How Soon Is Too Soon To Date A Divorcé?

So, you’re in your 30s, you’re a straight woman, and you’re single. You’re out there looking for a nice, mature man, one who longs to put his hand on your knee under the bar on Saturday night and lay his head in your lap to watch HBO dramas on Sunday while soup bubbles on the stove. One who has a job and a healthy relationship with his mother. One with a cute butt.

Sadly (oh, so very sadly) these men are scarce. But there is a kind of single man that is not scarce — homo separatus, the divorcé. By this point, you have no doubt encountered him in the wild, either staring moodily into a glass of scotch in the corner by himself at a party, or emailing you from his account on your chosen dating site(s). It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a date! he writes, But I’m ready to get back out there.

But is he, really?

The first time I glimpsed homo separatus, in the wild and in my age group, I thought Aha! Here’s a man who is obviously capable of commitment because he’s already done it! (Yes, I do see the giant flaw in that logic — now.) Then I thought, Aww, he seems so sad. I bet I can make him happy with the magic balm of my love! And also teach him about the mental health benefits of high-thread-count sheets.

I thought that, having been married, he would naturally be seeking a return to that state. After all, when I break up with someone, I seek out another relationship after a suitable mourning period. And hasn’t the relationship self-help book industrial complex taught us that men and women always see things exactly the same way?

But alas, my divorcé was not ready. Looking back, the warning signs were actually HUGE FLASHING BILLBOARDS OF APPROACHING DOOM, but I bravely carried on and fell in love with him anyway — only to have my heart predictably stomped upon.

Here are a few signs that should have sent me scurrying.

Separated does not equal divorced. Separated means he is still legally attached to his ex, still hacking away at the bonds that once held them together. Still poking at the fracture of his past life in regular meetings with the lawyers, while his not-quite-ex wife sits across the conference table seething. They are still pissing each other off, but now there is no make-up sex to smooth things over (at least you hope not). Nothing about this process is even slightly conducive to romantic evenings with you, when you’re all starry-eyed about a potential future and he is in the midst of killing and dismembering the future he once thought he’d have.

He can’t break the habit of referring to the ex as “my wife.” Yes, yes, we all say the wrong name sometimes (Yes, yes, YES, Kyle! — Keith? Cameron?) but take it from me that nothing douses the morning-after glow like hearing your boyfriend refer to another woman as his wife over pancakes and not even realize that he has slipped up. Check, please.

He is upset and angry when his ex starts dating someone new. I suppose some of these feelings are natural, but asking you to soothe him on this point is a no-no. If he has not yet progressed to the point that he can deal with this on his own, throw him back into the pond because he needs to grow a little more.

He’s only been on one date since the split — and it’s with you. One of the big benefits of leaving your marriage is the ability to freely sleep with other people. Multiple other people, not just the very first person one goes on a date with. You don’t want to be the practice girlfriend, who helps him learn about this crazy new world of 30s dating only to give him enough confidence to strike out on his own.

He won’t tell you the full story about why his marriage broke up… Unresolved issues alert! The end of a marriage is painful, and it takes a long time to work through. If he hasn’t done that work yet, you need to stay away until he does. Also, what if they split up because he killed a hitchhiker and threw the body in a canal? That would be a bad thing to find out later.

…except to say that it was all her fault. This is about as likely as you someday riding a unicorn to your job in a colony on the moon. I guess it’s possible, but you better not stake your future happiness on it. TC mark

image – arsheffield


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  • Hekatompedon

    Oh, man, where was this article a year ago when I got involved with a divorce who wasn’t ready? Psych, I would have dated him anyway. Good article, though.

  • onethathasgonethroughitall

    i was hoping this article would be from the divorcé’s perspective.

  • Brian M

    perfect thought catalog article! :-) I mean this sincerely. I enjoy your writing.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with all, but the last. If he’s appearing secretive or misleading about why the marriage ended, that’s one thing. But truly, marriages don’t generally end because of one specific thing and to say that the person has to sit down and relay all that to any new people is not realistic. To some extent, the past needs to be the past.

  • Anna Brozolo

    Hilarious and well-written, I really liked this one.

    Random aside: I recently got asked out by one of my sister’s friends who is a 25 year old divorcé…even more frightening than the 30 year old variety.

    • Guestropod

      my BFF is a 25 year old 
      divorcée, she’s cool now it’s just that Jesus warped her mind as a teen

  • Hangryhippo

    Ugh I too have unfortunately been pursued by a divorcee who wasn’t ready and it ended disastrously. Your tips are insightful and needed, but I’m one of those people whose heart overtakes their mind…

  • Feminism2012

    this is why i generally don’t like female contributors to this site

    • Guest

      That’s an awesomely feminist thing to say, Feminism2012. Indeed, all of your comments on this site are awesomely positive contributions to internet discourse in general, and to the TC community in particular.

      • Feminism2012

         i really hate people who categorize broad things in general, and then specify what they’re talking about in particular, as it strikes me as an uncreative sentence template used to sound smart

  • Waicool

    you must wait at least until the lab test comes back.

  • Whatevs

    this sucked, a real-life thirty something must’ve wrote it

    • Guest

      What does that even mean?

  • me

    Good points about not being the first person, hearing them still refer to their ex without saying “ex” and them not being divorced. I had a similar subject brewing in my head for the past month about the differences between dating guys who’d once been married and those who have been single for two decades since college, and it seems like the married guys are actually wanting a sense of home again & to share that with someone special (whereas the single guys are very used to their way of life and dating can be seen as an intrusion to that). I’ll stay away from the separated though, thanks! Enjoyed this post.

  • me

    Wanted to add a comment I found on an anonymous forum that helped me when I was trying to get over someone. (I guess that’s a whole other topic — how to get over someone? hint hint. :)

    Anyway, here. It’s long, apologies, but it’s worthwhile:


    “How you feel, or don’t feel about another person says much about
    you. How they respond, says something about them. Think about that
    deeply. You may or may not know all of your reasons for feeling the way
    you do about that person. I suspect you may not have the whole story
    about them. It’s possible that this person has some deeper issues that
    may not have anything to do with you directly. If so, it is best to let
    them have space to address them. It may take years. You can give of
    yourself and offer your love and support. If that person does not, can
    not, or will not love you back, then there is nothing you can do about
    it. That is their choice. And you don’t want someone unless they are
    truly able to love you in return, right? Now, do not think ill of that
    person. The care that person has for you may be all they have to give
    and they are just being honest. Now back to you. I am of the belief that
    “Love Never Fails.” I believe that once you love someone it does not
    die. But I believe that love is about giving and not getting. You must
    give them their request. That is in many ways a great gift of love, a
    gift of respect. You will have to go on. Time will heal your wounds.
    Allow yourself to feel sorrow and feel the pain now for the time of
    grief will pass. You will learn to live with the loss. You will always
    love that person but that does not mean you will not love again.”

    • Feminism2012

       zzz yawn

  • Guest about..DON’T date a divorce. it’s waiting endlessly for a flight with a 10 pound bag in your hand…

  • Anonymous


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