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June 18, 2010

Dating During His Divorce

A split image where the left is a guy with his new girlfriend and the right is him with his wife in front of a divorce judge

Dating a guy who is going through a divorce can be a different type of relationship that not all women are equipped to deal with. Although the best advice is to take it as slow as possible, things often speed up without us realizing it, as love can be the natural state of things and seem so easy when it appears. With the "slow it down warning" emblazoned on the relationship, let's look at the possible pitfalls your man presents.

The first question that must be answered is: Why is he getting a divorce and what is the timeline? This is important and he will be talking about it, so listen with a keen intensity when he does. Here is a checklist:

Is There No Going Back to Her?

You must be definite that he is actually getting a divorce and has not just taken a few weeks off from his marriage to "find himself" or "get space." Are papers being filed or served? Has a lawyer been retained? Any reports of progress are a green light that he is headed in the right direction as a possible partner for you. Any stalling, or worse, attempts at reconciliation are red lights for you to put a stop to seeing him until he is officially, legally single. If he cannot or will not follow through on this, what kind of follow through will he have in regards to his commitment to you?

Is His Baggage Welcome at Your Hotel?

Why is he getting a divorce? Does he acknowledge his role in the marriage falling apart? That is a big plus. Did they try couples counseling? If so, that tells you that he is willing to work on disagreements as well as letting you know that the divorce was not a rash decision. If he says phrases like, "I'm not perfect" or "I really tried," take these as cues that his relationship with you will also feature him making an effort when needed.

If his discussion of the divorce is a one hundred percent blaming of his soon-to-be ex-wife, take a step back. It takes two to tango. If, at the core, the problem with his wife was a drug or alcohol problem, she may be responsible for a big part of the breakup, but he may have developed co-dependent tendencies. This means that he needs to be part of a relationship drama instead of part of a relationship. Again, counseling for someone in a relationship with heavy addiction issues is a must and any insistence that, "I'm not crazy, she's the one that's crazy," is a rehearsal for his lines in the movie that might become your life if you stick with him and he continues to live in denial about his role in things going bad.

If he flat out does not know what went wrong with the marriage or is evasive, insist he get to the bottom of it with you. You do not want to make a commitment to him and then find out he is likely to keep secrets from you or to check out and be so absent from the relationship that he will be surprised to find out one day that you, like his wife, is no longer there. Of course, in his defense, she may have put on a good act and left him as a devious surprise to maximize his pain and to give her a stronger position in the divorce proceedings. Find out what you can about the timeline of how and why it ended. Does everything add up?

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Is He Hungry to Grow?

In his discussions of his divorce, you should be able to see her side of the story at least a little and observe the habits of his that angered her. There are habits that carry serious ramifications and others that are of little to no consequence. If she disapproved of his going to church on Sunday mornings, that tells you she was looking to end things regardless of his commitment. If she left him because he did not have a job, that is a red flag – does he have a job now? Is his idea of a relationship to be a lazy slug and mooch off his lover?

Can you mentally compare how he is now with how you perceive him to have been just a few months or years ago when the marriage crumbled? Does it sound like he was a heavier drinker then and is now sober or cutting back his drinking? Does he have bouts of anger that might indicate his ex-wife was afraid of him? Is he timid and easily swayed and you can see that a lack of a spine is what allowed a manipulative wife to get everything she could from him before she fled?

Be Ready to Listen

Most men going through a divorce will talk about it all the time. You might actually become a mini-expert on your state's legal nuances involving separation and community property. He will be venting and venting. This is often a turnoff, but you can make this time matter for you in addition to just being a shoulder to cry on. Listen carefully to what he says about the judge's rulings; the law is based on reasonable expectations. If he is complaining about getting railroaded by "the system," it could indicate that he is too cheap to pay for a good lawyer. Do you want to be with a man who is a big cheapskate? Complaints about the judge also indicate that he was unreasonable in the marriage and/or separation. Dig deeper with casual questions centering on why the judge would do what he did. If he brings up conspiracy theories or convoluted logic, these are signs of a paranoid manipulator. If he is happy to see things going along at a predictable pace, this is a man who does not relish conflict, and who also does not back down from seeing a task through – quite a good catch no matter what his recent circumstances have been.

One Last Word of Advice

If he puts pressure on you to allow him to move in with you – especially if the source of his rent is dubious – follow the advice of one strong woman's grandmother: "don't fatten frogs for snakes" … Don't just let him move in without addressing his past in order for you to observe clues for your future.

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