Dating After Divorce: The Unavailable Man Otherwise Called the “UM Syndrome”

Have you met a great guy who is  not yet divorced, but seems like he’s perfect for you? This happens  with surprising frequency among my over 40 dating coaching clients.

Truth is anyone can fall victim to the “UM Syndrome – Unavailable Man. I too have been down this path in my younger days. Thinking back on Lou, I had such a deep and heart-yearning crush. I can almost still feel it. He was very handsome (of course), super creative and talented, and in a bad marriage. I wanted him.

I became so over-the-top preoccupied with Lou that I took myself on vacation to California just to get a change of scenery. At the time it seemed like my only hope for salvation.

Absolutely nothing happened between me and Lou, except for what was in my head and maybe some intense flirting at work. But that’s it. None the less, this felt intensely real for me. The vacation trick actually worked to separate me emotionally. So I speak from experience and knowledge about the UM Syndrome. It’s very real and it hurts.

Today, when Vivianne started pouring out her story about Chip, I knew where she was going. Viv had just come back from a weekend high school reunion where she reconnected with Chip. He had become very handsome with the years and successful. He was totally into her and they spent the entire weekend getting reacquainted.

The chemistry was fantastic and Chip had the rare ability to enjoy deep, soul-searching conversations. He shared his hopes, his dreams and his marriage misery with Viv. Then he flew back to Colorado where he lives with his wife and four kids.

Viv, between bouts with Kleenex, wondered what she should do next. She doesn’t want a long-distance relationship. But this guy is G-R-E-A-T.  He has been emailing and texting, keeping things going and growing. But he’s not free this weekend to take her to the concert. And he won’t be probably for years, if ever.

Viv and I spent time discussing her strong ability to “compartmentalize” men. While Viv insisted that Chip set the bar for her standards even higher, she did come to see that while there  were some truly incredible aspects of this man, he has a huge drawback – he is totally unavailable.

Towards the end of the dating coaching session, Viv became clear on what this episode had to offer her and what she could learn.

1. A very attractive man found her  attractive and wants to stay in touch – good for the ego and self-esteem
2. She got plenty of feedback during the reunion that she is a G-R-E-A-T catch herself
3. Chip is unavailable three times over: 1) geographically, 2) emotionally and 3) wifely
4. Staying in touch with Chip will occupy space in her heart that would be better served  looking for a man who is available

Vivianne decided she needed to get real about Chip. Was it fun and exciting? YES! But at this point he can’t offer anything in terms of Mr. Right potential except in her head and cyberspace.

Being divorced and over 40, sometimes Viv and other dating coaching clients forget that there really are single men out there who are relationship ready. You just have to get out there to meet them. Viv decided to use positive self-talk to remind herself that she’s a great catch and  on the path to finding the right man for her. Every time her mind wanders off to fantasize about Chip, she will bring herself back to this reality.

I give Vivianne credit. It was hard work to look at Chip objectively, but she feels better being clear that he is not the right man for her. Avoiding Unavailable Man Syndrome gives her the opportunity to stay active and meet new prospects with an open heart.


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