How To Avoid Men Who Specifically Target Newly Divorced Women

Freshly broken-up women can be easy marks for manipulators, but not if you know what to expect.

Last updated on Oct 30, 2023

Woman post divorce-heart being targeted Icons8 Photos, Polina Sirotina | Canva

The prospect of dating after a bad breakup is usually exciting for women but also pretty terrifying ... and for good reason. When you're a woman back on the dating scene after being in a relationship for a long time, you're an easy target for players and manipulators.

I remember feeling that same thrill about dating right after my divorce ... at least, initially.

I married at 19. When I divorced after 18 years of marriage, I was unprepared for dating. I assumed it would be fun and innocent like dating was in high school.


Boy, was I wrong!

RELATED: 17 Signs Someone Is Manipulating You

Here's why some men target women who are fresh from a bad breakup & how to avoid falling for them.

1. You're lonely and a little naive.

When you are fresh out of a relationship, you feel a profound lack of love. You experience loneliness at a level you've never felt before.


A manipulator can use this against you. You believe them when they say they want to spend time with you or love you. You'll believe just about anything to keep your loneliness at bay. Since you're not a user yourself, it's hard for you to imagine other people behave that way deliberately. It reminds me of how I fell for a user.

Three months after my divorce, I "fell in love." He seemed to know me so well. It seemed like we'd known each other forever, and I was eager to express my love for him. I won't lie — I had a lot of fun doing it!

Then, things changed. When my life got complicated I needed emotional support, and he disappeared. I naively kept reaching out to him while thinking he must be going through a tough time too. After all, he told me he loved me, so I couldn't imagine he would vanish.

When I finally understood it was over, I was devastated.


I thought I was rebuilding my life with someone new, and I was doing well, but the truth is — he was using me.

Unfortunately, my story isn't unique.

The solution? Be prepared for certain men to target you, specifically. Watch for the signs that he's jumping in too fast, love-bombing or playing to all your "pain points" to draw you closer. These are not signs of a healthy relationship! 

2. You're not sure what you want.

The whole world of dating is intoxicating after a bad breakup. You want to experience it all and reclaim (or maybe even claim for the first time) your power.

After ending a long-term relationship, you're inexperienced, especially if you married the first person you were intimate with. You're naive about what the modern dating world is really like. You're entirely out of practice fully expressing your likes and dislikes.

Your lack of knowledge and experience makes you look like an innocent kitten to the lions and bears of the dating world.


A woman I know told me the first guy she got involved with after her divorce said to her: "Wow, you're like every guy's fantasy. Like a little innocent kitten just set down in the jungle. I hope the lions or bears don't eat you alive."

Another guy she dated came back to her, months after she stopped answering his calls, to apologize and admit he had knowingly taken advantage of her the whole time they'd been together.

And being used isn't unique to newly divorced women. Men get used, too. Several women I know only went out with men because they liked the expensive meals and gifts the men showered upon them. But as soon as someone else came along, someone willing to spend more money or was better looking or even better in bed, those women immediately dumped the men they'd been seeing.

The solution? Even if you don't know what you want long-term, you can establish what you want for the short-term. What would be healthy and desirable for three months? How about for the next year? Write these things out and share with a trusted friend or confidant. Having a plan in place gives you confidence, and users can sense that you are less likely to be taken for a ride.


RELATED: 7 Brutal Truths Every Happily Divorced Person Knows

3. You've lost your direction for the future.

Your hopes and dreams for the future change dramatically when you end a long-term relationship — (Well, first, they're shattered, and then you realize you need to come up with new ones) — this leaves you wandering without clear direction for a while.

When you're fresh out of a relationship, it's easy to feel stuck and unsure of your future. So when someone tells you that you're exactly who they've been looking for and how you make their dreams come true, it's super simple to get sucked into that.

A bad breakup shakes the foundation of your life. For some time, it makes you virtually helpless prey for users and manipulators. Does that mean you're a fool? No, not at all. You're just a human being going through a genuinely challenging time.


The solution? Similar to the above. You don't have to have a 10 year plan to have a plan in place!

4. You're hungry for approval.

You weren't fully appreciated, validated, or respected in your marriage. You're justifiably anxious to have someone praise you for simply being you.

You believe just about anyone who seems to see you and show you the appreciation you've been missing out on. You're drawn to them like a fly to honey, and manipulators use that to trap you under their spell.

The solution? Watch for those love-bombers and flatterers! Remember that an ego boost from somewhere else is only worth short-term fun. It's not sustainable self-esteem that will help you grow and find your way in life. Practice affriming yourself with a journal of things you're grateful for and that you like about yourself. Perhaps join a women's group where peers will help you sort authentic forms of self-love from short-term boosts that might leave you feeling more drained in the end. 


5. You desperately want to feel happy again.

Happiness is one of the most important emotions to human well-being. It's from a sense of joy that the energy to create, to work, and to love flows.

When someone makes you feel happy after (or even in the midst of) the profound misery of divorce, it's easy to believe they're exactly who you need in your life. They're like a drug you can't get enough of, and you'll do almost anything to keep them with you — which is exactly what the users and manipulators out there want.

The solution? Be aware of how badly you want to be happy again. Write it out. Become comfortable with it. 

Then reassure yourself that happiness may take time, but it's worth it. Remind yourself that the best things in life have come when you've worked hard to build a strong foundation for them and have been patient while you watched them grow. 


RELATED: 10 Subtle Signs A Master Manipulator Is Trying To Control You

Is the only option not to date at all or end up being used? ... Of course not!

Knowing you're an easy target is the first step to keeping manipulators at bay. Yes, you need to go slow and ease into relationships carefully. You have plenty of time to find love. But if you spend time working on yourself first instead of reaching out to new lovers for approval, you'll save yourself some hurt and frustration.

The only way to make sure you're not an easy target and can honestly experience the thrills of a relationship is to make sure you're truly ready to be out there dating again.

So, wait ... at least a little while. Don't date until you're past the soul-sucking loneliness of divorce until you've gotten to know yourself, until you've created new dreams for your future, until you appreciate yourself for being you, and until you've found a sense of happiness on your own.


If you don't wait and instead run head-first toward the thrill of dating (like I did), you risk being used, manipulated, and hurt. The choice is yours.

It's a choice I wish I'd known about when I got divorced. It might have saved me a whole lot of hurt.

RELATED: 9 Signs You’re Ready To Date Again After A Breakup

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage and divorce has appeared on MSN, Yahoo!, and eHarmony, among others.