The Risks of Dating Divorced Men & Women

Alias (DO NOT USE A REAL NAME!!): Gagedivorcecake
Comment: I’m a 38 year old man who will soon be divorced.  I have been reading this blog and am trying to formulate a sensible approach to online dating for when my divorce is final. Divorce has been sparsely addressed in a few of your posts, but I’ve had trouble finding an article that is devoted specifically to this issue.

The comments and advice given regarding divorce seem to paint a grim picture and in some cases comes across as contradictory.  I believe you mentioned that you normally skip “divorced” profiles because these men need “extra hand holding”.  In another article you advised against revealing that you’re divorced in your profile, but in another it was suggested that a specific man be open with this fact so as to avoid looking deceitful.

Are divorced men doomed when it comes to online dating?  It’d be great to have a list of critical do’s and don’ts for those of us in this position.

Age: 38
City: Gulfport
State: MS

 I believe you mentioned that you normally skip “divorced” profiles because these men need “extra hand holding”.  In another article you advised against revealing that you’re divorced in your profile, but in another it was suggested that a specific man be open with this fact so as to avoid looking deceitful.

Correction: I’ve advised people not to reveal they are newly divorced in their profile. Being divorced is not a liability. Being newly divorced is, as the person who has just recently ended their marriage has either been out of the game for  a long while and needs time to get acclimated or they’re dealing with some pretty heavy emotional baggage. Or both. Those are the men I actively avoid, as I have zero desire to be someone’s emotional and interpersonal tour guide.

Divorce, like any other trauma, causes psychological wounds. While a person over 35 will be hard pressed to find a partner who isn’t somewhat banged up, there’s a big difference between getting them so quickly after the trauma and a couple years later when they’ve begun to rebuild.

You can not experience a massive upheaval in  your life like a divorce and not be fundamentally changed. Nobody should expect someone newly divorced to be in the head space to be able to engage in a healthy relationship. But they do have a right to expect, or at least hope, that over time that that person has begun to heal enough to be able to get back out there and conduct themselves in a way that is conducive to developing intimacy. If you’re still wrestling with issues and wounds from your divorce, you should probably work at least some of that shit out before involving someone else.

If someone is currently separated then, depending on what they are looking for, they should probably mention that in their profile. Again, I’ll use the word liability. Divorced and separated are two very different things, the former being more final.  There are a ton of people who taker a trial separation from their spouse and then jump on OKCupid so they can take advantage of their time being “single” and screw around a bit.  Then they go back to their husband or wife feeling as though they’ve scratched the itch that originally led to the separation. While nobody is obligated to be one hundred percent truthful in their profile or on a first date, being separated and having kids or not being in a certain city permanently are things that should be put out there in advance. That way, someone can decide for themselves if the person is worth pursuing. There are certain things you can get away with holding back and certain bits of info that, if they go undisclosed, make you look sketchy. Being separated is one of those things.

Are divorced men doomed? No. No more than women over 40 are “doomed.” It’s all about acknowledging your limits. If you’re a 40 year old woman and still holding out for that 38-42 year old guy, then yeah, you’re probably screwed. Equally limiting is being that age and refusing to date men with kids. Dating men with kids when you don’t have any isn’t ideal, but by weeding them out, you’re cutting your options almost in half. It’s also insanely impractical. But whatever. Do you, ladies. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)

If you’re a divorced person fresh out of a marriage then, yeah, you’re gonna have trouble if you run around broadcasting how fresh your separation or divorce is. You don’t have to tell anyone, of course, but it would be nice if you did so that people could decide whether or not they wanted to take the risk that comes with dating someone in your position. Personally, I side-eye anybody who’s newly divorced and immediately jumping back into the dating scene. I’d have to hear them out before drawing any conclusions, but it would definitely make me suspicious. (I know.)

As I have said before, people who are eager to date after experiencing a trauma are suspect to me. Mainly because I’ve done it, and I know my reasons were not always healthy or pure.  The last thing I want is to be with someone who does anything they can not to feel what they’re feeling.

You asked for Do’s and Don’t, and because I’m so super servicey, here are a few to help you as you tentatively wade back into the dating pool:

First and foremost DO take time to lick your wounds before you start dating. DON’T try to use dating or sex as an escape if you know someone is looking for more than a fling.

DO look at profiles of other men (preferably with children, as they’re probably divorced) and see how they navigated the topic of their divorce in their profile.

DO say that you are on good terms with your ex and that there is no drama if you have kids.

DON’T discuss the reasons for your divorce. This should be a  given, but you’d be surprised how many people do this.

DON’T admit that you’re newly divorced or newly separated unless you’re just looking to get laid. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re looking for something more than casual, you’re going to scare people off if you tell them you’ve only recently split from your spouse.

DO say your divorced is finalized if it is.

DON’T answer any questions some people might lob your way about why you and your significant other split. First, it’s none of their business. Second, no matter how positive you try to spin it, it will be used against you.

DON’T talk about your ex in a negative way.

DO be upfront in your profile or conversation about being separated if your divorce isn’t final.

DO admit to having children in your profile but DON’T yammer on about them or post photos of them


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)



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25 Responses to “The Risks of Dating Divorced Men & Women”

  1. Alfred Says:

    What I’ve learned in my divorce (and which I totally didn’t anticipate) is that a marriage actually “ends” way, way, way before the divorce is even broached (much less when it is finalized).

    Our marriage started to go bad 2-3 years before we went to counseling for months on-end, after counseling didn’t work we separated, when being separated only made things worse, it was only then that we started the divorce process. That process started 3 months ago and likely will not be finished for at least another 3 months (that’s a “fast” divorce in our state).

    So, if someone were on the outside looking-in at my situation, they might rightfully think: “Wow this guy is already thinking about dating and his divorce isn’t even final yet!”. From the inside looking out, I know that my marriage has been “over” for close to a year and “in shambles” for 2 years before that.

    After 1-3 years devoid of physical affection or psychological support from your spouse, I think it would be more strange to NOT crave some kind of positive interactions with the opposite sex. Wanting to get out there and meet people seems like the most natural response under my conditions.

    It may sound like complete BS, but I REALLY don’t know what I’m looking for at this point. I would be totally pumped just to go out on a date and have a good time, regardless of whether sex or even a kiss were involved. Moxie’s “kid in a candy store” reference does seem to ring true at times, but who has time to taste all the candy? I think that’s more of a pipe-dream and would be happy with the best ring-pop in the store.

    • Lisa Says:

      I agree with the first four paragraphs of what Alfred wrote. My marriage was over long before it was over. But unlike Alfred, I knew exactly what I wanted and began eagerly pursuing it during our (very, very lengthy) separation.

      Some separates and recent divorcees are a mess and undatable. But some aren’t. The first date will tell you SO MUCH. And so will subsequent time spent together if you keep your eyes and ears open and use some common sense.

      I’m now in a serious relationship w/ a divorced dad and we’re talking about getting married (we’ve been split up from our exes for 5 and 6 years)…but before I met him, I dated a lot — divorced guys with kids, divorced guys with no kids, never married guys with kids, never married guys with no kids and even one widower. And there were no generalizations to make about any group. Each guy and his situation were different.

      My personal preference was divorced dads with kids, and that’s what I got. Every sock has it’s mate out there. But make sure you are ready, willing and able to give the dating thing your all, or you will be wasting someone’s time and complicating her life needlessly. If you think you may not be emotionally healthy enough to begin a relationship, be sure to make that clear; there are some women out there who would be OK with a casual fling, too.

      • Bree Says:

        I agree with Bill. However we have no idea why this man chose to distance himself from this woman. It could be for any number of reasons. It may be something she did or said that he did not want to confront her about.
        Honestly this is not unusual for men and highly common. Men don’t like confrontation. They don’t want to deal with anything negative. Men do this all the time. Once they can’t handle or don’t want to deal with a situation they leave. My advice to the OP is to not worry about why. Let it go and move on. At this point why is irrelevant. You may never know why. Like they say, you Cannot control other people, only yourself. So there is no point in trying. For every man that chooses to walk away and has no staying power, there are others who would be honored to be with you and will stick by you to the end. Focus more on the ones who want you and have staying power, not the ones who don’t.

    • Bill Says:

      Alfred, I think the distinction is between “casual” dating and “serious” dating. Getting out and meeting people, having a mutually enjoyable time is a normal and healthy progression some period of time after a break-up and divorce. It’s a good way to ensure that when you do find someone, that it is because the person is a good fit and not just the anti-ex that is so appealing when the divorce is still fresh.

      I think Moxie’s advice is more geared towards women who have done that dating and are ready to find the “right” guy for a LTR. They are “dating”, but doing so with a purpose. The freshly divorced, enjoying dating guy isn’t a good candidate for that, not because of the guy, but because of the timing.

      IMO, nothing wrong with casual nor serious dating as long as no one is misleading the other.

      And, nothing wrong with Moxie’s advice, which I’ll paraphrase as look for guys who are both over their ex’es and have done plenty of post-divorce wild-oat sowing. In that context, the 2-year rule of thumb makes a lot of sense.

      • Bree Says:

        your right bill. This statement is very true – “The freshly divorced, enjoying dating guy isn’t a good candidate for that, not because of the guy, but because of the timing.”
        Particularly when it comes to men, one of the most important things women need to know is that Timing is Everything!

    • Angelina Says:

      I would like to add that I agree a marriage “ends” well before the divorce papers are final; but one’s journey to a new and healthy relationship cannot begin until those papers make it official. Most people cannot process the emotional healing while the legal logistics of the divorce continue to weigh on their mind (and wallet!).

      You need to fully close the door on that period of your life before you can move forward.

      I was in a similar situation to you, Alfred, I felt like my marriage was over a full year before we agreed to separate. Then he moved out and I expected that to be the moment I started to get over him and move toward emotional recovery. But it still took another 1.5 years until my divorce became final.

      The moment I received that certificate in the mail was a joyous accomplishment for me. And that was the moment I started to really recover from it all. That was 4 years ago now and looking back I realize I never could have been a part of a healthy relationship until after the divorce became final. I was an emotionally starved hot mess!

      My point here is to encourage you and the OP to take it slow and allow time for recovery. If you just need a good night out with some sexy time, there are plenty of sites that cater to that. But like Moxie said, please be upfront on your dating profile so people know what they are getting in to when reaching out to you.

      Good luck to you and to the OP!

      • Lisa Says:

        It’s different for everyone. I needed no time to heal or recover. I was fine. That’s the truth. It might not be that way for most but it is for some and you can’t realistically say the legal process will be the same length as the emotional recovery process. The two parts have nothing to do with each other. The length of the legal process is determined by the workload of the magistrates/judges and how many assets you own and other factors not related to your emotions. Some ppl have no kids and no assets and their divorce (or even dissolution) happens in a few months but they are devastated and broken for years afterward.

        Your experience was your own but doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.

    • mgm531 Says:

      I agree with Alfred. Additionally I think it’s problematic to lump all divorces as being same or equal. They are not all the same (obviously) and while some can be done pretty quickly (say, 6 months or less) some can take years. For me personally my divorce should have been pretty simple and timely, but my soon-to-be-ex decided to make it far more complicated than it really needed to be. As a result it’s been dragging on forever and just now is starting to come to a close — almost two years since the actual date of legal separation. I’ve gone through the emotional trauma and recovery that everyone has to go through and am a much better person for it now. So when my divorce becomes final it would be ludicrous to say I am ‘newly divorced’ since my ex and I would not have been together for over two years. I find it disingenuous for someone to say they avoid dating a ‘newly divorced’ person when they don’t know the circumstances or the length of the divorce itself. A more pertinent and valuable gauge of someone’s emotional health after a serious breakup is the length of separation that has occurred. After all a two year physical separation is the same whether or not the person is divorced or legally separated. You can’t just judge a person’s readiness for dating from simple legal statuses alone.

      • Bree Says:

        “You can’t just judge a person’s readiness for dating from simple legal statuses alone.” MGM this is so very true. There is so much more to it that you just don’t fully understand unless you’ve been through it yourself. And even if you have, everyone is different. So what one person goes through emotionally and spiritually, another may not. It doesn’t necessarily take everyone forever to get over things, and people and move on.
        Just like there are people who never ever move on from their divorce. Like they could be divorced for 10 years and still have emotional scars and baggage from it; and it’s like a death to them. There are people who are long over their divorce long before it’s final, and who checked out long before the divorce papers were even served.

  2. JulesP Says:

    Dear Gage,
    first of all, good luck in this new part of your life.

    I divorced just over 10 years ago, and leapt within a week of my decree nisi head first into another relationship (with a divorced man), which lasted up till nearly 3 years ago.

    Was it the right thing to do…? It is what it is. When we split up three years ago, that’s when I took the time out that, in retrospect, I should have possibly taken following my divorce.

    If you can take a step to the side once you have finalized your divorce, I think it’s worthwhile. Nobody wants to be anyone’s rebound. Don’t hide that you are divorced, if you want something casual then make that clear. Don’t promise anything you can’t give mentally.

    All the best,

  3. Samantha Says:

    Your insights are always amzing but the incorrect use of “latter” and “their” in this post is REALLY bugging me and has me questioning your intelligence which I previously held in such high regard. I know that sounds harsh but that’s what these sort of errors do to your audience. I know we all make mistakes so please fix it! It is so bothersome!!!

  4. Mary Says:

    I don’t pretend to understand how you feel being divorced. I am widowed for almost 6 years, but dated a separated man for 4 1/2 of those years after I lost my husband.
    Everyone handles their emotions, and life differently, and this man used and emotionally drained me in the years I patiently waited for him to figure out his life. Please take the advice of ATWYSingle! She is absolutely correct! It is a long story that this column helped me through, but the end of the story is I finally walked away from the drama and stress, and finally stayed away. JulesP is also correct that NOBODY wants to be a rebound!

  5. Bill Says:

    “Divorce ain’t no fun times!” Regardless of whether someone was blindsided with divorce papers or did the long, slow slog through counseling before throwing in the towel, the aftermath is very much like surviving a serious car crash. It takes a long time to completely mend and return to being a normal person.

    If you can’t even have a couple beers with buddies without your divorce and “her” being the 800 lb gorilla in the room, you aren’t even ready for “casual” dating, possibly not even the bar scene even.

    “Serious” dating (which is Moxie’s main dating advice aim) shouldn’t be considered until all of the divorce dust has settled and all of the emotion of the wrecked marriage and divorce has dissipated, both yours and your ex’es. A healthy, well-adjusted woman doesn’t want to experience all of the turmoil and drama of post-divorce flair-ups (she likely already has that tee-shirt) nor be the target of a hateful ex who hasn’t let go yet or is still seeking exact vengeance.

    Since others may have a different definition, my definition of casual dating is going on dates to meet people and have a mutually enjoyable time. Whether another date happens is only based on how enjoyable the previous interaction was and the alternatives each person has. Serious dating is exactly the same, but doing so while looking for or at least open to the possibility of a serious LTR.

    • Bill Says:

      And, I forgot to add, that if there is still strong emotion in a guy’s relationship with his ex, there is also the distinct possibility of him running back to her. What sane person would want to jump into that tangle?

      The opposite of love is not hate, those two can be closely related in dysfunctional relationships. No, the opposite of love is indifference and detachment.

      • fuzzilla Says:


        A guy leaving me for his ex- hasn’t actually happened to me (as far as I know), but I have been known to say, “Look, if you want her back, go get her. If you want a relationship with me, do not ever talk about her again.”

        • Bree Says:

          fuzzilla this is an unreasonable request of people who have children together.
          Just because people mention their ex’s or talk about them, it doesn’t mean they want to be with them.
          You can love someone and have love for them; but know they are not good for you and not a person you want to spend your life with.

          • fuzzilla Says:

            Fair enough. To clarify, I don’t mean any and all mentions of an ex- ever, I specifically mean if they seem fixated on them and rant about them for hours, to the point that you wonder if they’re really over them and if there’s actually any room for you in their life. An occasional mention here and there is fine, but I can’t be someone’s girlfriend and therapist at the same time. It’s about boundaries and respect.

          • fuzzilla Says:

            If they have kids, it’s okay to mention the ex- as pertains to the kids and nothing else. Divorced dads (or moms) are also individuals, just like anyone else. So I don’t have this “do not talk about the ex-” chip on my shoulder right out of the gate, it’s only after I’ve reached my limit, believe me.

  6. Bree Says:

    Also, the commenters made very valid points about marriages being over long before the divorce. Something to consider. You shouldn’t judge people on the outside looking in, regarding situations and circumstances you’ve never ever experienced before.
    It’s hard to know the full spectrum of things you’ve never experienced personally.
    Being newly divorced does not mean your incapable of having a healthy and happy brand new relationship. People do it all the time and they’re just fine. People don’t just knowingly make bad decisions. Whatever they do, it’s obvious what they feel is best for them. And who would know whats best for your better than you, and God. Who are we to say what anyone should and/or should not be doing and when is a good time and when it isn’t. Just because you know people who have had bad “rebound” experiences, doesn’t mean everyone will. Also just because a marriage has issues, doesn’t mean it’s doomed. Will Smith talked about in a recent article how his marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith has died several times in their 10+ year marriage. Obviously it’s come back to life since they’re still happily married.
    I think before we make snap judgements assuming we know the feelings and thoughts of people we don’t know we need to really think about it and not be so quick to make assumptions.

  7. mindstar Says:

    “Whatever they do, it’s obvious what they feel is best for them. And who would know whats best for your better than you, and God.”

    Unfortunately this “if it feels good it’s the best for me” is the path that leads to addiction, staying in abusive relationships and all other manner of irresponsible behavior.

    Your “feelings” are NOT facts. When you act on them to the exclusion of self aware reflection and acknowledgement of the facts on the ground you often damage yourself and others.

    • Bree Says:


      I’m not at all saying if it feels good its right and just do it should apply to any and everything. Making good decisions is based on a lot more than that. What I am saying is this. People need to stop always going to other people for advice. Most times another person that’s close to your age or not much older than you really doesn’t know that much more than you do. Think about it. They haven’t been on this earth much longer than you, so how could they possibly be an authority on so much more than you are.
      If there is anyone to take sage advice from, it’s someone twice your age. Someone who has been through more, lived longer, seen more, done more, experienced more and come through it. Those people can also tell you how to come through it too.
      In the end, regardless of the advice u get from other people, they are Not you. What affects them one way, may affect you totally different. So you have to make your own life decisions and go with whatever you feel is best at the time. That’s all we can do. There are never any guarantees. We won’t know the outcome of most situations and circumstances before going into them. THings aren’t always what they seem. So it’s best to put all your faith in GOD, and not mankind.

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