Dating is hard enough without being middle aged, divorced, and weighed down with more baggage than a senior citizen on a 40-day repositioning cruise. With age brings laugh lines, AARP discounts, saggy boobs, and perspective. I’m probably needier than most women, but I want an exceptional life and an exceptional love to share it with. I’m not afraid to ask for what I need and I’m fortunate to have found a man who isn’t afraid to give it to me. I won’t pretend to know what’s going on in the hearts and head of all divorced women. But, I’ve had dinner with a lot of them.
And their hearts are breaking because their heads are telling them their current relationship isn’t giving them what they need. And their heads are winning. Guys, if you love a divorced woman, let this be your light bulb moment.
1. Divorced women have been loved and left, or we left because we weren’t loved. Or some variation of that. Let that sink in a moment. Regardless of which side of the bed we found ourselves on, the marriage was lacking – likely for a long time. And we’ve been thinking (obsessing…) about what we want in a partner very carefully. We have a list. Warning – it’s long. You might as well ask us for it up front and think about if you can be that guy.
Our settling days are over. If we don’t get what we want and need, we will probably move on. Most of us would rather be alone than go without what we need again.
2. We’ve become accustomed to our independence and don’t mind living alone. We can keep the temperature the way we like and there’s no battle for the remote control. It may have been hard at first, but life is now a virtual one-woman paradise. We’ve learned to pay our own bills, parent the kids alone and take care of ourselves. We don’t need you telling us how to arrange our finances or our kitchen cabinets. Wait for us to ask for help or advice. Ask our opinion. Recognize and respect our strengths and achievements. We’re proud of ourselves. We want you to be as well.
3. We want to be seen – not as a mother, a provider, a cook or your maid, but as a woman, a full-out partner, and best friend. This is our chance to be noticed, listened to and romanced in a way our marriage might not have provided. Compliment our new haircut, recognize if we’ve dressed nicely for a date. If you pay attention to us and let us know you see us you will hit relationship gold.
4. We’re a little broken. Even in the best of divorces, there is pain. I cried for over a year after I began dating my boyfriend. Sometimes daily. You need to be secure that those tears are no reflection on you. We are crying over the loss of our family unit, our identity, the loss of our home or our finances. It’s scary and crying is a release. Hold us and reassure us. Clue – guys who can be gentle and kind with a girl that cries are hot. And a guy that isn’t afraid to show some emotion or tears in return? They always get the girl.
5. Let us set the pace. I hadn’t been on a date in almost 29 years when I
began dating post-divorce. Tinder who? Match dot what? It’s a new world since Journey ruled the dance floor. We’re nervous and trying desperately to avoid making a mistake. And sometimes that makes us act really strange. If we seem a little guarded, give us time. If we move too fast it’s because we’ve been desperately lonely. Be honest with us about what you’re looking for. Most of us will adjust.
6. Romance us. Dancing in the kitchen, flowers, champagne, and candlelit baths probably haven’t happened for us in awhile, if ever. A lot of us watch too many Lifetime movies (and by “us” I mean “me”) and we live for that shit. Two twirls in the kitchen to Amos Lee and we’re puddles. Hold our hands in public. Caress our cheek. Want to get us in the bedroom? Show us affection outside of the bedroom.
7. Our children come first. They were there long before you were. It doesn’t matter whether they’re toddlers, teenagers, or fully grown. Our kids will always be our top priority, so learn to fall in line gracefully and we’ll be sure you’re at the front of the line when they’re not around. You can be father-like but remember, you aren’t their father. Unless we’re married, it’s not your business if we pay for their dinner or spoil them at Christmas.
8. Be willing to do the work. Relationships are hard. Anyone that’s been in one longer than six months knows they don’t just happen. If we suggest we see a counselor or go to a workshop to help us communicate better, a few appointments or a Saturday afternoon won’t kill you. Refuse? You might just be talking to yourself in bed at night. And we’re okay with that.
9. Show up. Be there for an important doctor’s appointment, our award’s ceremony, when our car breaks down or our dog is sick. My boyfriend surprised me before we were dating by showing up at an MRI appointment a friend had clued him into. He made me feel like I mattered more than anything else that day. I looked at him very differently after that.
10. Just watch the movie. We’ve all been in relationships where we couldn’t get our husband or significant other to listen to our favorite song or give our favorite TV show or movie a try. We look at it as a way to share something meaningful that gives insight into what makes us tick. You look at it as one less “Law and Order” episode you have time to watch. Here’s the kicker. When you say “No” and blow it off, you’re telling us you don’t care about what’s important to us and that we aren’t worth sixty teensy minutes of your time. And if it happens repeatedly? We stop asking. We give up. Don’t let that be your lightbulb moment. It may be too late.
Women – did I get it wrong? Where did I get it right? And men – do some of the same insights apply to you? Let me hear from you! What you want and need could appear in a future post.