5 Things To Watch Out For When Dating Someone Who Is Recently Separated — But Not Divorced

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Happy young woman hugs boyfriend

We divorced people have a rule of thumb; don’t get into a relationship with someone who is separated but not yet divorced. If they are divorced, they have to be divorced for at least two years to be relationship material.

People who are separated, but not divorced, may not be ready.

I am afraid that I, and many of my clients, are guilty of breaking that rule. When we meet someone we connect with, it’s hard to listen to the head and not the heart.

People who are newly separated but not divorced are people who are not emotionally available for a relationship. They are still connected to the past, not realizing that things must change.

There are a few things to watch out for when dating someone who is separated but not yet divorced, some of which are subtle and some more obvious. Knowing what the signs are will, hopefully, keep you from making the same mistakes that many of us do.

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1. They're still attached to old routines.

A client of mine was dating a man who was separated but not yet divorced. He had four kids under the age of 13, a wife who didn’t want the divorce, and a high-powered job. I tried to warn her to tread lightly when she met him but she didn’t listen to me.

Her man was still attached to the routines that his family had had for two decades and he couldn't, or wouldn't, break out of them.

For example, he would wake up at 5 a.m. to watch his kids play hockey, even if he didn’t do the driving. He made sure that he picked up his 8-year-old from school, even if it was a day with his mom. Every Sunday he had dinner with his wife and his kids. And all of these things, he told her, were non-negotiables.

The problem here is that, while he might be getting divorced, his family unit is still too intact to make it possible for him to bring someone else into his life.

There was simply no room for her.

At first, my client was okay with it. She thought it was great that he was still so involved with his kids. But, as time went on, it had a huge impact on her life and their relationship.

He would wake up at 5 a.m. to go see the kids play hockey, missing every Saturday morning with her. Even on days when he didn’t have his kids, she couldn’t plan anything in case he had to drop everything for them. And when his wife called at noon on Sunday to say he had to come over and get the bat out of the attic, which he did immediately, she had to go to the movies by herself.

If your person is still very involved in their family life and old routines, they are most likely not ready for a relationship with you.

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2. They may use you for emotional support.

I know that you are going to find this shocking but women like to support people. They want to be there to listen, to hug, to cook and clean, and to care for. And they often do this to the extent that they ignore their own wants and needs.

I have a client who was dating a newly separated man. While he was very happy that he was separated, his life had truly been rocked. His marriage was over. He didn’t see his kids every day. His finances were being devastated and he had lost a significant amount of his social group.

He was wonderful, and he was so excited but he was very needy.

He needed her to listen to him cry about missing his kids, to stay in for dinner because he was worried about finances, to be patient when he needed to spend hours on the phone with his lawyer, processing what was happening. She gave and gave and gave and, while she liked to give, it was sucking her dry.

She found having him around exhausting. She started making up excuses to not see him. She still thought he was wonderful, and he was, but he was killing her.

When someone is going through a divorce, they are in a very vulnerable emotional place and tend to need a lot of support. And they aren’t always available to give any support back.

This leads to an imbalanced relationship that just results in misery and, ultimately, a breakup.

So, if your person is newly separated but not yet divorced and is eating you up emotionally, it's time to consider moving on to someone who can give as much they get!

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3. They may still be in conflict with their ex.

I know that, 11 years after my husband left, we still fight about things. Luckily, our kids are grown and our contact is minimal but we still do have our moments.

That said, there is fighting with your ex and there is full-on screaming back and forth with your ex.

When I was getting a divorce, I got involved with a wonderful man. He told me about the two-year rule but said that I was worth taking a chance on — that he would date me even though I was only separated. And our relationship was wonderful — until my relationship with my ex started getting in the way.

One day, my ex’s new girlfriend’s sister sent me a text that was meant for my ex, sharing pictures of how happy she was. I was, understandably, really angry. I didn’t want the divorce and this happening felt like a slap in the face. And what did I do? I turned to my boyfriend to process my anger at my husband — he even had to hear me scream at him over the phone.

So, Mr. Great New Guy shut down completely.

I didn’t know why at the time, but now I know that he just didn’t want to hear it. He had been through his own divorce and he didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of mine. And having to process fights with my ex felt like he was reliving fights with his.

In retrospect, I totally get why he reacted that way.

When we have been divorced for a while, we tend to react less strongly to our exes. Time has passed and the emotions aren’t as strong.

So, if you find that your new person’s ex has a big role in your day-to-day life with your partner, it might be a sign that they aren’t ready for a relationship.

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4. They may not be honest with their kids.

I very strongly believe that if someone isn’t willing to be honest with their kids about their new relationship then they are not ready to be in a relationship.

I am not saying that the new person should be brought to Christmas dinner and music recitals right away, but I believe that it is very important that the kids are told that it is happening.

My guy has four grown sons. We started dating and when things started to get serious, he told them that we were dating. Their mother wasn’t happy that I existed so they kept their distance. And that was OK. I wasn’t going to rush them. But I was happy that they knew about me, that I wasn’t being hidden from them.

It’s been five years now and I know all of my boyfriend’s boys very well. Our relationship has slowly evolved over the years and I believe it’s because they knew of me early and they knew that their father had never lied to them about me.

So, if your person is lying to their kids about you, pretending that they aren’t in a relationship, then it might be time to find someone who can be honest with their kids about sharing how happy they are.

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5. They're likely to fall in love too quickly.

I know that when my husband left, I was devastated. Until that moment, I had been a wife and a mother, and a married community member.

And then, along came a guy, a wonderful guy, and I fell for him hard. I believed that I had finally found the love of my life and that I would live happily ever after.

What I have learned in retrospect is that I was feeling so empty, so lost, because of being alone that I attached to this man desperately, hoping to feel loved and needed and relevant.

The thing is, a person needs to fill their empty space themselves. Trying to have another person do it will only end in failure, like fitting a square peg into a round hole!

If you have found that your new person has fallen hard and fast, it might very well be because they have an empty space that they are desperate to fill and you are simply the person for the job.

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Know the signs when dating someone who is separated but not yet divorced to prevent having your heart broken.

I know that you love this new person who you met and that you are hoping that things with this person will be different than they are for most newly separated people. And maybe they will be. But make sure you look out for the signs that your person isn’t ready to be in a relationship.

After all, every moment you waste, hoping things will change, are moments that you could be spending finding someone who is truly ready for you!

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based, certified life and love coach. She helps people find, and keep, love in this crazy world in which we live. Check out her website or reach out via email.