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WHAT NOT TO SAY ABOUT YOUR EX
January 25, 2009

Written by 38-year old guest female author SINgleGIRL of  Sex, Lies, and Dating in the City  Some midlifebachelor.com readers are brand-new bachelors after having been married for 10+ years, then getting divorced. Articles such as this PLUS our  Dating Advice  section can help prepare you for what is next. Be sure to add your comments to the COMMENT section at the bottom of the page, or discuss in our Midlife Forum ...


At some point, every divorced person is going to be asked about your ex-husband or your ex-wife … so you need to carefully consider how you will respond. The wrong answer can doom your dating experience – especially on a first or second date.

I know quite a bit about this topic, but from the other side. I'm a single woman who dates a lot of divorced men. A lot. And what a guy says about his ex will affect how our date goes, and how I feel about him.

Let's take a date I was on earlier this week, for example. It was a first date with a guy who seemed promising, at first, until he stuck his foot in his mouth … so far into his mouth that it became difficult to enjoy the rest of the evening, or even consider going out with him again. It was early in the week and so I asked him about the past weekend. He started off by telling me that he had a nice time with his child (I date a lot of divorced guys with kids, and I have no issues with that. They frequently make great boyfriends, in fact). But then he went on to complain aggressively about his ex, and how because of her he didn't have as much time with his kids as he wanted.

I was sympathetic. I can't imagine how hard it would be to not be able to be with your children as often as you'd like. I kept my sympathy brief, though. I didn't want to spend our first date listening to how his ex had done him wrong. But that's exactly what happened. He proceeded to tell me, in detail, what a horrible wife she was and how vicious her lawyers had been in the divorce. Oh, and how unfair the law is to fathers.

If we had been dating for weeks or months, and this information had come out over time, all of that would have been okay. They were his true thoughts and feelings - and there is nothing wrong with sharing how you feel. Otherwise, no. He was breaking what I consider to be the golden rule for divorced guys. Or at least the golden rule of divorced guys who want to date me … and that is don't say anything negative about your ex on the first date or second date. Nothing. If and when it comes up say something simple like, "Sadly, we weren't able to part on good terms." You might also be prepared with some additional platitudes like: "We married young and grew apart", "It turns out we just didn't know each other as well as we thought", or "We just wanted different things" in case your date asks questions about your relationship. If you have kids it would be great if you could say (unless it's a lie), "we work hard to get along for the sake of the kids" or something to that effect.

This is all for your own benefit. You don't want to come off as an angry, bitter, spiteful person. And it's really difficult to talk about an unpleasant divorce without seeming any of those things.

Fortunately, not all divorces are bitter. A lot of people actually had decent marriages and do get along with their exes. And that's wonderful. But I don't really want to hear much about that either. In fact, if a guy says his exe's name more than 3 times (for any reason) during the first or second date there's a pretty good chance he's never going to hear from me again. I'm only interested in dating men who have moved on. And talking a lot about your ex tells me that there's a part of you who is still holding tight to that baggage. So, again, for your own sake, say very little. "We had a very amicable divorce," should serve you well.

The key takeaway here for divorced men and women is – especially when you are out with someone new on a first or second date, give some careful advance thought about how you will respond to questions about your ex … try to put yourself into the shoes of a new date who is listening to you … avoid negativity and/or the projection of attachment toward your ex … and keep the whole subject brief. You can always open up a bit more later on in the relationship.

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