Dating After Divorce

Wondering whether—or how—to bring up your old flame when you’re romancing someone new? Find out here.

By Lambeth Hochwald

o you’re single again, and dating. When do you let someone know that you’ve been wed before? Should you put it out there as soon as the conversation stops for a second — “By the way, I’m divorced” — or do you keep your past under wraps until you’re asked about it directly? And what if there’s so much venom surrounding your split that you can’t discuss the matter without a generous dose of expletives?

Let us help you with all that. Experts agree that, no matter how bitter, divorce isn’t anything to be ashamed of. In fact, a divorce in your relationship dossier shows you have experience in the love department and that you have a more
Your date may well be curious and start asking questions like, “What went wrong?” Don’t take the bait.
realistic view of marriage than those who’ve never tied the knot. The key is presenting all of this properly. Here, pointers from the pros on how and when to bring up the topic with the people you date.

Don’t hide the facts
Many newly single daters avoid conversations about their past because they’re unsure how to broach the topic — or how it’ll be received, says Gilda Carle, Ph.D., a psychotherapist specializing in relationships. You should absolutely say you’re divorced on a first date; bringing it up later in a budding relationship will seem as if you were hiding something. “The object of a first date is to get to know someone, so do share that you’ve been married. It’s just like mentioning where you grew up and the number of siblings you have. But save the details of the divorce for later,” advises Carle.

You might say something like “Just so you know, I’m divorced, but the relationship ended amicably,” or, if that’s not the case, “I should mention that I’m divorced, but I’m excited to be dating now.” You want to get across that you’re OK and have moved on.

Your date may well be curious and start asking questions like, “What went wrong?” Don’t take the bait, advises April Masini, author of Date Out of Your League. You don’t want your breakup to dominate your first date — or even your second. Instead, suggest that there’s time to talk about all that in the future.

Don’t bad-mouth your ex
When you do talk about your divorce, know this: Even if your ex turned out to be an awful creature, try to take at least a little responsibility for your part of the problems, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “Even if your spouse cheated on you, own up to any lack of connection on your part that may have contributed to his or her making such a bad move,” suggests Tessina. “What you want to convey is not that you
If you really were wronged by your ex, don’t dwell on it with your new love.
were the poor victim of a bad mate but that you learned from your experience.”

If you really were wronged by your ex, don’t dwell on it with your new love. Diane K. Danielson, 37, a divorced mother of a 5-year-old, says that she can tell a lot about a man by how he talks about his ex. “There was one man I called ‘ADG’ or Angry Divorced Guy. He couldn’t refer to his ex without adding ‘that witch,’” she recalls. “I left after one drink. He clearly had a lot of unresolved issues, which I didn't need to deal with.” If you need to vent about your split, turn to a supportive friend, a family member or a therapist instead.

Air your dirty laundry sparingly
As your new relationship progresses, go slowly with full disclosure about your divorce, advises Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., a tenured professor of sociology at the University of Washington. If your new love shares past relationship problems with you, consider it an invitation to do the same. “To be sure it’s time, share some little bits of information, such as ‘my previous relationship ended very badly’ and see how your new partner responds,” Tessina says. “If he or she is sympathetic, share a few more details.” If your date is jealous or critical of you, well, that’s a sign that you may not want that person in your life for the long haul anyway.

Lambeth Hochwald is a freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Redbook and Real Simple, among others.
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