It’s no secret that divorce happens. And, while experts say the divorce rate is now lower than 50 percent, the odds are still pretty decent that you’re going to date a divorced dude at some point.
While there’s nothing wrong with dating a guy who’s been previously hitched, there are some potential issues that can crop up. A lot of it comes down to how the divorce went down, says licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go? For someone who was only married a few years without kids, divorce could feel like a normal breakup except with lots of documents to sign, she says. “[But] a divorce for someone who was married a long time or has kids may mean having to integrate all of those factors into the relationship.”
Regardless of the circumstances of his previous marriage, going through a divorce can also impact how a guy sees or acts in a romantic relationship, says Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, Psy.D. That’s why you should ask him these key things before you get serious:
Are you comfortable talking about your divorce?
A man who completely avoids the topic or shows “significant discomfort” talking about his divorce may still be emotionally invested or, at the very least, has some serious tension about the topic, Cilona says. And that’s a red flag. It shows that he has an unhealthy connection to his previous marriage and/or spouse, which could be trouble for your future.
Do you want to get married again?
You might assume that since he’s been married before, he wouldn’t have any issues hitching up again, but as Durvasula points out, that’s not always the case. “Some may not want to get married again after experiencing it once,” she says. It’s important to determine where your guy stands on the issue, and how it aligns with where you see your future going.
Do you believe that you can spend your life with someone?
Even if neither of you is interested in marriage, it’s a good idea to find out whether he thinks two people can be together for the long haul—ring or no ring. Think: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. He may not want to legally commit again, but could be completely open to the idea of a forever-commitment or living together. “Plenty of divorced folks believe in love and commitment as much as anyone,” Durvasula says. If your guy no longer thinks that two people can be in a loving, committed relationship, that’s a red flag.
Did you want the divorce?
According to Stanford University research, 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women. And, while your guy may not have initiated the divorce, it’s good to find out if he wanted it. “You want to suss out that he is not still pining for his old life,” Durvasula says. “You also want to find out if he is still holding a torch for his ex.” Granted, it’s possible he didn’t want the divorce but he’s since moved on. However, his answer to the question can provide clues as to whether that’s the case.
How do you feel about your ex?
Not everyone can speak highly about their ex (kudos to Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck), but if he’s super bitter or angry about her, that could be a sign that he’s still emotionally invested in the relationship, Durvasula says.
Other bad signs: Your guy puts the blame for the demise of his marriage on his ex, or says he’s learned gross generalized lessons about women or marriage based on his experience, Cilona says. “No matter what the situation, each partner has accountability and contributes in some ways to the relationship and dissolution of the marriage,” he points out.
Above all, keep this in mind: Divorce can be a very healthy thing. “Staying in a broken relationship is not honorable, and many people grow from them,” Durvasula says. “But you do need to ask these questions to decide if you would be OK with being spouse number two if it came down to that.”