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Emily V. Gordon Headshot

When Do You Bring Up Being Divorced on Dates?

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First dates should be for flirty banter and amusing stories while being bathed in candlelight, but what do you do when divulging the very basics about yourself involves rehashing an intense story of recent heartbreak and separation?

Welcome to the treacherous waters of the divorcee who is back in the dating pool.

When even the most simple questions - "Why did you move to _____?" "My ex got a job here" - can bring up way more information than you planned on doling out before the first kiss, how should one proceed?

Cautiously.

The first thing to gut check with yourself is whether or not you are able to tell a succinct and emotionally even-keeled version of your divorce. Because like it or not, your divorce is now part of who you are. It's not going to destroy you, it's not the most defining thing about you, but it is there, and if you can't talk about it without tearing up/getting angry/feeling actively heartsick, you're not ready to date. In fact, imagining yourself describing your divorce to a polite inquirer might be a good indicator of how much you've processed this trauma.

Swinging in the other direction, if you are overly willing to spill about your divorce, especially if you're using it to help explain away some risky behavior, dating is also a bad idea. None of this "Well I just went through a divorce so if I act psycho, that's why" stuff will do if you want a healthy dating experience.

Your life story is a gift, and it should be treated as such. Telling a date about your divorce too soon may weirdly ratchet up the emotionality of a casual night, and waiting too long could make it into a "thing" that feels like a secret. 

If you have a choice for when you bring up being divorced, I recommend doing it during a second date, or when the discussion of past relationships naturally comes up, which ever comes first. Beforehand, rehearse a fairly matter-of-fact speech in which you describe the basics of your relationship, a very very simplified version of why it didn't work out, and how long it's been since the divorce occurred. That's all you need to say. Do not criticize your ex and do not wave off your divorce as if it was no big deal. Again, your story is a gift, and the story of your divorce should be told with reverence to both your past and to that relationship. Never talk about your past with an apology in your voice- you have nothing to apologize for.

Perhaps sum up your divorce story with a non-schmaltzy thought or two about what positive things have come out of your divorce, but maybe don't mention that particular date as one of the positives- it could be a tad overwhelming. The conversation should conclude with perhaps another toast, or a "Well that's enough about me", and not with your date having to comfort you.

If it happens that you have to tell your potential paramour this information before the natural "let's get into some of the deep stuff" period of courtship, just take a deep breath, say "I was planning on waiting a bit before bringing this up, and this doesn't have to lead to a deep discussion about it, but..." and then proceed as described above. Keep your head high, your eyes clear, and your heart open.

If your date reacts as if you've dumped too much on them, then maybe they're not emotionally mature enough to date you in the first place. But don't ever apologize for being divorced. Experiences don't make us damaged goods, it's what we do with those experiences that matters.