Is it ok to date/meet new people now?
April 3, 2015 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I am in the process of getting a divorce. I have separated from my wife, have filed for a divorce but have not been able to serve her summons because she has been avoiding that. So, in a sense, the divorce process has not really started. Now I need to figure out when I should start dating or meeting new people again.

For the years that I have been married, I didn't really develop/sustain my friend circle a lot. Most of my time and emotional energy went into trying to sustain my marriage. As a result, I don't have too many friends. Added on top of that I am in NYC, a city famous for singles. With so many gorgeous women around, its kinda tempting.

And I realize that I like the security of being in a relationship. Being by myself is quite depressing right now. Most of my friends are married with lives of their own and it feels awkward to intrude too much.

Is it weird to want to meet new people now when the ashes of my marriage have not even cooled, so to speak? Should I start dating now or should I wait for moving further along in the divorce process? Is creating an okcupid profile .... ok? Will most potential date partners find it weird that I am technically married and have already started dating?

What are the best ways to broach this situation with someone I meet? Do I need to tell them in first date about being in process of divorce or can I wait for a time when we both are comfortable with each other? What are the best ways to meet potential dates?
posted by questionsquestions to Human Relations (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on what sort of relationship you're looking for. As someone who would not be interested in casual sex and who would be looking for a long-term relationship, I would not ever ever ever date someone who had not even served his ex with divorce papers. As someone who has gone through a divorce, I actually would not date anyone who had not finalized a divorce, but I suspect there's a bigger gray area with that.
posted by jaguar at 7:25 PM on April 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Will most potential date partners find it weird that I am technically married and have already started dating?

What are the best ways to broach this situation with someone I meet? Do I need to tell them in first date about being in process of divorce or can I wait for a time when we both are comfortable with each other? What are the best ways to meet potential dates?

I gave an answer to a very similar question a while ago which I will go look for. I started dating a guy who was in the middle of a complicated situation with his son's mom and he was very communicative and open and honest about all that, set expectations well and understood that it was a weird time etc. We are still together. There were bumps anyhow. We got through them. It wasn't easy.

What I hear you saying is that you know it's not a great time but you sort of want to do it anyhow. OK, that is something you get to do. However it's worth understanding that while there are definitely people who would date someone in the process of divorcing someone, it's also a line that a lot of us have heard MANY times before (when it has not been true, not your fault other people are jerks, but you should know that about the dating field) and so you'll have to do more than the usual amount of work to make that not your date's problem. If it were me, I'd focus on keeping it casual. OKC works for friends as well as for dates. Be up front and honest about your status. Don't even think about not letting someone know before you meet them that you are still married. This is a dealbreaker for some people and that should be okay; it's disrespectful for you to keep that information to yourself in the interest of your own dating concerns.

Most important to me was that my guy was honest with me and that the things he said about his previous relationship checked out. His friends said the same thing as he did. His ex said the same things. It was above board. Try to be honest and forthright and work on taking steps in wrapping up your divorce in the interests of being able to date in a more forthright and less awkward sounding ("I'm in the process of getting a divorce, no really...") manner.
posted by jessamyn at 7:29 PM on April 3, 2015 [17 favorites]

If you want to start dating, you should start dating. As long as you are actually separated, and you don't keep that secret from anybody you date, everything should be good to go.

I think you should play it by ear, in terms of when you mention it to people you're dating. But don't keep it quiet for too long, and make it clear that you are definitely divorcing and there's no chance of reconciling.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:31 PM on April 3, 2015

Best answer: Here's that other thread and my comment in it, a lot of good advice from a lot of people.
posted by jessamyn at 7:32 PM on April 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think if you want to start dating, then you should start dating, but be upfront about being married from the very beginning. Put it on your OkCupid profile or at the very least mention it in your messages. I would have been pissed to show up on a 1st date only to find out the guy was married. Save yourself the trouble and make sure you disclose that first thing.

That said, honestly to me it sounds like your long-term happiness would be best served by focusing on rebuilding your social network and independent life. Your married friends probably still want to hang out with you (they're married, not dead) but you may need to take the initiative, and now is a good time to make new friends, or join groups related to something you're interested in. Plus, once you do get into a new relationship you don't want to make your new SO your whole world because that puts too much pressure on things and is a turnoff to a woman.
posted by Asparagus at 7:47 PM on April 3, 2015 [11 favorites]

Here's another thread on this from four days ago. It has a lot of good advice as well. I was once in your shoes very nearly exactly and you can shoot me a MeMail if you ever need. Be well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:50 PM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

If she is avoiding being served then I would wait. You once loved this woman and made her your family. The very least that you owe her is a little bit of respectful time before you move all the way on. Focus on friends for now. It sounds like your life is about to get very messy. The last thing that you need is more mess.

I wouldn't even consider dating a man who wasn't completely divorced and over the mess, btw. My life is complicated enough without all that in it.
posted by myselfasme at 7:59 PM on April 3, 2015 [13 favorites]

It's not unethical as long as you're upfront about it, but is it really a good idea to jump into another relationship right away, after coming out of such an important one? I think that most people do better working on themselves a little bit before re-entangling themselves.
posted by metasarah at 8:40 PM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you need to: 1) be lonely and depressed for a while. I'm sorry, it sucks, but this is a real hard thing that's happening in your life and you do have to deal with it, and jumping right into a new relationship won't actually smooth it all over; 2) build up your social network generally (there's NO substitute for friends at this time, and a bigger network will eventually yield more dating opportunities anyway); 3) figure out what you really want -- casual sex? FWB? serious dating?--so that you can communicate this honestly and find women who want what you want; 4) when you're ready, get online and try dating.

Yes, of course be honest about your situation, as early as possible. It's certainly not unethical to date if you're up front with all parties and you're truly ready, but is it the best idea right now?

Recently and not-quite-yet-divorced men have a bad dating rap that in my experience holds pretty true. Attitudes like:
With so many gorgeous women around, its kinda tempting
and Being by myself is quite depressing right now
would raise red flags for me that this person wasn't ready for a relationship, and that he'd likely be using me. However, if I were just looking for a hookup or a pal, this would not discourage me.
posted by kapers at 8:51 PM on April 3, 2015 [20 favorites]

Sorry for snooping, but your askme history indicates you have been separated and living apart for 7 months, correct?

You can start dating now. Pay for a process server and get the summons served asap. Done, and done.
posted by jbenben at 8:53 PM on April 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Sorry for snooping, but your askme history indicates you have been separated and living apart for 7 months, correct?

You can start dating now.

You can, yes. I would never date anyone who was less than a year out from his finalized divorce. You need to be explicit about where you are with anyone you want to date.
posted by jaguar at 8:55 PM on April 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

You can definitely start dating if you want, but be upfront with anyone you date about where you are in the divorce process AND emotionally.

As a single woman looking for a committed long term relationship, things like this:
And I realize that I like the security of being in a relationship
are why I don't date men until they are long past their divorces anymore. Going into a relationship in good faith and realizing too late that you're just someone's warm body they're using to keep them from dealing with the reality of their emotions is a really hurtful position to be in.
posted by MsMolly at 9:08 PM on April 3, 2015 [45 favorites]

it seems to me that the critical thing is that you be honest about your situation to dating partners
posted by thelonius at 10:07 PM on April 3, 2015

Casual dating definitely helps with getting the process of Moving On started. So long as you can leave that baggage at the door and not turn dates into "bitch about my ex" marathons. Seriously, avoid talking about her, keep it to the bare minimum if your date asks. That should wait until you've known a person a couple of weeks.

Tell prospective dates you're still in the process of getting divorced and not looking for anything serious right now, you're just interested in meeting people, getting the hang of dating, and having some fun. Because that's all you should really be looking for - not a replacement companion, but rather diversifying your experience with women and learning what you are really looking for in another partner.
posted by lizbunny at 10:18 PM on April 3, 2015

Hey you. I'm pretty flexible about people's status, provided they are not doing something with met hat someone in their life is entitled to believe they won't. So, yep. I'd date you. But, what I've learned myself since coming out of 20 year marriage 4 years ago, anda wide variety of dates and such since, that while I totally and absolutely understand and support your need and desire to be in a relationship, you don't know who you are anymore. You've made changes to accomodate your wife, you've done it so long they're embedded, and you need time to find you again.

For sure, date, and let your dates know your circumstances but try to avoid bonding for at least a year. That year you will spend discarding marital values, revisiting your own, deciding what this next stage of your life is about.

I'm sure there are some people who are capable of moving from one relationship into another (no, I'm not, but im trying to accept there might be), but you owe yourself some time to get settled and find out who the single you at this age is.
posted by b33j at 12:01 AM on April 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

And I realize that I like the security of being in a relationship. Being by myself is quite depressing right now. Most of my friends are married with lives of their own and it feels awkward to intrude too much.

THAT is why you need to be super careful. That's what signals that you aren't interested in meeting someone new to meet someone new and start a new chapter of your life, you're interested in meeting someone new to shore up your insecurities related to the previous chapter that you're supposed to be winding up. Don't do that to other people and don't do that to you.
posted by Sequence at 12:12 AM on April 4, 2015 [17 favorites]

I think it takes a while to work out what's what after any sort of long term relationship. I assume at some point you intended to spend the rest of your life with your soon-to-be-ex-wife, and just that is a huge adjustment that will take a while to process, even if you've been coming to terms with it for a while already.

I understand the desire to get back out there, but you are likely to be emotionally vulnerable, possibly very much so, and that is a dangerous thing to carry into situations that may involve your heart. It's dangerous because you could easily miss warning signs in some people that future-you will recognise and know how to handle. It's dangerous also because you might find yourself becoming attached to someone and only then realise that you have a whole lot of emotional and/or other issues that you haven't dealt with. That could end up being unfair and unkind to the other person and will, at very least, add a layer of messiness to the situation that could be avoided.

The very best way to ensure that you don't end up down the track with a repeat of your marriage is to ensure that you actually process the issues that the last one brought up. Maybe you did or didn't do some things that you'd like to change; maybe you're attracted to people who aren't that good for you. Or maybe it's something else. There will be something you can learn from it all though and it will be much harder to put energy toward that while you're dating.

I strongly recommend at least getting an understanding of that stuff before you distract yourself too much with the pleasure of new flesh. Otherwise you risk not taking advantage of a rare opportunity, while your feelings are stirred up and close to the surface, to grow.
posted by mewsic at 12:53 AM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Several previous posters have said it better but it is worth repeating: You may be ready to date, but you are by far from being the best date material. Wanting someone to keep you from being alone and having no friends are red, RED flags. Especially if you are still technically married!

Work in yourself as a person. Take classes. Make friends. Go to the gym. Do outdoor exercise. Enjoy all NYC has to give to you; it is a beautiful city at times. Do not be the person whose identity is tied up with another person, be it your ex wife or some new complicated relationship or the other.
posted by moiraine at 12:58 AM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think you should focus on rebuilding your social circle first. Call up your married friends and ask them if they have time for dinner. Join some groups, take some classes, volunteer somewhere. If you're in New York City, you've got to have a lot of different possibilities. I think something like would be better for meeting new friends than OKcupid.

Something that stuck out to me in your question was the sort of implicit assumption that getting back into dating will be easy: there are all of these beautiful women walking around NYC and they're all going to be excited to go out with you. You elide putting up an OKcupid profile with being in a relationship again, as if there aren't very many steps or much time between the two things. You seem like you are thinking that this is something that will help pick you up from the sad place you're in right now. And I don't mean to be harsh, but: what if it doesn't?

Online dating has helped a lot of people I know meet their partners, but most of those people also had to struggle through the weeds for a while before getting there. I've heard that it can be particularly hard as a guy, because they have to write a lot of first messages before getting a single answer. So, I think you should try and evaluate whether or not you're ready to start dating not based on the best case scenario, but on the average-to-worst case scenario: are you emotionally steady enough that if you'll be ok if you sign up for OKcupid and it takes a while for anyone to even write you back, and when you do hear back from them, only some of those correspondences turn into first dates? And if most of the first dates you go on fizzle and so there is no second date, just another first date with someone else? And if you go on a couple of dates with someone and maybe sleep with them and you really start to like them and then they break it off because they're just not feeling it? That's the reality of dating for most people I know. It's a process that can be fun and exciting, but also anxiety-inducing and upsetting and frustrating, even for someone in a pretty happy, stable place to begin with. Just something to think about.
posted by colfax at 3:44 AM on April 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would wait. 1) You need to serve your WIFE divorce papers. From my understanding, a summons isn't something she can decline, so why hasn't she been served? This indicates there is at least one major complication that needs to be worked out. 2) Posting a profile with separated but not divorced status will severely limit your choice of dates and that would really be selling yourself short. I'm not saying that people who would respond to your profile are not worthwhile but online dating is a numbers game. Even folks with the most awesome profiles and datability have to spend a fair amount of time dating to find someone who they have chemistry and compatibility with. I would focus on personal growth and happiness before dating because once you start dating you will be very likely to avoid working on difficult feelings that must be worked on, at least in part, before moving on.
posted by waving at 5:55 AM on April 4, 2015

This stuck out at me:

Being by myself is quite depressing right now.

To me, that suggests you may not be ready for dating. In general, I feel that the optimal time for getting into a relationship is when one is in a headspace something like "I am comfortable being alone, and I would like to share my life with someone." When it's about filling a hole in one's life, sooner or later everyone looks like they can fill that hole, and most people will just cram anyone in.

It may be more effective for you to focus for a while on why being by yourself is depressing, and really sitting with that feeling--perhaps with a professional to coach you along--until you have a deeper understanding of its contours. You've spent many years being questionsquestions+1; it would probably be a good idea to spend some time learning who questionsquestions is on his own before adding a +1 again.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:23 AM on April 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to go with no and bluntly tell you why.

You don't sound ready. You sound like you are feeling angst about being alone and that you want a rebound to fill the empty space in your life. You're looking at women as "beautiful" rather than as emotional companions. I wonder if you would feel better about yourself if a beautiful woman was interested in you? Don't use people like that.

It's all very well to be up front with people and say you are only in it for casual sex, but feelings could develop anyway, on either side. I wouldn't date someone with the amount of baggage you currently have. I've been in your position before, and I didn't try to date anyone for nearly two years and I am still just very lightly dipping my toe into the social pool, with a focus on friends first.

I don't think you are in any state to deal with the rejection that comes with dating OR to give anyone your full emotional attention right now. You're trying to escape from pain, like I did in the past. It led to me giving my heart to someone who nearly destroyed it. Don't do that.

Users can sense your vulnerability right now. Get stronger, and finalize your divorce, before you even think of dating again.

You're also in a great position to try therapy right now and I suggest you do so. Divorce is traumatic and life-changing.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Good advice upthread. As long as you're honest, it's ethical for you to begin dating BUT what type of dating you should be doing, if any at all, is an entirely separate question. Primarily, I'd encourage you to cultivate some friendships. I think is great for that kind of thing. You meet people with a shared interest, & since it is a group activity, the focus isn't on you the whole time. You very well could meet your next girlfriend that way &, while online dating is a successful way to go for many, I think nothing beats dating someone you met organically. As for whether you are ready for anything more than a casual relationship, it sure doesn't sound like it. Yes, FWB and casual dating can evolve into something more, and sometimes those deeper feelings are one-sided, but as long as you're upfront about what has been going on and clearly communicate that it is a casual thing, you should be okay. Really though, making some friends (& reconnecting with old ones) will make a tremendous difference. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 7:33 AM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would hope you don't start dating because right now you sound like That Not Divorced Guy who is looking for more of a bedwarmer/substitute than someone to actually be with, and then you end up breaking the hearts of women who get attached to you anyway despite the warnings. I honestly would feel sorry for any woman who dates you right now. You're not ready for much in the way of real romantic involvement and that does not sound healthy for you or anyone who foolishly gets involved with you. It'll be a lot easier to date when you're actually technically free to do so anyway, and it's more of an advantage to finding someone.

Also, seriously, get those papers served already, jeebus.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:33 AM on April 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I know three women who do a good amount of on-line dating. A lot of men who are separated from their wives claim to be divorced. My two friends don't want to be with anyone who's not fully divorced, and they've come up with effective ways to figure out if a man is lying about it. They don't like the lying, but they especially don't like having to go on an actual date with someone who's still legally attached to someone else.

I believe you should go ahead and ask women out. You don't owe it to anyone to be fully healed from your marital split. But you do need to be clear about your status and what sort of relationship you want.
posted by wryly at 1:36 PM on April 4, 2015

In my experience separating was extremely traumatic but divorce was no more than waiting for a clinical legal process to run its course, which was frustratingly lengthy.

I dated and was available to date before I was technically divorced. It didn't seem to bother anyone, including my current partner, her friends or my friends.

Just be open about where you are at.

*I'm in Australia. We may have a different approach to this. Also, all my legal wrangling was at separation. At divorce there was none.
posted by deadwax at 2:26 PM on April 4, 2015

I would focus on friends for now, both because this will help you feel less lonely (yay!) and it will make you a more attractive and interesting partner in the future.
Captain Awkward
has some great advice on this. Generally, I think volunteering or signing up for a class or getting involved with a religious organization (if you swing that way) are all great options. Keep in mind that "Hey, lots of hot single ladies around here!" does NOT translate into "lots of hot single ladies who want to date YOU, a friendless, depressed, lonely not-quite divorced dude." Getting yourself to a more emotionally stable place, doing fun stuff, and making some friends will make you way more fun and interesting to date. Plus, you'll be more emotionally stable, doing fun stuff, and having friends, so you won't be so desparate for someone to just make you feel comfortable and loved -- you'll actually be contributing to the relationship.

That said, I don't think it is UNETHICAL to date now, I just think you need to be 100% honest (I would put it right there on your okcupid profile so that people can make a fully informed decision -- agreed with those above who said they would be PISSED to show up to a first date and find out the guy was still married. The whole point of online dating is to put your dealbreaker-type things out there so people can pre-screen.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:26 PM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your inputs. I realize that I need to sort out my personal issues (about emotion security from a relationship) before i get into a long term relationship again and I am working with a therapist to resolve my issues.

The papers are not served because she is actively avoiding the process server.
posted by questionsquestions at 12:24 PM on April 12, 2015

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