How do I declare my marital status on an online dating site?
March 17, 2010 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Online dating and marital status disclosure: when and how do you do it?

I've been separated for over a year, am in the process of the divorce, and trying things out online. Some online dating sites have a section where you can declare that you're separated. OkCupid doesn't have this and I've been going as "single".

Inevitably, the fact I'm separated comes up. It's hard to talk openly about what I've done and where I've been in the past few years without mentioning my marriage.

I have approached this in a few ways:
1. Put this info directly in my profile. (It's not in there currently.)
2. Mentioned this in some message prior to meeting. (Awkward. Feels like a confession.)
3. Mentioned this as it came up during the in-person meeting.

Oh hivemind, what's the best way to go about this?
posted by lmm to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If I were dating someone and she disclosed, relatively early on in the in-person dating process, that she were technically getting divorced, I would not consider myself deceived. It's an inherently and obviously awkward things, but it's not like you're actually married in a meaningful relationship-definition sense - only a legal one.

For what it's worth, I'd say "no later than the first couple of dates, or when it seems unavoidable in any other context." For that matter, as long as you do make this clear early on, I wouldn't then flip out because you'd been referring to him as your "ex." Because he is your ex, you're just stuck with some paperwork.

(Gendered pronouns employed solely to indicate that's how I'd react if I, a dude, were dating "you," a woman.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:22 PM on March 17, 2010

I would list your status as divorced, then later clarify that the divorce is not yet final (perhaps it will come up naturally, if someone asks how long you've been divorced - if it doesn't come up naturally, I'd still mention it.)
posted by insectosaurus at 8:24 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think there are some people out there that are squeamish about dating someone who is not legally divorced. If it were me, I'd disclose it as soon as possible and would casually bring it up or put it in my profile.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:28 PM on March 17, 2010

Personally, I think that listing status as "divorced" is a bit odd in this day and age. If I were divorced, I'd be telling people I was single unless I knew them well enough for my previous marriage to be any of their business.

But for these purposes, this option can come in handy -- list yourself as divorced and if the initial coffee date is going well, you should disclose that it's not final. Yes, people are squeamish about dating someone still legally married, and it will sound like a lie if not disclosed the moment it's relevant.
posted by desuetude at 9:01 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for the responses so far.

You know, I think I did list myself as "divorced" in my profile when it was in there. While not technically true, it has a finality to it that "separated" doesn't. It's also easier to just get it out.

The reason why I'm asking this question is because I recently (and awkwardly) brought up my marital status with someone I was corresponding with. (It felt awkward I think because part of me at the time felt it was a bit deceptive to not be more upfront about it.) Anyway, I suggested I should put this info in my profile and she said, no I shouldn't.

For what it's worth, I'm a guy seeking a woman, and the divorce is straightforward.
posted by lmm at 9:52 PM on March 17, 2010

but it's not like you're actually married in a meaningful relationship-definition sense - only a legal one

This varies a lot. I have a friend who is dating a woman who is "separated" but who doesn't appear to be actually in the process of divorcing. Meaning, the term separated covers a lot of ground, from "divorced in all but name" to "taking a little break from my marriage," and you don't know which it is without some serious communication.

So I'd urge more disclosure, and sooner. That said, if the only choices on the form are "single" and "married," you should pick the one that describes your real status -- in your case, I'd think that was single, but it needs to be followed up with an explanation early in the dating process.
posted by Forktine at 9:55 PM on March 17, 2010

While 'divorced' has a finality to it that 'separated' doesn't - it's not strictly true for you yet. I think something of this magnitude needs to be stated up front in your profile. The ones that won't care, well - won't care, but for the ones that do - this could be a dealbreaker.

(Personally, I'd prefer making an informed decision about my chances of being a rebound, and gauge in advance how comfortable I might feel dating a 'married' man. YMMV.)
posted by Space Kitty at 10:09 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Mention it promptly in the profile. At the top, in fact. Lies through omission are lies and they bite you in the you-know-where because people who might TOTALLY be interested get hit with baggage later and they bail fearing even more baggage to come. Make it clear up front so that those who would be accepting of the situation can keep reading and get in touch. Then, you'll know right away there isn't an issue.

There's nothing wrong with canceling out people who would bail if they knew anyway.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 12:06 AM on March 18, 2010

Just to clarify: Either single or divorced is fine if you put the separation info at the TOP of your OKcupid profile. Honesty is always the best policy.

Then again, I know a douchebag on who is okcupid and in an LTR, but his profile says he's 'AVAILABLE' ...which just goes to show, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make the horse be any less of a scumbag once he gets there. I'm just sayin'
posted by 2oh1 at 12:10 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Separated" is a big red flag for a lot of women, because it really doesn't give you enough information about the nature and status of the relationship, and is often a sleazy way for men who are actually married, with no intention of divorcing, to carry on side relationships without complete honesty. The word itself carries these connotations, unfortunately.

But you should share the information anyway, because if you fudge it in the beginning, it will look like deceit when you finally reveal it, which will go much worse than giving prospective partners the information they need to make a judgement on whether they want to risk you right off the bat.

I don't know what the options are on the various websites you're using. "Divorced" is more final, but on the other hand, there can be weird things that happen when a divorce is proceeding along. Even when both former spouses have really moved on in many ways, when the papers finally come through, it's a strange bump in the road. There are some reservations many women will have about dating the recently separated and even recently divorced; honesty about where you are and what's happening is 100% always the best policy.
posted by Miko at 6:22 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you put divorced, I'd see that as stretching the truth a little. If you put single, I'd see that as an outright lie. My preference would be to see divorced and an explanation that the divorce isn't final yet in the profile.

Yes, that will turn some women off. But those are the very same women who will be both turned off AND angry if they find out later, so why not just cull them from the possibilities up front?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:34 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a guy seeking women. But if you were a woman I'd classify you as "single". Messily single but still single. As long as you let me know your situation sooner than later I would not feel deceived.
posted by sully75 at 7:01 AM on March 18, 2010

If I were dating you and you waited till we met up in person to bring this up I'd feel deceived and be less likely to continue dating. I think it should be part of your profile.
posted by valadil at 8:26 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

honesty about where you are and what's happening is 100% always the best policy.

Agree with this. Marriage is very important to some people, less so for others. If you're not explicitly trying to avoid people for whom marital status might matter, a quick mention early in the process is the decent thing to do. If you seem to be above board and willing to talk, I've found that most people are fine with this. I did this for a few years when I was separated and before I was divorced. People for whom this was a dealbreaker were better off knowing what was up right up front. Usually I'd say some variant of "I'm technically married but do not live with my husband, am not emotionally or romantically involved with him and will not ever get back together with him though we may not be legally divorced for a while. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions."

Relatedly, when I met a man who was in a co-parenting [and not at all romantic] relationship with his son's mom, he let me know over email after our first initial meeting but before we had a one-on-one date. This seemed decent and he used more or less the same phrasing that I did: here is my situation, here is what it means to me, please ask questions.
posted by jessamyn at 8:26 AM on March 18, 2010

*Virtually Divorced*

"Virtually" is loaded enough that anyone with the intelligence to use a computer would want to unpack this and get the details, thereby self-screening out the people who are not OK with dating someone in your situation.
posted by Danf at 8:44 AM on March 18, 2010

While my divorce was in process I listed myself as "single" and very openly stated in my profile that my divorce was in process, but not yet finalized. It was not a problem with anyone I dated since they knew the deal from the start.

I did get a few questions about why the marriage ended so be prepared for that.

Good luck!
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 8:51 AM on March 18, 2010

Are you physically and (mostly) financially separated? Lots of guys try to pass themselves off as "separated" but then upon further questioning it turns out that they're still living with their wives, still have joint finances, and the wife has yet to be informed that they're "separated." Often the only way(s) in which they're actually "separated" is they "feel" separated, or they've been sleeping on the couch for a while, or *they're* planning to get divorced but the wife has no idea that's coming, etc. So for many men, "separated" is just code for "I want to cheat on my wife" or "I want to leave my wife but first I need to find a new girlfriend I can move in with when I leave." Thus, a lot of women will be understandably cautious when they hear that you're "separated" and not actually divorced yet.

If you're still living with your wife, you shouldn't be dating. If you're not living with your wife, you should specify that: "I'm physically separated from my soon-to-be-ex-wife and estimate our divorce will be final in X months." You should disclose this pretty early, perhaps not in your profile, but in initial communications before arranging a first date. Many women prefer to wait and not begin dating someone until after his divorce is final and you should respect that -- if you go on a date with them after presenting yourself as single or divorced when you aren't then you will have gotten them on a date with you under false pretenses.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:10 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I've been out on a date with a guy from OKCupid who was separated, but still living with his wife and hadn't told any of their friends or family yet. I knew about the separated part before we went out on our one and only date, but learned about the rest during that lunch, which was a total dealbreaker. I say give people the info up front.
posted by MsMolly at 11:19 AM on March 18, 2010

She's right, don't put it in there.

The biggest issues with the "I'm almost divorced, I swear" thing are:

1) Does he have a crazy ex, crazy ex drama, does she still call him twice a day, is he still in love with her, etc. ?

2) Is he saying that because he is married and cheating?

Make it clear that those two things aren't a problem when you disclose. Easier to do in person because they can read your body language, your tone of voice, and your general demeanor. If you're relaxed, casual, if you're not bitter, it will speak for itself. Expect a few follow-up questions, again, easier to do so in person.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:47 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jacqueline: We live in different countries and finances are separate. Luckily it's an uncomplicated separation.

Thank you all for your input. I've marked as best the answers advocating disclosure right away but all of your answers helped :)

I'm kinda surprised how far off the mark I was on this actually, and I can only wonder what sort of impression I've been leaving with some of the women with whom my marital status came up only during the initial meet-up.

I'm going to edit my profile to have my marital status unambiguously disclosed at the top.
posted by lmm at 4:17 PM on March 18, 2010

OK, in your case I would phrase it, "I'm separated (both physically and financially) and my divorce will be final in X months." But I would put it at the bottom of your profile, not the top. Don't lead with something negative -- the opening lines of your profile should be for the intriguing sales pitch that draws women in. Disclosures of messy stuff like pending divorces go in the fine print at the bottom. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:58 PM on March 18, 2010

I agree with Jacqueline -- put it in your profile, but not at the top. Middle or bottom is fine. Sell yourself first.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:04 PM on March 18, 2010

2 out of 2 Jacqu(eline/ilynne)'s agree: don't put it at the top! :)
posted by Jacqueline at 11:17 PM on March 18, 2010

Also, OkCupid has available. It's usually used by poly people, but I think it would apply in this situation as well.
posted by politikitty at 12:30 PM on March 19, 2010

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