When you meet someone you’re interested in and find out they’re divorced, what is your first thought? Do you feel hesitant, wondering if they’re jaded or piled high with baggage? Or do you feel somewhat relieved, knowing they’re experienced and able to commit? Whatever your reaction, you’re probably right. Compared to never-married singles, dating divorced singles does have some challenges and risks… but it can also have some rewards.
As I discuss in Dating the Divorced Man , divorced people often have some challenges you may not have considered, and it’s important to be aware of them:
#1: Emotional baggage. This challenge is one of the most common and, unfortunately, the hardest to spot. Those who are separated or recently divorced – and occasionally even some long-time divorced people – will often carry emotional baggage in the form of sadness, anger, guilt, or other signs of grief. Unless your date has completed most of the grieving process, your relationship will be limited, or, worse, will come to a sudden halt. Be on the lookout for signs of grief (especially someone who talks a lot about their divorce or ex), and beware of those who aren’t divorced yet.
#2: Kids. While there’s no reason to rule someone out because they have kids, your date’s kids will greatly influence your relationship and you will have to make room for them. Kids will affect your date’s priorities and your time together, and, down the road, your vacations and where you choose to live. And, with kids comes an ex-spouse who will always be in the picture – if you’re lucky, this person will be polite.
#3: Financial problems. Divorce is financially devastating for everyone involved. Single moms often find themselves working very hard to support kids with limited resources, while single dads may have large child support or alimony obligations. As a result, your partner may struggle financially and/or may not have the financial freedom you have.
Fortunately, for any challenges that come with someone who’s been divorced, there are just as many benefits that you won’t often see with a never-married:
#1: Experience: Let’s face it: even the best marriages have tough times and it takes a lot to make a marriage work. And even though their marriages ended, divorced people have been “in the trenches” and, as a result, they’re often more adept at handling conflicts and other challenges. They’ve learned a few things about the other sex and they’re less likely to sweat over things that are unimportant: e.g. she’s less likely to freak out if you want time with your buddies and he’s less likely to overreact when you have a meltdown.
#2: Appreciation: Even though divorce can leave wounds, it also teaches good lessons. Many people don’t marry the right person the first time around – smart people learn from their mistakes and make a better choice when they decide to remarry. They learn to appreciate qualities they didn’t realize were important. If his ex was critical, he’ll appreciate your acceptance of him even more. If her ex was a handsome guy who cheated, she’ll appreciate your fidelity, even if you aren’t as handsome.
#3: Ability to commit: Divorced people have shown that they are willing and able to make a serious commitment, something that a number of never-marrieds hedge about. Most divorced people prefer being married and are willing to commit again. If you are looking for marriage, this is something to keep in mind.
Divorced people have their pros and cons, just like everybody else. Evaluate each situation individually and don’t be too quick to judge: a divorced person can be embittered and baggage-laden or they can be mature and commitment-minded, just as a never-married can be totally fresh and baggage-free or utterly commitmentphobic and selfish. In the end, the most important thing is to find a partner who’s compatible with what you need.