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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.

Good luck.