Men After Divorce: To Date or Not to Date?

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The effects of divorce can virtually change every aspect of a person’s life. Studies have shown that a typical man needs 3-5 years to get over a divorce and heal before he is emotionally ready to re-marry. However, how long does a typical man need to overcome the dating jitters and the pitfalls that crop up when returning to love?

Returning to the dating scene is not an easy thing, especially if he’s been “off the market” for a while. Don’t forget he has walked out of what is not merely an off-the-cuff fling, a couple of months of relaxed dating or even a serious prolonged relationship; he has watched a whole marriage go down the drain.

Whether the marriage ended because she thought he was too busy with his job to help out with the kids or because he thought she could have used less manicure on her toenails and more brains in her head, is not the point. There is no aim in placing blame or pointing fingers now. If you really love him and feel your relationship has potential, you need to learn how to handle with care the divorce trails. Divorce leaves a man feeling hurt, confused and angry – what is also known as emotionally unstable. Moreover, it leaves him insecure and uncertain about his masculinity, questioning at all times his ability to nurture a healthy relationship.

Time is a great healer

Cliché as it sounds, time is a great healer. A newly single man needs a great deal of adjustment. After years of being a couple, you just forget how to be “alone” again. Unlike women who often seek out comfort from friends and family, men are usually confronted with great emotional adjustment problems. Learning to relate closely again is bound to be unsettling. Before rushing into anything serious, give him time to sort himself out, and redefine himself outside of the marriage. There is no proven amount of time needed to move on from a relationship. Butit is advised to take it slow until he is ready to commit. Let him take his time and move at his own pace. Forcing togetherness may complicate your relationship with your mate. There is no sense in taking your relationship to the next level before he is ready for a meaningful commitment and not a crutch for his broken heart, even if he asks for it.

Don’t rebound on me honey!

You do not want to be just an emotional band-aid, and you don’t want your relationship to be on the heel of another one. Rebounding can feel a lot like love as one partner wants to be in love. They convince themselves they are in love when in fact they are missing the relationship they left behind. When he comes to his senses, you are the only one who is going to get hurt. If you are anxious this may be just a rebound relationship, there are clear signs your new beau is not quite over his lost love. If he keeps talking about her all the time, remembering good times and smiling, or rehashing their old issues, then chances are good that you are stuck in rebound. In words of one syllable, if you feel that the old relationship is creating a barrier between the two of you then it is a rebound, in which case you need to step back.

Deal with the Ex Life

If you feel anxious that he might be attempting to rekindle the relationship with his ex-wife because he’s spending time with her, it is completely comprehensible. What you need to do is hide your jealousy and give him the space he needs. Eventually he will figure out how to set the new boundaries and expectations for the separate relationship. If you don’t have unwavering faith in what you have, just remember that if he spends time with her, he will remember why he divorced her – it does not mean he wants to patch things through with her. No matter how tempting, don’t criticize his ex-wife to make her look bad. And most importantly don’t tell him to get over her; this is something he needs to do when he is ready. Give him time to mourn his loss, he is totally allowed to get sentimental around holidays, birthdays and family gatherings. That does not mean he is still in love with her. But you need to realize that he must come to an understanding and acceptance of his emotions of separation that may be riddled with guilt.

Once a liar, always a liar

Dealing with his trust issues will be the trickiest part. You need to understand that to him you are a potential hazard which can cause more damage to the fresh wounds of his broken heart. The divorce has left him incapable of trusting all women yet, not just you. So you don’t have to feel offended every time he starts questioning in the back of his mind the reliability of your words and promises. At the moment he does not have the backbone to judge whether you will follow through. After all, how can he easily learn to trust in a relationship when the previous one failed so miserably? Nevertheless, life must go on and without trust a relationship cannot survive. Let him talk about his fears and doubts. Some men feel more comfortable figuring out the problem for themselves, and others may need assistance. He is most definitely uncertain about everything including his ability to sustain the relationship, and his lack of self esteem can be the reason behind his lack of trust. Strange as it sounds, he is not expected to trust anyone if he does not trust himself, if he keeps blaming himself for the failure of his marriage and questioning what he did wrong.  Work slowly on giving him his self esteem back and help him learn to trust again by showing your commitment and dedication to him.

Protect yourself

Divorce is a painful process, and the person is naturally depressed, moody and sometimes very angry. To psychiatrists, getting divorced is considered one of the three most stressful things that can happen in your life. However don’t let him take it out on you. He needs to understand that you are not his punching bag. It’s true that he has been through a lot of emotional distress, but you need to take precautions and maintain boundaries to protect yourself and maintain your self esteem.

Be careful, you only know one side of the story. No matter what he tells you, remember that his marriage to her was not all bad. You need to remain non-judgmental and objective.

Get out if you need to

When people are going through a traumatic change, they may need time to re-balance their lives. Be gentle and tell him to be true to his heart, even if it means leaving the relationship with you. Let go of him and move on, if you want and need more than he is capable of giving to your relationship.

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