I believe that every relationship is different, which is why it upsets me when I see articles that make blanket statements about men (or women) and what you “should” do in your relationship.
It’s like those articles that say something to the effect of “divorced men make great partners because they know how to commit since they’ve committed to marriage before,”…unless, of course, he’s a serial cheater, which might be the reason he got divorced in the first place.
People commit to each other and get married for all sorts of reasons. I once met a guy, in an airport, who was in his fifties, and had already married and divorced six times!
Being previously married and divorced does not necessarily demonstrate a track record of commitment and responsibility. It simply means they’ve been married and divorced, which could mean all sorts of things! There are amiable, civilized divorces, and then there are bitter, vindictive divorces—along with everything in-between. The bottom line: it does not really help you to make assumptions about a group of people based on articles.
With that said, there are such things as healthy and unhealthy relationship dynamics.
If you notice any one of the following issues in the man you’re dating, take it as a warning that he may be lacking in important qualities that help make a relationship successful. These include respecting others and having healthy emotional boundaries (knowing where one person ends and the other person begins).
Take note if your partner is:
Badmouthing His Ex
Sure, it can be pretty common for people to walk away from a bad breakup with a sour taste in their mouth.
And if his ex really did a number on this guy, it would make sense that he would have some bad feelings towards her.
But if he is routinely expressing those bad feelings about her within earshot of you, his preoccupation with his divorce or separation may mean that he has some unresolved feelings. Perhaps he’s not yet ready to share his heart with another person. His attention, even if it’s negative attention, is still preoccupied with his ex and their relationship.
Also, if he is badmouthing his ex in front of his kids (whether she’s their mother or not); this is a guy who isn’t emotionally mature enough to put his children’s best interests ahead of his own bruised ego. This means he probably won’t be able to make a relationship with you a priority either.
Badmouthing Women in General
Some men walk away from a bad breakup convinced that all women are the devil.
If your guy appears to be in that boat, you have to ask yourself if you really want to date a man who is constantly looking for all the ways you can prove his theory correct.
He isn’t likely a man looking for happily-ever-after, and there is a decent chance you will eventually become just another women he grows to hate.
Also, take note if his language and behavior demonstrate that he doesn’t view women as equals in a partnership. Does he make quips about women and their intelligence or emotional “volatility”? Is he condescending? Does he take you seriously? What are his attitudes towards women, work, and a woman’s role in the home?
Whatever his attitudes are, the important thing to note is, “do his attitudes match up with your perspective?”
Refusing to Take Responsibility
Divorce isn’t something that just happens overnight.
Most emotionally healthy people who are going through a divorce will engage in a bit of self-reflection as they attempt to determine how they could have done things differently throughout the course of their relationship.
So if your partner is saying he’s completely blameless in his divorce or playing the victim, be curious as to why he is not taking responsibility for his own faults. That doesn’t mean to say that he is responsible for her cheating, or that he is responsible for her abusing him if those things have happened. We are never responsible for our partner’s actions; they are their own people.
Taking responsibility means recognizing our own choices in a given situation.
For example: maybe his ex-wife cheated on him. Maybe before she decided to cheat, she tried to help cultivate more romance in their relationship, have more date nights, or spend more time together.
But, he didn’t make himself available for more romance.
Maybe he always wanted to work late or on the weekends.
Maybe by the time he came home from work he was tired and wasn’t interested in sex.
Maybe this went on for years… Until she cheated and got caught.
Her betraying him probably really hurt her husband, and certainly didn’t help her marriage. But is he blameless for the breakdown of their relationship?
Couples are a two-person team. Relationships don’t happen “to you”; relationships are co-creative. We all have choices when it comes to our relationships.
If your partner refuses to take responsibility for any part in the breakdown of his marriage, then he is likely the kind of guy who won’t readily take the blame for his relationship missteps later on down the road, either.
Forcing You to Go Incognito
It makes sense that a man who is newly divorced may be hesitant to bring a new love interest around his children if he is a divorced dad.
As his children are coping with the loss of their family unit as they know it, introducing a new woman into his family too soon may really worry and confuse them, further adding to their sense of instability.
But if he is also maintaining a strict separation between you and his family, or you and his friends, then it’s reasonable to wonder why.
If you are only getting calls from him during weird “off” hours, all of your dates involve you meeting him somewhere on the outskirts of town, or he avoids taking you to family functions or gatherings with friends, be curious as to why it appears that he isn’t comfortable with having you in his social circles.
It’s not unreasonable to express your concern.
Let him know your desire to meet his friends and family, and see what he says. What’s his reason? Maybe he is estranged from his family?
Maybe he’s alienated his friends? (It can happen in a divorce, especially when a couple shares mutual friends.)
But if you want a normal relationship; if you want your relationship to grow and evolve, but your partner insists on “sneaking around” or hiding you from his friends and family, then that’s not normal. That’s not making space for the relationship to grow and evolve.
Not only is it demoralizing to feel like you’re being swept under the rug all the time, but it really holds back the possibility of your relationship growing into its full potential; growing into a relationship that’s truly fulfilling for the both of you.
Insisting on Too Much Too Soon
On the flip side, if a recently divorced man wants to introduce you to his friends, family and kids all within just a few weeks of meeting you, he may be grasping at straws and desperately trying to fill the void left by the exit of his wife.
It’s possible he could just be trying to recreate that sense of normalcy and coupledom he had grown so used to, but jumping in head first (particularly without thinking about what his children may need in terms of time and sense of stability) could mean the two of you miss out on really getting to know each other in those early stages of dating.
If there are kids involved, it’s best to take it slow.
Be careful about any man who wants you to immediately fill the shoes of his ex – you could be signing up for much more than either of you are prepared to handle.
And he may be, unknowingly, setting you up to be the rebound woman.
Being on the rebound basically means that he wants you in his life not because he actually likes who you are as a person, but that he’s more interested in your role and what you represent in his life (a warm body at night, great home-cooked meals, arm candy, etc).
If it seems like things are going too fast for you, check in with your intuition about why the relationship feels like it’s progressing at an uncomfortable pace.
What concerns are coming up for you?
Does he seem interested in whom you are as a person, or is he mainly interested in how you benefit his life?
Saying “I Don’t Deserve You”
Some men coming off of a divorce will understandably be suffering from a bit of low self-esteem. This is normal.
But what isn’t normal is a guy who is telling you that he “doesn’t deserve you”, or “doesn’t want to burden you”, when he’s not just saying these things rhetorically, but he genuinely means them.
When he says, “I don’t deserve you,” he’s basically saying that he doesn’t feel worthy of your love and attention.
At first glance, that self-deprecating statement sounds romantic and endearing, as if he is putting you on a pedestal and admiring you for having the sense to spend time with him and his “lowly” self.
But you have to wonder, why does he genuinely feel unworthy? What is it about himself that he feels so poorly about, that he doesn’t think he’s deserving of your love?
Chances are he’s either hiding something that he feels really bad about, or he has an unhealthy sense of self-esteem (or both!).
How do I know? It takes one to know one. I used to think that I was unworthy of love; that I had to prove my value to other people and “earn” their love and respect. I didn’t trust my own wholeness, and I didn’t believe in my own inherent worthiness. And that insecurity and low self-esteem attracted men who, likewise, had their own insecurity issues. In retrospect, this made for very toxic relationships.
The truth is, we are inherently worthy of love.
We don’t have to prove our worthiness to anyone.
If he feels unworthy of love and not open to receiving love, he might have some beliefs about love and worthiness that may be toxic to the health of your relationship.
If he’s recently divorced, it might make sense that he would be struggling emotionally right now, but you don’t want to end up in a position where you have to constantly lift him up and convince him of your feelings.
Remember that you deserve to feel safe and secure in the relationship as well, and it is difficult to have that with a guy who pushes you away by continuously telling you that he isn’t good enough for you.
At some point, you may just have to trust that he knows what he is talking about: maybe you do deserve better.
Punishing You for the Mistakes of His Ex
When people have been wounded deeply enough, they sometimes make the mistake of lashing out at the next person who comes along.
It can be a defense mechanism that both men and women utilize, but it isn’t one you want to put up with.
You are a different person than his ex-wife, and you don’t deserve to be punished for her (or anyone else’s) mistakes.
Maybe his ex cheated on him, and he now uses that as an excuse to be overly obsessive about where you are and whom you are with when you aren’t with him.
Or perhaps she left him and came back several times before their split was official, so he puts that on you every time the two of you fight, asking if you are just going to leave like she did.
These tactics can play out several different ways, but the end result is always the same – you wind up paying for her mistakes.
It’s not fair for you to be accused of (or apologizing) for things that you haven’t done.
If you are wondering whether you partner is trustworthy, responsible, or a respectful person, pay attention to whether he demonstrates (or has demonstrated in the past) those qualities.
Experience your partner for yourself.
Be aware of how he is with you and how he is with other people.
The best way to gauge whether someone is trustworthy, responsible, or any other quality that you value in a person, is to experience them for yourself in real time and see if they walk their talk.
I don’t like saying “should”…
But the only thing that I think we actually should do, is be as highly conscious as possible in our relationships… So we can make decisions from that highly conscious place.