Tips on Dating a Divorced Man

By Emily C. Koenig

In 2012 I met an amazing guy. His humor surpassed the average fart joke. He enjoyed a fine wine but could also handle his whiskey. He’s served our country, studied architecture and could cook and craft better than Martha Stewart with his eyes closed.

And he was divorced.

Whether you accept a man’s past whole-heartedly or find yourself thinking horrible, judgy thoughts, the fact is his past will affect your future with him. And even if you are thinking, “Oh I’m too young to be worried about this,” divorce rates are on the rise (a trend studies say is here to stay) meaning more single ladies will find themselves falling for a divorced man or two.  Like me, at the ripe old age of 22.

Today, I’m inching closer to two years with that amazing guy. While that doesn’t make me an expert, I’d like to share 5 tips that will make life easier for those of you deciding to take the plunge and get to know that “divorced guy.”

1. Don’t be the rebound

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That is, unless you want to be. Then by all means, have a fling with the recently divorced. Embrace the booty call. But if you’re looking for commitment, tell him. Establishing an open form of communication is vital to any relationship, but becomes even more important when you’re dealing with a guy who has had his heart broken…or broken a few hearts himself.

The point is, don’t say you’re willing to be casual when you’re looking for your next life partner. And don’t overcommit to a relationship you don’t see going further than some summer lovin’. Your new guy has gone through a divorce, which sticky mess or not means he knows what it’s like to “fail” at the ultimate commitment. Be gentle and make sure you’re on the same page.

2. Refrain from allowing extra leeway

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I’m lucky enough to have dealt very little with this tip. However, I’ve watched friends go through relationships with divorced men and seen enough of the allowing them extra slack simply because of that “divorced” status to know how big of an issue it can be.

I get it, he was hurt in the past and he’s afraid it will happen again. But if you’re looking for it and he’s not willing to consider long-term commitment, there’s a point where you need to step back and evaluate where your relationship is going. Having gone through a divorce doesn’t give him any extra rights to project any of his issues on you, be it judging your actions, quickly resorting to anger or becoming overly protective. It might be time to take a breather, especially if his divorce is recent.

If you wouldn’t have given any of your ex-boyfriends this kind of slack, chances are this guy doesn’t deserve it either. Even if he’s the perfect guy, he might just not be ready to be your perfect guy.

3. Talk don’t stalk

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With social media and the god that is Google, it’s easier than ever to find your guy’s ex-wife. Without saying so much as a word to your man, you can know what she looks like, where she lives, what her favorite movie is, if she’s hotter than you are…

And that’s just scraping the surface. You can search their Facebook wall conversations and open notes she wrote about him or her or the ever-dreaded “us.” You can see how much his family loved her and sift through every painful photo he hasn’t untagged himself from yet.

Sure, you’ve done that in the past with boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends and survived to tell the tale. What makes an ex-wife any different? But I’m telling you, when the ex is followed by the word wife, it’s a whole new feeling. He loved her enough to marry her. And that’s saying a lot.

I’m here to save you from this emotional roller-coaster. You won’t find anything that will make you feel more secure in your relationship or better about yourself. Trust me. I momentarily succumbed to this sometime around our first Christmas together. It isn’t worth it. If you have a question, ask him. While it’s often better to leave his ex-wife in the past where she belongs, it won’t ruin your relationship to know that she had blonde hair or a bad temper. Just remember, even if you take my advice and “talk, don’t stalk,” be careful what information you ask for. Some things can’t be unknown.

4. Prepare to be called his ex-wife’s name

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…but not by him. Be it his family or friends, it will happen and you will be caught off guard.

It took more than a year for me to experience this heart-pounding moment, so even if it hasn’t happened yet, don’t consider yourself off the hook.

Remember to breathe and correct them gracefully. They are speaking out of old habit and it’s honestly no reflection of you or him or even her. You’ll get past it, move on, and the well-meaning aunt, cousin, grandma is possibly more mortified than you and will know your name soon enough.

5. Don’t wish away his past

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So it’s official. You’re head-over-heels in love and so is he. And one Saturday morning as you’re lounging in bed you hear him say he wish he’d never met her.

This is poison, I tell you. Cinderella, Disney movie poison.

While you may want to whole-heartedly agree or proceed by bashing his ex, please refrain. While you don’t want to hear about his happy moments with his ex-wife, they happened. The man next to you is who he is because of his past experiences. Don’t ever forget that or let him wish those moments away. But also know his divorce doesn’t define him.