You got married at what age?
October 20, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I’m in the process of divorcing, and starting to date seriously again. The catch: I’m absurdly young to be in this situation. How and when to break the news to dates?

Here’s some background info:

I’m 22, male, and in the process of divorcing. I was married at 21 and it only lasted 10 months - we weren’t ready for it, weren't perfect for each other, etc etc. Yes, it was crazy to get married at that age but there were a lot of reasons for it at the time (not great ones in hindsight) and we had been together on and off since early high school.

We split up just over 5 months ago, I instigated it, and while it wasn’t easy it was mostly amicable and there is hardly any bad blood. The breakup had been brewing for at least 3-4 months before that, so I’ve had a lot of time to come to terms with it. Unfortunately, we can’t get divorced until we’ve been separated for a year due to provincial law.

So here’s the problem: I just met someone who I’m really interested in, we talked for a couple hours at a mutual friend’s party, and we’re going on a date this Friday. I’d like to be completely honest about my situation, but I’d also like to put my best foot forward because let's face it, this is really weird for people my age.

I’m thinking that I’ll mention that the marriage was short, ended well, and the divorce isn’t finalized for purely legal reasons. I’ll also mention that I’m done with the rebound relationship stage*. Maybe I’ll even mention that some good came of it - now I think more before making commitments.

So, MeFi - can you think of anything else I could say to make this less off-putting? Is this way too much information for a (sort of) second date? Is there a best time to mention this during the date, or should I risk saying it before/after the date? Any help or advice would be very much appreciated!

*Really, I am. The end of the marriage was obvious months before it happened, I've dated casually since, and even had some NSA fun that ultimately made me snap out of the "I'll date or sleep with anything!" mindset. "Give yourself more time"-type answers are respectfully declined.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just tell her you were married. There is no best/worst foot way of doing this.

The bonus is she will either stay with you or she won't. Either way is the best way for the two of you.
posted by tarvuz at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you're still legally married, you should disclose it as early as possible.
posted by The World Famous at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Being divorced does not make you a bad person. You can still "put your best foot forward" while being straightforward about the fact that you're 22 and in the process of divorce.
posted by applemeat at 1:51 PM on October 20, 2009

Humor could lighten the load: "It was a starter marriage!" is better than looking mournful. "I was young; I'm a whole year older now," if you have some fun with it, might work. "I know, you'd think I was in some wacky arranged marriage deal, but no." From there you can segue into the "by provincial law, I have another two months before I can be officially divorced. Also, I will have to wear a large white cap in the town square and be flogged."
posted by adipocere at 1:52 PM on October 20, 2009 [7 favorites]

Jefficator-- Just because he made some mistakes (which he wholeheartedly admits and has done his best to remedy) does not mean he needs therapy before pursuing new relationships. The poster seems like he's moved forward and is doing his best to be honest while creating a new life. Nothing needing therapy there, so lighten up.

Aaaanyway, if the new girl is someone you are really into, I would make it a not-too-humorous conversation and say something like "You should probably know this about me, because I really like you. I know I'm young, but I've made some mistakes, and am currently in the process of getting a divorce. I'm happy to answer any questions you might have, but it was import to disclose." Or something to that effect. Being joking about it, as adipocere suggests, seems a bit flippant and makes it seem like you take marriage (i.e. SERIOUS RELATIONSHIPS) not too seriously. Which would be fine if you are just trying to get laid, because ideally the girls wouldn't care about that sort of thing, but if you are more serious about a girl, then you should be serious about the conversation.
posted by greta simone at 2:05 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely don't look mournful. And definitely do not badmouth your ex (it doesn't sound to me like you're inclined to do so, of course, but I just want to put it out there).

Also, you may want to be prepared that the other person may have a sudden series of assumptions about you and/or your ex. When I was dating after my divorce (in my early 30s), I was quite surprised to find that whenever I'd reveal my status on the first date, most of the reactions were either along the lines of grand sorrow and pity ("oh, you poor thing, you must be shattered, etc.") or assuming that my ex-husband was a monster ("did he cheat on you? was he insane?")

Now, some of this may stem from the fact that I'm a woman; perhaps there's more of a persistent assumption that a woman will only get a divorce from an abusive man or a cheater, or will be emotionally destroyed to lose her status "wife." But there may be some analagous assumptions that you'll run into, as well. So I'd advise you to come up with a general answer to any assumptions that A) your life has been destroyed, and/or B) your ex must be a terrible, terrible person. My all-purpose statement was something along the lines of "it was hard at the time, but it was for the best. My ex-husband is a great guy and I wish him all the best. We just weren't meant to be married, but we are still friendly."
posted by scody at 2:08 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I understand why you don't want to round out the first hour of the date with "So PS I was married last year." Yes yes, be honest and so forth, but you're right in asking for advice on how to break it.

Jokes will make you look nervous and flippant, like you're a nutjob who gets married and divorced willy nilly. Tell her the situation ("Just so this isn't weird, you should know I'm getting divorced" plus whatever additional details are relevant. Like any discussion of a break up, don't go into what a bitch you wife was) and then make it clear that you've learned a lesson--namely, you know better than to rush headlong into commitments you can't keep.

I'll be honest: if I were dating someone who admitted they were married and divorced by 21, I'd be non-plussed but not repulsed. The situation is pretty harmless and surmountable with the right dialogue, but address her concerns first and then trot out the funnies.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:11 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I've been in sort of the same boat (married at 21, divorced at 24), and yeah, it's definitely best to be up front about it. It may scare them off, but if it would, you're only going to get in more hot water for NOT TELLING THEM YOU ARE A MARRIED MAN months down the line when it comes up.
posted by CharlesV42 at 2:20 PM on October 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I would add that I would be super-careful about talking about marriage on the second date. Even in the context it is in, you're having a conversation about marriage. On the second date. That could set the alarm bells of some ringing. Some people are rather gunshy about it, and being too serious/grim, without a lot of caveats applied, can sound a bit like "... she wasn't right for me. *looks off* None of them were, really. Until I found you ... *turns* Would you like to see my collection?"

I bring this up because a female friend of mine kept wondering why-o-why these nice guys she'd meet kept bailing on her on the second date. To solve the problem, I finagled a double-date with myself, my date, her, and her new beau. I waited and waited and finally the shoe dropped: she was bringing up names she liked for children. On the second date. And thus was discovered why these guys vanished like Hoffa. So, not too heavy.
posted by adipocere at 2:29 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

When getting back out there after my divorce...well, I didn't get a lot of second dates, so I can't be sure mentioning it right of the bat was the reason, but it never seemed to put me in a good light. I went for the second or third, but it probably depends how much life story you both are getting into.

Definitely, definitely don't slag the ex. I, too was too young, although it laster longer, it really was us growing up and growing apart. I pitched it as "part of the path of my life" (and still see it that way)--it was, it's over, everyone learned something.
posted by stevis23 at 3:43 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd avoid using the word "mistake." When I hear the phrase "made some mistakes in my past"-type language, it sound like, I don't know, the two of you were into drugs and had a shady marriage and there were misdemeanor arrests and the ex-wife will be in the picture for some crazy reasons, etc. "Mistake" to me means something that's going to affect the rest of your life and has bearing on your future relationships; this past marriage and divorce doesn't at all, besides any baggage you have, which you'd have from a non-marriage relationship, too.

It really doesn't matter at all, and wouldn't matter to me, except if I found out afterward that you hadn't disclosed it. But actually, such a short marriage, at such a young age, along with the required separation period, even if I found out afterward, I'd probably understand your not bringing it up earlier.

So, maybe wait longer than the second date. As long as your ex-wife is not in your life at all -- no kids, no complications regarding division of assets, no going to visit her mother with her every weekend, etc. -- I'd wait until you were much more serious with a girl. Like maybe look for the guides about "when to tell the man you're dating that you're a single mom" and use that type of timeline and advice. It's pertinent information, and something that the other person is certainly entitled to know, but on the other hand, it might scare someone off who otherwise wouldn't care if you told them further on in the relationship.
posted by thebazilist at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2009

Definitely do disclose the fact that you've been married and that the divorce isn't finalized yet early on, but don't be too flippant about it. I had a guy tell me on our first (and last) date that he'd had a "starter marriage" at 21 and it was so offputting. Marriage is supposed to be permanent, not serial, and I want someone who takes it seriously.
posted by orange swan at 6:48 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I definitely think you should mention it on the date. It's important information for your date to know, particularly since you're still legally married, and the longer you wait, the more likely it is that she's angry or suspicious about it. Just say something along the lines of, "Hey, I thought I should let you know that I've been married before. She and I got married way too young, but we both recognized this and there aren't any hard feelings. Our divorce will be final in three months. Just figured this was the kind of thing I should tell you." Then smile at your date and take her lead - if she has questions, answer them (to the extent you're comfortable, obviously). Otherwise, continue on with your normally-scheduled date conversation.
posted by sunflower16 at 7:09 PM on October 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Since it was obviously such a mis-match, I think it's okay to just make a joke of it. It's like a bad relationship- You showed a little ugly judgement and lived to tell the tale. Don't make a big deal out of it and it won't be one.
posted by GilloD at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2009

I have recently been on the opposite side of this conversation, except that the guy was not as young as you. It was still a surprise to find out that he was in the middle of a divorce. He informed me over email a few days before we were to meet up for our first proper date (after getting to know each other in another social context). What he said was similar to what sunflower16 suggested. He said that there was something I needed to know, and then in a sentence or two he laid out the basic facts of the situation. I appreciated that he was up front with me. I also was glad that he told me over email so that I could react privately and then compose my response; I wouldn't have known what to say if he had told me face-to-face, but I know some people would prefer to be told such things face-to-face and would consider email too impersonal. So, use your judgment.

Use your judgment about humor, too. Some of adipocere's suggestions would have turned me off. I appreciated straightforwardness.

I agree with others that you should be careful not to say anything too negative about your ex-wife or the marriage or yourself. "It didn't work out" should be adequate for now. I also don't think it's necessary to assert up front that you're "done with the rebound relationship stage." If your date asks questions about your dating history since the separation, then you should have an honest answer ready, but I don't think it's necessary to point out that there was a rebound phase. I would suggest that you find other ways of communicating to your date that you are "dating seriously" and not just looking to "date or sleep with anything."

By the way, in case you were wondering, I responded to the guy in my story by thanking him for being up front with me. We went on to have a great time on our date and are still (very happily) seeing each other a few months later.
posted by LBS at 10:14 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

My current boyfriend dropped the bomb that he's divorced on about our third date, when it was getting pretty obvious to both of us were going to want to continue seeing each other. I would say in your case, maybe you should judge whether to tell her by how intimate the conversation is getting. Are you sharing a lot of personal information about yourselves and really getting to know each other, or just chatting about your job, movies, and hobbies?

My boyfriend was a little more awkward about it, but his way of telling me was very much like sunflower16's suggestion, but a little more rushed and with a little more "god, this is awkward to be telling you this right now" thrown in. I appreciated him telling me early, not telling me too much, and letting me ask questions.

I pretty much completely agree with LBS, don't bad mouth the ex (it's in bad taste and makes it awkward for her). Be up front, but don't make a big deal out of it. It's something that happened, is happening. It's good for her to know. Let her ask any questions, then talk about something else.

And don't build this up too much in your own mind! It's not a big deal, and I would hope that most people understand that EVERYONE has a dating past--marriage is a big deal, but it's also just another piece of that past. What's important is how you're dealing with it. You presented the whole situation to us in a very level-headed, drama-free, responsible way. She'll see that. (and if she doesn't, her loss!!)
posted by sherber at 11:02 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been in this situation myself and I think that letting it come up naturally would be the best. If there's any lingering paperwork, that provides a great way to talk about it "Oh yeah, just so you know, I'm going through a divorce that will be final on such and such date - I need to meet with my ex to go over some paperwork, it's not a big deal, but if you want to talk about it, I'm totally open."

Definitely don't joke about it. Or act sad. Just treat it like a normal fact of life "Well, what are you gonna do?" kind of thing. Specify that you're open to questions. If she wants to know more, she'll ask. Don't expect to get everything out of the way in one conversation. Maybe the first time it comes up, she'll want to know how long you were married. Later she might want to know how you decided to get married. It's like any other ex situation, just with more paperwork. Yeah, it's important to mention, but it's not going to be any bigger than YOU make it out to be.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:01 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a good friend in my early 20's named Mullett (that was actually his last name). He was married at 19 and divorced at 21, and had the same apprehensions as you. And, like you, he was just candid, diplomatic, and honest about it. It was something he would occasionally joke about (he had to more often than most because he happened to also have her name tattooed on his arm), but I never really met a girl that cared that Mullett had been married before.

If you treat it as something huge and relationship changing, than it will be. But it doesn't have to be.

Seriously, girls aren't going to care. Everyone makes mistakes, and nearly everyone has felt a love so intense they thought marriage was the right decision at the time, only to have hindsight open their eyes. The best thing you can do to set yourself apart from Mullett is to not get married again in the near future, but it sounds like you've learned from this experience.
posted by orville sash at 5:32 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely disclose it, and early. I had a boyfriend casually mention that he'd "recently been divorced", and months later I found out that he'd only separated a month before we met and didn't get divorced until a year into our relationship. That would be how NOT to do this.

My biggest concern when I found this out was if he had children, which is sounds like you don't. I would just couch it as, 'I thought I'd met the perfect girl, I was wrong, and we're both moving on'. Everyone has been in that situation, and I think a lot of people will understand that (especially this awesome chick).

I would also mention that you've learned more about what you want in a marriage, and will be more informed about that decision if you choose to make it in the future. Marriage is a weird thing - we all expect it to go perfectly the first time, even though we've never done it before.

Keep in mind that it doesn't have to have a LOT to do with your future relationships, but it isn't irrelevant either.
posted by katybird at 7:28 AM on October 24, 2009

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