Dating During Divorce? Not So Fast…
Bari Zell Weinberger, Esq.
Let’s start with the bad news: You’re on the road to divorce. But the good news is that romance, love and, yes, even marriage doesn’t need to end with divorce. In fact, a survey of 2,000 newly divorced people found that nearly 50 percent of divorced men were eager to get remarried, and 20 percent of divorced women were hoping to repeat their trip down the aisle. That’s inspiring news for everyone hoping to be hit by Cupid’s arrow once again.
But is dating during your divorce a good idea?
While it may indeed be true that “all’s fair in love,” a little common sense doesn’t hurt either. And while I’d never want to throw cold water on a budding romance, I have some words of wisdom that I’d like to share.
I have an immense amount of experience helping individuals and couples make it through the divorce process. And I have even helped many through the more peaceful and amicable process of divorce mediation, which can save everyone a great deal of time, stress and money. In light of these experiences, here’s my compassionate and informed advice if you’re thinking about jumping back into the dating scene, and perhaps even if you hear wedding bells ringing in your near future:
• If you’ve started your divorce process, honestly evaluate how your separation or divorce is going. Is it contested or uncontested? Is it demanding a lot of your time and resources? Is it emotionally overwhelming? You want to lay the groundwork for a new, strong relationship while you’re in a “good place” emotionally, psychologically and perhaps even financially, too. You also want to be able to devote your time and attention to your divorce, because the decisions you make during this time will affect you for years to come. Further, consider how your spouse may react when he or she finds out you’re dating. Is that going to add fuel to a highly contested divorce? More than likely, the answer is “yes.”
• If you haven’t started your divorce process, then it’s important that you know what the road ahead looks like — so you can prepare yourself and focus on the outcome you want. You also need to be aware that the process can be time consuming and, at times, exhaustive and difficult. After all, even the most amicable divorce is still a divorce, and it’s human nature to feel angry, sad and disappointed — and sometimes, all three at the same time.
• Be aware that there is a possibility that your dating behavior during divorce could affect custody and parenting issues. Your children haven’t achieved finality and closure of the divorce, and putting a new person in their life right now isn’t recommended by child psychologists.
Also, custody and parenting may be negatively impacted if your new boyfriend or girlfriend has a questionable past. This can further complicate the divorce process and significantly increase your legal fees if the focus becomes this new person, instead of you and your own divorce.
I also suggest that you be careful about having your boyfriend or girlfriend spend the night when you have overnights with the children. Innocently, the kids may comment to the other parent about how your boyfriend or girlfriend “tucked them into bed” or “gave them breakfast.” This could lead to an emotional response by your spouse and prevent settlement discussions from focusing on the real issues. Generally, if you use discretion and common sense and make an effort not to expose your children to your new boyfriend or girlfriend, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Happily ever after the second time ’round? Maybe — or maybe not
It’s interesting to note that second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. While the reason for this higher divorce rate is unknown, it could be that some of these second marriages got off to a rocky start, because the ex-spouses didn’t deal with the emotional impact of their divorce, and aren’t really ready for another relationship — at least, not yet.
My best advice? When it comes to dating during or soon after divorce, rely on both the wisdom of your heart and the intelligence of your head — and not one instead of the other.