When/how to divulge that you're divorced when entering into a new relationship?
July 25, 2007 4:05 PM   Subscribe

When/how to divulge that you're divorced when entering into a new relationship?

Divorced for a year, back on the scene, dating and whatnot.

What's the best way to bring this up? Obviously, the dating sites all pretty much allow you to designate yourself as "divorced" rather than "single"... but is that really necessary?

I'm in my 30's and presumably, all the girls I'm going out with have had relationships that haven't worked out for one reason or another. Having to announce that up front like that, well.... I don't know how I feel about that at all. I guess my thinking is that "divorced" seems like kind of an arbitrary thing to have to mark oneself with -- almost like a scarlet letter -- given that really, my situation would be no different if I'd just been with the same person for a few years or whatever.

Is that asking for trouble down the road? I want to be open and honest about myself with the people I go out with, but... you know... there are some things I'd rather not discuss 'till I get to know a girl better.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some great advice in this AskMe when I asked the opposite of your question: whether it's okay to ask a new dat-ee about his divorce. You may find much that applies.
posted by Miko at 4:13 PM on July 25, 2007

Finding out later that you're divorced and didn't say so will likely raise larger red flags than just being honest in the first place.

If you feel "branded" about being divorced, that is *your* issue and maybe you should consider dealing with that before getting involved with someone new.

I say this as a previously divorced person who found her mate on match.com. mr. ambrosia didn't take it as a bad thing at all- rather, that I would likely have a more realistic perspective on relationships than someone in her mid-thirties who had never married.

You don't have to get into the whys and wherefores about your divorce until you are ready, but you have to be honest about the major biographical data- failure to do so would be a dealbreaker in my book.
posted by ambrosia at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2007

If you are comfortable and open about the fact that you are divorced, and bring it up at an appropriate point in natural conversation, your date will take your lead and not make a big deal of it. If she DOES make a big deal of it, then that's her issue and not yours. And now you know that about this person.

Basically, people only make a big deal out of things that aren't issues for them personally when they sense that those things are issues for the person they're dealing with (and they're concerned about how that will affect them).

People take cues from others as to how to react to news. (Think about the different ways a woman can announce that she's pregnant...manner is the one of the biggest cues to help the hearer decide to say "WOW! That's great news!" versus "Oh, wow, what are you going to do?")
posted by iamkimiam at 4:25 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't write off a dude who was divorced. In fact, I've dated men who were divorced. No problem.

But if I met a guy and liked him and he waited for a while to tell me that he was divorced, I would be really pretty weirded out.

People in their 30s are adults. I expect them to have a past. That's not an issue, but being dishonest about it is.

I don't mean to be a jerk, but I think your theory that you're no different than a man your same age who dated a few girls but never married them is kind of wishful thinking. That may seem terribly unfair, but if I were contemplating getting serious with someone who'd promised a lifetime commitment to someone he'd since divorced-- well, that's information I'd want to have when making my decision.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you don't get it out of the way early I'm going to wonder why you don't want to talk about it.

What are you afraid of when you don't want to tell?

If you choose to get married then I tend to think that was probably a big decision in your life. Don't hide it, even if it was a mistake. Especially if it was a mistake. Says a lot about your character.
posted by Ookseer at 4:30 PM on July 25, 2007

I once Google'd a guy who'd asked me out, only to find his wedding pictures online. He was legally separated, but I thought it was weird that he didn't just tell me, and it sucked finding those pictures. Besides, being divorced in your 30s isn't all that uncommon.
posted by astruc at 4:30 PM on July 25, 2007

The "scarlet letter" thing sounds like you have feelings of shame/blame/self-judgment about being divorced. Suggest you unpack that luggage with a therapist/close friend before bringing it into a new relationship.
posted by ottereroticist at 4:31 PM on July 25, 2007

On re-reading, this jumped out at me:

given that really, my situation would be no different if I'd just been with the same person for a few years or whatever.

This is not true. This is so NOT true. Ask a gay person.
posted by astruc at 4:40 PM on July 25, 2007

the dating sites all pretty much allow you to designate yourself as "divorced" rather than "single"... but is that really necessary?

I always thought people who had NEVER been married were single and people who were once married but are not now are divorced. There is a world of difference between being single because you never married and being single now because you are divorced.

I bring this up because, personally, I only want to marry someone who has never been married before either. If I met someone and became interested and then found out they were previously married, not just single now, I would feel deceived.
posted by goml at 4:47 PM on July 25, 2007

If you do the online-dating thing, and you have the option to check "divorced" but choose not to, you may be inviting suspicion from your dates (if they remember how you checked that box). So you'd be creating a problem, not avoiding one.

And there are a few people out there for whom a past marriage really is a deal-breaker. Do you even want to get started with one?

For some people, dating (especially online dating) is all about maximizing the distance between who they really are and who they appear to be. For others, it's about minimizing that distance. Which do you want to be?
posted by adamrice at 4:51 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

adamrice has it right.

There's no point in even STARTING with someone who is going to see your married past as a dealbreaker.

You're not going to convince them that you're different. If they feel that divorce is always a bad thing, irrespective of the circumstances, then you aren't talking them out if it. If they think it depends, they'll want to know more about it rather than dismissing you out of hand.

And I agree with all of the posters who say it will be a much bigger deal to find out about it later.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:28 PM on July 25, 2007

I'm divorced and met my current boyfriend (2+ years) through the online dating mambo. In my profile, I marked "single" (because that's how I thought of myself; my divorce had been final for a couple of years, and had already been through my first post-divorce relationship) and would matter-of-factly bring up my divorce on the first date.

The conversation usually went something like this: "So, scody, what brought you out to L.A. from Chicago?" "Well, my sister is here, and my ex-husband and I were just starting the divorce process, so I was looking for a change of scenery and career."

It was honest, and it was also clear that the divorce happened within the larger context of my life (i.e., family and career). It was also an interesting opportunity to gauge my dates' responses. Most guys immediately defaulted to negative assumptions -- "oh, how awful, was your husband an asshole? Did he cheat on you?" (No and no.) My now-boyfriend, however, said something quite different: "oh, interesting. What was it like to be married?" The fact that he was genuinely curious and didn't assume that my ex-husband was a monster was very positive and revealing.
posted by scody at 6:08 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm in my late thirties. I've dated men around my age who've never been married and, well, there's sometimes a reason for it: serious fear of commitment, extreme workaholism, narcissism, whatever. Which is worse, making a go at marriage that ultimately didn't work out, or never making it to the altar at all?

You were willing to make a commitment. Someone else found you worthy. I think those are points in your favor. Of course, I would want to know more about why the marriage failed, and what kind of relationship you currently have with your ex. But I wouldn't automatically view you negatively because of the divorce.

I would want to know you were divorced early on, 2nd date at the latest. If you told me you were divorced after you'd chosen the "single" box over "divorced" on an online dating site, I'd consider that dishonest.
posted by magicbus at 6:15 PM on July 25, 2007

I was divorced maybe eight years ago after a short and hard to categorize marriage. I was more recently in and out of a long term relationship that was longer than my marriage had been. I never click divorced on the online dating profiles (though I fill out very few of them) because I'm not really looking to get married, I figure it will come up fairly earlyish anyhow, and frankly I just don't see myself that way.

It's been interesting to me to see that so many people here see it as a big deal, since I never though twice about not stating that I was divorced up front. I am fairly socially clueless however, so I wouldn't see my way as any sort of guide for how other people might behave, just a data point for you that not everyone thinks that saying your divorced is a requirement.
posted by jessamyn at 6:17 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I once dated a guy who was divorced and didn't tell me, even after we'd been seeing each other a couple of times a week for about three months. I found out when a friend, who assumed that I already knew, mentioned it in passing. The divorce itself wasn't anything so unusual- he's in his thirties, life is complicated, everyone has a past, etc.- but the fact that he had kept it from me for so long definitely struck me as very strange. The relationship ended soon thereafter.

No need to mention it on a first date, but I would say definitely bring it up by date three or four. You don't need to divulge all of the details, but putting it out in the open earlier rather than later is a good idea.
posted by emd3737 at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2007

I've found this thread to be somewhat fascinating. But the thing I keep thinking is this: some folks might be okay with not hearing it until the 3rd or 4th date, or even farther out... but... the sooner you bring it up, the fewer people are going to think you're being dishonest or shady.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:30 PM on July 25, 2007

I'm in my thirties and have never been married. I prefer to hear about the divorce early on - definitely within the first two or three dates. I would not like it if someone witheld the information any longer than that. And I really, really don't like it when people try to lay a whole "you shouldn't mind" expectation on me.

By all means take whatever viewpoint you want towards your divorce, but realize it can be a legitimate problem for someone who has never been married and that she or he won't take kindly to being instructed on how to think about it. Tell your dates in a low key way and let them figure out what attitude to take towards your past, and decide if they want to date you.
posted by orange swan at 6:58 PM on July 25, 2007

I can't see why it shouldn't just be left to come up in early conversation. If you are worried that "divorced" as a dating-site profile option will turn people off unfairly, go with "single" by all means—you are single, and if you're ready to date then your divorce is a historic detail.

Just don't keep it out of conversation. I'd be kind of shocked if past relationships didn't come up within a couple of good dates, and that's exactly where someone who isn't gaming the situation would end up mentioning it.
posted by cortex at 7:36 PM on July 25, 2007

comment from someone who would prefer to remain anonymous:

I'm a woman in my late 30's, who was married and divorced all before the age of 23. I don't bring up that I'm divorced until I know someone extremely well. In terms of dating, that means around the time of the "so, I'm not going to be seeing anyone else. What about you?" conversation. I would not discuss my divorce within 3 or 4 dates. With new friends, I often don't mention it until I've known a person for years.

It has never been a problem. No-one has ever reacted badly or stopped dating me or told me as a friend I was dishonest. The strongest reaction I have ever gotten is "Wow, you must really be ashamed of the whole thing." Which is the case.

It wouldn't bother me at all, if you didn't mention that you were divorced, instead of simply vaguely "newly returned to dating", until I knew you very well. It would just say to me that you play your cards pretty close to the chest. I wouldn't think you were dishonest unless you had said something like "No, I've been single and uninvolved since high school." I am not particularly interested in people's exes, so I don't feel there's a significant difference between referencing your ex as a recent break-up or a divorce. Clearly, I strongly disagree with the person who says there's no big difference between being divorced and breaking up after a significant long term relationship. My break up, last year, of seven-year-committed-nonmarried relationship was much harder to take and left me significantly less emotionally available than my divorce did.

I appear to be in the minority in this opinion, but I wanted to say that some people would not think it dishonest that you never mentioned you were divorced until things got serious.
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 PM on July 25, 2007

It's been interesting to me to see that so many people here see it as a big deal, since I never though twice about not stating that I was divorced up front. I am fairly socially clueless however, so I wouldn't see my way as any sort of guide for how other people might behave, just a data point for you that not everyone thinks that saying your divorced is a requirement.

Yeah, but I think there's a difference between someone who doesn't bring it up because they honestly don't think it's interesting or relevant, and someone who doesn't bring it up because he thinks it's a scarlet letter.

I wouldn't say marking it on a profile is necessary if you really feel like "single" is more accurate to you, but you should at least figure out what that means, why that is, and make sure you're comfortable dropping a reference to your ex-wife early on so that there's no sense that your date has been misled.

But I will say you should consider the possibility that at your age it could almost be a positive brand. The rumor is always that guys over thirty are either taken or damaged goods. Guys have to be able to come up with an excuse for why they're still single - and you have one - you were married.
posted by mdn at 8:39 PM on July 25, 2007

I'm also in my thirties and I'm too old to mess with men who aren't honest. Your divorce happened in the last year so it's not ancient history. If you skirt the truth on the on-line profile and don't mention it, then it would be a deal breaker when I eventually found out about it. I can understand not mentioning your divorce to causal friends, but to someone you're dating it seems to be relevant information.

Note - I don't do the on-line dating thing so people who do may be more flexible about reality not matching the profile.
posted by 26.2 at 11:32 PM on July 25, 2007

Is that asking for trouble down the road?

Absolutely: it's blatantly deceptive. Many people who have no problem whatsoever with your divorce will nevertheless wonder what else you're hiding.

How about approaching the question from another angle: how would you respond if a girl somehow managed to hide from you for several dates that she has two children? And then told you that it was no big deal because "I guess my thinking is that 'mother' seems like kind of an arbitrary thing to have to mark oneself with -- almost like a scarlet letter."

Be honest.
posted by Ø at 12:04 AM on July 26, 2007

Back when I was dating after my divorce, I was always right up front about it because I didn't want to waste the time of someone who didn't want to deal with a divorced man. I was a single dad with shared custody of a little kid so I wanted to make sure that if a woman couldn't deal with that situation, she would know about it before we dated.
posted by octothorpe at 6:56 AM on July 26, 2007

Yeah, if I went out with someone who had marked “single” on their profile, but was actually divorced—even if I found out about it on the first date—I would be pretty suspicious/unhappy. I went on a few dates with a guy who had marked “divorced” on his profile. We talked about it a little before we met, and I was so relieved that he had been honest, because it just so happened that my father and stepmother (of many years) were going through their own divorce. I was pretty upset about their divorce, so I would have been really stung by finding out that someone I was dating was divorced and hadn’t been upfront about it. Even if your potential dates don’t have a problem with your divorce, they may have issues in their own pasts.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:01 AM on July 26, 2007

I agree with pretty much everyone: be honest. And be honest with yourself; this is just self-deception:

my situation would be no different if I'd just been with the same person for a few years or whatever

No, it wouldn't. I've "been with the same person for a few years" and broken up, and I've been married and divorced, and they're very different. Breaking up is hard to do, but getting divorced is a huge, life-changing experience (assuming you had an actual marriage and not an "oops, did we do that when we got drunk in Vegas?" one). It's not a scarlet letter and there's nothing wrong with your being divorced, but it's not some casual event like having gone skydiving once.

And what Ø said about comparing it to a woman who conceals having kids.
posted by languagehat at 7:11 AM on July 26, 2007

I just started seeing a guy last month (I'm a girl), and I mentioned my divorce casually in conversation on the second date, and made it clear that it took place about 15 years ago. I also directly asked my date "have you ever been married"? [He said no, for what it's worth.]

I wouldn't date someone unless they had been divorced for at least 2 years (I think 1 year is still a bit too recent), but no matter what, I'd want them to be honest with me about that. Otherwise, I'd think they had something to hide.

[I also mentioned right up front about not being interested in kids.]
posted by matildaben at 11:17 AM on July 26, 2007

« Older Weird   |   Help Me Grow A Lavender Garden Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.