You meet him: you have a lot in common, he seems like a nice guy, and you don’t care that he’s been married before. But then you find out the details: he has the scarlet “S” emblazoned on him — separated. He’s not quite married, not quite divorced. Is it a good idea to date this guy, or not?
“But He’s Still Married!”
As I discuss in Dating the Divorced Man, a separated man is still legally married, but from a relationship perspective, he and his wife are split up and no longer a couple. Yes, it’s okay to date him as long as he’s living separately from his spouse and no longer involved with her. However, having said that, dating separated men is very, very risky. My most troubled and pained clients are women dating men who are still getting divorced.
How Truthful Is He?
First of all, separated men are well aware that their Scarlett “S” isn’t a chick magnet, and will rarely divulge the truth right away. This is a huge mistake on their part. A man should tell you he’s still going through a divorce during your first couple of meetings or dates. If he doesn’t, he’s being dishonest.
Most Separated Men Aren’t Ready to Date
Separated men aren’t the best bunch to date, but probably not for the reason you think. His marital status, while clearly not ideal, is not the main problem. The problem is that separated men usually have high levels of baggage and are often troubled and needy. They’re struggling financially, fighting their exes in court, dealing with grieving children, and trying to come to terms with their own grief. They have problems on top of problems. And when you date them, their problems become… you guessed it! Your problems!
Moreover, separated men are usually in complete denial of how entrenched they really are. I’ve had many separated men say the divorce is straightforward or almost over, and two years later they’re still hashing it out with the ex. I’ve had many say they’re over the marriage, just to realize, months or years later, that they weren’t even close to being over it. I’ve seen many men claim they’re emotionally ready to move on, just to get serious with a woman, weigh her down with their divorce drama, then withdraw from her after realizing they weren’t ready to date after all. These men don’t do these things to be jerks – they do them because they’re hurt and bewildered after a painful split, and are stumbling through their new life without a road map.
Are There Exceptions?
Fortunately, yes, there are exceptions to the above. These are the rare men who have little divorce baggage (e.g. no kids, a decent relationship with the ex, short marriage with few assets to fight over) and who have actively worked through most of the inevitable grief that comes with divorce. These men don’t lean on a new woman for support through the divorce, and focus on making her happy and beginning anew rather than dragging her into his past.
Overall, dating a separated man can work if he keeps his baggage under control and keeps you away from the drama, and if you keep your distance and let him finish his business. But no matter what, if you choose to date a separated man, get support from a therapist or a coach. Don’t go it alone.