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Dating after divorce? You need to be open

Sunday October 20 2019

Chris Hart, relationships

Relationships only really work well if you’re completely honest with one another. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CHRIS HART
By CHRIS HART
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As you start socialising again after a divorce, there’s a good chance that your dates have also been in serious relationships. And that’s something you’d like to know about, isn’t it? No doubt they’ll also want you to talk about your past.

And that can be surprisingly difficult after a marriage has failed. But don’t be tempted to cover things up.

Because relationships only really work well if you’re completely honest with one another. And one thing’s for sure: if you feel unable to reveal your history to a potential partner, then you two have some big problems ahead. So be honest, take things slowly, and you’ll lay the foundations for a good future.

SIMPLE QUESTIONS

Start by asking your new date some simple questions, like ‘Have you ever lived with anyone?’ ‘How long was your longest relationship?’ Naturally, you’ll straightway be asked the same things, so that’s your cue to reveal that you’ve been married.

Avoid gushing everything out all at once — it’s just too scary. Your date only really needs to know two things to begin with: that you were once married, and it didn’t work out. You can add the details later — but still keep everything simple. Just the basic facts.

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Do you have children? Then don’t go trying to hide even a single one of them! You’ll get found out sooner or later, for sure, and that will destroy the trust between you.

Children imply you were in a serious relationship of course, but not necessarily that you were married. So use the way you talk about your children’s other parent to define the relationship.

Calling them your “ex” implies they were just a part of your life and you’re glad they aren’t any longer. “Mother” or “father” is more neutral.

But the words “husband” or “wife” says the relationship was formal — and loving at some point. If that’s the case, say right out whether you’re now divorced, and check whether your new date is too. Because people often stay married for years before the legalities catch up with reality.

VILLAIN

And don’t be tempted to make your ex sound like a monster. OK, maybe they are. But mostly our exes are just ordinary people, and forever viewing them as a villain isn’t good for you or your children.

So start referring to them by their name, rather than whatever arms-length label you’re currently using. Your ex isn’t a character in a movie, they’re a real person in your children’s lives.

And forgive them for whatever went wrong in your relationship. Not for their benefit but for yours. Forgiveness takes time, and you may have to start over several times. But you’ll know you’re succeeding when they no longer intrude into your thoughts.

You no longer think of how you’ve been hurt. Maybe you’re even able to understand and empathise with them. But most important, you’re looking to the future and not the past. And focusing on your own happiness.

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