I was with my soon to be ex-wife for 8 years (married for 2), until she left me last Christmas!
It was one of those slightly annoying ‘no-fault’ separations, we’d been struggling on and off and one day she just didn’t want to keep trying anymore! But after the initial shock I’ve been dealing pretty well.
I’ve been honest with myself, done a bit of reflecting and I can see where we both made mistakes, and that there were some pretty bad personality and interest mismatches that we both were trying to patch over unsuccessfully with work, furniture, houses, cars etc.
I’ve spent the time since she left working on myself and deciding what I want from life, reconnecting with friends, picking old hobbies up again and I’m surprised by how positive it’s been for me. But one thing that’s bothering me a bit is that most dating advice for divorced people seems to be aimed at guys who are 40+ with kids!
While I’m not rushing out to find the next girl just yet, I’m 29 and in reasonable shape, so still (just about) young enough to go clubbing and not be shunned by the crowd in the local Uni town!
However, I also am slightly worried that most younger women I meet are going to be seriously put off by the fact that I’m separated at 29.
I guess I’m wondering if you have any specific advice for younger guys who are divorced/separated and returning to dating after years off? I’m fairly social but my ‘dating skills’ are rusty and the idea of telling someone new I’m separated makes me pretty anxious, but I’m also aware that not telling them and then it coming out months later would be way worse. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels kind of like saying I got an ‘F’ in relationships!
Any advice would be appreciated, I love the podcast and YT channel, I wish I’d had it ten years ago!
First of all, I’m sorry that you’re going through a divorce. A relationship ending is almost always a thing to be mourned, even if it’s one that needed to end. But as sad as getting divorced can be, I want to commend you for how you’re handling the aftermath. You’re doing everything exactly right. You’re giving yourself time, you’re working on yourself as a person, reconnecting with your friends and relearning who you are as a single man, rather than as one half of a couple.
And frankly, you aren’t going to need much in the way of advice when it comes to getting back into dating again. For all that people wring their hands about it, dating really hasn’t changed that much, even since the 80s. Most of the “changes” is that as a society, we’re more honest and open about what we’re doing. Even things like ghosting or backburnering or whatever new jargon people want to write breathless blog-posts about are nothing new; Victorian novels are rife with stories of people who cut off their lovers with no warning. Hell, half of the story of Gone With the Wind involves Scarlett trying to backburner Rhett while she pines after Ashley.
However, you’re doing one thing wrong: you’re getting caught up in the narrative of The Divorce instead of dealing with the reality of it.
One of the tricky things about divorce is how often the narrative is a binary. We usually see stories of divorce told as either the worst thing that could happen or an escape from a living nightmare. What we don’t see very often are love stories where the end is simply a weak “pfft” rather than an earth-shattering kaboom or an all-consuming fire. But a lot of times, relationships end exactly as yours did: low drama, low excitement, just a couple of folks who were together for longer than they should’ve been.
So as soon as the “d” word comes up, we are primed for a story of thrown dishes, punching walls, traumatized kids, custody battles and infinitely memeable arguments. You know what we don’t think? “Oh, this person failed at relationships.” Not unless you did something horrible. Or, I guess, if you’re Adam Driver, anyway.
This is why I have a hard time following why you think that your divorce is going to be such a drawback for you.
Your issue here isn’t that you’re divorced at 29; shit dude, there’re folks who got married and divorced who’re far younger than you. Your issue, such as it is, is the way you’re rolling it out. You’re treating your having gotten divorced (at 29!!, gasp, shock, horror) as this massive black mark, the stain that could never be erased. If you roll your divorce out like that to prospective dates, they’re going to expect drama. They’re going to assume that you had the sort of contentious divorce that lawyers talk about in hushed and awestruck after their third or four Scotch. What they get is… well, kinda dull and utterly common, and they’ll be left wondering just why you made such a federal case about it.
And honestly, I’m not entirely sure why you think that getting divorced is going to be such a black mark. If the court system hadn’t been involved, even in the most perfunctory way, it would be a bog-standard break-up story. Neither of you cheated. Neither of you punched any walls or had to take out restraining orders or had screaming matches in front of the kids. You tried to make things work until one day your wife decided she was done. Hell, the two of you had stuck it out for eight years! That’s not the story of someone who failed at dating, that’s someone who had a fairly successful long-term relationship.
Here’s what you’re getting wrong, my dude. Your relationship didn’t fail. The fact that you or your wife didn’t die in the saddle doesn’t mean that the relationship failed or that you failed your relationship. It just means that your relationship ended. And if you look at it, the two of you ended things on fairly good terms as far as such things go. It doesn’t sound like either of you are harboring any bitterness or rancor for the other, you’re not retconning the relationship into the worst thing ever… if you can find it in yourself to remember the good times and treat your soon to be ex with respect and courtesy, I’d say that this was a success.
Like I’m always saying: not every love story is going to be a drama-filled epic poem. Some are just meant to be a short story. Some are just meant to be a dirty limerick.
So here’s how you handle the “divorce” reveal. To start with: you stop treating it like a deep, dark secret. People will look to you for clues as to how to respond to something. If you roll your divorce out to people like a stain on your soul, they’re going to assume that either you’re still hung up on your wife, or that you did some heinous shit. If you just treat it like a detail in the life of Suddenly Single, then they’ll respond accordingly. What do you tell them and how do you tell it? Exactly the way you just told me: you were ultimately a mismatch as a couple and after a lot of trying to make it work, your wife decided that she didn’t want to try any more. It was a shock at first, but overall, it was a fairly tame affair and you’ve learned a lot about what you need and what you’re looking for.
Roll it out like this and you don’t come across like someone who failed at relationships, you look like someone who’s got some experience under his belt, who had a difficult time and came out of it wiser and more mature.
That doesn’t sound like a failure. That sounds like someone who’s grown and improved and came out the other side as a better man.
You’re going to be just fine, man. You’ve got this.
I’m 28 years old and never been in a relationship. I was in a very bad state a couple years ago, but I’ve put a lot of work into improving myself and going to therapy, and I moved to a new city, which helped a lot, too. Because of this, I’ve put myself out on the dating market, and have been on a few dates with girls who I met on dating apps. They’ve went well overall, and even if nothing more advances out of it, I’m still gaining valuable experience. However, I do have a question about something I’ll likely encounter in the dating scene.
Anyone who’s been on a dating app knows that the thing girls as a whole mention the most in their profiles, aside from loving The Office, is loving to travel. However, I’ve only been to 11 out of 50 states, and I’ve only been to a foreign country for about a minute. (I was in a national park on the border between the U.S. and Canada). For a multitude of reasons, I don’t have many traveling experiences, including the fact that my father was ridiculously thrifty growing up (though he’s been happily married for 35 years), and as a result, our only vacations each year were to see my grandma in Florida, until she died when I was 15. It was always fun, but that was basically the extent of traveling far away from home.
Also, I haven’t had many close friends over the years to travel with, (though I’ve made several friends in my new city after living here only a few months), plus I’ve never really had that much money as an adult, as much of my paychecks have gone towards necessities, and occasional spending on recreational activities and hobbies.
With all that having been said, I know in many of your columns you’ve mentioned the importance of traveling (aside from the obvious fact that almost every girl I’ll meet love to do so). In my experience, though, I tend to not be very interested when people either go on and about their travel stories, or say they’ve been to x number of countries. I sometimes see it as bragging, implying that they have money, rich relatives, or what have you, and in a few cases, I get the idea that they might be implying they’re better than people who don’t have these experiences. Now, if I had a lot more money and free time, I’d gladly go on more trips, but I don’t have the experiences or enough money saved right now, and I probably won’t for several years. Even if I did have more money, I don’t imagine that I’d put the same level of importance on traveling as many girls do. Additionally, my father’s thrifty ways have been passed down to me, as I want to be able to save for the future and any necessities in life. Keep in mind, this is all my opinion.
Aside from that, what I consider to be interesting, in this case, relating to travel, can be different from many other people, too. While I’ve only been to 11 states, I have lived in three different ones, and I worked in a small town in rural Tennessee for several years. I found getting to know the people there, in a culture that was different from what I was used to, and experiencing a place I had never been to quite interesting, and I came to really enjoy it. Personally, if I ever do travel, I’d be more interested in going to different parts of America first and foremost, even if they’re off the beaten path, like a small town in rural Tennessee. Based on what I’ve heard from many girls, they emphasize seeing other countries. I’d give foreign travel a try if I had the time and money, but again, those trips cost more money.
(Side note to any other readers: this goes to show you, just like someone’s sense of humor, what people consider interesting can be very subjective. Aside from being genuinely interested in someone and their passions, obviously, which I see as the most important part of being interesting. But I digress.)
I have been doing other things this year to make myself more well-rounded; doing things that either relate to my passions, or just general self-improvement, like taking improv classes, becoming a better cook, starting a record collection, and I’m thinking about starting to play the keyboard again after 16 years. While this should help me be more attractive to women, at the same time, my lack of travel experience or interest in travel right now seems to be a fairly large elephant in the room.
I know there are lots of girls out there, but to a certain degree, I’m thinking girls might be less attracted and/or not want to date me once they figure out my lack of travel history and the fact that I’m not nearly as interested in traveling as them (or even before they meet me, because on my online dating profiles, I don’t mention anything about traveling). Keeping in mind that I don’t have much money to travel right now, either by myself or with a potential date, and won’t for several years, how can I remain confident and attractive to women despite this, even if I’m not lucky enough to find someone with the same views as I do?
Let me reassure you LW: you are seriously overthinking things.
One of the things you’ll learn after you’ve had some experience under your belt is that there are a lot of cliches on dating apps. In fact, if you google “Dating App Bingo”, you’ll find dozens of variations of bingo cards festooned with the most common cliches… and even those will barely be scratching the surface.
And one of the most common ones you’ll find? It’s a love of traveling. And there’s a reason for that: it’s frequently less about traveling itself — though plenty of people do love it — and more about what it represents.
For starters, travel is frequently short-hand for a number of qualities that people want their matches to know they have. Do you have a picture of yourself on top of a mountain, on a beach in Tulum or in some locale like Petra or the jungles of Thailand? Then you want people to think you’re adventurous. Pictures in scenic outdoor cafes in Paris or Florence or Barcelona? Then you’re cosmopolitan, and possibly well-off. A temple or an ashram? You’re spiritual. You’re in a suit in Beijing or Shanghai or Xian or Tokyo? You’re a dealmaker and successful businessman. And so forth and so on.
For another, a love of travel is less actual and more aspirational. It’s the sort of thing that we assume we’re supposed to want to do. Or it’s something that would make us a more interesting person. Or it’s something that people would love to do at some point, if they had the resources to do so.
You know. Like you.
The likelihood that people will swipe left on you because you haven’t left the country — outside of crossing the border into Canada whilst in a national park — is profoundly low. So low that honestly, I’d be shocked to my core if that ever was an actual issue for you. And if you ever encountered enough people who explicitly passed on you — not your assuming that they did, but straight up said “I can’t be with someone who hasn’t climbed the pyramids in Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza,” then all that’s happened is that you’ve been spared from going on a date with someone who would be a profoundly poor match.
To be perfectly blunt, LW: you’re borrowing trouble from the future, a future that frankly probably doesn’t exist. You’ve created this boogeyman out of whole cloth.
Because in reality? You’re doing pretty damn well for yourself, man. The stuff you’re telling me about are precisely the things you should be doing. The fact that you haven’t traveled much isn’t going to be nearly the drawback that you think. And while there’re ways you could start getting a jump on putting some new stamps in your passport — there’re any number of services that curate lists of travel deals, cheap airfare and fascinating tours and opportunities — your issue isn’t your inexperience, it’s the way you frame it. Portray things a little differently and then you put yourself in a much better position. You like to explore America and check out the interesting parts that’re off the beaten path. You’re saving up and making plans for future travel because the experiences you’ve had thus far have been amazing.
That shift in perspective changes you from someone who’s never been anywhere to someone who would probably be an amazing travel companion; now you’re not inexperienced, you’re somebody with an appetite for adventure and a desire to see the wonders this world has to offer.
Don’t worry about how much or how little traveling you’ve done. There’ll be plenty of other things for folks to bond over.
And who knows? Maybe one of those travel-loving hotties will decide she needs to be the one to be your guide to all those desirable exotic locales.
Previously published on doctornerdlove.com and is republished here under permission.
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