Recently I was flipping through the cable channels just in time to see the start of a holiday movie on the Lifetime Channel. The main character, a single professional woman who revels in her life as a successful, powerful attorney and drives a Jaguar, was cheerfully confiding in her female attorney friend over lunch that she was perfectly content to be alone during the holidays and not have the entanglements of a husband and kids to look after.
That evening as she is on the way to her boss’s private Christmas party, she crashes her car on an icy patch – her Jaguar spins round and round, leaving her with a serious memory lapse from a concussion (but amazingly no blood, broken bones or cuts that need stitches). She then wakes up to find a tall, ruggedly handsome man helping her out of her car and holding her steady as she regains her balance.
She soon discovers that she has been married for many years to this successful businessman and compassionate ‘stranger’ who also works as a dedicated advocate for a homeless ministry and she has been an exceptionally caring mom to their two kids- yes, a boy first and then a girl!
As the story continues to unfold, we learn that the ‘happy and content’ life the main character thought that she had as a legal professional in the city, was not nearly as meaningful and appealing as waking up to find a devoted husband, two children who adore her, a two story home and a minivan in the RIGHT suburban neighborhood. (One that includes highly rated schools and neighbors who quickly report any strange activity).
Although I watch movies like this one on Lifetime only once in a while, it is story lines like these that soak deeply into our female psyches like a sponge craving to clean up a messy spill. We just can’t quit watching… even though we continue to see how unrealistic and carefully contrived the entire story line is.
We want to believe that yes, this same story line could happen to ME.
Warning: Excessive Viewings of Lifetime Holiday Movies can be Hazardous to your Love Life!
When I first started dating after my divorce was completely final, I was so very hopeful that I would have a transformational romance like the ones I watched on Lifetime. The right romance would include a ‘chance’ meeting where I desperately needed help with a flat tire, met just the man I was destined to be with long-term and then suddenly found myself bonding with him in an ice-skating rink with hot chocolate and anticipating jewelry gifts under our Christmas tree.
Just how is dating a divorced man definitely NOT LIKE a Lifetime Holiday Movie?
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
It’s very common for divorced to men jump into dating way before they are ready emotionally.
I discovered from several painful and messy years of dating divorced men, many of them start dating during their marital separation or during the final stages of their divorce, rather than waiting until they are truly emotionally ready to fully integrate a new woman into their life.
Without realizing how essential it is to carefully take apart and examine their own contribution to their previous unhealthy relationships as well as seek out professional support to fully experience the grieving, anger and renewal time necessary to recover emotionally from the death of their marriage, men often end up hurting the women they become involved with next.
I understand the consequences of this firsthand as a woman who became the ‘rebound relationship’ several times in a row with several divorced men who assured me they were READY for a relationship then they fled for the hills after about 3-6 months as our relationship started to become more serious on an emotional level.
I have learned the hard way that it’s critical when dating divorced men to find out up front how from the divorced man you are meeting for coffee just exactly how long his divorce has been finalized before deciding whether to continue to see him (one year or more is best). It’s also helpful to find out exactly what the divorced man has done in terms of self-growth and what he has learned and changed from his previous patterns of behavior.
Divorced Men Come with Baggage that does not Begin to Fit in the overhead Bin.
Unlike a Lifetime movie, divorced men you will meet for coffee and consider getting involved with come complete with exes who are clingy and needy or still hell-bent on revenge, angry or disillusioned in-laws, kids who cost huge sums of money and see you as taking time away from their parent, and mortgage deeds that they are still financially responsible for even though they no longer live in the marital home.
The more details about his ongoing responsibilities you ask up front, the less ‘surprises’ you’ll encounter as you assess his pile of baggage. Is it just a few suitcases plus a carry-on or is it really more like 55 Steamer Trunks? Proceed with caution accordingly.
Divorced Men have many competing priorities.
Rebuilding his battered credit history, making sure his kids get all their needs met, moving ahead in his career, watching sports and even his time at the gym to work on his beer gut all compete for his time and attention. Where will you fit in? How much of a priority will you be granted in the life of your divorced man?
If you aren’t moving up on his list of priorities as your relationship progresses, will your resentment and anger come into play and start eating away at the edges? How much does your divorced man truly value the amazing qualities you willingly share with him?
Take time to figure out whether the input you are giving is exceeding his output. Although no relationship is an equal balance of give and take, you should feel confident that the time and energy you are investing right now will be worth it over the long run.