I Am Separated (And Soon To Be Divorced). How Can I Convince Women To Give Me a Chance?


I filed with the court a legal separation and divorce decree at the same time. My ex-wife and I were physically separated for almost 10 months, mentally separated longer than that. We went to counseling for many months prior to the separation and it didn’t work. I agreed to 3 years legal separation, so that she could get my health insurance, and then the divorce would be decreed.

I have gone through the process of grieving and loss and I am ready to move on. My counselor is even the one to want me to start getting involved in dating. My problem is that because I am only separated and not divorced I fall into that stigma by women that I am only on the rebound, and they are not willing to give me the chance to start any type of a relationship.

Am I doomed for the next 3 years? How do I convince them to just give me a try? And even if it didn’t work out permanently would that be so bad? I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place.


Thank you, thank you, thank you, Pat, for making a point that I’ve been trying to make for many years: you can’t truly “know” someone by a label.

You can’t truly “know” someone by a label.

Believe me, I can tell you innumerable stories of women who dated married, separated, and recently divorced men who were either legally or emotionally unavailable. And because of the dead-end of getting involved with such a man, these women issue the blanket decree: “I will NEVER date that kind of man again.” This is a classic example of how the stereotype may be perfectly valid, but you can’t judge EVERY single person by the stereotype.

Should separated men be considered high risk? Absolutely – especially if she just kicked you out of the house two weeks ago for cheating, you’re living on your friend’s couch, and you hope to reconcile. Hell, you’re even a risk if you’re just out of a divorce and want to “play the field”. And that’s the part, Pat, that I have to acknowledge on behalf of women. To answer your question directly: no, it would not be that bad if you dated a woman and it didn’t work out.

Contrary to what some might say, that’s called “dating”. There are no guarantees for either party. The issue is that most women don’t want to get emotionally involved with someone who could be considered high-risk. A man who is freshly out of a dead marriage may be highly tempted to sow his oats for a while, or, at the very least, not settle into domestic bliss so soon after his separation.As I’ve said before, there’s a difference between being ready to date and being ready for a relationship. Women have a right to be wary if you just want to date for three months and move on. However, I have to point out to women reading this and nodding that in ANY relationship, you CAN’T know after date 1, month 1 or month 3 that you’re destined to spend forever together. That’s the risky part of making yourself vulnerable, even though you know, full well, that 99% of relationships that get started don’t end up at the altar.

As I’ve said before, there’s a difference between being ready to date and being ready for a relationship.

Sounds to me, Pat, like you’re a decent man who might not even be fully aware of what your needs are. Are you allowed to date? Absolutely. I do think that women should give you the chance. However, if you discover through the process of dating, that in fact, you’re just looking to have fun for a little while, make sure you don’t allow any woman to invest too deeply in you. Or go out of your way to find a woman who is recently separated or divorced, just like you. Good luck.

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  1. 1
    Isabelle Archer

    Just be totally upfront about where you are emotionally, and let her decide. I’ve had terrible experiences dating a separated man who wasn’t ready to date — but it wasn’t his fault (entirely). I was the one who ignored all the obvious signs he wasn’t ready. Now when I date a divorced/separated guy, I listen carefully to find out where he is emotionally. I don’t even have to ask — it comes out naturally in conversation. If you really are as over your ex as you say, then the way you discuss her and your marriage will indicate that. No convincing necessary.

    1. 1.1

      “No convincing necessary!” Excellent response, Isabelle!!! I have had countless dates with men who had broken up with an ex-girlfriend and never had to ask as to whether or not they were ready to move on. Most have had so many negative things to say about their ex’ that my head couldn’t stop spinning. I could ever be certain if I was in or if I was out, or better yet if they were even that much in to me from one week to the next. It is deeply painful and frustrating to have put so much time and energy into these types of relationships to only find out that you have wasted your time by allowing yourself to be the ‘rebound mat’. And, that is just in the world of dating, so – I think with a divorce, it is so much worse. Men (and women) need time to let reality sync in, and too heal. They need time to take for self, too reflect, and too experience this world independently and free of any potential toxic behaviors or characters that they may blindly come in contact with during a very vulnerable and painful period that they’re going through. Otherwise, if not … then everything they discuss will be the key indicator (as you said) that raises the red flag, AND, there will be “No convincing necessary!” Again, great insight and great response. PS: BTW, I am happily married to the love of my life, just in case. 😉

  2. 2

    I am dating a separated (going through a divorce) man and I have seen no indication that he is not ready to date or even commit for that matter.  His marriage was for all intents and purposes "dead" for the last 6 years and like Pat, he also went through some extensive counseling with his soon to be ex-wife but it only served to prove what he already knew, that he was miserable and wanted out.  On the flip side – before I met him, I dated someone who had been divorced for 5 years and was still a mess.  I think it's best to take it on a case by case basis and not make blanket generalizations on soon to be divorced or separated men.  My guy is absolutely wonderful and is ready for happiness. 

    1. 2.1

      Thank you!   I am dating and separated from a marriage that died a couple of years ago, though the separation is but a few months in.   I only think of my ex as a business transaction at this point.   My wife ended the marriage and left.   I have already met someone whose personality is the opposite of my ex and makes me very happy.  I have no interest in sewing my oats, I did that before I got married.   I really think you cannot categorize all separated people the same.   Everyone heals and copes differently.  For me, prayer and self reflection has helped me to discover what I failed to see the past few years, accept reality and determine myself to move on and find happiness elsewhere.

      1. 2.1.1
        sue smaller

        I don’t date married men either. And it’s amazing how many ask me for sex, a “friends with privileges” type of relationship. It is so tempting to cave in because I’ve been sans romantic partner for two decades.

        Unfortunately, I believe that the only way to catch a good man may be in that split second between wife and next girl friend. Men are snapped up the moment they are available. You don’t see good men hanging out on the singles scene.


  3. 3

    I'm one of those who don't date married men regardless of how they describe their marriage.  You're probably trying to be a nice guy by staying married so your wife stays on your insurance, but sorry, while nice for her, you've really tied your own hands. Legally married is not single. You may want to re-think that arrangement, especially if you find someone you could be serious about.
    I think Evan's suggestion of dating women who are in similar circumstances to yours – recently separated, divorced, or keeping a marriage going for the convenience – is likely to be your best bet.

    1. 3.1

      “Legally married is not single”  Agreed.   I don’t date married men either, regardless of how they describe their marriage.    If a divorced man talks and talks about his ex, he’s not ready.   While the several examples of some who are separated, men or women, may be ‘ready’ to date, legally they are still married.    There is an emotional shift when paperwork is signed and final.

      However, married is married- you either are or you aren’t.   It’s like being pregnant, you either are or you aren’t.     Separated is married, living apart.   Legally separated is married, living apart with guidelines.   No one can get re-married until you are legally divorced, not legally separated.     A good man or woman will openly communicate where they are emotionally and what they’re looking for and hopefully be honest about it.    If there’s any witholding of infomation or vague progression of divorce finalization, you haven’t found someone who’s ‘ready’ for a relationship, IMHO.  BTDT, it’s not worth the risk to me.      If someone is willing to risk dating a separated person, your choice but I do think the risk is much higher for this not working out.

  4. 4

    I'm also curious, why 3 years? What happens in 3 years that makes a difference in your wife getting her own insurance?

  5. 5
    Single Mom Seeking

    Add me to the list of women who've dated "separated" men — and learned some hard lessons. I appreciate what Evan says about being open-minded instead of judging by a label.
    I do, however, agree with @Selena that being legally married — for health insurance or any other reason — means that this woman is still your "wife." So, yes, be honest about the fact that you're still married — and there's a big "pool" of recently separated women out there who are in the same boat!

  6. 6

    Another suggestion: you could always get a divorce and pay  the equivalent of her own insurance premiums in the form of spousal support.  More expensive no doubt, but hey, if you want to be divorced…. She's going to have to pay for her own health care someday anyway.

  7. 7

    My first husband was separated when we met. Our relationship was the impetus he needed to make the divorce final. He signed the divorce papers three months after we met. We married 2 and 1/2 years later. Just goes to show that you never know. Stereotypes are helpful in sorting through lots of potential partners, but people are people and they all don't fit into typical behavior patterns.

  8. 8
    Isabelle Archer

    The three-years health insurance would give me pause, but the fact that they’ve already agreed that the divorce decree will go through at the end would mostly negate that. I do think it’s a good idea to completely cut financial and legal ties if you can, but that can be a completely separate issue from emotional ties. What WOULD worry me would be if he had some lasting sense of guilt or duty that wasn’t letting him really let go of the marriage, and was being expressed through the health insurance issue. That, you can only tell by spending time with someone, not by looking at the legal documents filed.

  9. 9
    Christie Hartman

    As the author of Dating the Divorced Man and an expert on dating after divorce, I do warn women about the risks of dating separated/divorcing men. There are a lot of issues beyond the separated label to consider. However, I agree with some of the other comments that you need to weigh each situation individually. Some separated guys having no business dating; others are ready to move on. I’ve seen these relationships turn ugly and I’ve seen them turn into happy marriages. If you like a separated guy, just go slowly and be on the lookout for red flags. The good news with this guy is he has filed papers and is moving forward with a divorce, even if it’s slow-going. And, he is in counseling – another good sign. When dating, he needs to be up front about his situation and not try and hide it or, worse, lie and say he’sdivorced. And, as Evan said, he should take his time and be cautious.

  10. 10

    I also think it's the best idea to cut legal and financial ties. And frankly, staying married to someone to get, or provide them health insurance IS a big indicator to me, of some lasting sense of guilt or duty that wasn't really letting go of the marriage and was being expressed in that way.  Going your separate ways means each person taking responsibility for themselves – including finding a way to pay for their own health care. Otherwise, why not stay together if you're still playing as a team?
    Emotional ties being a completely separate issue? Eh…lots of married guys lookin' for lovin' swear the emotional ties have been long severed.  Show me the divorce decree.

  11. 11

    As far as the three-year thing goes, I know my state has a requirement that couples be separated for a minimum of one year before divorce papers can be signed.  Maybe the OP's state has a similar thing.  Or maybe he's agreed in the divorce proceedings to give his wife a three-year grace period of being able to be on his insurance before the papers are final.  Maybe she has a health issue like the dude who wrote the other recent letter about still being on his wife's insurance.

  12. 12

    Evan, one thing missing from your response (I can't believe I'm saying that – forgive me!): Pat, the single most important thing you can do to improve how women see you:
    Get divorced.
    Divorced and separated are completely different things. Divorced = single. Separated = still married. No matter what's behind the separation, you're still a married man.
    But don't sweat it. Ride out the three years, travel, enjoy life, build a bigger circle of friends, work on being an even better guy than you are now, and once you can truthfully declare that you're single again, you'll have to beat them off with a stick.
    And if you DO meet someone in the meantime who's both awesome and accepts your circumstances, well, that's gravy.

    1. 12.1

      Divorced = single. Separated = still married. No matter what’s behind the separation, you’re still a married man.



      I totally agree. I was divorced after a LT marriage of 20 yrs in 08. It is now 2015 and I have covered SO MUCH ground relative to what and who I am outside of the context of what I was as a married partner.


      I do not feel you can give the new person the respect and dignity they deserve by “convincing” them to date a married (you call it separated) person. There is no do over relative to a good start with a new love interest – presuming you want love and not just a quick lay. Convincing is to ask someone to drop their boundaries for your benefit. That is manipulative and sets the tone for future behavior.

      It is so simple any argument flies in the face of logic in defense of dating while legally married. GET A DIVORCE. Follow through. If you have to wait, then wait! The world will still be here when you are divorced. In that time work on yourself and healing. I do not care what anyone says – good change or bad – divorce is a transition and people owe it to themselves to recover FIRST before jumping into the frying pan straight away again. If you cannot respect that for yourself, at least consider that most women do not want to date separated men. At least consider that she has boundaries and a right not to be convinced as to what she SHOULD want according to your rationale.

    2. 12.2

      I separated from my wife in June ( her choice) and I am still in disbelief at times . I have been on dating sites recently and find “Separated” is a problem. Been on a couple of dates and last girl who was lovely must have seen something and expressed her concerns . I fully understand and respect her decision . She was really nice about it and I am now trying my best not to fill the hole that my wife has left . I think you are right about what to do but its tough at times ! Another 18 months before I am “Divorced”. Sounds a long time to be alone !

      1. 12.2.1

        Don’t look for anything serious, get on Tinder and say that you just want to have fun. A lot of women are looking for the same, I was looking for the same after my divorce and had a great time. Make friends, go to meetups. I met a great girlfriend at the meetup and a great guy friend at local happy hour gathering.

        But when I was ready to date seriously and opened a profile on Match, I was disappointed many times when a guy I went on a date with said that he only moved out last month and then his wife calls and he answers and wraps up the date because “she needs” something. That’s just not fair and rude.

  13. 13

    @ Joe #11
    The OP wrote he's already been physically separated for 10 mos. So even if he lives in NC, he could get a divorce in 2 months. He voluntarily signed up for another 3 YEARS of married-though-separated…which is going to prove to be a problem with some women…and he knows it… hence his letter to EMK.

  14. 14

    Most therapistsagree that one should wait for a year or two AFTER the divorce is final before you start dating. It takes that long to heal, it really does for the vast majority of people. I do understand that some people can turn it off like a light switch (Gemini's are reported to be like that) but not most people. If you start dating before that, there is still a part of you that you can't give, the part that is still there weather you think so or not, and that means you don't have 100% of yourself to give to another person. And she doesn't know that, so it's really not fair to the other person because they're thinking that you are 100% fully available. I was out dating shortly after my divorce and I just wasn't ready. Thought I was though.

  15. 15
    Christie Hartman

    Most of the women who write me with painful stories aren't dating divorced men, they're dating men getting divorced. Men in this category are usually a nightmare to date (although there are exceptions). They date way before they're ready, often have little to offer a woman, drag her into their mess, and wind up hurting her. Should this guy be concerned about women wanting to date him? Hell yes, and for good reason. Like Michael (#12) said, he should focus on living his life and getting his stuff together; then, maybe he'll have something to offer a woman.

  16. 16

    While I would not date a legally married man in any situation, there are many women who would, depending on what Pat has to offer. My advice is for him to try meeting new people like in an activities club where the emphasis is not on dating, and then slowly try casual dating vs. aiming for a relationship, until his divorce comes through, and to continue his counseling, and to make a new life for himself where dating is not at the center.
    In alignment with Paul's comments, I had a conversation yesterday with a good male friend of mine who shared that for some men, the devastating loss of a marriage or a long-term relationship can take years for them to totally heal from. In general, men often struggle to fully understand and to process and handle their emotions in such situations. They often lack a support system, too, so it's great that Pat is seeing a counselor. So few men do.
    Some men will think they're ready when they are not, or they will feel that if they shutter up the windows to their emotions they'll be fine, and they will also make the mistake of thinking that a female's touch is all they need. Men actually experience emotions more profoundly than women, but you wouldn't know it because they have been trained to squelch them within a mere few seconds of their realization.

  17. 17

    OP, go ahead and date, but be honest with what you realy WANT and NEED at the moment.  Lots of guys don't do this, or don't know what they want until the women are already emotionally entwinded.  So, YES, women have a right to be wary, esp if they're looking for LTR's.
    Every guy I know who's divorced has warned me against getting involved with a guy who has't been legally divorced for at least a year, esp if he has kids.  It takes a while to settle into a new life before being ready for that type of emotional committment.

  18. 18

    “I Am Separated (And Soon To Be Divorced). How Can I Convince Women To Give Me a Chance?”
    By getting a divorce.

    1. 18.1

      The voice of reason.


      The biggest threat to women is men, said CS Lewis.


      In online dating especially this is more true than ever. There is more opportunity to be physically and emotionally hurt.


      The separated man can go back to his wife at any time before the ink dries. This leaves the other woman/women in the dust without any fairness due her.

      Not only that, but why would a woman date a married man she does not know jst by his word? People live together and never know one another – a guy who wants to convince someone to date them based on a promise is not holding up his promise to do the right thing by his wife – and follow through with good intent as per their vows. That may mean honor via a divorce – but at least entertain the action in full before entangling someone else in your drama.


      If someone is so selfish to not consider the ramifications on others in not being fully available, they need to not date. At all. Until future time.


      The women he involves himself with while married are in fact, settling for second best until such future divorce is final. If that ever happens.


      Some men never pull the trigger and finalize divorce – and the new lady ends up without the ability to even consider marriage with him unless polygamy is an option. Cmon. Get a divorce. Or go back home.

  19. 19
    Cathy J

    As author of ‘Find True Love’ I also advise against dating people who are not divorced. While you are not yet divorced, you are still married.

    Two scenarios are:

    One, he may go back to his wife, yes, usually for the sake of the children.. and often it still ends in divorce. Although I believe that most people do not want to be the home-wrecker and break up a family or stop them reconciling. Observing those around me had shown me that often couples separate and reconcile at least once and often over years before divorcing; and

    Two, the person may deliberately not divorce as he (or she) is a commitment phobe and it becomes a further barrier.

    Either way not a situation I recommend.

    Once the divorce is final, if the person at least on the surface is full functioning, there is hope that they have have grieved the lost dreams and are ready to start afresh.

  20. 20

    @ Selena #13:
    Being physically separated is not the same as being legally separated.  The OP isn't clear when the legal separation happened, but I don't get the vibe that it happened simultaneously with the legal separation.

  21. 21

    This is a tough spot. Separated but not divorce until 3 years is definitely need to know information. Women have a right to know and rightfully should be skeptical. Instead of focusing so much on women and relationships, perhaps if might be time to focus on you and your individual passions. Do things that bring you happiness in the here and now, make friends, learn new things, and try to enjoy yourself instead of putting so much energy into a negative point in your life. Put that energy into positive points.

  22. 22

    I’m in the age range where all the divorces have started, so I know lots of people who either are divorced or in the process. As a single-never-married-don’t-care-if-I-marry person, I have dated legions of separated/divorced guys and listened to still more.

    Speaking generally, they are, in a word, tedious.

    Because of these experiences, I will never, ever go out with a separated/divorced guy again. Most of these guys are still deep in their marriages and cannot see it, and dating for them is usually about finding some ally in a fight against the ex. And after awhile, you start to understand all of the “and then she said” comments that the guy passes on in his rants against his ex.

    But if a divorced person wants to date, here are some (unsolicited) tips from someone who has listened too much:

    1) Do not badmouth your ex, no matter how awful you think she/he is. Keep your rage to yourself. Dates are supposed to be fun for both parties–not free therapy for you.

    2) Do not make your time with the new person dependent on your ex’s schedule. If your ex is jerking you around with child visitations or whatever, manage your EX, not the new person. No sane person is going to live his/her life according to the dictates of some third party he/she doesn’t know.

    3) Don’t do more for your ex, give more to your ex, or consider your ex’s feelings more than you do for/give to/consider the new person. If your ex lives in the house you shared, the ex can mow the lawn, even if that used to be your job. If your ex needs a ride somewhere and can’t drive, it’s on him/her. If something you do with the new person is going to upset the ex, tough. If all of your energy and resources are going to the ex, then sleep there.

    4) Do not wax rhapsodic about how great your marriage was, how great the sex was, how in love you were. Go back if it was so great.

    5) If you go back, even momentarily, do not contact the new person ever again. You have blown it with that person. Leave that person alone. Handle your confusion; do not drag some innocent person into it.

    6) Do not introduce the new person to your kids unless you have a serious, ongoing relationship with the new person. Do not use your kids as a channel of information to let your ex know that you are seeing someone new.

    7) Do not bring the new person to family events where the ex will be unless you are in a serious, ongoing relationship with that new person. In short, do not cast the unwitting new person in revenge scenarios.

    8) Do not expect the new person to pay for everything or more than is fair because your ex has all of your money or because the lawyers cost so much.

    9) Do not talk about how you want to get married again, even if you think you do, and especially if it was “all [your] ex’s fault because [he/she] is crazy.” No one believes you, and you seem like the crazy one.

    10) Understand that always-single people have remained single for a reason–most likely to avoid the kind of drama that you are now stuck in. So, while a person without your baggage might seem like a good match for YOU, you may not seem like a good match for that person. We have our own wants/cares/needs/problems that differ from yours and to which YOU are not particularly sympathetic. So stay away from always-singles unless you really are ready to be fully single again.

    1. 22.1

      A slow clap. Jody  I love everything on your list. I am also a single woman who’s never married and avoids that drama. I wish I could send this to my friends who are divorcing. The pain is not worth it.

      1. 22.1.1


    2. 22.2

      Thanks for the detailed reminder of why I haven’t dated “currently separated” men in a long time.

    3. 22.3

      Just. . . WOW!



      Honey, I think you need to go see a therapist about one of those MANY issues you just dredged up. You are probably a really nice person, but your post seems like you have some really deep emotional scars.


      i think the reason you are still single is that mentally you are like boner kryptonite! I would not let you even go anywhere with us, I could imagine what the poor guys you talk to think!

  23. 23
    Hadley Paige

    RE: Jody's Post @ 22 " if a divorced person wants to date, here are some (unsolicited) tips"
    Brilliant advice >> Every divorced or seperated male should have these tips posted on their refrigerator so that they can be reminded every day of what not to do.

  24. 24
    Hadley Paige

    I can't tell you how happy and relieved I am that despite my sometimes inflammatory observations no one gives me flak about my spelling errors (as in my previous post here)

  25. 25

    @ Jody – loved your tips!  Helpful for those that are dealing with these issues and helpful for those of us who got lucky and already have a divorced fella who is following these tips!  Nice!

  26. 26

    Both letters Evan has printed on the subject of staying married for health insurance have been from men – one who would stay married indefinetly to stay on his wife's policy, the other who would stay married for 3 years so his wife could stay on his policy. My question is for the male readers:
    What are your thoughts on getting involved with a woman who plans to stay legally married for years/indefinetly for health insurance or another financial reason? Either because it's to her benefit, or she wants to help out her husband? She swears the marriage is emotionally over and she's ready to move on.

  27. 27
    Karl R

    As a never-married man, I like how your post applies equally well for divorced men and women. Very sound advice.
    Selena asked: (#26)
    "What are your thoughts on getting involved with a woman who plans to stay legally married for years/indefinetly for health insurance or another financial reason? Either because it's to her benefit, or she wants to help out her husband?"
    She's not available for a long-term relationship. I might consider a casual short-term relationship, but I'd also keep my eyes open for someone who was available for a long-term relationship.

  28. 28
    Cathy J

    Jody – great advice – where’s your blog – lol??

    Important topic and interesting to see so many agree.

  29. 29


    Awesome post!!! Can I cut and paste it to send to divorced dudes who IM me on dating sites? :-p

  30. 30

    My biggest problem has always been with men who have been dumped. Dating a separated, still married man whose wife left him – never. I've dated guys who've been divorced for years and they still weren't ready to move on if their wife was the one who left.
    The funniest words in the OP's letter were: "And even if it didn't work out permanently would that be so bad?" Apparently not for him, because he is not really ready to move on. As Evan said, while dating always involves some risk, most women don't want to get involved with someone who would be considered high-risk. 

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