Do’s and Don’t of Dating Someone Recently Divorced

May 29, 2007 by Cassandra George Sturges, Psy.D  
Published in Dating

Don’t underestimate the problems of adjustment for these newly single men.

Did it take too long for him to pick the children up from her house? Does she call too often and too late? Does he spend too much money and too much time with her? This is typical of a recently divorced couple. If you really love him and feel that your relationship has potential, hide your jealousy and give him the space he desperately needs. Marriage takes years to build and months to tear down. The passion, pain and potential will not end over night.

Let the divorced couple set new boundaries and expectations for their new separate relationship. They need to address their new roles in each other’s lives. Hint: Let him spend enough time with his ex and he will quickly remember why he divorced her. Have faith in your love.

The National Center for Health statistics, 1995 reports that although divorces occur to adults of every age, they are more likely to occur in young adulthood than middle age. The divorce rate for men was 32.8 per 1000 married men in the 15-19 age group and 50.2 per 1000 for men in the 20-24 age group. Couples in the first marriage, one in eight can expect a divorce after age 40 (Uhlerberg, Cooney & Boyd, 1990). Based on these statistics there is a good chance that you are or will be dating someone recently divorced.

Don’t underestimate the problems of adjustment for these newly single men. The following dating tips will give you insight on how to have a stable relationship even though your mate is recently divorced and emotionally unstable.

Don’t criticize his ex-wife

Don’t criticize his ex-spouse, no matter how tempting, let him talk and listen with an open mind. Most likely, your mate is still hurting over the break up of his marriage and is confused and angry. By criticizing his ex-spouse you are indirectly insulting him, because who and what she is – is partly a reflection of who and what he is. When feeling attacked he will argue in her defense because in a sense he is protecting himself.

Without letting you know, he may begin to feel that she wasn’t so bad after all; because you don’t know what she was like when she smiled. Yes, they are divorced for a reason, but better yet; don’t forget that they were once married for a reason; and at this moment, they were married a lot longer than the two of you have been together.

Be careful, you only know one side of the story, keep quiet. No matter what he tells you, remember that his marriage to her was not all bad. Your mate must re-define himself outside of the marriage. Let him bare his soul to you and build a relationship based on trust and understanding by remaining non-judgmental and objective.

Don’t let him move in with you, before he is emotionally ready to commit

You’ve been dating him for less than 18 months and he wants to move in with you. Don’t let him. Make sure he is ready for another meaningful relationship and not a crutch for his broken heart and empty wallet. He may be the “one” for you, but remember: If you combine all of the right ingredients together to make the perfect cake, if you take it out of the oven too soon, you will destroy it. Don’t ruin a potentially wonderful relationship by moving to quickly.

Give him space to get over his ex

You are convinced that he still loves her. Even when he tells you how much he hates her, you can see it in his eyes. Your mate is more susceptible to sentimental feelings around the holidays, family gatherings and funerals. Reminiscing and feeling sad over the good that was lost during the divorce does not mean that he is in love with her and wants to rekindle the relationship with his ex-wife. Let him mourn his loss without feeling you are abandoning him. Don’t tell him to let her go. This is something he must do when he is ready. This issue is out of your realm.

Studies show that a typical couple needs 3-5 years to heal after divorce before they are emotionally ready for re-marriage. Of course this isn’t true for every person, but realize that he must come to an understanding and acceptance of his emotions of separation that may be riddled with guilt. Let go of him and move on, if you want and need more than he is capable of giving to your relationship.

Don’t let him take his anger out on you

You are not his punching bag. Yes, he has been through a great deal of pain and he doesn’t trust women, just yet. Sure, he apologized and said he will never say nor do those mean things again. Un Huh. If a person had a contagious physical disease such as measles, you would take precautions to protect yourself. Right? Well, think of emotional distress as a spiritual illness, and do the same. Run for cover! People tend to give what they themselves have – even if it’s not on purpose.

Divorce is a very painful process and sometimes the person is naturally depressed and moody. Let them know you care, but maintain boundaries to maintain your self-esteem and self-respect.

Clarify your expectations for the relationship

You are a potential danger to your newly divorced mate. Be careful with his emotions by being open and honest about your intentions and expectations for the relationship. The wounds of his broken heart are fresh. He is open and vulnerable to further damage by you. The divorce may have left him insecure and uncertain about his masculinity and ability to nurture a healthy relationship. He may need to know that he is still lovable and seeks refuge in your heart. Handle him with care, some broken hearts are fragile.

Don’t rush to meet his children

Do take your time before meeting his children and ex-spouse. Your presence is crystal clear evidence that things are not the same and that the marriage is indeed over. Often time’s children are not emotionally ready to see their parents with someone new. If you meet them too soon, they may erroneously blame you for their parents break up. Get to know your mate much better before adding the additional strain of trying to build a relationship with other hurting family members. Be patient and give the family time to adjust at least 6 months to 1 year. Forcing togetherness may complicate your relationship with your mate.

Do you really care for him or feel sorry for him?

Always be honest with yourself at all times and encourage him to do the same. If you see unappealing characteristics that you are not comfortable with, tell him immediately. Give him a fair amount of time to address your concerns. Ask yourself if his behavior is a part of his transition into being a single person, or is this just who he is.

When people are going through a traumatic change, they may need time to re-balance their lives. Be gentle and tell him to be true to his heart, even if it means leaving the relationship with you. Don’t short change yourself, you deserve all of his heart, hopes and dreams, not left over feelings of guilt and fear of starting over. Listen to your heart and move on if necessary.

Good luck!

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13 Responses to “Do’s and Don’t of Dating Someone Recently Divorced”
  1. SEEKING ADVICE Says:

    I AM SEEING A DEVORCED MAN AT THE PRESENT TIME AND I HAVE ALOT OF RESERVATIONS ABOUT THE WHOLE THING. I AM YOUNG ( 25 ) AND HAVE NEVER BEEN MARRIED MYSELF BUT I DO HAVE FEELINGS FOR THIS GUY, I THINK HE’S A GREAT PERSON AND I WANT TO HAVE SOMETHING WITH HIM BUT IT SEEMS LIKE HE’S SO CLOSED. HE HAS BEEN DEVORCED FOR OVER 2 YEARS NOW AND I AM THE FIRST WOMEN HE’S DATED SEINCE THE SPLIT. I’M TRYING TO STAY POSSITIVE….I THINK HE’S WORTH MY TIME, MAYBE HE JUST NEEDS TIME. ANY ADVICE ????

  2. maria Says:

    Well I am 50 and dating a soon to be divorced man. I have been divorced for 12 years. been through the pain. but I think men deal with it differently & I personally believe takes them longer. There is a book that may help you ‘Dating the Divorced Man, by Christie Hartman,
    It is hard at any age. but I think the key is patience, your own self image and worth, and being there for him, with honesty but give him all the space he needs. If you truly feel he is worth it. Its like a juggling act with your emotions. As you try to deal with yours, and his… and he deals with them differently. i am sure he wants you in his life, but let him have his space.
    Go with your gut though/ intuition if you suspect he is rebounding and you WILL end up with the short end.. Get out then asap. hope this helps.. good luck, it is really really tough. and you are awesome to involve yourself with such pain, he should appreciate you.

  3. Steph Says:

    Im 26 seeing a 40yr old divorced man with two sons. The oldest lives with him, the youngest with his ex, but they have shared custody with both still. The extra unfortunate thing is that it’s more of a long distance relationship with us, because although we are only an hour away, with traffic it can take three usually. Weekdays are usually out, cause they are school nights, weekends are it, but there always seems to be something that comes up, with his son usually. We talk/text usually everyday, but he still seems so closed, not really wanting to do the inviting, but likes that i invite (even if he cant make it), and doesn’t really talk much about himself, at least not the personal stuff. Any advice??

  4. Lucy Says:

    I am 27 and recently been seeing a divorced man of only a month. We see each other at least 3-4 times a week, but he never calls me…only texts me. I see this as a red flag, but still not sure if he just doesn’t like talking on the phone because he’s older. Or maybe he’s not ready to commit coming out of something so serious, so he’s playing the field. Whatever it is he makes me feel as though it’s only me and him and sadly I have began to believe him a little, but I still have a gut feeling that maybe he’s just not that into me. If someone is interested in someone, wouldn’t they call the person at least once a day? Please help.

  5. grace Says:

    I am 20 recently been seeing a 22 years old, divorced man. I’ve only met him once, but I really like him.I know there is a strong chemistry between us, but the problem is that he seems to be having alot of things on his mind, like when he first got married his ex wife left him right after she got all of his money, and cheated on him with 2 other men from Washington. I dont know what to do exactly…I really want to spend time with him, but maybe i should just give him space. I mean i dont want to RUSH him because he just got out from a divorced. So basically im just waiting till something happens.

  6. cici Says:

    im 21 dating a 32 year old man that has been separated for about 10 months. it has been about 2 months and every thing was great. we had a real connection. i can tell that the divorce affects when he alks about it. but sometimes i feel he isnt being entirely truthfull about the situation. he makes the divorce to be all her fault. both of them cheated but he says she cheated first. anyway, he went out of town for a bout 2 weeks and it seemed that i droppped off the map. for the first week i didnt get a phone call or text. i knew he was with his family and kids(2 sons) but i thought if he was really interested he would have atleast texted me every once in a while. i mean, he wasnt big on calling alot in the first place but still….. i found that on his little trip he may have been with his ex- wife, supposedly working on the divorce. i dont know what to do. i really really like him but i cant compete with the mother of his children.

  7. jstar Says:

    I started dating a separated man about 10 months ago. At the time, he’d been separated for 2 weeks (i had known him for 4 years before that). While i could have taken complete advantage of him, i was his friend, his ear when he needed it (his ex-wife had been cheating on him for 6 months prior to separation). I let him pour his heart out and we started dating about a month later. During that time, we split for about 2 weeks because i could not handle all the emotional baggage. Anyway, it worked a treat because he really cleared his head in that time and he came back to me. I helped him realise many things – including the fact that he realised he only married the ex because she essentially forced him and he thought it was what he wanted (he was too young – 21). He also realised htat he fell out of love with her about 6mths into their marriage but was too scared to walk away. I encouraged him to change jobs, do things that he liked to do, set some goals, change your wardrobe, change where you live and look after yourself. He loved his new-found freedom and stopped thinking about her.

    Once he was clear of the emotional baggage and he found himself, we fell deeply in love and are now engaged :)

    My advice – if he’s truly worth it, stick around. Help him recover and rediscover who he is (no sex!) and encourage him to find the things he like to do.

  8. new perspective Says:

    I just started talking to a guy that I dated in college about 14 years ago. He is recently divorced and has a beautiful 2 year old daughter. We reconnected about 6 weeks ago. Everything seemed fine at first. Then his ex-wife filed to have full custody of their daughter. So now he’s going through a custody battle. Prior to this, we had planned a trip for me to see him and for him to come to the city that I live a few weeks later. I live on the east coast and he lives in the southwest. This was fine since I’m original from the same area that he currently lives in. We had a beautiful week planned. I know of his ex-wife since we all went to college together but she doesn’t know that we are seeing each other now. Everything went well when I first go their. He picked me up from the airport, we spend the entire first two days together as planned (no sex). I left to visit my mother for her birthday the next couple of days and he was suppose to have his daughter while I was visiting my mother. He went to pick up his daughter and his ex said no since he did not agree with her new terms of the custody. I’m like WTF. He called me very upset and them called his attorney. His attorney ended up requesting an emergency hearing on Wed and the judge ordered him to get is daughter from Thurs – Mon which was our time. I’m very supportive of what he did but also disappointed especially since this was the first time we had seen each other since college. We tried to plan to go out but he could find a babysitter on such short notice. The one thing that pissed me off more than anything is that he did not initiate any phone calls after this happened. I had to call or text and then he would eventually contact me back. I know he had his 2 yr old with him but dang… I tried to play it down and let him know that he owed me two visits instead of one and he agreed and was very apologetic. He’s definitely worth it, very attractive, owns his own business as I do, but this has not been easy. He made a comment that every women that he is with seems to leave him (as I was the person he dated in college before his wife and reference that a few times – hey I was young and stupid back then…) However, I think that the messages above has helped me put things into perspective. Nothing that happened was a show stopper, but I do need to address the lack of communication with me that’s the only big thing that bothered me. Thanks for the blog!

  9. Shanti Massaquoi Says:

    I am 24 years old dating a guy of 38 years old. Who has been divorced for four years,he has two kids from his previous marriage. We have been dating for four months, less than 2 months in the relationship, he started talking about marriage and me having a baby girl for him. he said he never ever thought or planned 2 remarry until he met me. He told his younger sister who is also his best friend in the family and a close friend of his ex wife about me. I got scared because i felt it was early in the relationship for him to be talk about marriage and to make plans for our future. Meanwhile, my intuition told me he was using me to get back at his ex because he heard from his younger sister she was pregnant for her best friend and planned to move in with him. He still bears grudges against his ex for getting over 90 percent his assets during the divorce settlements, but love his son from her dearly. when i found out about these things, i asked him to stop talking about marriage with me until he is sure about it because i love him and i take marriage seriously. Since then he only brought the issue of us probably engaged and getting pregnant for him twice. I am worried he might be using me. I am in love with him, and confused.

  10. timetomoveon Says:

    I have been dating a separated man for about 4 months. We would only see each other once a month and in between that time we would text me daily, never call. In November, he told me he loved me and i admitted the same, yet he didnt want a committed relationship and admitted he wanted to meet others in the future and not limit himself to me only. All through this, ive felt he was less then honest about some things, including his age. So we agreed to take a break because i didnt want to wait for him to updeal me. During that time he would text me but then recently stopped so i assumed he met someone else and asked him. He said his love had faded. We recently got together and it was great but he is still not texting me. I feel hes met someone else though he denies it. It seems to be all about him as i made all the effort to go meet him when we would see each other weekly which was about an hour away.

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