Severe self-denial is not a good first-date look (though I do love peonies).
“The emotional part of the relationship ended long ago. I’ve dealt with my baggage. I am ready for a relationship.”
I have heard very, very similar iterations of this very statement from at least four men and several girlfriends who were just barely separating from their marriages, in the heat of divorce.
The scenario is so common, it’s cliche.
A few months ago I laughed aloud when flirting with a guy online, and something in his profile prompted me to inquire: “Mind if I ask how long you’ve been divorced?”
Him: “Just a few months. But we lived separate lives for years. I was alone for most of my marriage. I am totally ready for a relationship — no worries there!”
NEARLY IDENTICAL LANGUAGE to everyone else I heard sing the same tune!
Here’s the thing with rules about life — including when you are ready to date after divorce. There are rules, and there are exceptions. Lots and lots of exceptions. We all know of really fantastic love stories where one or both parties were in unhappy marriages, there was an affair, and the newly formed couple lived happily ever after.
Or two people meet on the steps of the court house / bar / conference as they are both going through a giant breakup. Then: Happily ever after.
That happens all the time. It can happen to you.
But it rarely happens.
What nearly always happens is this:
Your marriage ends. You are a hot, hot, HOT HOT mess. Divorce is trauma. You are in trauma. Every single vertical of your life is upturned. Inside out. Who you thought you knew, you do not know. The person you trusted is out to maliciously get you. He says and she says things so horrible, so true and hurtful it seems impossible there was once love and there are now beautiful children together. Your house, your kids, your families, your friends, your finances, your mental health, you physical health — all a gigantic, horrible shit show.
OK, maybe you never loved the other person (another cliche, red-flag that someone is lying like a rug to themselves, and now me), or that love fizzled, and you haven’t had sex in years.
All very likely.
But you have your baggage neatly tidied up, you are healed and open to the wonders of love and partnership again? While you are hashing out custody and support and rage with lawyers and courts and a new apartment and a new can opener and missing the kids and the dog and wondering why half your friends don’t call any more?
If you want someone to take you for dinner and make you feel pretty, please go ahead!
If you need to get laid, go for it.
If you just want to jump on Match.com and see what is out there, find affirmation that you are indeed still a very attractive person, and that wonderful people want to date other wonderful people who happen to be parents — get your ass on that site!
But while you’re at it, do me a favor. Cut the bullshit. Be real with yourself. Because you are so not out of the weeds. YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF ONE OF THE BIGGEST CLUSTERS OF YOUR WHOLE, WHOLE LIFE.
You know who hot messes attract? OTHER HOT MESSES!
I know, because I know people like you, you deniers. You will take me for dinner and it will start out nice. You will ask me questions about myself, my job and kids. You have that glimmer in your eye — that look that says: ‘Wow, I have not been on a date in so long and this is so exciting and I don’t know what might happen but maybe she will marry me because the only way I know how to interact with a woman is to be in a marriage because I am so barely not married and in the middle of my divorce.’
Then you will ask about my divorce, because your divorce is the No. 1 — and No. 2 through No. 87 — topic on your mind.
And then after a Maker’s Mark you will be griping and moaning on and on and on about your ex, and how she was frigid, and she was a liar, and she spent all the money you made, and why doesn’t she get a job already. And it will be a cliche. If I were to smile and say yes to anything at all when it comes to you and your supposedly-packed-baggage, I will be part of the cliche.
But see, I’m a bunch of years on the other side of my divorce, so it is actually a different story over here. I have a perspective that you will have, too. But not today. Not over steamed muscles and whiskey while you are recounting the sordid details of your breakup that you are so not even close to being over.
As for the OKCupid denier, after my giggle, I wrote:
“Sorry, sounds like you’re in the middle of it. Call me in two years.”
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.