Dating In The Twilight Zone

Wondering how to handle your romantic life while you’re waiting for your divorce to become final? Here’s advice.

By Bob Strauss

t’s one of the odd asymmetries of life that while you can get married in a matter of minutes, even an amicable divorce is likely to involve months of paperwork, conference calls and emotional distress. Because splitting up is such a protracted process—and because, reasonably enough, many people in the thick of a divorce would like to move on with their lives and date someone new—it’s important to know when it’s appropriate to rejoin the ranks of single folks. Specifically, you’ll want to consider a) whether you’re together enough to step out onto the social scene, and b) if you are, how to broach the delicate subject of divorce with your prospective girl—or boyfriend. We asked Myron Auerbach, a Chicago-area lawyer who’s handled many divorce cases, for his advice:

Decide if you’re an optimist or a pessimist. If you’re the type, as Auerbach says, who can “face piles of trials with smiles” (a reference to an old Moody Blues song), you’re emotionally healthy enough to date as you wait to sign your divorce papers. Some people,
Talk about the matter amiably—and vaguely.
Auerbach says, see divorce as a “chance to start new, without any baggage,” while others may need months (or even years) to process their hurt feelings—in which case therapy might not be a bad idea.

Be honest. If you do decide you’re ready to date, Auerbach says, it’s important to let your prospective loves know exactly where you stand (and remember, the person you’re chatting up may not even know what it means to be separated, much less all the details that go into dissolving a marriage). “You have to explain that you’re in the process of getting a divorce. In the best situation, you can say something like, ‘It was a short marriage, we realized we were incompatible, and we’re both being adults about it.’” The
“You should never treat your date as your therapist.”
important thing, Auerbach says, is to phrase the matter amiably and vaguely—it’s better to say, “We’re just hashing out how to divide the property” than something like, “Can you believe it? She took the car, and now she wants the vacation house too!”

…but not too honest. “You should never treat your date as your therapist,” Auerbach says. “He may have baggage of his own, and the last thing he wants to do is relive all that stuff.” If you’re going through a messy divorce and all you can talk about over dinner is the night you discovered your soon-to-be-ex husband with the Swedish au pair, that’s a sure sign that you need to put off dating for a while. The only exception is if your companion is going through the exact same process at the same time, in which case it’s natural to compare notes (within reason) and do a little venting.

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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