When it comes to dating after divorce, I could fill a book with wisdom as well as warnings... I very nearly have... what with climbing in and out of the divorce dating pool for years.
While I highly recommend dating divorced men - dare I admit that I've done so on two continents? - I would be remiss if I didn't also share some cautions to keep in mind.
In case you're wondering, one divorced dad swept me off my feet (then dropped me over a ledge). Another captured my heart (and still holds it, most tenderly). And one remains a trusted friend to this day (and I'm glad).
So here goes - one single mother's set of red flags when it comes to dating divorced men, culled from a very long decade of post-marital dating experience.
Red Flag 1: Beware the Rebound:
Do be careful of the divorced man who is only recently out of his marriage. Unless of course you're looking for a fling (like him), looking to experiment (as is he), or looking to get your heart broken.
Be particularly cautious if he's already looking for Spouse #2. We all need time to heal and don't want to plunge blindly into the rebound relationship. Be especially wary if Mr. Wonderful is shopping for Spouse #4, #5, #6...
Red Flag 2: What Do Your Kids Think?
Do pay attention to what your kids think of him, and what his kids think of you. Periods of adjustment are to be expected, especially if things heat up. But extreme discomfort, acting out, and outright interference may signal issues just beneath the surface.
Our children have excellent instincts. We would be wise to observe their reactions, heed their reasoned warnings, and consider their hesitation.
Red Flag 3: Age and Stage
If you each have children at different stages - for example, your kids are in elementary school and his are in college - anticipate some potential problems if you're hoping for a long-term relationship.
While you may have help that frees you up for the occasional vacation, dating with kids at different ages and stages can pose logistical and financial challenges, much like age-stage differences in the couple itself.
Red Flag 4: He Expresses Concerns
Do listen if he says he isn't interested in helping to parent your kids, he's tired of you only being available for a weekend relationship, or he can't afford to pick up the financial slack for a single mother with children. And that's despite the fact that you're working two jobs already, and he may be working two jobs of his own.
When a man clearly indicates what is and isn't a deal breaker, we owe him the respect of honoring his choices.
Red Flag 5: Too Good To Be True?
Your girlfriends like him. Your mother likes him. So do Johnnie and Janie, Fido and Tabby, not to mention the hamsters, Mutt and Jeff.
The neighbors like him, too, and he and his ex seem very friendly. But something in your gut tells you he's too good to be true.
Remember that mention of the divorced dad who swept me off my feet?
All I can say is this: Listen to your gut, listen to your gut, listen to your gut - no matter what others think and how good things seem on the surface. Be sure to take your time to get to know him, his family, his friends, his co-workers. Time is on your side. There is never a good reason to rush a relationship - especially if you have kids.