There’s that familiar old statistic that 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce — which makes the odds huge that you will encounter a divorced dude at least once in your dating life.
The good thing about this is that divorce (and single parenting and the like) has much less of a dating stigma than it did a few decades ago. For divorced people, this news is fantastic since it’s much more likely that you’ll find someone eligible to date. But for the other 50 percent of people who may not have personally experienced divorce before, it presents a whole new ball game, along with a few common questions.
Is dating someone who is divorced even a good idea? And what about the baggage that comes with it?
As someone who is a proud second wife and participant in the remarriage-to-a-divorced-guy trend, I’m here to tell you, as kindly as possible, to cool your jets. You see, mixing, mingling, dating and eventually marrying someone who is divorced is fairly common. According to 2013 Pew Research, four in 10 new marriages involved remarriage for at least one of the partners. Considering that plenty of our friends were surprised to learn that my husband was once (unsuccessfully) married to his high school sweetheart, I’m willing to bet that you also don’t know that many of your own friends are divorced.
The point is this: Divorce doesn’t have to cast a dark shadow on a potential partner, unless they’re still living in the Bitter Bungalow or are using you for a rebound. In either case, you’re likely to spot these red flags a mile away — red flags that could apply to many other single partners with their own sets of issues. And if you play your cards right, you might even come upon a maturely divorced man who has learned from his failed marriage and plans to use it for a better future, like I did. There are several ways that these divorced diamonds in the rough can make for great partners:
This may be the biggest sticking point right out of the gate for women who are sick of dating flaky men. A commitment-phobe may make for a hilarious Sex and the City episode, but there’s nothing funny about a guy who ghosts you after the third date. As Lisa Bahar, MA, CCJP, LMFT, LPCC, of Lisa Bahar Marriage and Family Therapy, Inc., confirms, divorced men may be better in this respect because they have learned the reality of commitment. She says, “Although there may have been heartache and anguish with the process of divorce, there is a real sense of loss — even though the marriage dissolved, the grief stages (anger, resentment, bartering, denial, etc.) tend to apply, leading up to acceptance. Perhaps, in some cases the man realizes the loss of what was, who he was and has now become, and there is a tendency to deal with a new relationship, wanting to avoid the stages of loss. Not always, but more often than not.”
And the older you get, the better this divorce-commitment factor may be, according to Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills child, parenting and relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent and co-star of Sex Box on WE tv. Dr. Fran says, “It's better to date and partner with a man who is divorced than single because single men above age 40 generally have a fear of commitment or other unexamined and unresolved issues from their families of origin.”
“Fool me twice, shame on me,” might as well be the divorced man’s motto. For the average single woman, this means you could be sitting across the table from a man who has learned to adapt so that he does not repeat his previous mistakes. “Generally, there is a tendency to be aware of what did not work in the past,” Bahar explains. “Let’s face it, the first wife may have taught him a lot of what you are benefiting from now, remembering the little things, what not to say, acts of intimacy, etc. He may hate to admit, but it most likely is true.”
Of course, there is a catch — Dr. Fran qualifies, “One divorce under a person's belt is a good credential for learning about relationships, including what works and what does not. Any more than one failed marriage may be a red flag of trouble in that person's personality structure and character.”
One of the biggest gifts of a finalized divorce (besides a new lease on life) is the gift of appreciation. As April Masini, relationship expert at AskApril.com, sees it, a man who’s been through at least one marital flop will come to appreciate his current partner even more since he knows exactly how much he stands to lose. Masini says, “And they know quality now because what they had before, wasn’t. Sometimes you have to wear ill-fitting shoes to appreciate those that are a good fit.”
“Divorced men can be better lovers,” says Masini. (Yes, please!) And it’s not just about the sheer volume. It’s much more about the effort that may now be involved between the sheets. Masini explains that a divorced man who has a failed marriage behind him may be more interested in making his current relationship work. As an added bonus, she says, “They want to please you and learn how to do so. They’re not taking sex for granted.”
Depending on what stage you are at in life, you may find that a divorced man, and even a divorced dad, is a better choice to start a family with. For many men in their 30s and 40s, children may be part of a past relationship, says Bahar. If these kids are grown, a divorced man may want to experience that part of life again with the right woman — and a new baby. Based on what she’s seen as a licensed marriage and family therapist, Bahar says, “Many times, there is a possibility that he will marry a younger woman and experience fatherhood in a different way. There is perhaps tension from other children from a previous marriage if adult and resentful, but on the other hand, there may be more acceptance and awareness if the family divorced and remarried in a considerate and acceptable way.”
There’s no guarantee that all divorced men have grown beyond the hurt, but divorce does have the power to change a person for better or for worse. And if it’s for the better, Masini believes that a man can become more evolved by facing this type of hardship and loss. Chris Armstrong, divorced man, certified relationship coach and owner of Maze of Love, calls this phenomenon the “internal clarity of self,” explaining, “'I went into my marriage not knowing who I was or what I needed or wanted in a lifelong partner’ — says nearly every person that got married and eventually divorced. Now, I know what makes me tick, how I show up when something is bothering me and what traits I absolutely require in a partner.”
At the end of the day, you can tell that a man has learned and moved on from his divorce when he has a broader perspective and “doesn’t sweat the small stuff,” says Masini. From his own personal experience, Armstrong says moving through divorce provided him with outward perspective and motivation. Not only does he see the bigger picture now, but he knows that he wants someone to share it with. “While no one should want to rush love or marriage, it's well-known that divorced men are more motivated to find love post-divorce as they have already 'been there, done that' with years of dating and an unsuccessful marriage. Men do not like to lose, and they certainly don't like to be alone,” Armstrong explains. “From a woman's perspective, dating someone with perspective, clarity and motivation is the bee's knees and the wings. It is wholly different than dating someone who wants a relationship but doesn't truly understand what it takes to achieve one.”
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