Dating After Divorce: Does Their Marital History Matter?
When I first started to contemplate dating after my tsunami divorce, I was taken aback when a friend posed the question, “So, are you looking for guys that have never been married or are you looking for a man that is also divorced?”. Since the last time I was on the dating scene, I was just looking for boys who were old enough to drive, I had never had to consider prior marital status before.
I rolled the imagined pros and cons of each around in my mind for a few moments.
Never married – No ex-wife to deal with, not one to marry impulsively, and has had sufficient time to fully enjoy the bachelor life. On the other hand, perhaps they are not ready for marriage, they don’t know how to “do” marriage and they may struggle to adapt to the lifestyle changes.
Divorced – Knows how to be married, may have friends that are more marriage-oriented, and they are not commitment-shy. Of course, there is always the ex-wife, the newly single man about town energy and they may be dealing with residual triggers and bitterness from the divorce.
I concluded, “I’m fine with either. I figure at my age (32 at the time), I’ll find more that are divorced. Of course, kids are a deal-breaker for me, so that may mean I find more that have never been married.”
And during my period of Match Madness, I did date both. And I found that some of my assumptions were incorrect. I met married men who, based upon discussion, never did learn how to be married. I met lifelong bachelors that had certain traits that made it difficult to imagine anyone wanting to marry them. Ever. And I discovered that difficult and in-the-picture exes were as likely to be of the girlfriend as the wife variety. Divorced doesn’t mean “damaged” any more than never married means “defective.”
In the end, I fell in love with a man (then 37) who had never been married. Not because he had some fatal flaw, but because he knew himself well enough to wait until he was ready. He may not have known how to be married, but that was okay. After all, I didn’t know how to be married to him. And every marriage is different. We gave each other the gifts of time and patience – for me to work on healing and letting go of the residual anger and for him to adapt to a partnered life and learn what it means to be married. And now that never-been-married-before man is a seriously amazing husband.
Just like I wouldn’t want anyone to hold my past against me, someone’s romantic history doesn’t tell the story of their romantic future. Focus more on their character traits than on the characters they dated or married. Pay more attention to their readiness now then their readiness then. And most importantly, look for someone that will learn along with you as you navigate a life together.