He Said, She Said: Can Divorced + Never Been Married = Happily Ever After?
Dear Daniel & Mandy: I’ve been talking to this guy for just a week now. I’m in my early 20′s and he’s almost 30. Things have been going well and we enjoy each other’s company. Recently he let me know that he’s divorced. The divorce was finalized a couple of years ago. Basically he got married in his early 20′s and realized it was a mistake (the divorce was his choice). We didn’t get a chance to really talk more about it. I was just in shock. I don’t know what to do… I’m not sure if this is a deal breaker for me. Being young, I didn’t ever picture myself getting with someone with has already been married. I’m not sure if I should just continue seeing him. I’m just so torn because I do like him as a person but I’m worried that I may get insecure later or that he just won’t be committed. My parents have always told me to stick it out with one person, like they have. And I don’t think they’ll approve either. There are just so many thoughts going through my head. Help!
Mandy Hale: Okay…as a guy, I’m wondering if you caught this: if you read her very first line, it says “I’ve been talking to this guy for just a week…” I know that men and women are so vastly different in that a woman meets a man and we immediately start planning the wedding in our heads, we try out their last name with our name, etc. and meanwhile the guy is probably thinking “This is a cool girl that I just started dating.” I think this is a perfect example of how women get ahead of ourselves.
Daniel Goddard: I agree 100% with that. I think, as you’re saying, that a lot of single women in particular start to plan everything out, which inhibits their ability to adapt to the situation as it presents itself to them. And that closes you off as a person, because you don’t become susceptible to the signals and the environment that you’re in. You become too rigid and you lose that ability to be in the flow of the moment. And that’s why a lot of people say “What went wrong?” Half the time, things break down because of a lack of communication, where you’re too busy or concerned about “Am I sounding interesting? Am I sounding like someone that they would want to have a second date with?” As you said, they’re putting the cart before the horse. So I agree with what you’re saying. It’s like she’s putting too much pressure on herself, and she’s trying to create this relationship before the relationship even has a chance to create itself.
MH: Exactly! I definitely think for women, it’s so hard for us just to kinda slow down and enjoy the dating process and not take it so seriously and not feel like there’s so much pressure and stress and “Oh, well he’s been divorced, so if we ever want to get married…” You know, she might date this guy for another couple of weeks and decide she doesn’t even want to be with him or he might decide the same thing, so I feel like the concern one week in is a little premature. You can’t really give a relationship the chance to get off the ground if you’re stressing over “Do I want to be married to this person or not?” (Laughs) I think the better question is “Do I want to be dating this person or not?”
DG: She’s placing an enormous amount of stress on herself – and it is quite possible that she does this with every relationship that she goes into. If this is the case, and there is a pattern here, I feel that this needs to be addressed, so that “if” this relationship doesn’t work out then moving forward she will be more flexible to just “relax into the experience,” thus not putting so much pressure on either herself or the man. Remember, every journey begins with just a single step!
MH: I definitely understand, as a single woman who’s never been married, wanting to find a single man who’s never been married. So I do get that element to it. However, while I know there can be a lot of drama that comes along with ex-wives, ex-relationships, ex-situations…this guy’s situation doesn’t even really sound like a dramatic situation. He got married too young, he realized it was a mistake, the divorce was finalized a couple of years ago – it doesn’t sound like it’s a very chaotic, messy divorce. So I think taking even though she wants to find someone who’s single and experience all the exciting firsts that come along with being married, I also think I would have a lot less hesitation about someone who seems to have recognized pretty quickly: “Okay, I got married too young, this was a mistake, we need to part ways, and it wasn’t the right situation for me,” as opposed to someone who just got divorced a month ago and there are all sorts of legal battles and drama and chaos and crazy stuff happening. So I think in her situation, it definitely sounds like a best case scenario, and that would cause me to have a lot less hesitation than if it were otherwise.
DG: I also think she’s actually probably in a better situation than most, because she actually says here that she might get insecure later, or that she’s afraid that he just won’t be committed; I think she’s actually dealing with a man that understand commitment more than others.
MH: Interesting perspective…why do you say that?
DG: Because he was committed to someone. He understands commitment. He understands that he’s not going to settle. He’s not going to settle for someone that doesn’t make him happy, and he’s not going to have a family with someone who might not have been the right partner for him to have children with. I think that that’s a great sign for this girl, and for her to take from this other than “he’s divorced” and “he’s not good at commitment,” because if he was not good at commitment, he would have stayed in the first relationship. He would have stayed in that marriage and he would likely be miserable. But the fact that he understands that he doesn’t want to settle… that’s what you and I have been talking about before, is that single women shouldn’t settle for the first date that takes them out, because if there’s no chemistry there, or there’s no potential for a relationship because you have nothing in common, don’t settle for the first guy that asks you out. Don’t even settle for the second guy that asks you out. You shouldn’t have to settle, and it seems like this guy hasn’t settled. So if anything, that should be something that she finds encouraging about the relationship.
MH: As single women, sometimes we can allow the pressures and the expectations and all the things we put into meeting a guy to literally destroy the relationship, because we’re already planning the wedding while the man is still planning the first date. So I definitely think that she just needs try and just relax and enjoy this new relationship and live in the moment and see how things go and how they progress, and only THEN start thinking about the divorce issue.
DG: If he’s a good person, and he treats her well, and he is someone who has respect for her and her family, my advice to her is don’t label this, and don’t judge this. And that’s my advice to anyone reading this. Don’t go into things with preconceived notions of how they should play out.
DG: Go into it, and as you say in your book, I was reading your book the other day, and you had that story about how when you got lost toward the border of Alabama…
(Laughter from Mandy)
DG: What I thought was interesting about that is that it’s applicable to this girl here because her way may have been so structured, where she has her directions already laid out. You know: She meets the guy. She plans the wedding in her head. She plans the family. She plans the house with the white picket fence. And she’s got her GPS already laid out. But the problem is, she’s never allowed herself to just get lost in someone. She’s found some guy that she’s already, as you say, laid out in her mind how it should work out, but she’s not allowing herself to get lost in the moment and to discover something about herself that she didn’t know existed.
MH: That’s really good! And I love the plug for my book, too! (laughs) Now before we move on from this question, I am curious: How do you think men view the whole divorce thing? Like if a single man who’s never been married meets a woman who’s been through a divorce, do you think his perspective is kind of the same as this girl’s is? Do you think he would back away like “Oh, this divorce scares me”?
DG: No, not at all. You could use the analogy that if two people get dropped off in the jungle somewhere, you hope one of them has been in the jungle before and has survival skills. Otherwise you’re going to be two novices, like “Oops, can we eat that fruit?” Or “Oops, will that snake bite us and kill us?” So it’s kind of like there are “Been there, done that” benefits of meeting someone who’s gone through a divorce. Someone who has the experience of knowing where it broke down. I have a very good friend who got divorced. He has a daughter who’s now 20 years old and I met him when his daughter was about 8. And I said to him “What happened? How did you get divorced?” And he said “My wife and I realized one day that the most important thing in our family was our daughter, and we had completely lost each other because we put her first.” And that’s always stayed with me because one of the things that my wife and I have is that we love our children greater and with more love than for anything else that has ever been manifested on this planet. However, at the vortex of our family, we hold our relationship above and beyond everything else, because if we don’t allow our relationship to be paramount, eventually you end up like my friend who said: “I just realized that my wife and I just started drifting apart because we really didn’t know each other anymore. All we did was focus on our child.” So if you meet someone who’s been divorced, there’s a lot to learn from that. You can learn from them what works and doesn’t work in a relationship and they’ll know what they’re prepared to commit to or not commit to. So when you meet them, straightaway – you’re going to at least know what the rules of engagement are, cause they’ll say: “I was in a relationship and I was miserable because I couldn’t go out on the weekends and hang out with my buddies and watch sports all day Saturday and all day Sunday.” So at least now you know for a fact… that’s who that person is, and if you are prepared to live with that. If you are, fine, move forward and keep dating. If you’re not, right there and then, you realize – that’s the end of that. You have to find someone who if they’ve been divorced, has put their baggage down and left it at the bus station and walked away. You can’t have the person that’s still sitting at the bus station with their bags waiting for the next bus to come along (which is metaphorically ‘you’) and take them to a happy place. You don’t want to be that bus. You’re not that bus.
MH: I would also add that if this guy is a really great guy, and he treats her with respect, and once they’ve been together a little longer, he turns out to be someone who loves her and honors her and wants the best for her, I can’t imagine throwing something like that away just because he has a divorce in his history. We all have things in our history that we’re not proud of, and honestly, she could find a dozen guys who have never been married who won’t treat her as good this guy may.
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