Dating Games: Divorced and dating

It’s instinctual to trade horror stories on a date – but try to avoid the temptation of creating a connection based on negative experiences.

cartoon 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cartoon 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
One of the fastest-rising demographics in online dating is the divorced-and- looking-for-another-chance-at-love group.
For instance, two separate friends, one I’ll call Aaron and the other I’ll call Bonnie, recently called to ask me about the appropriate etiquette when online, or on a date, now that they’re each divorced.
Of course, the answer isn’t a simple one – are answers to Jewish questions ever simple? – but my answers are not that complicated.
Aaron is in his early 30s and recently divorced from his wife of four years.
He falls into the “divorced without kids” category and so it was a relatively “easy” break-up, but it was really hard on his ego and pride.
His wife simply woke up one day and decided that marriage wasn’t for her.
She didn’t want to work on things, and didn’t want any spousal support, she just wanted to move back to her hometown and be single again. Aaron was left shocked and alone, but after some time, he was ready to get back in the game and look for the woman he would spend the rest of his life with and start a family with.
Bonnie is in the “divorced with kids” group. She’s almost 40 and she and her ex-husband were married for 14 years. The two children are in elementary school.
The couple met during college and spent a few years supporting each other as their careers took off before getting married. But about five years ago, they started arguing nonstop. They saw counselors and tried temporary separation, but realized that they had grown apart.
Theirs was a nasty divorce as kids, finances and emotions got in the middle.
But it’s been nearly two years, and Bonnie feels healed enough to put herself out there.
When you’re dating and you have children, it’s a much more intense experience; but my suggestion for online dating actually applies to both groups: Beyond being honest and checking off the “marital status” and “do you have/want children?” boxes, I don’t believe you should go into further detail in an online profile, or in person, until you’ve been on a couple of dates.
In other words, you must check off the “divorced” box, even though it hurts. You don’t want to lie about your past and date someone who wouldn’t be interested in you if they knew the truth. Plenty of people are open to dating divorcees, so don’t be ashamed of your relationship experience.
IF YOU are set up on a first date, I suggest that Aaron and people like him say: “I’m divorced, no kids, but I don’t want to swap sad stories right now; let’s talk about happier times,” while Bonnie and those who relate to her story should say, “I’m divorced, we share custody of our two kids, and if this gets more serious, I’ll be happy to tell you all about them – but for now let’s talk about us.”
Even if being divorced is a commonality, a first date should center on positive things – such as making each other laugh – and not sob stories. You should never lie about your status, but details simply aren’t necessary, particularly if there was major drama like cheating or embezzlement or a knockdown, dragged-out settlement.
Leave the crazy at home and let your date get to know you before he or she knows about the skeletons in your closet.
Aaron has less “baggage” than Bonnie since he doesn’t have to worry about scheduling dates around nights with the kids, and doesn’t have to stress over bringing someone home too soon – all things Bonnie unfortunately has to take into consideration. Aaron shouldn’t have a problem attracting singles, divorcees or single mothers because of his situation. Bonnie, on the other hand, will probably feel more comfortable dating men who are divorced fathers since they will understand her better. That’s not to say a single guy wouldn’t want to date her, but he may not understand when her kid’s soccer game supersedes an intimate picnic on the beach.
I know kids are an amazing and incredibly central part of any parent’s life, but during a first date is not the time to talk about them. Take a break from being a mom or dad, and enjoy having some “me” time.
It’s instinctual to want to trade horror stories on a date as a sort of bonding ritual. But whether you’re a younger single, an older single, divorced or widowed, everyone should follow the same rule and try to avoid creating a connection based on negative experiences.
Hold yourself back from spending the entire date exchanging online dating nightmares, first-date catastrophes and ruined relationships. Aaron shouldn’t talk about his ex-wife, even if it’s in a positive light, and Bonnie shouldn’t discuss her kids, even if she’s excited about a recent accomplishment.
Dating is about you – not your ex, not your kids, and not your friends.