vague. He said, “I have only been dating her for 14 months! How do I know if she is the one? Besides….i may want to date other women.” OY!!
    BACK AWAY!! OR…set a date in your mind of how long you will wait….I did that too but he always seemed to sense that and found a way to seem more invested in me.

  24. 54

    For all that you have been through, Laura, be grateful that you are no longer the woman in his life that he’s using. You both played your part in this, as I am sure you are painfully aware, but when I read stories such as yours, it just continues to support my belief to never be with a married man, no matter how close to divorce they may say they are, or with a man too fresh out of divorce. Your comment that you helped him to transition to single-hood should be an eye opener to women everywhere because of the risks and whether they want to make the choice to accept those risks.

  25. 55

    Laura #53

    Not good for a man to tell you he’s divorced and then reveal that he really isn’t. And the mixed messages? All red flags. As you now know, vacations and lavish gifts are not worth the ultimate heartache.

  26. 56

    You are absolutely right about my being just as culpable in that relationship. I of course, am close friends with not 1 but 2 friends who met and married men who were fresh out of marriages….not even divorced. Of course they were the exception not the rule but we all met around the same time and they are both married and I am…..well…..smarter I hope!!
    Happy New Year to you!

  27. 57

    Paul at #5 has the answer

  28. 58
    Christie Hartman

    I wrote the book on dating divorced men. This situation is almost textbook. Man gets out of marriage, seeks another relationship, then backs away after realizing he wasn't as ready as he thought he was. Most men getting divorced are ready for female companionship and sex to fill the void, but they often aren't ready to give as much in return. They rarely realize this before getting emotionally involved with someone. This woman needs to back off and give him some space, and consider whether she's getting what she needs from him.

  29. 59

    I am in this SAME situation. I met a wonderful guy on a dating website and we hit it off immediately.
    Blame it on the fact he said he was SINGLE or the fact that he is from another country and thus speaks English as a second language, but I just figured out that he was not fully divorced yet. I asked if we could be Facebook friends after dating for five months. He said, “I don’t know why you want to do that, but okay, I have nothing to hide.”
    Then he gave me a “guided tour” of his pictures. He was at some event barely a year ago that he said he’d attended with his ex-wife. When I saw the dates on the photos, I said, “Wow, that was just last summer. How soon after that were you divorced?” He said, “Very soon.”
    I pressed him to tell me–very simply–if he was SEPARATED or DIVORCED. He would NOT give me a straight answer. He even said, “You know all about it.” I told him I didn’t and that’s why I was asking.
    I am seeking a long-term relationship that will lead to marriage or co-habitation. I am tired of second-guessing myself when I know my gut instincts are right. I am obviously a REBOUND girl.
    Rather than submit to the torture of wondering, I asked him where he was and he pretty much said, “I only want to date you, but I don’t want anything too serious.” After five months, I don’t want to waste anymore time. I’m 41 and NOT desperate, but not willing to waste time with someone who will never return my affections the way I need them to be returned. I was not in a serious relationship for two years previously because I was still processing out of a divorce and knew I was not ready for a serious relationship. Now I am.
    I am going to break up with him tonight. It’s killing me because he is a wonderful guy in many ways, but in many other ways, he just isn’t what I need and I don’t think he ever will be.
    I’ve learned a lot of from this relationship. I have learned that not being true to yourself will always lead to heartbreak–but you’ll actually be the one breaking your OWN heart, not getting it broken by someone ELSE.
    I’m going to give myself a few weeks off from dating, but I see no need not to plug on after a break. I have a lot to offer to the right guy (or guys–I do believe I’m compatible with a great variety of men and that there is no “ONE” but several really amazing guys out there).
    I think the key here is to trust yourself. You know your own needs better than anyone else. I could continue meeting his needs (regular sex, companionship, fun), but I’d be voiding my own needs in the process while accepting only part of what I need. I might have been okay with that when I was 21, but I’m a grown woman now who definitely needs more.

  30. 60

    Christie Hartman hit the nail on the head.  (I’ve got to get her book) – I dated a man who was divorced 6 months, wanted exclusivity with me, and within 2 weeks of my agreeing to be exclusive, he poofed, sent me an email saying he wasn’t ready to be dating, was going to “work on” himself, go to his “groups” and voila, one day later, back on the dating website where we met.

    My advice – wait until the man has been divorced at least two years, if not longer!

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