How do I explain being separated to future dates?
December 2, 2011 9:45 AM   Subscribe

How/when do I explain that I'm separated to dates/on dates? I'm a good person, really!

Married for 5 years. Separated for 5 months. I (the husband) am the leaver. No kids. Have not started divorce proceedings yet for logistical reasons. Early 30's. Reason for leaving is nothing particularly scandalous and could be loosely summarized to "miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children wrecked our relationship."

I've been meeting new people through Meetups, trolling OKCupid, blah blah blah.

I think I might be ready to date again. However, I feel so weighed down by the separated status - and, to be frank, it'll probably be at least 2 years before the divorce is finalized due to logistical reasons (financial complications).

To be clear, I have no intent to return. I struggled with deciding to leave for about a year, so this was not a rash decision.

I understand that this is a black mark on my record. But I think I'm still a good person (at least that's what my friends tell me.)

Where do I go from here?

When do I reveal that "I'm separated working on a long divorce" when I meet women?

I was thinking of something like this:

-First encounter: Say nothing about it.

-First lunch/dinner: Say that I've been married, am working on a divorce - would be happy to talk more about it in the future, but am focused on living today.

-Second (If it ever gets this far) - Go into more details if asked.

I'd love some help on ideas on what to say, and if this plan makes sense.


Throw away email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (78 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are these date-dates? Let them know before you meet up for anything more formal than coffee, so they can gracefully opt out if it's a deal-breaker.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:47 AM on December 2, 2011 [16 favorites]

I understand that this is a black mark on my record. But I think I'm still a good person (at least that's what my friends tell me.)

It's not a "black mark on your record," and ending a marriage does not mean you're not a good person. I urge you not to even say this sort of thing (to yourself or others) in any way, even in jest.
posted by scody at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

You may be interested in casual dating, but a lot of women interested in dating guys in their early 30's are looking for someone hopefully more serious. You are in no position to be getting serious right now. (Speaking from experience as someone who divorced in her early 30's and later remarried.)

Not being completely upfront about your marital status would make you a cad. There is nothing to be ashamed of except dishonesty.
posted by ambrosia at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2011 [11 favorites]

I think your plan is good, except that I don't think you can bring up your separation/divorce and then expect no more details until later, especially if you plan to gloss over that the divorce is not happening yet. Dates deserve to know if the guy they're dating is still legally married to someone else, especially if the divorce has not yet formally begun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would definitely reveal it prior to meeting them for a date. This, unfortunately, is a huge deal breaker for many women on the dating scene, maybe because so many of them have dealt with guys whose divorces dragged on interminably (and yes, two years is a long time to wait, for someone who is dating you) or never happen.

Reason for leaving is nothing particularly scandalous and could be loosely summarized to "miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children wrecked our relationship."

I wouldn't get into this. That reason, in my opinion, sounds bad. It makes you sound like a guy who is not up to the "for better or worse" part of marriage, if you're dating for the prospect of marriage.
posted by jayder at 9:53 AM on December 2, 2011 [38 favorites]

This may be a deal breaker for some ladies. Myself working in family law I would never date a separated person who hadn't at least filed initial documents. Divorces are most often scary and emotional, just because yours isn't doesn't change the views of a vast majority of women. Please disclose before the first date. Disclosing will make you seem more honest and will weed out ladies who are not prepared for the process.
posted by boobjob at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Frankly I think that this should be in your OKCupid profile to start out with, tastefully worded, so that you know that the people who actually want to talk to you and meet you have some idea of what the stakes are.
posted by hermitosis at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2011 [51 favorites]

I was married for about nine years and went through a divorce. I was not the leaver.

I clearly remember that feeling that it was a "black mark on my record". That goes away. If it's only been five months, the experience is probably still a pretty sore spot for you. When I first started dating afterwards, I was resistant to bringing it up early, and I now know that it's because it was still a sensitive subject for me. Now I usually casually mention it as early as possible. So far, it has not been an issue for anybody. They generally say something like, "Oh, really?". I'm sure the gears may be turning in their minds underneath, but in the end, I had to choose to either divest myself from a decade of my life or accept that it was part of who I was. I chose the latter.

I'm going to take the liberty of offering up additional, unsolicited advice: Don't date for awhile. I feel like my ex and I did an excellent job of proceeding with the divorce and keeping our dignity and mutual respect. Despite that, it was still devastating for both of us. Take some time for yourself. It's a lonely time, but I believe you'll be better for it.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

Separated is not divorced. There are so many men on dating sites who call themselves "separated" but in fact are either just cheating or waiting for their wives to change their minds that I do not think that you can compete against that. A sensible person on such sites knows that the odds are against her when told of someone's "separated" status. Personally I think that you just have to suck it up until your divorce finalizes or be willing to go out with far less discriminating partners.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2011 [15 favorites]

Also, seconding every single person who says to be honest, even though it should be obvious. I remember the urge to postpone having that conversation. For me, it was because I hadn't fully accepted what had happened, and every time I had to explain it, it made it more real. That's not an issue anymore.
posted by AaRdVarK at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't think a divorce in your past would be particularly troublesome. However, you haven't even started the divorce proceedings. I think that is absolutely going to be a deal breaker for a lot of people and should be brought up before the first date so you're not wasting anyone's time.
posted by losvedir at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2011 [32 favorites]

The fact that you are still married belongs in your online-dating profile. The fact that you're separated or divorced is not a black mark on your record, but this is basic information that prospective dates have a right to know before they become actual dates.
posted by adamrice at 10:02 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with "don't date for a while". Or maybe don't date until you've found a good way to explain your situation to yourself. Perhaps by then you'll be closer to overcoming the logistical hurdles to filing for divorce.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:02 AM on December 2, 2011

it'll probably be at least 2 years before the divorce is finalized due to logistical reasons (financial complications).

This sounds murky and weird. I am a divorced person and I am dating someone who was in a complicated relationship when we met. I still tell people that I was married 15 years ago before making out with them which may be overkill but at least I'm being honest because I know some people care. Anything you do, in my opinion, that isn't being totally clear that you're currently married and will be for the forseeable future is trying to optimize your own dating opportunities at the expense of the other person. Because some people will care and some won't. But for the people who care, the polite thing to do is let them know as soon as possible. This is especially true because if they care, not having this information right up front could be really problematic for them. For people who don't care--and I would likely be among them, I don't think it makes you damaged goods at all, things happen--then you can just move on and it's fine.

What I would want to know is

- that you have totally and completely separate finances or a plan for the same
- that you have totally separate living arrangements [i.e. you got your stuff from the house, she doesn't have a key to your place, bla bla]
- that you have a decent plan for communication with your ex that is normal for separated people [i.e. not late night phone calls when I am over, no weird long drama filled emails that make you all rattled]
- that you are able to prioritize another person in your life
- that your ex will not become my problem and that you will handle things including my own concerns about what is going on with your ongoing divorce
- that the version of the story you tell me is confirmable in some general way with your family and friends, should it come up in conversation

At the point at which I would consider seriously dating you, you would have to have filed some sort of papers indicating that you weren't one of those people who claimed to be getting a divorce but really wasn't. I know that you know that you are not that sort of guy, but there are a lot of trust issues wrapped up in the early stages of relationships and you should be able to PROVE you are not that type of guy, not expect people to trust you because you are a good guy. I know it sucks that you have to do more work because other people are jerks, but if you're looking for the truly right way to do things, the right way is to be clear with people up front even if it reduces your own dating opportunities. And get started on that paperwork.
posted by jessamyn at 10:03 AM on December 2, 2011 [55 favorites]

My friend dated a separated guy for a while. She met him on OKC, and he did mention it in his profile, I think. He was very up-front about it, and she didn't mind at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:04 AM on December 2, 2011

Yep. Be honest. I was completely skeeved out by a date who didn't disclose his separation until the second date. Then, after a friend went out on a date with him (small town), we find out that his "separation" entails still living at home with his wife and child. And that, oh! she may not know he's dating yet! Even if none of that is going on in your relationship, complete, immediate honesty is the only way to keep from getting classed with those sorts of guys. And if either of those things IS going on in your relationship? For gods sake, don't date.
posted by MsMolly at 10:05 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

-First encounter: Say nothing about it.

-First lunch/dinner: Say that I've been married, am working on a divorce - would be happy to talk more about it in the future, but am focused on living today.

-Second (If it ever gets this far) - Go into more details if asked.

First of all stonewalling about the topic on the first real date doesn't make sense to me. Obviously the details of the miscarriage and whatnot are probably not appropriate to get into on a first date but you should be able to talk about your situation to some extent without having to completely shut down the topic. I would see someone bringing up a topic that is obviously relevant to a possible future relationship, and then refusing to talk about it until later, as a bad sign.

But beyond that I think you should probably bring it up as early as possible because you will be wasting each other's time if it's a dealbreaker for them. With online dating it's pretty easy to just mention that you are separated in your profile, it won't be as awkward as bringing it up in conversation and you can easily filter out people who would not consider dating someone who is still legally married. If you leave it for a later time there's also a risk that finding out your relationship status will conflict with their previous expectations and be more of a problem than if you had just brought it up at the beginning.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sorry, the rest of my comment somehow got cut off.

I would tell prospective dates ahead of time simply that you are recently separated, heading for divorce, and leave it at that. For some women, this will be a deal breaker (which is fair). This allows them to decide ahead of time that you're not in their dating pool (which is also fair).

If it's not a deal breaker and you go on a first date, I would be prepared to have a standard, quick, one or two-sentence explanation that's not dishonest or disrespectful, but that doesn't go into any details -- something like "we went through some rough times that showed us that we couldn't move forward together, and so we needed to move on without each other." (This is not a specific script -- just something I'm suggesting off the top of my head.) Leave it at that.

If you move on to more dates, you can discuss it more in detail as necessary. You need to be prepared that some women will find it really upsetting that you left your wife over these particular issues. That doesn't mean it's a black mark or that you're a bad person. It just means that this may carry some real baggage for you and for others.

THAT SAID: I agree with others upthread who gently suggest that dating five months after ending a five-year marriage is way too soon to start dating, even if you think you feel like dating again. (I say this as someone who started dating immediately after ending a marriage that was a little shorter than yours and did not break up over something as emotionally difficult and complicated as miscarriage/future fertility issues.) You are almost certainly in a quasi-state of shock right now, even though you're the one who left. The process of getting a divorce is never, ever easy, on many different levels. This is almost certainly not the time to try to get into a new relationship to try to distract you from the emotional and personal upheavals that are going to be a part of your life for some time in the future. Just my two cents.
posted by scody at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think you need to be single for a bit. You may not be as ready to date as you think and why not enjoy being single and on your own for a while. Also not many women want to date a man just starting the divorce process; it's too emotional and likely to have drama. You should join meetups and do things in groups and socialize with friends - keep it light, have fun, stay busy, learn to make beer, get a dog, join a running group, etc. Maybe revisit dating when you'e further along in the divorce process.
posted by shoesietart at 10:09 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I also think this should be in your OK Cupid profile. Yes, it means most women won't date you. But at least it's honest.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:09 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've seen a few people put their separated status right in their OkCupid profiles. That fact has not bothered me one whit when I've seen it; on the other hand, it was good to know up front (and actually a plus for me, becuase "hell, that means he's not ready for anything major, probably, and I'm not right now either").

(Although, what Scody says about "are you SURE 5 months after a 5-year marriage is enough time to start dating again?...." is wise. But that's a separate issue, and the only thing I will suggest is that you do try to keep the dating to "very low-key casual fun and frolic" and that's it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Reason for leaving is nothing particularly scandalous and could be loosely summarized to "miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children wrecked our relationship."

I wouldn't get into this. That reason, in my opinion, sounds bad. It makes you sound like a guy who is not up to the "for better or worse" part of marriage, if you're dating for the prospect of marriage.

Quoted for truth! If this was all the explanation I got, I would end things right then and there.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2011 [23 favorites]

How about not dating for awhile? Then, all of this "What do I say" angst kind of goes away.

It also gives you the opportunity to reflect on your failed marriage and the part you played in it.

If you insist on the need to date after being separated only 5 months, not telling that person up front that you are separated kind of makes you less than honest (even if you are not lying). There are such things are lies of omission.
posted by PsuDab93 at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

To me, it would be an absolute deal-breaker if a married person (and that's what you are) allowed me to go on a date with them without revealing beforehand that they're married. It's such an important fact, which so many people would insist on knowing from the beginning, that to delay revealing it is at least borderline-unethical.

I also don't understand how there's any benefit to keeping it a secret until later. I mean, for any given potential date, it'll either be a deal-breaker or not. If it will end up being a deal-breaker, how does it help either of you to hold off on revealing it?
posted by John Cohen at 10:27 AM on December 2, 2011 [11 favorites]

Isn't "I'm going to be getting a divorce soon" what all the cheating married men say? The longer you wait to tell me, the more likely I am to interpret it as a big red flag that you're just some run-of-the-mill married dude out for a throwaway fling.

What would be the harm in waiting till you start the actual paperwork?
posted by aquafortis at 10:27 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll give you my honest reaction for whatever it's worth. I'm a liberal woman in my mid-20s, living in a blue state:

-First encounter: Say nothing about it.

-First lunch/dinner: Say that I've been married, am working on a divorce - would be happy to talk more about it in the future, but am focused on living today.

I would be seriously pissed off that you wasted my time by not putting this in your profile up front, because I would have never even gone out with you at all, much less twice.

Not that I think being separated makes you a Bad Person. But keeping something like this from me, because you knew it was something that might bother me/make me not want to date you (after all, that's pretty much the only reason keep quiet on this) would make me feel like you were willing to pull the wool over peoples' eyes, however temporarily, to get the things that you want. Bluntly put it would make you seem dishonest which is EXACTLY the opposite of what you should be going for here.

On top of it -- THIS line -- "would be happy to talk more about it in the future, but am focused on living today" really comes off horribly to me. It comes off as super secretive and controlling. That you don't care about my concerns and allaying them -- that you don't care about me being safe and keeping myself safe -- but instead are more interested in managing th situation to go as you want. Even if I were down for dating someone separated, I sure wouldn't be down for it after a line like that.

To be perfectly honest, I would probably walk out immediately, in horror, after you delivering that line.

If you want to avoid the reaction I have just described, put this in your profile, so the women who won't care will continue to not care, and the women who WILL care can move on.
posted by cairdeas at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2011 [38 favorites]

What cairdeas said. Exactly what she said.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:32 AM on December 2, 2011

Also, this:

Reason for leaving is nothing particularly scandalous and could be loosely summarized to "miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children wrecked our relationship."

Again, total honesty: if it was *your* feelings about the miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children that wrecked the marriage -- in other words, if you left your wife because she was unlikely to be able to give you children--, that would come off so, so badly to me. I would feel so sorry for your wife and that's pretty much the opposite of attractive.

I really think, again, this is something you should be a lot more up front about it, because it will bother some people and not bother others. But as for the people who it bothers, I think it will DEEPLY bother them.
posted by cairdeas at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2011 [21 favorites]

If you don't put it in your profile/disclose before the first date, you're going to spend the whole first/second date with an internal dialog along the lines of "Oops, better not mention this one thing here that might lead to questions...ok, have to be pretty vague here...Ok, should I mention it now...wait, wait not now..ok the conversation is leaning that way...damn, missed that shot...maybe now???"

This is going to throw the whole vibe of the date off, so even if it turns out the date is ok with dating separated people in general you might not get a next date because that first/second date seemed off. If you put it on your profile you know at least you've been honest and the date is ok with the concept and you can proceed to a date without all that worry/tension.

(this is secondary to the primary "don't waste people's time" reason mentioned by many)
posted by mikepop at 10:40 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why are you all telling him to keep these things quiet? My God, don't the women he's dating have the right to be told these things upfront and find them dealbreakers too?

By all means, tell everyone you left your wife because she miscarried and that you're focused on living for today. Some people will be fine with that, others won't-- do the honorable thing and let everyone in the latter group go.
posted by aquafortis at 10:40 AM on December 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

I think this depends on your point in life. In my young 30's I would disclose immediately. Pre-disclose on the website. The expectation of dating is for a committed relationship leading to marriage for most. They deserve to know if that is a probability or if there is an impediment to that.

In my near 50s, the status between divorce and separated is often more of a legal distinction than a life distinction. I have dated woman who have been separated for two years. They live in a separate house, they have a custody arrangement for the kids and they have some sort of financial arrangement. The time where it becomes an issue is if the expectation for the future is marriage. If someone tells me they have an "ex" I do not ask if that is a divorce, separation or just a long time relationship never having resulted in marriage. What I do make sure of is that I am not getting into the "middle of things".
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

What kind of dating did you have in mind? Most of the people commenting are assuming you want to date in a possible-LTR kind of way, but tons of people (and I have been one of them) just want someone to have fun with for a while, with no expectation of it turning serious.

That said, with few exceptions (engraved invitation to date you from your wife?) I wouldn't even fool around with someone who hadn't filed divorce papers yet. That way lies drama.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:43 AM on December 2, 2011

Why are you dating right now? I know that feeling ready to date is a personal thing, but from what you've written here, you don't necessarily sound ready. It's not because you're a bad person, or dishonest, or undateable, but you sill have a really significant legal, financial and emotional relationship with your wife. The fact that you don't love her, or aren't sleeping with her, or however else you're quantifying this doesn't mean that dating is a good choice for right now. And you say that your separated status is weighing you down - wait to date until it isn't! It's okay to take some more time - five months of separation is nothing!

As others have suggested, at the bare minimum you ought to be upfront about this from first contact, ideally by putting it in your profile. I think Jessamyn has really clearly written out the things that would concern a lot of people, so if you're at the point where you can offer easy, satisfying answers to those questions, it's probably time to file some preliminary paperwork. Then start dating.
posted by robinpME at 10:45 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

-First lunch/dinner: Say that I've been married, am working on a divorce - would be happy to talk more about it in the future, but am focused on living today.

This is disingenuous. You haven't "been" married, you are married. And you're not working on a divorce, you're planning to start working on a divorce in December 2013 or later. Adding that the topic is closed for discussion means that you want the woman you're dating to believe a slanted view of the facts until you've gotten further with her.

I would not be comforted with your explanation that there are financial considerations that warrant waiting two or more years to legally terminate a relationship that is over, especially with no kids involved. (For what it's worth, I would be even more wary if you were using a hushmail account with me, not just as your throwaway here.) This is not about your "black mark," it's about the many, many red flags that you are sending out.

If you are committed to starting dating now in situations where you meet someone as a stranger (meetups, OKCupid), then the approach you laid out may result in your getting laid from time to time, but you are creating a major handicap for yourself if you aim to start a significant relationship, or if you are trying to avoid hurting people.

Say in your profile, and when you are asking someone out for the first time, that you separated from your wife this summer, that you are living independently (etc.), but won't be getting officially divorced for some time... and let them ask as many questions as they want to. Be completely honest and transparent. If want to convince prospective romantic partners that you are the good person your friends know you to be, then you need to prove it by how you talk about this.
posted by argonauta at 10:46 AM on December 2, 2011 [16 favorites]

I had coffee with a guy I met online once. His profile said that he was separated and I was still interested in meeting him. I didn't see him again just because - well, because he didn't ask me, but I also wasn't attracted to him physically. My thoughts were:

1. Hmm, separated, probably won't be ready for anything serious anytime soon, probably needs to just date for a while. That would be ok, I'd like some relaxed nonserious dating.

2. He briefly explained why he was separated and not yet divorced (because 2 people have to live apart for a year before they can have a no-fault divorce in NYC). That made sense to me.

3. He gave a very brief explanation as to why he was getting a divorce.

I really appreciated his honesty and were I attracted to him I would have dated him. My advice: be clear that you are separated, and have simple but honest answers ready if you are asked. If you find yourself talking at length about the failure of your marriage and your almost-ex while on dates with other women... you probably aren't ready to date yet.
posted by bunderful at 10:47 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a wide range of women out there with a wide range of responses to this situation. Myself, I'm pretty much of the opinion that I don't want to be lied to, and I want to know what's going on, but if a guy asks me out on a date that's a pretty good sign that he's be ready to be dating. I had a friend who was asked out in a situation like yours, and on the date discovered in conversation that he was "in the process of getting a divorce". She cut the date short and took off at the earliest non-rude moment, and was incredibly squicked out that she had been sitting there having a beer with A Married Man. I honestly didn't quite get what the big deal was while listening to her rant about what an awful situation it had been.
Here's the thing: we're good friends, many of the same values. If I were a guy, I wouldn't have been able to tell from chatting with each of us for half an hour or so which of us would be 100% appalled that he wants to be dating, and which of us would be completely nonchalant about it. Thus my conclusion - you will have no idea how a (potential) date will respond until you tell her. Handling it like you propose will set you up for really awkward ocnversations with shocked and andgry women. Don't try to predict, don't assume from how easy-going someone seems that she'll be okay with it, don't wait until the 3rd date in an attempt to soften the blow. Unless you don't mind creating drama-filled situations that would have been avoidable, put this information on your dating profile.
Telling immediately will check you off the criteria grid and lose you some dates from people browsing the profile, but it's the best way to handle it. This is not quite the same way that people lie about their age/weight/etc on a dating site, hoping to win someone over with their charm despite the bad numbers - this is a major yes/no fact. This is like saying you're 28 when you're actually 45, not equivalent to claiming 29 just in case someone thinks 30 is too old.
posted by aimedwander at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing everyone who says "put it in your profile and be completely up front and honest about it". I would also add: do not be that annoying jerk who constantly whines about and trashes his/her ex. Those people are awful and extremely off-putting. If you go on a date someone and she wants to know the details of your separation as it impacts your living situation, go right ahead, but keep the private business of the marriage private, and don't trash your wife/ex. None of the intrapersonal details of your marriage are going to be the business of anyone you date until you've been with the new person for a long time and are heading towards something permanent.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

My first question would be does your state recognize separation? Because otherwise, you are married and living elsewhere (you better be living elsewhere if you think the marriage is so over that you are now dating).

People need to know so that they can decide, for themselves, if you and your situation suit their needs. If you don't put the info in your profile, then it should be shared before any face-to-face.

As far as what people are saying about not dating for a while: 
Some of the nastiest, most unhappy all around bad situations I have seen come from a damaged/in shock/in denial/wracked with guilt but-not-actually-signing- paper person getting involved way too soon and way too stupid.

In the state you are likely in, you may be trying to prove something or run away or have some internal agenda that all your friends can see but that you are too damaged to understand. This sorry state of being makes you easy pickings for nasty people. And because you don't want two "black marks on your record," you put up with really vile DTMA BS for ... Sometimes years. Don't let this happen to you.

I've also seen men - never women in my own personal experience - whose way out of a marriage is through another women (or man) because even though they can move out and make noise about ending it, somehow they need to "fall for someone else" and be carried away because otherwise, you know, they're just some jerk who couldn't sustain a marriage. 

The common thread in these narratives is that the person who decides to end the marriage does not take time to actually work through and learn to live with that decision - they jump headlong into anything that comes along.

Don't do that. Don't get tangled up with people who enjoy being with people who are out of control. (hint: people who gravitate to the damaged are often people who have learned that they tend to strike out with whole people.)

Someone who finds out while you are dating that oh by the way, you're still married and will be for years and doesn't bat an eye is not someone a smart man would date.

Be honest - with potential dates and yourself. 
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:21 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

So here's the problem I'm hearing from my post-divorce lady friends: married men looking to fuck pretending to be single men looking to date are rife on OKC, Match, etc. So failure to reveal at Step 0 in the process makes you one of them.

Also: you are one of them. You are married. You are not uncommitted from someone else; it is not over. If you have "logistical reasons" you can't get divorced (which reads as if, logistically, you haven't told your wife you're divorcing her yet), you have all the drama baggage of a married man looking to date. It is unpleasant territory that many women do not wish to enter, and unless you want to run a scam you need to be upfront right up front about your marital/drama status. (On the plus side, your honesty may be so refreshing you may get some responses.)

You feel ready to date. That's nice for you, but it doesn't mean you win a prize. You might have to choose to sort your life out first regardless of how you feel.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:23 AM on December 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

If I found out that you were the one who left due to the fact that "miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children wrecked our relationship", I'd run away screaming, thinking of you as nothing but a guy who thought of your wife as a uterus-holder. Be up front like everyone says, but your wording about the issues needs to be far more diplomatic.
posted by Melismata at 11:39 AM on December 2, 2011 [17 favorites]

Mod note: At this point this thread needs to dial-it back on JudgeMe answers or take them to MetaTalk. If you can not be helpful, do not comment here. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:47 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing that it should be in your profile. I would not date someone who was still married and had not begun divorce proceedings. I would consider dating someone who had a separation agreement.

I don't know how divorce works everywhere, but among my friends here the separation agreement and getting all parties to sign it seems to be the most difficult, emotionally and psychologically taxing part of the divorce. The waiting a year and then finalizing not so much. I don't want to date you while you are negotiating your separation agreement.

I dated a guy briefly who misled me about how separated he was from his wife. They hadn't ironed anything out, and he kept me a secret from her because he erroneously believed (or thought I would believe) that his having a girlfriend would affect how much child support he had to pay. As in, she would call while we were on a date, or I was at his place, and I would have to sit silently so she didn't suspect someone was there. Dropped him like a hot potato.

I'm also curious if your logistics and financial complications are that you can't live apart from your wife yet because you can't afford to, and you can't finalize the divorce until you have been living apart for a year.
posted by looli at 11:57 AM on December 2, 2011

I have no opinion about whether or not you are ready to date, but I think you should be really totally upfront about the fact that you are separated, how far into the separation you are, and why you're not actually divorced. Not all full of details, but open.

I would not object to dating someone who was separated but truly separated (living apart, for instance, is crucial; so is having worked out most of the separation). I would run for the hills from someone who didn't put it on his profile and also didn't mention it the first time we met, and then the second time said something like "well, I'll tell you more about it later, really". That screams dishonesty, so even if it isn't dishonest, it's going to serve you very poorly.

Another strong recommendation that it should be in your profile that you are separated.
posted by jeather at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2011

When do I reveal that "I'm separated working on a long divorce" when I meet women?

As soon as you've filed for divorce. If you say you're "working on a divorce" and haven't even filed, that sends up a very big red flag. This is for your peace of mind as much as women's: file for divorce before you start dating.

I'd love some help on ideas on what to say, and if this plan makes sense.

As you stated it, and without having filed for divorce yet, sorry, it doesn't make sense. You need to put it on your profile - "separated", that is, after filing and until the divorce is finalized.

Don't worry about it being a black mark. I dated a guy who was "separated" for a year. He lived in a different house from his wife, shared custody of their children, etc. He brought up his divorce proceedings on the first date, very open, said he'd filed several months earlier and the 1-year required waiting period was nearly over (this was in Norway, and his wife didn't agree to the divorce, so there is indeed a 1-year waiting period before finalization in that case). I was very careful and didn't fall for him, wondering why his wife hadn't agreed, but he'd also been very open about it, which I appreciated, and I have upright, trustworthy friends who've divorced in similar circumstances, so I figured time would tell.

FWIW, he was telling the truth about his divorce. However, he was dating several other women on the side, at least two of whom had been his mistresses during his "committed, monogamous marriage" (his words). So... I suppose I'm an example of both instances. The first instance, yes, there are women who won't mind dating separated men who are upfront open and honest about it. The second instance, women who have been burned by men claiming to be "separated after a faithful marriage" and who will no longer date men whose divorce hasn't been finalized. In any case, you need to be upfront right away. The suggestion you gave would have had me leaving at the first date, for reasons other posters have described well. (And that's before my experience with this recent ex.)
posted by fraula at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Having been (sort of) where you are, I can understand the pressures you're feeling, but there's no easy answer.

As everyone says, this should absolutely be in your profile because you're in a very special situation and any woman needs to know the details immediately if she's going to be able to make a fair decision about whether to become involved in your life.

In my case, my wife was the leaver (though I was the one who ended up physically leaving, coming back to the U.S. to start over, and I was the one who had to actually pull the trigger and file to end the marriage that had meant everything to me. Funny how that seems to work out.) I started dating way too early. I still wanted her back more than anything, but I knew it wasn't going to happen and I desperately needed to reassure myself that there could be someone else for me. Despite being totally in conflict, those were both very powerful drives that had me in a very bad place for a long time. I knew I had no business dating seriously, but as I said, I needed some distraction and reassurance or I probably would have ended it.

I did realize that it was totally unfair to put a woman into that situation who wasn't fully aware of what she was getting into. It's a pretty lousy thing to bring up on a third date. "This is wonderful! I like Italian food, you like Italian food. I like long walks on the beach, you like long walks on the beach! I've got a wife in Canada, you've got a... wait, come back."

So I put separated in the profile, and then I kind of had to explain why I was looking for dates while still legally married, so I spelled it out, honestly and frankly rather painfully. I knew a lot of women would see me as a pincushion of red flags, and many did. You'll see profiles that specifically say "don't contact me if you're separated" either because they consider that still married, or because they don't want to deal with the drama. (Scanning the responses from women here should be proof enough of that.)

But there are other women who will be willing for whatever reason to go out with someone in your situation. In my case, I dated women who didn't really want to have a serious relationship and we had a good time together. And I found some women who were actually attracted by the emotional vulnerability I necessarily had to display in my profile, and by the whole tragic romanticism of it. I soon realized that one partner looking for a wounded bird to nurse back to health isn't the best foundation for a relationship, but those women were there.

In short, I'm sympathetic to your basic plight, and don't think you're evil for wanting to date, even though I don't disagree with the people saying it's a bad idea either. How you work out what you're going through will be personal to you. But you absolutely have to be completely up front about what has happened, and why, before you ask anyone to step into your world, even with just a toe in the water.
posted by Naberius at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

I completely agree with the others that you need to mention this in your profile. Why would you want to go on dates with women for whom this is a deal breaker? I would be very upset if I was told on the second date that you were married. For that matter, I would want to know before the date, so I could bow out. No amount of charm would change my mind. I'm guessing many women feel this way, so you need to start off with a pool of women who are OK with dating a guy who is in the middle of a divorce.

I also think that in the first few dates, you should disclose the reason for the end of your marriage. It sounds like you want to have kids. Well, there are lots of infertile women and you're causing both of you a lot of pain if you aren't going to accept an infertile woman. For that matter, I would want to know if I would be dumped if I later found out I was infertile. I think you need to be very up front with your desire to have kids (like a Henry the VIII thing).

Lastly, I would want to know the reason your divorce was taking such a long time. Money reasons? I want to know if I'm going to have to be financially supportive. It may sound biased and snobby, but I am look for men who have their finances in order and can afford to take vacations. I don't expect a man to pay for me, but I expect him to have enough money that we can go out and go on trips and I would want to know up front if he wasn't able to do these things.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:13 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Reason for leaving is nothing particularly scandalous and could be loosely summarized to "miscarriage and future unlikeliness to have children wrecked our relationship."
I wouldn't get into this. That reason, in my opinion, sounds bad. It makes you sound like a guy who is not up to the "for better or worse" part of marriage, if you're dating for the prospect of marriage.
I want to dissent and say that I think you absolutely should be upfront about why the marriage is ending. Because this type of relationship breakup is a dealbreaker for me, and I'd be really pissed if I found this out 6 months or whatever into the relationship. Whereas, if she cheated on you I would be less skeeved out. I mean, are you leaving because she likely cannot have children? If that's the case, my fertility is also untested, and I would be unwilling to get involved in a relationship with a man who has a track record of leaving his wife who fer being infertile/unable to carry to term. I take the "in sickness and in health" and "for better or worse" parts of marriage very seriously. Pregnancy and miscarriage are major medical events, and it would cause me to question your potential reactions to other major events.

There are sayings that address the reality that you cannot know the content of a person's character until you see them in a difficult situation. So, while divorce in and of itself is not a deal breaker or a black mark, how a person handles a particular divorce is a reflection of character.

While I get that the begining of a relationship is the time to "put your best foot forward," it is not a time to behave like Cinderella's stepsisters and slap on a shoe that does not fit. "Separated" absolutely needs to be in the profile, for all the reasons listed above. And if your potential dates ask about the reason for separation, you need to provide honest, verifiable information.
posted by bilabial at 12:18 PM on December 2, 2011 [11 favorites]

I completely don't understand the pile-on that you're getting in this thread. Maybe you and I are outliers, but I started dating within months after the end of my two-year-long marriage (six-year-long relationship). My online-dating profile said explicitly that I was separated, but not divorced. It didn't faze my boyfriend (or any of the several other dudes I dated) any. (It doesn't appear to have bothered my ex's new girlfriend too much, either.) So, clearly, there are people -- even women who date men -- who will date someone who's separated (and for christ's sake, would you even WANT to date someone as paranoid-sounding and intrinsically suspiciously-minded as some of these responses?)

But I'd concur with everyone else that this information should be in your profile upfront, so that people can make their own judgements based on the type of relationship they're looking for and their own tolerances for the risk that you might be more-than-just-technically married.
posted by kataclysm at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

kataclysm: I completely don't understand the pile-on that you're getting in this thread... clearly, there are people -- even women who date men -- who will date someone who's separated

Just to be clear, in case the OP also wondering this, since my response was one of the more negative ones:

My problem isn't with separated people dating. And there certainly are women and men who are fine with dating separated people.

But there are also many, many people who are *not* fine with it at all, and the OP knows that. The entire reason he doesn't want to bring it up right away is because he knows that. Getting people to unknowingly do something they would have a HUGE problem with, is what bothers me here. Not that a separated person want to date, per se. It's controlling and dishonest.

If he were clear up front about being separated, I don't think there would be much of a negative reaction from anyone about him honestly dating the people who want to date a separated guy.
posted by cairdeas at 1:15 PM on December 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

To be clear, I have no intent to return.

I should think, then, that the answer is straightforward enough:

1. Don't go on dates until you are certain that your wife knows you have no intent to return.

2. On OKCupid etc., mention this in your profile. Meeting people in person, as soon as the potential for dating comes up (that is, as soon as you want to ask her out, or if she asks you out.)
posted by davejay at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

For me, if you said in your profile that you were emotionally, physically, and financially separated from your wife, but not legally, and that you had no immediate plans to change your legal status for complicated logistical reasons, that would resonate as honesty and truthtelling. Even more so if you said something like "I am happy to discuss any details or timetables you want to know about." That would be the sort of thing I'd want to see to get the impression that you weren't cheating on your wife.

I don't think the reasons why the marriage is ending are relevant, though. I've suffered from infertility and repeated miscarriage, and it can be devastating to a marriage for reasons that don't reflect badly on either partner. When every time you think about having sex with your spouse, it reminds you of pain, loss, death, blood, betrayal, and heartbreak. . . yeah. That doesn't mean that you're leaving your wife because she can't give you children, it can sometimes just mean that the well is too poisoned to go back to.
posted by KathrynT at 1:26 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

and by "this", I mean the fact that you're separated. you shouldn't be on OKCupid or meeting people for potential dating opportunities until your wife is on the same page regarding your never-returning.
posted by davejay at 1:27 PM on December 2, 2011

Mod note: Folks, please. Can we not speculate on how much of a jerk the OP may or may not be, not speculate on how "all men" do things and not presume facts not in evidence re: miscarriage and start fights? This is a tough thread, do not make it tougher. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:21 PM on December 2, 2011

I think you need to be up-front about it in your profile. It can be uncomfortable putting yourself in a situation where other people can and will judge you in ways that may not be fair, but part of maintaining your integrity in the shark-infested waters of online dating is being as honest as you know how to be.

To take another perspective on things, you're only making the dating process more painful for yourself in the end. Let the women who don't want to date you (or any separated men) take themselves out of the running before you meet them and get attached to them. Do you really want a succession of second dates with smart, funny, beautiful women that end with them stomping off and telling you to lose their numbers? If a woman's not comfortable dating a separated man, one or two dates isn't going to make her attached enough to you to change that, and if the deception goes on longer than that... well, you know that's not ethical behavior, and that's why you're not suggesting it.
posted by posadnitsa at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Before the first date. Tell them you're separated and working toward a divorce, and that the marriage is over.

I would be willing to date someone who is separated. But if you didn't tell me beforehand, whenever you later did or I found out, I would be pissed and wonder why you didn't tell me; it would seem like you were trying to manipulate me. I would consider that a lie (about something I had a right to know and would expect to be told), and I'm not willing to start a relationship (or even casual dating) on a lie of that magnitude. It would be a deal breaker for me, full stop.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:48 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get your financial and legal stuff in order. Otherwise, you are not free to date anyone just yet.

Unless you just want to fool around with someone no strings attached? In which case, there are websites that cater to that.

What you are proposing in your question sounds emotionally messy. Don't waste your time like that.

Get yourself into a more presentable state.
posted by jbenben at 3:56 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're still married - people who participate in romantically-tinged social engagements with you have an absolute right to know this. Always. It would be devastating to me, personally, to find out I'd gone on the most casual of casual dates with a guy who turned out to still be married when I thought he wasn't. It's a terrible thing to do to a person. I don't even care about your emotional state - I care about theirs. Do not be that guy.

(To be clear, I'm on team "put this on your OKCupid profile" and also "don't call yourself separated unless that's a proper legal status." Filing for divorce is almost certainly not as difficult as you think it is, by the way. My parents were recovering from bankruptcy when they filed, it went through pro bono mediation, and I doubt it cost even $1000.)

My church's position on this is, if you attend any church-sponsored single's event, your divorce must be final. I try not to contemplate the kind of heartache and bad feelings that likely came about before someone finally decided to implement a bright-line rule. And yes, the rule makes me feel a lot safer, as a single woman who wants to avoid messy entanglements and drama and dishonesty and such.
posted by SMPA at 4:31 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing that "separated" goes in your dating profile.

If you think that you feel weighed down the the "separated" label, I would suggest that you start expediting your divorce -- separated is a label of transition (or at least it should be), with some inherent ambiguity... and some women aren't going to be up for that.

I'm not interested in judging your reasons for ending your marriage and they really don't matter here - but some of the women you date will ask and you should be honest about it, whether you think it makes you look bad or not. The level of detail, I suppose, is up to you and your understanding of the situation but at the very least women who go on dates with you should know that you are recently separated and haven't started divorce proceedings.

Everybody deserves to know what they are getting into. It's not really that hard to live transparently.
posted by sm1tten at 6:30 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

(This is an edited response, I thank the mods for being clear with me about the reasons for my previous comment deletion. It wasn't arbitrary, and my edited response is far less "fighty", which a good thing for this thread, thank you.)

Summary of my long response, it isn't so bad to lie about being separated. It isn't your dates' business. I really believe that. Too bad if it makes some people go ballistic, be ready for that, but don't take it personally.

I am going to straightforwardly admit that I was in a very similar situation. I wasn't the leaver, not that that matters.

However, I was ready to date a few months after our separation. I wanted some attention and comfort. So, I just lied on OKC and Match. I said "divorced", when the truth was I hadn't even filed for divorce. 6 months is too long to go without sex and "waiting to get things together" is a pipe-dream as far as I'm concerned. I'm 45, so not really a kid, doesn't matter to me, no excuses. 6 months is too long. My divorce was going to take a while, and I would have been a miserable wreck with no companionship for that long. Sounds very self-serving and it is, but it is the truth.

Other than that lie, I was excruciatingly honest. I never promised anyone anything. No promise of long term relationships. Nothing. If they asked, I'd say something meaningless like "I like you, good things are good, why rock the boat?" Really. I did say that, and I meant it, and it worked, in that I kept dating them. I never lied about my intentions, but if they wanted to pretend there was something more, they were free to do so.

I never went on a date with anyone who declared themselves any variety of Christian, to avoid some of this drama. I'm not at all a Christian, and that part was in my profile, interestingly enough.

I know the implicit social contract is that dating leads to a long-term-relationship or marriage , and if you aren't available for an LTR then you shouldn't date. I call crap on that. I didn't sign up for that, I never said anything of the sort, and I never agreed to it. I simply asked women out, and they often went out with me (about 1 in 5 women to whom I sent messages, I kept stats.).

I never said I was up for an LTR, and I knew I wasn't. I just wanted a fun time, and I often got it. Whether I was still technically married was quite literally no business of theirs. Read that statement again, it is the crux of my argument. Whether you agree with it or not, it is a moral argument, and it is one I believe wholeheartedly, even now, even knowing it is self-serving.

Here's my straightforward position, dating sites are all about getting dates. Other than that, it is about what you say to the dates and what you promise. I never lied to anyone about my intentions. What I wanted was fun dates and sex. I was clear about it. If I'd been seeking an LTR, my goals and strategy would be different. But, for simple dates, my exact legal situation was not anyone's but my and my soon-to-be-ex-wife's business. I feel very-slightly-sad that I lied about being divorced, but that's about the extent of it. Saying you are separated will get you zero dates, period. If you have a different moral stand, that's your business, you should probably tell people instead of assuming that they have the same morals as you. For my part, if some woman mentioned "separated or newly divorced men need not write", I honored that request.

As it happens, I did meet and propose to my new wife met via OKC. The real divorce took much less time than I'd thought, which was a happy circumstance. My wife knows about my lie on OKC and is fine with it. Nice luck for me.
posted by Invoke at 6:32 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Add me to the "be upfront" crowd - I wasted 6 months of my life on someone who was "separated" but not really as separated as he claimed to be, and for all I know may still have never divorced. From the above comments it sounds like a lot of us have encountered similar situations and are going to be at least a little uneasy about something like this. The best thing for you to do is to be honest - a) it'll weed out in advance the people who are going to have a problem dating someone like you no matter what and b) it displays a good-faith effort at being communicative and clear about your intentions.
posted by naoko at 7:26 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

First encounter: Say nothing about it.

Wow. TOTAL deal-breaker, in my eyes. If I found out on a subsequent date that someone I'd gone out with hadn't told me HE WAS LEGALLY MARRIED, I would immediately walk out on the date (possibly even throw a drink in his face or something), and never speak to him again.

This is something you MUST tell a potential date before the date, period. They have every right in the world to know that if they have sex with you they will be BREAKING THE LAW and that you are not legally going to be able to marry anyone else for TWO YEARS. Certain assumptions are made when one is asked out on the date, and the idea that the person doing the asking is UNMARRIED is one of them.

For the record, I met my current SO when he was still separated, and the divorce wasn't finalized until quite a few months later. Being separated was not a deal-breaker for me; being dishonest about something so major would have been.

Prepare a gracious couple of lines that you can be ready to recite, including the fact that you are not going to get back with your wife (be aware that many people WILL hear this as an excuse, whether it's true or not!). If the person no longer wants to date you, be gracious about their decision.
posted by parrot_person at 8:31 PM on December 2, 2011

As a woman who got involved with a guy whose divorce was "almost over, just a bit more paperwork needs to be signed" who told me how awful she was and how incompatible they were... and later went back to her, and even had a renewal of their vows ceremony... you should be up front. Don't be surprised when you don't get as many responses. How is a stranger going to know that you really, really, *really* aren't going back to her? A divorce decree in hand, that's how.

My story isn't even all that unique. Women you meet will have heard such from their friends, or friends of friends. And be wary. As they should. Don't blame them, don't mislead them, and don't lie to them (by omission counts too).
posted by marble at 8:45 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mod note: I know this pushes people's buttons but very seriously MetaTalk is your option if you are not answering the question. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:51 PM on December 2, 2011

I disagree with most people here.

I do not think you should disclose your marital status (or lack thereof) on a dating site. Dating sites don't leave room for disclosure. That's not what they're about. That's not to say the picture (literal or metaphorical) should be doctored. Instead, it needs to be clear in a positive way.

What are you looking for? Light-hearted dating? A long courtship? Friendship? Figure that out, and explain. And whatever you do, don't overpromise.

Then, in person, ON YOUR FIRST DATE, assuming there's some hint in hell that you have some rapport, and may want to meet again, say, um, toward the evening's end, but not at the end, be straightforward. Keep your story to a simple paragraph. State the facts, but speak in generalities. Use a few euphemisms, but keep them transparent. If you learned something you won't do again that's pertinent, but not too heavy, add that in. Blame no one.

(1) I should let you know that I'm separated. (Define whether you mean legally or otherwise.)
(2) My Ex and I dated/and then were married for X years.
(3) We married young and wanted to have a family fast.
(4) But instead it became a long struggle with fertility issues.
(5) We were both so young, and so crushed, that we reached a point we'd spent more time together sad than happy....
(6) We will not be getting divorced soon because Y. (Boil down the reason; it had better be damned good.) But we are legally separated in X,Y,Z ways. (Name 'em.)
(7) I don't know how you feel about that....

Then let your date lead the rest of the conversation. If she has questions let her ask them. Don't be too detailed, but don't lie either. Don't mislead her. Reiterate what you said in your ad, in terms of your current dating goals. Frankly, I think you'd be best off to start with friendship.

As for me, if I were your date, I would not be thrilled by your disclosure, but I'd understand why you didn't advertise something that is not, by any standard, advertisement-worthy. I'm also old enough to know that life can get very complicated for the best of us sometimes. So if--if--you let me know on OUR FIRST DATE a few brief pertinent credible consistent facts, assuming there was rapport (!), I might--might--consider a second one, especially if it was clear that you were interested in going very very very slowly, so I had ample time to consider without someone making the moves on me.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:34 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

"Filing for divorce is almost certainly not as difficult as you think it is, by the way."

We don't know what "logistical reasons" the OP's referring to. (And maybe it makes a difference, I guess.) It might not be because he thinks it's difficult. I am going through this now -- my husband left in March, but we aren't filing yet for a variety of logistical reasons. Just for example, one of which is needing to make sure that we both continue to have uninterrupted medical insurance, since the insurance is currently provided through one spouse's job, and for reasons I don't want to go into here, it would be very very bad for that insurance to lapse for one of us. For that reason among others it may be a while before any filing is done, but we are working on it. Anyway, there are many potential "logistical reasons" and they aren't all nefarious or lazy.

I have been dating but I have been completely up front -- even before the first date, actually -- about the status of my separation. I think if you are truthful it is OK. The problem, as others have said, is when you hide things. Be honest as early as possible. It may drive some folks away, but that's OK. If they don't want to date you while you are separated, they aren't for you -- while you are separated.
posted by litlnemo at 1:43 AM on December 3, 2011

I started to write that dating sites are probably your worst approach, but looking back at your OP, it says that you are also going to meetups etc. The thing about dating sites is, you are meeting people who are specifically looking for a relationship, which makes anything less than immediate full disclosure smack of bait and switch. I'd stay away from those and do what separated people used to do in the olden days: gradually get out more socially. It's possible to handle this so that people have some idea what your status is before any first date without a a big, "This is the part where I tell you I'm separated." This is by meeting people before you date them.
posted by BibiRose at 5:10 AM on December 3, 2011

I do not think you should disclose your marital status (or lack thereof) on a dating site. Dating sites don't leave room for disclosure.

No, the OP should disclose it in his profile. He uses OKCupid, which requires you to list your relationship status. One of the options is "available," which indicates that the person is free to date though they might not be technically single. An OKCupid profile typically contains lots and lots of text. Among that text, he could very briefly say: "I'm separated but legally married." Some people will be OK with that, some people won't be. If he's going to date at all while he's still married, he has to look for people who are OK with it.
posted by John Cohen at 6:43 AM on December 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm the OP. I've set up a sock puppet account to reply to this - I'll probably have follow up questions later.

So, just to clarify a few things:
1. You folks are right - I really should get the divorce proceedings on track. I just didn't want to do this during the holidays. Not exactly the most happiest thing to work on. That said, I've just bought the "How to do your own divorce in [state] in 2011."

2. My wife knows I intend not to return as I've moved 50 miles away, I've moved my stuff out, and we've both agreed that we were going to try to do this without getting lawyers involved.

3. I don't have an OKCupid profile with anything in it - I've just been browsing. What you folks say makes sense. I will be clear and up front about my status in my profile when I get around to writing it.

4. The reason why I don't think this will be finalized for 2 years is because - well first, it takes at least a year to get things finalized due to The System in this state.

The other logistical reason is that I'm looking to extend the length of the marriage on paper so that the wife can benefit from my superior health insurance until she can find her own (I looked into legal separation and it does not work in this situation) (I'm also aware of COBRA - but that's only 18 months). []. I'm sure this will be a red flag to potential others, but I feel its the right thing to do in my situation.

5. When I said "First encounter", it feels like most people interpret that as "first date". I meant like a MeetUp. Should I say "Hello, I'm SecondLife - glad to meet you, Sheila. This is my first MeetUp for GreenShirtWearers too! By the way, I'm separated and working through a divorce."?

I appreciate the candor and difficult messages I'm hearing.

posted by secondlife at 8:21 PM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

"The other logistical reason is that I'm looking to extend the length of the marriage on paper so that the wife can benefit from my superior health insurance until she can find her own [...] I'm sure this will be a red flag to potential others, but I feel its the right thing to do in my situation."

I think this is a very good reason to not rush a divorce. Good for you.
posted by litlnemo at 12:38 AM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

OP, thanks for coming in and clarifying. Allow me to add this addendum to my previous answer: when you go to a Meetup and you talk to someone, you don't have to say that you are separated as part of your greeting. But if she asks you your status or you meet someone with whom you'd like to go on a date, you should then disclose (briefly, as you said, "I'm separated and working on a divorce." Details, if need be, can come later). Transparency doesn't mean that you have to tell everybody all your business the second you meet them.

The thing is that everyone who goes to a meetup or is on a dating site is looking for a long term relationship. But nobody wants to be misled or lied to. And you really don't have to do that to get dates. (Granted, a lot of that is going to depend on factors like geography, etc.)
posted by sm1tten at 11:06 AM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm also firmly in the "be upfront from the start camp," and I think that means disclosing before a first date or coffee or whatever if you meet on a dating site.


If you meet someone at a meetup, I don't think there's any need to introduce yourself as, "Hi, I'm SockPuppet, and I'm separated." That's trickier, but certainly by the first date. I wouldn't announce it on the first date while saying you'd be happy to talk about it only on a second date -- it will make it look like you're not ready to talk about it, which makes it look like you're not ready to be dating.

If you're asked questions, the only thing to do is be honest. Really, you're framing it perfectly fine here, and while some people will and some people won't be okay with your status, I don't think you need any help from us re: articulating everything in an effective way.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:18 AM on December 4, 2011

gah, I meant:

The thing is that everyone who goes to a meetup or is on a dating site is not looking for a long term relationship

posted by sm1tten at 12:15 PM on December 4, 2011

It takes a year to get a divorce finalized and you want to help your ex with insurance for a year before that. This seems entirely reasonable to me and would not set off any red flags -- if anything, it's good to know that you don't have a salt the earth response to your ex. (Some people might find it a red flag, but those are probably people you aren't compatible with anyhow.)

In a profile you will put your status, so that's fine; if you're at a meetup, you can bring it up when it's appropriate. I would mention it before the first date, but you're wording it just fine here, so people who are inclined to be willing to date someone who is separated but not divorced won't be set off by you saying much the same thing to them.
posted by jeather at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2011

It takes a year to get a divorce finalized and you want to help your ex with insurance for a year before that.

My Nolo hasn't arrived yet - so there's still a lot more I need to learn about divorce in my state.

My plan was to work out the details with the spouse.
Set the final date to be 2 years in advance or something.

Maybe this needs to be a separate question.
posted by secondlife at 4:57 PM on December 4, 2011

Maybe this needs to be a separate question.

Probably. You can make part of the divorce agreement that you continue to pay for your ex's health insurance for a set amount of time [though it would probably be more expensive than keeping her on as your spouse, sure]. This is very very normal. Staying married just for the health insurance is something a lot of people do--my parents did it for 12 years since my mom was a freelancer--but can open you up to misunderstandings both in the dating scene and in your "What are my obligations to this other person?" scene.

In the situation with my SO, he hadn't been married to his son's mom but she had a chronic health condition that he was partially supporting her with. This in and of itself was no problem, however it led to some problematic disagreements about how much he was paying for in order to be nice and to do the right thing (and for how long?), and how much he was paying for because as his son's mother, she legally deserved for child support or other reasons. They'd been sort of vaguing their way through a lot of things and, and this is the relevant part to your question, my SO had explained the entire situation to me as he understood it when we met, which was based on verbal discussions with her and his own feelings. However, the discussions they'd had were not matching the reality of how they interacted [both him and her, this isn't all "my SO's ex is crazy!"] and it sort of took a third party being like "What exactly is going on here?" to help untangle some of it.

So, I'd say that whatever goes on with your ex, you have some sort of internally consistent explanation that is really clear that you live entirely separate lives, that you have whatever connections you have for concrete reasons that past the reality check test and that you try to be honest with yourself about this so that you can be honest with other people and have decent honest relationships at whatever level you think will work out for you at this time.
posted by jessamyn at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Should I say "Hello, I'm SecondLife - glad to meet you, Sheila. This is my first MeetUp for GreenShirtWearers too! By the way, I'm separated and working through a divorce."?

No, definitely don't go that far. People to whom their (and my) availability to date is the most important factor of our meeting are almost guaranteed to get brushed off. There are way better things to talk about, so talk about them. As a new acquaintance. As a potential friend. If there's a possibility that you might be meeting one of these new acquaintances for coffee or some other non-group activity, there's a precise moment when you need to bring up your marital status. That moment is the same instant at which the person who was just invited (for meeting up elsewhere) blinks, and mentally thinks, "huh, is this a date? cool! I have a date!"
If you've just been invited, you say in a delighted tone of voice - "a date? That would be great! This is more important to some people than to others, so I want to be very up-front about the fact that I'm currently separated but not yet divorced. If that bothers you, it's probably good to know ahead of time so we're only going for coffee as friends." If you're inviting someone, you say, "So Sheila, you've never been to the GreenShirt bar? Maybe you'd like to join me there on Thursday at 7." (and she blinks, processes this as a date, and agrees) "oh, you would! That's great. I know it makes me sound like a big dork to want to clarify whether this is a date or not, but the thing is, I'm separated but not yet divorced, and I understand that can be off-putting. If that bothers you, it's probably good to know ahead of time so we're only going for a drink as friends."
posted by aimedwander at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the suggestions. I probably have some follow up q's on what's a date, and what isn't. So many questions....
posted by secondlife at 6:20 PM on December 5, 2011

A date is when you and a lady make arrangements to spend time together for the purpose of getting to know each other and assessing whether or not you want to spend more time together.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:44 PM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

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