He’s handsome, fun-loving, and you like him a lot… But he’s also recently (maybe very recently) divorced, and you’re wondering if dating this man is a good idea.
You probably have a million questions on your mind.
“Should I continue to see him?”
“Is he over his ex wife?”
“What am I really in for?”
It’s totally normal to feel like you want to step on the brakes and proceed with caution.
Some people might automatically say you shouldn’t date anyone who falls into this category, but I’m not a fan of telling someone whether they should or shouldn’t date someone. Those are very personal decisions.
My approach is to help you get super realistic about what you want, and what you’re getting into, so that you can make your decision to stay or leave as consciously as possible.
With that said, if you meet someone you’re really attracted to, but the ink on his divorce papers hasn’t yet had time to dry, you are going to need to approach some things differently if you want to minimize the risk of getting your heart broken.
What to Consider When Dating a Recently Divorced Man
Most experts agree that a recent divorce is one that happened within the last year or two.
Divorces, like men, come in all shapes, sizes, and situations. Sometimes there are amicable divorces; sometimes there are epic divorces that last years and years with lots of “collateral damage.”
But if you’re dating recreationally and not considering him as a long-term partner, then these questions might not matter as much, since you’re not concerned with long-term compatibility.
But if you are considering him as possible life-partner, it’s good to know what you’re getting into, so you can decide, very consciously, whether you want to wade into deeper levels of commitment with him. Here are some questions to consider:
How recent was his divorce and what were the circumstances?
Did he leave her? Did she leave him? Was there infidelity? Was the divorce mutual? It’s good to know why they decided to split up and how the split went.
If you’ve been dating for a while and are looking to continue seeing each other, especially if you are dating with the intention of looking for a life partner, it’s not unreasonable to ask about the circumstances of his divorce.
Was the divorce mutual? How do he and his ex feel about the divorce?
If, for example, his ex-wife is bitter about the divorce, it’s good to know that going into your relationship, because it will likely affect her feelings about you (if she knows about you) and (worst-case) how she treats her ex-husband and the kids. Or if he’s really bitter about the divorce, his unresolved feelings about the divorce might affect your relationship.
What is the custody arrangement? Do they have any mutual property or investments that they will continue to share? Does he need to pay alimony?
If he has kids, then you want to know what the arrangement is, so you can know what to expect when it comes to him providing childcare, and communication with the mother of his children.
Typically, when a divorce is final, it means that both parties have reached an agreement on custody and how to split up their mutual assets such as the house, investments, the pets, etc. Sometimes, a couple might choose to divorce but still remain partners in an investment, or still co-own a property.
It’s good to know what to expect, because the custody arrangement might affect how often you get to spend time with your partner, and how to pace the relationship. Knowing whether your partner still shares property with his ex, or whether he needs to pay alimony, will help manage your expectations when it comes to his financial obligations.
Does he still communicate with his ex? If so, why?
He may need to communicate with his ex because even if the divorce is final, they might have other things to work out like childcare, or questions and issues about the property they co-owned.
But knowing if they still communicate, and why, will help you manage your own expectations about your relationship with him.
The Right Amount of Time to Wait before Dating
When it comes to determining how much time is the “right amount of time” for someone to wait before they start dating after a separation or divorce, my advice is that if they ultimately want a happy, healthy relationship… They will set themselves up for better relationship success if they date when they’re available to date, and when they have a clear intention on why they want to date.
Should you date a recently divorced man? It really depends on what matters to you in a relationship. What are your needs, wants, and relationship requirements for a fulfilling relationship, and how aligned are your needs, wants, and relationship requirements with the life and circumstances of the man you’re dating?
Depending on the circumstances of his divorce or separation, men who are recently divorced or separated are the least likely to be emotionally available for a new relationship. This is because they might still be recovering from their recent breakup; the painful emotions, anger, and sense of loss might still be very fresh and raw.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. It really depends on where his readiness is, and whether your experience of him meets your relationship relationship requirements. He might have been divorced for a year and totally over his ex-wife, and the situation and they have is an amicable co-parenting agreement. Maybe he’s ex-wife is super friendly and welcomes you into his life!
Determining his readiness and availability really means is he available to meet your relationship relationship requirements.
For example, if a fulfilling relationship, to you, means that your partner is both attentive and present with you when you’re on a date. But if you find when you’re actually on a date, your partner is clearly preoccupied with his recent divorce, then he might not be emotionally available right now.
Relationship fallout takes time to heal, and how long that healing takes depends on each individual.
But what can you do to balance your heart with your head?
Have These Points in Mind When You’re Dating a Recently Divorced Man
1) Keep Your Eyes Open
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from heartbreak is to go into your relationship with your eyes open, and with your expectations in check.
You have to acknowledge and be aware of the facts of the relationship, such as his availability when it comes to his caring for the kids, his financial obligations to his ex (if any), and where he is right now with his emotional readiness to date other people.
If you go into your relationship hoping for spontaneous weekend trips to Cabo or Vegas, but his weekends are about shuttling his daughters to music lessons, soccer practice or helping with a science project, you will be disappointed. Schedules that involve kids require more planning.
And with regard to his readiness to date other people, be aware of, or to try to, discern whether he just wants to date for fun right now or if he is looking to date with the intention of finding a long-term partner.
2) Resist Being the Rebound
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being the rebound woman, if that’s what you want to be.
But, if you don’t want to be the rebound woman, and you’re not aware that you are the rebound woman, that’s when you’re at risk of getting hurt.
A guy on the rebound doesn’t necessarily want to be with you, he wants to be with someone because he’s used to having a wife and having all the warm, fuzzy feelings and conveniences that can come with being in a relationship.
Be aware if he’s truly interested in who you really are, or if he’s merely interested in the benefits of having a girlfriend and being in a relationship.
3) Practice Patience
If you’ve decided that you still want to date him, as I mentioned earlier, go in very aware of the situation and with your expectations are in check.
There is a very good chance he is still in the process of establishing his new, non-married life—with things such as adjusting to being a single or part-time parent, and dealing with the aftermath of his divorce, both emotionally and financially.
If you find that your patience is continually being tried and it’s ultimately draining you, think about whether you have relationship needs and relationship requirements that are going unmet.
4) Don’t Expect Anything Expensive
Unless he owns a Major League Baseball team, or founded an internet search engine, his available funds probably took a big hit with the divorce’s legal fees and the ongoing alimony and child support.
This man may want to take you to the finest restaurants, whisk you a way to an elegant bed and breakfast for the weekend, or dress you in jewels, but in some cases his bank account won’t allow these kinds of activities right now.
He is still getting used to living on a smaller household income, may be paying child support, divorce costs, or even the mortgage on a house that he no longer lives in.
5) Avoid getting enmeshed in his problems
There may be times when he might want to vent, or times where your partner is really struggling with his work, family, or life in general. Divorce is a stressful time, and it takes time to heal from the loss of a significant relationship (no matter whom was at fault or whom initiated the divorce).
It’s important not to get enmeshed.
What does being enmeshed look and feel like? You could be becoming enmeshed if you are feeling guilty for failing to ensure the success and happiness of your partner.
In other words, you are getting enmeshed if you start feeling heavily invested and responsible for your partner’s well being and happiness.
He might be recovering from a bad divorce, and maybe it’s taking a toll on his moods, so you might feel tempted to fix his problems for him. But, consider it a red flag that you are getting enmeshed if you find yourself thinking about giving or lending him money, or going to great lengths (or into debt) to make him happy.
The problem with feeling responsible for our partner’s happiness is that we take undue responsibility for them and we don’t allow them to be their own person. We are not respecting them as independent adults who can live on their own terms and make their own choices.
And we disempower ourselves in the process by making our sense of happiness and contentment dependent on our partner’s happiness and contentment. It’s a really toxic dynamic.
So sure, comfort your partner when times are tough, and celebrate with him when he has success.
But having healthy boundaries means being able to trust and respect that your partner can make his own life choices.
When you try to control the outcome of his problems, you set yourself up for failure and heartbreak, because we ultimately can’t control other people and their circumstances. We can only control our response to any circumstances.
6) Don’t rush it with his kids
In the months after a separation or divorce, he is trying to deal with not getting to see his kids every day, and adjusting to the new paradigm of being a single or part-time parent.
His kids are also dealing with the loss of their family as they know it, and trying to make the adjustment to the new family arrangement. Sometimes they are shuttling between two households and dealing with very angry and stressed parents.
And depending on how the kids feel about the divorce, their already rocky world might feel further threatened by the presence of new woman in their father’s life.
If his kids are taking forever to warm to you, it’s not your fault.
Don’t take it personally.
In fact, don’t rush into being their best friend, or try and force a relationship with them.
The best thing is to keep your relationship with the kids light, casual, and friendly in an authentic way (kids can smell a fake a mile away even if they can’t articulate it).
And avoid spending the night with your partner while his kids are with him unless you and your partner have made a serious commitment to each other.
Children fare best in a stable environment where they feel respect for the adults in their life.
If they just met you and then they see you come out of daddy’s bedroom the next morning, it’s likely going to be very unsettling for them. It will definitely raise a lot of questions from his kids about your relationship with their dad, and your role in their life, that you may or may not be prepared to answer.
So go slow when there are kids involved.
What’s Been Your Experience When Dating a Recently Divorced Man?
I know it can be like wading through murky water. You don’t know what you’re going to step on, or if you should even dip in your toe. If you have friends who have dated a recently divorced man, it helps to talk to them about it and share experiences.
I encourage you to go slow (whether or not he has kids), and keep the above points in mind while you’re dating him.