How to Explain your Bitter Divorce to a Date

DISCLOSURE:  I am SINGLE. I don’t know diddly-squat about dating although I can give lots of decent free advice about kicking your husband/boyfriend/that-guy-who-won’t-stop-calling offa your cloud, dating has not been my field of study, not for a long, long time.  (I like having my own bathroom far too much.)

I am writing this piece anyway because whoever wrote How to Explain your Bitter Divorce to a Date for eHow is in need of a trip to the woodshed, and I’m here for you, Readers.

My crazy-dysfunctional piece-of-work mother told me once that men leave women for other women (or men—it is the 21st century now) and women just leave men.  Perhaps that is why this sort of advice approaches dating as though it’s an interview for a job vacancy and the woman is the hiring party. Should one really look at oneself as just filling a vacant position in someone’s life? “Well, she had a boyfriend slot open so I applied. We had a good first interview and I’ve been here ever since. The benefits aren’t bad.” Let’s have a paradigm shift, shall we?  We should meet people whom we find compelling, come to care for, and want nearer to us, and then create roles especially for them.


The advice on eHow begins by explaining, “If you’re going through a nasty divorce and you’ve starting dating again, you may feel like you’re in purgatory….”  Purgatory? Purgatory is a place of suffering where sinners expiate their sins before going to heaven. If you are going through a bitter divorce, chances are you’re feeling more like you are in HELL and there is NO HEAVEN and you know what else?  You have no business dating. None.  Don’t go dragging some other poor unsuspecting soul into your war zone.  Sheesh. If that isn’t sowing bad karma, I don’t know what is.

However, the eHow contributor (I’m going out on a limb here to say it is a man writing) in his wisdom advises, “You don’t want to squander the possibility of the budding relationship before you. Proceed carefully as you explain your situation to your date.”  Go ahead, baby.  Wreck that train.

The Instructions:

1. Let your date bring up the subject first. If your divorce just happened, you may be chomping at the bit for a chance to unload your frustrations. Your unwitting companion may be just looking for a relaxing dinner and conversation. Save the conversation for later if your date doesn’t ask about the divorce.

Translation: Avoid scaring off your unsuspecting victim. Only volunteer information if asked and then mask your anger (and again, I add, if you are having to mask your anger, you are not ready to date).

2. Keep an even temperament. As you begin to rehash your difficulties, emotions can get the better of you, revealing an unbecoming side of your temper best left concealed. If you feel your facial twitch activating, change the subject.

Translation:  Lie.  Pretend not to be the asshole you are. (Yes, I can definitely understand why a woman might start to back away if her date began twitching. In anger. Over his ex.  R E D  F L A G.)

3. Be honest because you don’t know where this date could lead. If you spin tales to cast your ex in a negative light, the truth might emerge later to destroy your current relationship.

Relationship?  This is just a date and before you’re even ready, remember?  You can probably pretty well predict exactly where it will lead:  Into a brick wall. Translation: Be honest, like Bill Clinton.

4. Use “I” language when discussing the divorce. This signals ownership of your emotions, rather than a tendency to play the blame game. Instead of, “He’s so greedy,” say, “I don’t agree with the terms of the settlement.”

Okay, “I” language, that’s good.  Our writer had some marriage counseling before things headed south for him and he picked up a trick or two… to use on his next victim. Instead of, “My ex is a narcissistic low-life who would still love to torment my every waking moment,” one might say, “I just see things differently than he does.” Be honest, like Bill Clinton. (Note the switch from she to he—this advice might be for you, too, gals.)

5. Play your cards close to your chest. Although you must be honest, you don’t need to give an exhaustive history of your marriage to prove how nasty your ex is.

Translation:  This is a game so shut up. Lie by omission. Keep your bitterness to yourself or your next victim will be backing away slowly.

6. Focus on the future, not the past. Your date may seem empathetic, but probably would rather move forward. Give her assurance that you’ve reached closure.

Assure her that you’ve reached closure? Look, Pal, if you are narrowing your nostrils and biting back your anger before you start to twitch, you have not reached closure. Yes, move forward—that is an excellent idea, but it would certainly be more ethical to do it BEFORE you spring a trap for some sweet, unsuspecting, empathetic pretty.

7. Share something you learned from the relationship. If you can show your date that you’ve learned some life lessons from the breakup, you show signs of maturity and growth.

Translation:  Trick her into believing that you aren’t the same asshole your ex kicked to the curb.

What bothers me most, Readers, is the encouragement to deceive. Date before you’re ready and lie by omission. Okay, I’m gonna add a little of my own advice here.  Just to be absolutely clear:  Chances are, those who are believing columns like the one on eHow should not be dating.  When the war is over, you should take time to heal and sort through what was whose part in the whole disaster. You should be trying to find out who you are outside of a relationship.  If you eventually decide to date, you should think intentionally about what you want in a romantic partner, if you want one at all. Qualities like “available” are decidedly not enough and it is perfectly okay to be alone.

If you are postwar dipping your toes into the dating waters:  Just. Be. Honest. Divorce sucks, it just really sucks, especially when there are kids in the mix. Even for those who do it well (I know you’re out there) it is still a war, even if a diplomatic one. Most people get that, even if they haven’t walked the coals.   For pity sake, show some humility, chances are you had a hand in screwing things up in your romantic last-round.  Be truthful (without the gory details) and say straight-up that you expect the same.

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