When dating a divorced man, he has a past he’s bringing into his future with you. Just as you undoubtedly have a past as well. Only, when you’re talking about a divorce the ex could still be in the picture, she could be long gone and he’s still upset, or there could be kids. This isn’t a bad thing. People who have gone through a divorce bring the maturity they’ve gained from experiences to a relationship and may see the world a different way than you. Maintaining an open mind and being understanding is key to having a successful relationship with such a person.
If you’ve fallen for a divorced man, here are eight tips on what to expect as your relationship moves forward.
1. First things first, make sure he’s divorced and not separated.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of falling for a man that’s in the process of divorcing. “Anyone who is in the process of a divorce is still married, and a woman dating or falling in love with a man who is in this space runs the risk of not having his full attention or commitment to developing the relationship or worse, he goes back to his wife,” says Folashade A. Butler, a relationship coach and premarital counselor. Stay clear if he’s not divorced.
2. Take it slow.
Like any relationship, you want to know the person you’re with well before taking any big steps. When dating a divorced man, you’re going to want to learn as much as you can about what went wrong in the last relationship. Why did they separate? But don’t rush him into rehashing painful moments if he’s not ready yet. Trying to understand where he’s coming from can help you make sure it’s not going to be a repeat with you, but you should also understand that he may still be healing or may simply want to distance himself from a painful situation.
3. Do not move forward if he is fighting with or for his ex.
A man who is constantly fighting with his ex is in no emotional space to handle a new relationship. The anger and stress he feels from the tense relationship with his ex-wife will be transferred to what’s happening with the two of you and will undoubtedly become a topic of conversation in your relationship, explains Butler. “You could easily become an emotional punching bag as he traverses through the process of divorce. A man who is fighting for his wife is quite obviously treating you as a rebound or an in-between until he gets what he wants.”
4. He may struggle with letting you in.
It’s possible there was deception and manipulation in his previous marriage (especially during the separation and divorce process), which can makes it difficult for him to trust again. “Be mindful when he sets boundaries that may seem excessive to you, and don’t take it personally. Be open and honest with him, playing games will only cause his walls to go up higher,” says Michelle A Coomes, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
5. Set and manage expectations for the relationship.
Going into a relationship with a divorced man requires that you’re clear about what you want and, just as important, what he wants out of the relationship. “You’ll have to understand that you’ll be walking into his transition period, a very sensitive time. He went from married to single to dating, so don’t be surprised if re-marriage is not on his priority list. If marriage is top of mind for you, make sure that is clearly communicated early on. The point is for you to make a decision on what you want out of your relationship so that you don’t face disappointment down the line,” says Butler.
6. Don’t push him into settling down.
If he’s newly single, he may be more inclined to live in the moment. “Many divorcees don’t want to remarry though they still want to be in a relationship again. Often they recount feeling stuck in their previous marriage and will want to regain some of their freedom, which can sometimes come off as emotionally unavailable or aloof,” says Coomes. In other words, don’t try to push him into settling down. If the relationship is worth taking slow with the possibility of you never settling down, stick to it. If that doesn’t align with your life plans, get out.
7. You’re a different person than his ex-wife, so act that way.
It may be that he has baggage or hurt feelings from his divorce but you’re a breath of fresh air for him. Try doing different things than he did with his ex, like sharing hobbies you’re into. If he says his ex never listened to him, then make sure to listen. He may feel a bit insecure so tell him you’re there for him. Coomes says that as long as you’re taking care of your own needs and desires, it’s good to be aware of the emotional complexities dating a divorced man may bring.
8. If he has kids, don’t rush into meeting them.
You may be eager to show your new man how motherly and great you are with kids, but this is a very sensitive issue. When and how you meet his kids should be left up to the him and the children. Trying too hard to get an intro can easily be seen as inconsiderate or like you’re trying too hard. For now, accept him with his kids open heartedly.
We all bring our past into our present relationships. Our experiences, both good and bad, are part of what makes us stronger, smarter people. If you’re dating a divorced man he may be in the middle of a tough time or he may be feeling strong and ready to move on. Being mindful of his past and empathetic towards the journey his life has taken will help you understand him and the affect his experience has on how he treats and interacts with you. In the end, he may be an amazing person for you, not despite of, but because of his divorce.