This is what I remembered about dating before marriage: I would go to one of the frat parties on a given weekend and hang out with a group of friends. There would be a really cute guy standing by the keg of beer, we would smile at one another, strike up a conversation and exchange phone numbers. He might call the next day to chat and then ask me to go to the toga party with him that weekend. If I were really lucky, he would ask me to hang out before the party to have a beer that wasn't from the tap and eat a burger at the local greasy joint. If we still liked one another then we would get together, study and go to more parties to "hang out." This was dating when I was in college and the only dating I really knew before marriage. Fast forward to dating after divorce, and everything is completely different.
Whether you married young like I did or had been in a long marriage, you may feel clueless about how to date again. It's like waking up from a coma and finding yourself in a foreign land, having to learn a new language and understand different social norms. I have experienced this first hand on bad dates with divorced men who are anxious and don't know what to do or say. Here are some common mistakes divorced men make on first dates:
Mistake #1: You negatively talk about your ex and the failed marriage. Divorce is never pleasant, and men usually have some unfavorable feelings towards their ex-wives. But there is nothing more unattractive than a man complaining about his previous relationship and his ex. Cynical statements about why the marriage didn't work out will make any potential partner run for the hills. Instead, focus on your date and discuss your interests and hobbies to get her excited about being with you. If she asks about your ex and marriage, keep your answer brief and positive and convey how you are looking forward to having a close relationship again. Then quickly move on to another topic and share fun, uplifting stories. Also, find good friends, family members or a therapist to discuss your hardships with so you don't find yourself dumping on your dates.
Mistake #2: You discuss your financial woes. Divorce often results in financial distress. Men may find themselves having to pay support, lawyer fees, selling and buying new homes and even switching jobs to accommodate the new arrangement. It's understandable that you are more aware of how to manage your money, but that doesn't mean you need to let your date know about your financial woes. Don't complain about how expensive the meal is and suggest that the woman to order an appetizer because after all, you have to pay your ex child support (yes, this actually happens)! Do your research before taking her out and find something that is affordable so that there is no angst when the bill arrives. Avoid talking about your job that is perhaps in jeopardy and instead focus on talking about what you like about your job and your passions. Overall, the topic of money should be avoided.
Mistake #3: You are continuously angry and self-absorbed with your own problems. Divorce is an emotional roller-coaster with many ups and downs. You might feel depressed, anxious, exhausted, embarrassed, guilty and/or overwhelmed at any given point in time. Be careful to not let those negative feelings and thoughts bleed into your dating life. Many of my female clients have stated that the number one reason they didn't want to go out on second date with a man is because he was very negative or had a depressed and angry attitude. Women like men who are positive, fun, humorous, optimistic and uplifting. Ask questions about her to see what makes her tick rather than pouring your heart out about all of your problems. If you've had a bad day at the office or a fight with your ex, shake it off before the date by talking to a friend, listening to music or going for a run. Make sure you are in a positive state of mind before going on the date. It's better to reschedule for another day if you are in a bad place to ensure a great first impression.
Mistake #4: You are stuck in college. Gone are the days of bringing your gal to tailgate with your buddies while wearing your football jersey. Depending on your previous dating experience pre-marriage, you may need to brush up on dating etiquette. Know how to treat your lady. Open doors, ask her what food she enjoys, learn about wines, pay for the valet, help her with her jacket and find interesting and romantic things to do. If the waitress pours you a little wine to sniff and taste and you don't know much about wine, do it anyway! Don't say, "Just go ahead and pour the wine. I'm sure it's fine." Fake it until you make it, bud. Women notice the little things.
Mistake #5: You talk about your kids the entire date. If you are a single parent, your kids are and should be one of the most important parts of your life. It is nice to show pictures and share a few things about what makes you proud as a parent. In fact, most women find men who are fathers very attractive because they recognize that they are more giving, caring and know what it is like to be in a long-term relationship. Be careful however, not to talk about your kids throughout the whole dinner. When you are first getting to know a woman, focus on the two of you as a possible couple, not her as the next stepmother. A woman wants to feel that you are going to want her as a partner, and the focus should be the two of you. Once an established relationship is made, there will be plenty of time for her to get to know the children and the entire family.
Remember, these mistakes and tips are based on first dates and impressions. Of course, as the relationship grows and trust is established, you will divulge more personal information. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should really take the time to heal after divorce and make sure you are ready to date. If you find yourself exhibiting anger, feeling depressed and are not emotionally present on your dates, then you might not be ready to date again or need to hire a coach like we have here at The Art of Charm to help you navigate the dating world. So throw away the cup of beer and toast with your wine glass to a new you!
Kimberly Seltzer LCSW is a Therapist, Matchmaker, Personal Image Expert and Dating Coach at The Art of Charm.