Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
After eight years together — four of them married — my wife and I mutually decided to separate. We married fairly young, and after trying to work on our marriage through counselling for two years we realized we were just not right for each other and it was better to part ways as we both enter our 30s. I’ve been in individual therapy for roughly six months and have a good support system, so while I’m still dealing with pain from our relationship ending, I fully believe that I’m going to come out of this in a good place.
The one thing I’m not sure about though is how to manage dating again. What is an appropriate way to broach the subject with any new potential partner? I’m not embarrassed that I’ve separated from my former wife, and I’m actually proud that despite how hard things got we tried as hard as we did and were faithful to one another throughout. I don’t want to mislead anyone, but I also assume it would be pretty surprising to learn, and could potentially scare someone off.
There’s also my social media profile to consider, which is full of eight years of my life with my former partner. As an example, it would take all of two minutes for someone to find my wedding pictures online, but I feel like scrubbing all that away would be just as misleading.
I haven’t been on a first date since I was 23 and I’m concerned I’m blowing this all out of proportion. I was hoping you’d have some advice based on your own experiences dating after a marriage has ended.
Dating after Separation
First, let me assure you that the problem you think you will have is not going to be a problem. You’re an adult, adults come with a past, and trust me when I tell you that almost every woman I know would prefer a man in his 30s who was once married to a man who has yet to make any kind of commitment to anyone.
Rather than imagining scenarios in which women flee once they learn that you once had a fairly stable and healthy relationship that ended for sad but good reasons, I would spend a little more time imagining how you will feel when the time comes to start seeing new people. Because in my case, the answer was “completely unhinged.”
Ending a marriage in the way you have — ethically and maturely as possible — is a tremendous accomplishment that is also absolutely fucking exhausting. Excavating all of those emotions and talking about them ceaselessly and working out how to best care for someone you are leaving feels like running a marathon, and once you are finally done it is entirely possible that you will want to stop processing feelings in a reasonable manner. For me, this meant throwing myself into new relationships with a reckless abandon because, whether those felt good or bad, they at least felt different. It might feel like a dizzying sort of freedom — to no longer be responsible for the well-being of someone else. You have been mindful and careful for some time now, and it might feel good to not do that for a little while.
It’s important to be aware of the ways your separation isn’t separate from anything else you may feel. There aren’t often legible beginnings and endings in our lives, and it’s more helpful to think instead about how your marriage and its disillusion shaped who you are now, and how that person wants to relate to other women.
Chances are you’ll screw it up a few times, because everyone screws up dating, because dating is a fucking nightmare. Don’t scrub your social media, as that will only make it look like you have something to hide. Be upfront with people about that fact that you are dating for the first time in years, and be honest about how things ended. This will make you more, not less, appealing to lots of women, who I promise you do not scare off that easily. You’ll figure it out eventually, hopefully with fewer missteps along the way than me. Good luck, and don’t use a wedding photo in your Tinder profile.
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