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. 31

    @ Ruby – same here… the divorced guys I've had "moving on" issues with were the ones who were left by their wives.   When the guy does the leaving, I find it to be a whole different story.

  2. 32

    Dating a separated man can and does work out; my ex and his current wife are celebrating 5 years of marriage this summer.  They met when we were two months into the separation.  But I believe that is the exception and NOT the rule.  There is no drama between the ex and myself and his wife and I get along very well.  They are people I'd probably be friends with whether there was history or not. 
    When I have heard some men badmouth their exes, I often wonder what her side of the story would be.  Not because a separated/divorced guy is a bad man, but having gone through my own divorce, it's quite often the fault of both not one.

  3. 33

    I've never been married, but I know this: being separated is TOTALLY NO BIG DEAL and it's practically like being labeled single. I have *multiple* separated friends who are dating like crazy. My roommate is separated and still legally married and he's getting more chicks now than he has in his entire life. Chicks don't even bat an eye about it.
    It's really simple. When you talk to them, tell them you're separated and make it no big deal and just play it cool. If you make a big deal about it then chicks will think it's a big deal and it becomes a red flag.
    Divorces can take years especially if there are weird property and financial circumstances. Dating should start right away.

    1. 33.1

      That is because they do not take him seriously – moreover you referred to these women as “CHICKS”. That is more of a red flag than being separated.

    2. 33.2

      There is a difference between dating, dating to find a relationship and “dating” to sleep around with other people also looking to get something for nothing. The later is so common you can’t go out without tripping over it.

      Predatory women can see separated men as “low hanging fruit” (especially if he’s also blowing his future ex’s share of the funds living it up). Eventually the emotional impact of the split is going to catch up with him and women there for the party aren’t inclined to hang around to deal with the fallout so I wouldn’t get too excited.

  4. 34

    @Diana #16

    You said "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".
    Uhh…no. Men experience emotions differently than women do. We aren't "trained" to squelch them. It always makes me cringe when I hear women talk about men's inner dialogue in this way, it assumes women experience emotions the "right" way and men have only "learned" to experience emotions the "wrong" way.
    I can tell you, from my own experience, observation, discussion among my male peers, and most of all, research, that men are (to greater and lesser degrees) wired to internalize far more so than most women.
    We don't have as much need to seek external council for our internalizations: after all, what good will it do? We know what the "problem" is, we know what the "options" are for addressing said problem. We just have to make a decision, and no one else can do that for us.
    Now this isn't all men, but from the peer-reviewed research I've read, it describes most men, to varying degrees. And the bulk of men reside far more on the "internalize" end of the spectrum. And believe us, it's not from training. There is no thought in our heads that say "I really want to share this, but I must keep this to myself". The thought of sharing these things with someone like most women do doesn't even occur to us – they are  our personal possessions that aren't meant for the consumption of others.

  5. 35

    To Bill #34, I knew I shouldn't have rushed through my posting. 😉
    What I was trying to convey is that society has taught men to hide or even reverse their immediate emotional reactions. I should have stated "taught" vs "trained" and "hide" vs "squelched." I'm sorry for my poor choice of words, as I did not intend to offend anyone.
    Surprisingly for some people is the knowledge that a man's initial emotional response is stronger than a woman's, but it's difficult to recognize because men typically hide their emotion in about 2.5 seconds. After having read the books titled, "The Female Brain" and "The Male Brain," I can assure you that our brains are indeed wired differently, and this includes experiencing emotions differently. I don't really see this as right or wrong for either sex; merely different. I actually think they compliment each other by balancing each other out.

  6. 36

    @Diana #35
    LOL…yea, quick responses don't always allow us to pick just the right words!
    Anyway, I still disagree a bit with "What I was trying to convey is that society has taught men to hide or even reverse their immediate emotional reactions."
    While I would agree that our cultural indoctrination does convey to boys/men that they should hide/reverse their emotional decisions, I contend that by wiring most men do this already. The cultural norms don't define male behaviour, but rather are a reflection of male nature. Sort of a chicken-and-egg scenario…how could society develop this norm unless it was already present in a majority of men?
    Again, I can speak from my own experience, and that of friends…most men simply don't feel the impetus to share what they feel – it's not a useful activity for us.
    I do agree that intensity of certain emotional responses is greater in most men…hormonal levels alone could account for this, given how different men and women are hormonally. Let alone all the other differences (brain wiring, functional brain differences, etc). I've explained to every woman I've dated what rage is like, and how intense arousal was as a young adult male. They are always stunned at what I describe.
    Oh, and men and women are definitely complementary…it's that way by nature's design!

  7. 37

    I really have an aversion to the 'men and women are naturally wired differently or their brains are different' type of talk.   People in general have different characteristics and for a specific characteristic someone attributes only to a woman, I can list the men that have the same and vice versa.
    There are more differences between individuals than genders.  But then again, I also don't assign human characteristics to being either male or female…they are just human traits that an individual has.

  8. 38

    @April #37

  9. 39

    @April #37
    You may have an aversion to discussion the very real, very physiological, very research-supported perspective that the genders are critically different in brain structure and chemistry, but that doesn't change the fact that we are.
    Check out the books that Diana referenced ("The Female Brain" and "The Male Brain,"), and others like them. It's astounding how diffrent male and female brains are from early pregnancy. There are very clear hormonal stages that a fetus goes through to "set" the brain in certain ways. The studies bear this out, even to the point of doctors being able to predict certain traits.

    The genders demonstrate far more difference than individuals within each gender – it's impossible to be otherwise, because masculinity and femininity occur on a continuum, with androgyny representing the middle. Some physiological males are more feminine than others, some physiological females are more masculine than others. But masculine males and feminine females still represent the bulk of the continuum.
    What we're really talking about when we say "men" is the bell curve with it's peak at the center of the masculine portion of the continuum, and when we say "women", the bell curve peak at the center of the feminine portion of the continuum.
    We're talking about averages and means, "most-often"s and "usually"s. Yes, we'll all see exceptions – these are the people who represent the reaches of the continuum, or the slopes of the bell curves.
    Of COURSE "human characteristics… are…human traits that an individual has."…what Diana and I are talking about is the gender distribution of those traits/characteristics. The research is very clear about this distribution of traits, and even has quite a bit of study attempting to identify the source of these traits. Functional MRI scans are incredibly enlightening about how our brains consistently respond in gender-specific patterns to specific stimuli. In other words, nearly all men's  brains show one pattern when exposed to a given stimulus, while nearly all women's brains show a different (but gender-consistent) pattern when exposed to the same stimulus.
    What's really fascinating is that some of these studies show the response pattern is also the same across cultures for each gender! In other words, culture has little or no influence on certain stimulus/response pairs, but gender does!

  10. 40

    This is not going to be politically correct and I will get a lot of heat for this, because it is not the BS that everyone will feed you such as "be yourself" and "it will happen".
    Step #1  Become Rich
    Step #2 Become an Arrogant Jerk
    Step #3 Buy a Ferrari
    Step #4 Buy nice clothes, shades, shoes, and a watch
    Step #5 Drive through a college town in your Ferrari
    Step #6 Try NOT to get stampeeded by the woman running towards you

    1. 40.1

      You are either bitter or know what attracts the women who are not keepers – or both

  11. 41

    [email protected]: There is lots of research that contradicts this as well. More than one side to the story. Unless you cherry-pick your research. Why one side of the argument and not the other, eh? Interesting question.
    But fundamental to the argument is whether or not you blame your behavior and choices on your biology. Or whether you don't.
    We've been through this before on this thread and it's boring. Men are strong advocates of the biology-based theories of behavior. Women don't buy it. They see it as men refusing to accept responsibility for their bad behavior by blaming it on hormones. It's too bad you have such crappy biology. Why not focus on "rewiring" it? Lots of studies on how "nurture" affects biology–why not apply some of that?  

  12. 42

    The brain's physiological and biological differences between the sexes is fascinating to me, and has helped me to better understand men, as well as women. This does not discount the value, significance and impact of our uniqueness and our personal choices, other genetic factors, and our vast environment as we journey through life.
    I like bridging the two together, and trying to find a balance. I am smart enough to see through a smoke screen when a man may be trying to blame his bad behavior solely on the "that's how I'm wired, sweetie" excuse. This observation does not weaken or discount what all I have learned.

  13. 43

    Even if your theory is correct, Jonesey, you might be able to rewire your son by "nurture," but you won't be able to rewire a man that way, since he's already way past the "nurture" stage.

  14. 44

    @43: Read "The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph From The Frontiers Of Brain Science," a book on neuroplasticity by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D. He contends that one of the most changeable/teachabe parts of the human brain is the one responsible for sexual response. Sorry, guys.

  15. 45

    For any psycho-babble book that says X, there's another psycho-babble book that says the opposite of X.

  16. 46

    @Bill #39

    Sorry, but just as Jonesey mentioned above, there is plenty of research that concludes that the brain differences between men and women are miniscule, and that it is quite common for people to blow these differences out of proportion.

  17. 47
    Katarina Phang

    April, they are not that miniscule.  If you had been through a relationship in which communication was falling apart because one of us assumed that the other was just thinking and operating like us, you would see all of these notions were really not an exaggeration.
    Men and women are really a contrast to each other, that’s why we are attracted to each other in the first place.
    With this knowledge comes acceptance, peace of mind and self-empowerment.  I understand and accept my husband much better now and as such he responds accordingly in a way that makes me happy.

  18. 48
    Katarina Phang

    For one thing, I must add, the way men cope with stresses is totally the opposite of women.  Men need testosterone to manage their stress while women need oxytocyn.  Men need to do things, to accomplish or withdraw to reduce their stress levels, while women need to talk, connect and bond.  (see how many relationships fall apart for failing to understand this factor alone?).
    I recommend Joh Gray’s book on the subject.  It’s very eye-opening.

  19. 49

    Actually I feel better when I do things to cope with stress.

  20. 50

    If you’re the type of man or woman who thinks completely different from the opposite site sex then great, but there are also just as many men and women who think and react very similarly.

  21. 51

    Hmmm – Not certain of Pat’s age but .  . .
    Avoid women in their 30’s that have never been married and had children of their own. I have to be honest, I’ve found the man I want to spend the rest of my life with  .  . . last October at 36.  Just two days before I met him (after a disaster with a man who was separated and divorcing) my best friend who made me pinky-swear over the phone three times: I want to be married and have a family. I want to settle down. I will re-read the book Why Men Marry Some Women And Not Others until my eyes fall out. I will only date men who are ready to settle down and that have never been married or had children. I will not date anyone over the age of 40.
    Why that mantra? For me? For other women like me that have had a few go-rounds, they get back with their ex. . . or – aha! They heal with you for many ‘years’ then marry someone else who has been married/divorced/children.  Why would I turn Pat down?

    I’m now 37 – I don’t have that many years left.  If I want to craft the life I desire: I can’t wait 3 years. What happens at 39/40 if he changes his mind after the divorce?  So in Pat’s case – perhaps dating a younger woman in her 20’s who DOES have the time to see what happens after 3 years would work? And she might not have already been through the rodeo. 
    Hey!  Those experiences I did have were invaluable. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. But I’m not alone.  I have many friends in my space and place and they would say the same thing:  I already LEARNED those lessons of loss. Now it’s MY turn to learn the lessons in commitment and the deep love that goes with it.
    It might seem harsh, but if you want to be married and have a family – you have to go with men who are 100% available.  Not just from a separated/divorce standpoint – but all levels.    If the women you are approaching are in their mid to late 30’s and they say at the singles situation you are meeting them in:  I’ve never been married or had children.  And you ask them out and they say, “No.”
    I’m here to be honest.  It’s in the Four Agreements. Take nothing personally.  Don’t stop trying and kicking yourself over the “No”>
     I’m sure she’s out there but you have to stack the deck in your favor by approaching women who aren’t in this demographic.  I actually own an online magazine for single women 35-55 (launched in May) and my little pups (myself included) tend to be very focused on the family.  That three years of waiting could totally destroy a woman’s chance to having a full marriage/family life. Sorry to focus on marriage, marriage, marriage – but I’m a woman reading Evan’s site.  If I didn’t want that  – then I would have no business being here.    And his insights obviously worked for me because he’s here in my life now.

    1. 51.1

      @Adrienne. “Avoid women in their 30’s that have never been married and had children of their own”.

      Please don’t speak for everyone in that situation, some of us are childless by choice and aren’t looking for someone to start a family with. While I have absolutely nothing against children, and would happily consider a guy who has a family already, I have no desire to have my own children. I am currently seeing a guy who has a family, two kids still at home who I’ve met and get on with, but still have zero interest in having children of my own. If he had not considered me just because I have no kids we’d have lost out on what has, so far, been a promising relationship.

      I would change that advice to more “if you don’t want more children please be upfront from the start – even as soon as date 1”. That way everyone knows where they stand. I’d also say to those considering getting into that sort of relationship, if they say they don’t want more children please believe them, don’t date them thinking you can change their mind!

  22. 52

     I agree with all that Evan said.
    As one relatively new to rejoining the dating scene, I find this thread interesting on a number of levels. Principally, I am interested in learning to be a better partner in all relationships regardless of the level of commitment, future prospects or sexual involvement. I have no desire to mislead or toy with anyone’s emotions least of all my own. That said, I am merely separated and it will take much longer than I wish for me to completely extricate myself from my last marriage due to financial encumbrances.
    I don’t begin to claim that I can speak on behalf of others in my position but I do have clear opinions on several of the points raised above.
    At the outset, I understand and respect the wishes of all who prefer not to date those who, like myself, are separated or in the process of divorce. I raise no argument to dissuade you of your position. However, I do take objection to the notion that I should do anything but date until the ink has dried at least 365 days on my divorce papers. I decide when I am ready and offer to date whomever I choose. They are free to decline on any grounds and are under no obligation to give explanation.
    It is not possible to be completely “over” our past relationships. Their tentacles tug in so many subtle ways both good and bad. Regardless of where you fall on the nature vs. nurture argument, we are all indelibly impressed with our past and more significantly our responses to it even if we are unaware. At best, we can try to identify self-defeating patterns and behaviors, discover their source and work to replace them with new, healthy behaviors. That task is never complete as each change in our ever evolving world makes some behaviors that were beneficial in the past now counterproductive.
    Benchmarks for progress toward the goal of social intelligence and personal evolution are still imprecise. Time alone does not promote social progress. Rather, our quality of life and personal satisfaction are directly related to our commitment toward personal growth and our awareness of the needs of others. We each define for ourselves what constitutes maturity and how much social intelligence we deem appropriate and compatible with our class and goals.
    With that in mind, I can say with clear conscience that I have more to give to a new partner today than I ever had with my past partners. I further have every intention of becoming a still better partner tomorrow. Those I offer to date will have to decide for themselves if I am sufficiently advanced.
    Regarding who dumped whom. Does it really make a difference? I’m the one who pulled the plug on my marriage with my ex. It was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do but efforts to reconcile failed miserably and I refused to be taken advantage of any longer. However, throughout our breakup and divorce, my ex and I have worked hard to maintain a cordial relationship. We are forced by our financial ties to interact with each other and there seems to be no reason to become bitter or act vindictively. Cordial does not imply that either of us seek to reconcile now or in the future. I made it quite clear when we broke up the final time that all efforts to reconcile had been exhausted and that it was no longer nor would ever be again an option.
    In summary, I do not follow the crowd and I’m not waiting years more before I get into another serious and committed relationship while at the same time I’m in no rush to do so. That a legal document attesting to our commitment is some time away is not a deterrent for me though it might be for others.
    Good luck to each of you in your pursuit of love!

    1. 52.1

      Eric – well written, you sound very well adjusted and I’m sure will make a woman very happy one day.   

    2. 52.2

      Nobody said when you can date. It is clearly up to you. Using extensive verbiage to make your point is dressing up the obvious. It takes time to heal.

      If you can be over a marriage in less than a yr and ready to rock and roll with another woman without pause for serious reflection, then your marriage appears to have meant nothing. Seriously.

    3. 52.3

      I like how you worded that Eric. Same situation here. Somewhat tied to spouse due to financial issues and the slow legal process. I think people are oversimplifying when they suggest everyone wait until the divorce is finalized to date or consider entering a new relationship. If you have children and assets divorce can take months to years and this not necessarily due to any emotional ties to the spouse or hopes of reconciliation. Its many times the amount of  legal and financial paperwork that has to be sorted out and a family court system that works excruciatingly slow.

  23. 53

    I agree that “who dumped whom” isn’t as relevent as some may think.  Because by the time the final parting comes, usually the relationship has already been in bad shape for some time for both parties.

    And dating while separated, but still legally married shares the same condition with dating while legally single: it’s still all about finding someone who wants to date you –  period.

  24. 54

    I guess it just depends on the people involved.  I have been sorta chatting with one guy who is separated but claims they are not divorced because of financial reasons.  Now the fact that we only chat when he’s at work sends up a red flag that the marriage might not be as “over” as he says.  But if you’re staying together for financial reasons, you’re going to not be divorced for a very long time because life isn’t getting any cheaper.

  25. 55

    “But if your’re staying together for financial reasons, you’re going to not be divorced for a very long time because life isn’t getting any cheaper.”  – Starthrower68 #54

    Very astute observation!  😉

  26. 56

    I am currently going through a divorce & have been separated for 9 months now & recently dated a separated man who had only been separated 2-3 months. He stated that his relationship had been dead for a year and his wife decided to move out. There were red flags, but I decided to ignore them because this man was a gentlemen & seemed emotionally needy like me, so I thought that we were on the same page. He definitely wasn’t ready to move on & in so many words made that clear, but I honestly thought that the wife had moved on & forgotten about him until yesterday when she emailed him stating that she wanted to try again. He quickly said yes without even thinking about whether they had what it took to make it work. I only hope that she didn’t hurry to get him back out of fear that someone else had already picked him up.

  27. 57

    I had to learn the hard way as well. I dated a separated man for almost 2 years and when I met him, his divorce became final 3 months later. But boy, was it an emotional rollercoaster dealing with him! He was with her for a total of 12 years, married for 9 years. As time went on we became engaged about a year in a half into our relationship. But guess what happened? He ended up dumping me for someone he was involved in 14 years ago and within 3 weeks of dumping me he asked her to marry him and they got married 4 months later just that quick. How devastating!! No, I would NEVER DATE ANOTHER MAN WHO IS SEPARATED!! You would be the rebound for sure!! Don’t do it!! People need time to healed after a divorce so they don’t carry baggage into the next relationship! This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way!!!

  28. 58

    I agree with Ruby #30….with dating a separated man whose wife left him. That was my situation with my last boyfriend. NEVER NEVER NEVER AGAIN!!!!

  29. 59

    Ha.  I went out with a man who had been separated for two years and it really suited his wife financially for it to stay that way.  We got together, he divorced but never really emotionally left his wife.  So I was out of there.
    Seriously, I would not give another separated man “a chance”.  Yes, a chance to date me but I would not expect anything from him apart from a date, and would not let him into my heart, because the chances of him being ready are not high.
    Sorry, but that’s how I feel.

  30. 60

    Well, I would say all women dating separated men should beware! Also vice versa.  This has happened to me twice now – I just broke things off with the second one who swore he was ready for a relationship since he had been separated almost 6 years & had amicable relationship with the ex. He really pushed for things to be serious & put a lot of pressure on himself. So of course – then he freaked & said he wasn’t ready to settle down with the first woman he’d dated after 26 years of marriage. Even though I warned him about needing to date others I did understand. I offered that we could see other people with boundaries & mutual respect – at that point he said “I would feel more comfortable if we took a step back & were friends for awhile.” Whaaat? He has admitted he has no idea what he wants & does care about me but after being upset for over a week I decided to end whatever we were doing. I told him we could leave things open in case we ever wanted to date again AFTER he worked on himself & got his life together. We haven’t spoken since. So in this situation it’s not so much the divorce proceeding but a guy who thinks he’s ready but not being honest with himself. It make work out for some but not me – never again will I date a separated man or one just out of a divorce or long term relationship. Too unstable, too many emotions, & don’t know what they want… People like this should wait to date or only look for those willing to date very casual & have fun.

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