I thought dating the first time around was challenging. Then I got married… and subsequently divorced. Dating after divorce presents another whole layer of complexity and potential conflict. Post-divorce, everyone is hardened by whatever their first marriage(s) wreaked.
If you’re a divorced woman and you think men will be more mature, more settled, or more conducive to a committed satisfying relationship… guess again! They’re the same boyish rogues they always were, now with graying hair and aging bodies, worn from carrying baggage over the years.
Twenty years after my first round of dating, post-divorce dating has been a whirlwind, but I decided to hold my breath, close my eyes, and jump right back into the pool, because I figured I had nothing to lose.
I was wrong. One could lose their mind if not careful and discerning.
Here’s what my friends and I have learned, to date.
The One with the Psycho Ex
No matter how nice he is, if your man’s ex-wife inserts herself into your relationship, you’ve got big trouble. The psycho ex may stalk you, harass you, or involve his kids in sabotaging your romance. Often, she’s still in love with this guy and perceives you as a threat, trying to steal him back through they’ve been divorced for years. The key to navigating this scenario is to observe how your man acts when his ex’s unacceptable behavior occurs. If he takes a strong stand and takes steps to put a stop to the behavior, you may have hope. If he throws up his hands in surrender, and lets it all continue – face it, you’re doomed. There is no reason you should have to endure a meddling, intrusive ex-wife.
The One seeking a Mom for his kids (and not much else)
This one strategically includes heartwarming photos of his kids on his online dating profile. It’s almost as if he uses his unsuspecting offspring as the bait to reel nurturing would-be mothers into his plan. He may even initially act as if his search is all about you. But it’s not. It’s about him. He’s stressed about being a single Dad and it’s eroding his golf game and severely cutting into his hunting time. He’s a bit rarer than other types, but easy to spot with full or primary custody of his children.
The One who’s half your age
Ah, the cougar life. It’s not for me. But to the cute, perfectly toned, sweet little 22-year old who begged me to go out with him: Thank you for making my day. I’m flattered, but no. What could we possibly have in common? What would we talk about? As this adorable young man, (who could be my son), looked at me with his big puppy dog eyes, I tried to envision dating him. I couldn’t even get through the first imaginary date, but he had already lost me at “I work at Best Buy.” When did twenty-something men dating forty-something women become a “thing” anyway?
The One who is still married
This may be the most depressing of all the types, also known as “the one who will make you lose all faith in the institution of marriage, if you didn’t already lose it in the process of your divorce.” One thing that surprised me: so many married people cheat. Once I was divorced, I became everyone’s sounding board for their marital woes. Scores of women have confessed to me that the marriage I see played out on Facebook is a sham – a fake. Many are living separate lives behind the scenes of their publicly perfect union. “You are so lucky,” they tell me. “You got out.” And I’m left wondering – Is anyone happily married anymore? Meanwhile, married men came out of the woodwork looking for a fling and often passing themselves off as single. It’s easier now with Facebook and other technology. And if they say they’re “separated” or “in the process of getting divorced,” stay far away. This one is never leaving his wife.
The One who won’t commit… to anything… ever
This one is self-explanatory. He’s a playboy, a barfly, and is easy to identify. He often dates much younger women. He may have even been married more than once already. The good news is that he is so committed to being non-committal that he will even tell you up front that he isn’t looking for anything serious. Words of advice: he means it! Yet even with explicit warnings straight from the horse’s mouth, as women, we tend to hear what we want to hear. When he says “I don’t want a serious relationship,” we hear “I don’t want a serious relationship… until I find the right one…which could be you.” But you can never be The Right One for this guy, so get out while you can or prepare to have your heart broken.
The One you dated in school
This phenomenon seems to have grown in popularity thanks to Facebook and other online technology. It’s much easier to get in touch with former classmates or old boyfriends, and to go back in time by re-connecting with people from our past. Based on my own observations, this type of connection can often produce good results. I know several women who returned to high school and college loves with what appears to be a good deal of success. For others, a blast from the past seems to satisfy some nostalgic yearning or revisiting their youth, but that’s as far as it goes. After experiencing the trauma of divorce and the drama of post-divorce dating, the comfort of familiarity can be refreshing. However, be mindful that much could have changed over the years, and also why you didn’t “make it” in the first place.
This is the one that makes you stop seeing all the others you’ve encountered to date. He makes you forget all the others who have you shaking your head. He’s the one who finally makes sense after all the insanity you’ve endured as a dating divorcée. The One loves you unconditionally, suits you in the ways that matter, fits you – with your eyes wide open, and makes you wonder why you’ve wasted time dating any of the others! It may take months to find him or it may take years. Even his baggage seems to complement yours – a matching set, for better or worse. So if you’re lucky enough to find The One, hang on tight – there is likely only one of him!
Have you encountered any of these types of men in your post-divorce dating experience? Which one(s) would you add to the list, if any?
© Andrea Clement Santiago
Andrea Clement Santiago is a career advice columnist, writer, and communications professional with a background in medical sales, training, and healthcare recruiting. She is the Guide to Health Careers for About.com. She has contributed to books, journals, websites and has made media appearances on television and radio. Visit her blog, No Parents No Problem. Follow Andrea on Twitter at @AndreaSantiago, or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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