Dating a Separated Man: How Long Should You Be Patient?

Dating a separated man can be super challenging. You’ll need to be patient for plenty of reasons, but how long should you wait for him to straighten everything out, get divorced, and be ready for you?

Can Dating a Separated Man Work?Can Dating a Separated Man Work?

The best answer I can give on dating a separated man is that  – it depends. There are so many variables and things that can come up in this situation. However, one thing is for sure – if he’s not divorced, it’s going to be complicated.

His Personality

First, it depends on the man’s personality. How much can he handle living in the flux of still being legally married, but not in a romantic relationship with his wife?

For some men, this is a huge burden and they need time to heal. That usually cannot happen until the divorce is final, which can take years.

So, if the guy you’re dating is still separated, you’ve got a LONG HAUL in front of you. This is your first red flag.

His Ex Wife

Another contributing factor depends on his ex. Is she a high-drama type or civil and reasonable?

If he claims she’s crazy, you are sure to suffer being in a relationship with him. It doesn’t matter if this seems fair or not. When the ex is difficult, everyone is affected and pays dearly. This is a second red flag.

His Children

Some men have no trouble seeing their kids and having a life for themselves.

Others feel tremendously guilty and as a result, must spend every waking moment with their children when they have them. Or be available to talk with them 24/7 with no boundaries. This can create a total nightmare for dating.

What that means for you is you’ll always be a second-class citizen and never come first. This will show up in many hurtful ways and never get better so beware if this is your situation.

You might only see him on his off weekend or maybe not even that will be guaranteed.

Forget about anything regular if he works weekends, is passionate about his hobbies, or his wife offers more time with his kids than their agreement stipulates. This is a third red flag.

Dating a Separated Man with Children – Is He Ready?

dating a separated man with kidsRegardless of what he SAYS, most men who are separated are not ready for a new serious relationship. If you’re OK with casual, which means you’ll see each other whenever and not every weekend, then it might work.

Not all women want a consistent, close relationship fearing their independence will be at risk. This can be perfect if you are not looking for a commitment.

However, if you want a committed relationship, weekend companionship, consistent weekly dates, you are out of luck when dating a separated man.

He will have too many things taking up his time to offer what you want or meet your needs.

In addition, emotionally, a separated man can’t handle much pressure. They tend to be sporadic in their dating efforts since they have too many priorities.

Romance is usually not at the top even though they welcome female company and sex, of course.

How to Know If He’s Not Ready?

how to know if he's not ready to dateOnce you know what to look for about dating a separated man, it’s easy to spot a guy who is definitely NOT ready for the kind of love you want. He might say variations of the following when you first meet, so listen closely:

“I’m not looking for anything serious, but I’m happy to get to know you and see where things go.”

“I need space, but we can get to know each other and see what happens.”

“I just got out of a relationship, but let’s get to know each other and see how things go.”

Turns out men who say this are being HONEST with you. Right up front, they are telling you they do NOT want a relationship, commitment or anything serious.

They want something easy, uncomplicated, and commitment-free with no expectations.

If you can handle that, great! But, if deep down, you’re hoping he’ll see how great things can be with you and change his mind, you are looking at disappointment, wasted time, and possible heartbreak.

Dating a Separated Man with Baggage


The truth is, dating a man who is still married will always be a problem. They have tons of baggage and no matter how great a guy he is, he’s a package deal with all that stuff from his marriage.

Only HE can do decide to move on, cut his losses and start fresh.

Until he’s ready to move on and make you a priority, he’ll be full of excuses. Maybe he feels too guilty to go through with the divorce, even though he promised and he’s close.

Or he might want his freedom to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants including helping a friend, dating other women, or watching football all weekend.

This can be a highly selfish time for a separated man and in truth, he NEEDS this time for himself. This is healing and gives him the opportunity to get reacquainted with himself, like anyone after divorce.

No matter how much you like him or how much he claims to like you, he’s got family and emotional baggage you’ll have to put up with.

And that will not be fun. Love is not enough to have a healthy relationship no matter how long you are willing to wait.

Dating a Separated Man Who Lives With His Wife

What could be worse than dating a separated man who is still at home living with his wife? Sometimes he feels too guilty to leave, he feels like she needs him, or he can’t afford to sell the house and move out.

What a mess! How can this situation bring you anything but heartache?

I’ve heard crazy stories about men who agree to still go to family events with their wives, or show a good front for business, regardless of being in a new relationship.

How Long Should You Be Patient Dating a Separated Man?

So, how long should you be patient with a separated man? It depends on how much of your life you are willing to put on hold waiting for him? How much time do you want to waste?

If his divorce is just a couple of months away from completion  and there’s a court date, that might be worth it. However, if he…

  • Hasn’t even started proceedings – why wait for what could take years?
  • Doesn’t keep his promises and often disappoints you – that will not suddenly improve
  • Was super nice for a while, but that’s all changed – it won’t revert back to how things were
  • Doesn’t have time for the relationship you want – that’s who he is, and it won’t change
  • Has a million excuses why he can’t see you – things won’t get better in the future
  • Loves you and you love him, but this doesn’t make you happy – that won’t change!

The Bottom Line

how to know if a separated man is ready to dateCan dating a separated man work out? Sure. On super rare occasions a man will finish his divorce, feel ready for a new relationship, and commit to you for the kind of romantic partnership you want.

However, playing the lottery makes more sense since the odds of winning are better.

Please don’t think YOU will be the EXCEPTION. I know so many women who wasted the best years of their life dating a separated man who promised to get divorced.

Your separated guy is NOT the only one for you, no matter how it seems. How can he be the perfect guy if he’s not free and available?

Consider this – if you are just starting to date, please avoid separated men as potential partners.

Eliminate the drama and pain. Why even get started when you know this situation is 99.9% sure to be a tear-jerker?

Stop being patient and understanding. Instead, go after what you want! Move on from men who can’t love you the way you want or offer the kind of relationship you seek. Look for a man who is READY and AVAILABLE for the healthy relationship you dream of and deserve.

Curious about other big dating mistakes that can ruin your chances for love? Get my free book 7 Dire Dating Mistakes

Single for too long, Ronnie wanted to find love. So, she made a few tweaks and then dated 30 men in 15 months to meet her adorable husband Paul. Discovering the keys to midlife dating, she founded It’s Never Too Late for Love to help other smart, successful women find love too! Her mission is to share her proven dating advice  and keen insights about men with women everywhere who are serious about finding love with the right man. Ronnie Ann Ryan, MBA, CCC is a Certified Coach who has helped 1,000’s of midlife women with her Love & Dating Coach services. She’s been featured on BBC’s 5 Live Radio, NBC, ABC, and Fox News, NPR, eHarmony,,, Connecticut Magazine among others around the world. An established author, you can find her 6 books on Amazon.

89 thoughts on “Dating a Separated Man: How Long Should You Be Patient?”

  1. Your wisdom and advice is good; just reading all these stories and real woman dating man separate or going through a divorce -I learned so much- how truth can set you free -thank you so much your article are advice awesome. Do have book on woman dating separated man going through a divorce? It be helpful to read.

    • Glad to be of help Esther. Sorry I don’t have a book about that because I recommend not dating separated men. For the most part, they are not healed or ready for another serious relationship or commitment.

  2. Hi I need advice I’ve been with a guy almost 4 years now he is separated! Hasn’t really said anything about a divorce besides he doesn’t want to deal with her, the thing is they have no kids together no attachments they dont see each other we live in two different cities me and him live together! But I’m tired of waiting I want more an hes a good man he has his ways that’s been pushing me away a bit! I need help an advice because this is our 4th year now and I need to know is it time to end it

    • Hey Lesha, if you are done waiting, tell him that. Let him no that you want a man who is free to marry. Then he’ll either take steps or not, but you don’t need to wait. It doesn’t sound to me like he’s doing anything to free himself up. But only yo can decide if you are done or not. You can tell him that when he’s divorced to let you know and if you are still free, then you can talk about it. See how it goes. If this feels right to you then be brave and do it. Otherwise, it could be 5, 6 or 10 years all the same.

  3. Hi Ronnie, I’ve been dating a separated man for 5 years, living with him for 5 months in a house in his name, that we renovated together, with my 2 teens from my marriage who love him. We met when I was 2 years separated and he was months out of his marriage, his wife cheated and now lives with that man. Our relationship has had its major ups and downs, splitting up numerous times, mainly because he wasn’t ready for a steady relationship. I’m divorced 3 years while he’s still battling over business finances with solicitors and barristers involved. I would never advise any woman to go through this. I love him but so fed up. After 5 years am I wise?

    • Hi Bebe, I can’t tell you to leave. So much depends on your expectations. Is he a man you can count on? Does he do what he says he will? Is he supportive and loving? If he seems ready now and everything is good except that he’s not yet divorced, maybe it’s worth waiting. However, if he doesn’t keep his word, you can’t count on him, he isn’t there when you need him and this is just about deep attraction that you can’t let go of, then that is worth rethinking. I bet you know right now reading this exactly what is in your best interest. And I wish you all the best with your decision.

  4. Hi Ronnie, thanks the most insightful article. I was dating a man who has been separated for 6 years living separately, they are divorce lawyers but, she still won’t agree to the terms. She doesn’t work and financially he’s always supported her. We’ve split up now but it has caused me so much heartache. At the beginning he was so quick to rush in and we had an amazing connection, thinking each other was the one. He was pushing things forward very quickly, he did act like I was the one best friend / lover and when not with his son he spent all his time with me in our shared flat (2md home for him). I guess I’m just so confused as maybe he wasn’t ever truly ready and available when he thought he was. We aren’t together for months now but he still suggests when he’s ready he wants to settle with me. But I just want to close off the hurt and stop hoping even though in so many ways he seemed to really want a future with me. I didn’t meet his son so I wonder if it was more chat and fantasy than real..?

    • Hi Kay, I’m sure he really did care for you and does want a future with you. The problem is he’s not free to offer that. So until he is- the future together is fantasy. Not meeting his son and still supporting her financially – these are signs he’s not truly available. So don’t blame yourself – you believed him. And he might want that and wish for it – but its not a reality now until his divorce is completed. You tried it, now you know and you have moved on. This tells me that you are capable of taking care of yourself and doing the right thing for your own life. Excellent! Its not easy when feelings are involved. But you chose freedom vs. heartbreak and that is very healthy. You can find another man – one who is single and ready for a full relationship.

    • Hi Ronnie, thank you so much for your reply…its taken me a long time to get to this point and feel like I’m finally healing. For months I was confused by what I thought were mixed messages, as he seemed incredibly committed talking of a future like living overseas. But not until his son is 18 (now 14), and since the breakup his feelings haven’t changed . It’s the situation and having too much in his life: Logistics with son, wife in background etc. I’ve been hurt as friends say if he really loved you he’d be with you. Yours is the first article I’ve read that’s made me feel better so I have realized how complicated it can be with a separated man. Even if he does really care and love me, it’s just too much to deal with. Since we broke up he’s actually been depressed and saying maybe he’s giving up himself for his son, and he’s buried in work to protect himself. So, I feel a bit better that maybe he didn’t completely fall out of love, but didn’t have the emotional capacity as he first thought at the beginning. I’m now going to start thinking of the future and a man that is available so I hope for the best.. Thank you x

    • Hi Kay, It’s great to hear your story and know I am not the only one going through the same situation and emotions. I just left my boyfriend of five years that has been separated for all five. My guy and I started off as great friends and it progressed into a beautiful love story. However, he could never pull the trigger on the divorce. He constantly said he was struggling with the idea of putting his children through a divorce, and overtime the emotions became somewhat of a roller coaster for me. After so much back and forth I finally walked away, and I never consider myself a quitter. My biggest challenge was, how do you walk away from the love of your life/your soul mate? I do believe what is meant to be will be yours, but removing yourself from the emotional drama has been very freeing for me.

    • Hi Kristin – I’m so glad to know leaving him and the drama has been freeing. Good for you! That was a brave thing but you took steps for your own good. Often it’s the hardest thing to do what is right for you – but always worth it. Congratulations. I hope you feel very good about yourself or are on the way to that experience.

  5. Hi Ronnie,
    My child’s father and I reconnected after being apart 5 years. During that time apart he got married and then they separated. I’ve been dating him now for 8 years. In the beginning he was shaky and I didn’t completely trust him, but as time has gone on, he has proven himself to us, treats us well and we spend all of our time together. Those he’s close to know me, his family, a few friends, his co workers. He and his wife live separate lives but her name is still on his lease for legal reasons which she is still holding over his head. He maintains that his wife holds the cards as to when the divorce will go through. He’s just not that kind of guy that makes moves or willing to stir the pot. His mindset is that as long as she’s not making noise he doesn’t care. But as much time as I’ve invested I just don’t want to keep going on like this. I still feel restricted in our relationship.
    At the same time I don’t want to lose what we have as a ‘family.’ Our child is 13 and is really just coming to fully enjoy her relationship with him. Not sure what to do…..or maybe I do know what to do, but it’s just so hard to walk away. I just feel like if he would just finalize those papers we would be fine.

    • Hey Tasha, I won’t tell you what to do. Not everyone has to marry. Not everyone has to make things formal. You didn’t say how you feel restricted so it’s hard to comment. If you enjoy how things are – then maybe that’s OK. But if cannot live with things as they are, then you have to take steps on your own behalf, even when it’s hard as the right thing often is.

  6. Hi Ronnie, What an eye opening article! I’ve been on and off with a man for 5 years. When we met we were both in bad marriages. I left my ex and wanted to still see this guy, but he couldn’t spend much time with me. I broke up with him. Fast forward 2.5 years, we got back together for a year. I am divorced. He is separated for 2 years and he lied, saying he filed for divorce. We broke up and I dated other guys – nothing worked out. 7 months ago he apologized, said he’s filing for divorce which he did. But it’s going nowhere and full of drama! I told him he needed to be divorced by August or I’m out again. August came and went and I am so frustrated, I broke up with him again today. Told him to reach out after his divorced to see if I am still available. I said zero contact. I don’t know what’s going on, but he won’t move forward. He treats me well, co-signed on my home and is a good man. But a people pleaser and his ex dictates everything. Should I just move on with my life? We have a deep connection, I just cant keep being patient. Thank you for reading.

    • Hey Sandra, No matter what kind of connection you have with this man, he’s not divorced. That means e has unfinished business and unhealed emotional baggage which keeps him from having the relationship you want.

      In addition, and I say this carefully with compassion, he might want to be with you to help him bridge the gap while going through the process. That doesn’t mean he’ll jump right into an exclusive relationship with you. Some men after divorce don’t want any complications or expectations put on them even if they yearn for female company and a good woman to talk to.

      This might not be true, but it’s something to be weary of. My dating advice is to move on now. If he decides to find you when he is ready, and you are free – great! But at least you get to live your life now. Love and connection are not enough to make a good relationship. Other practical factors count too.

  7. Hi! I’ve been dating a separated man for two months. His wife left him for someone else 6 months ago and they are actively working on getting a divorce. They do not live together. I will say he seems confused. Treats me like we are in a relationship but encourages me to date other people, all while telling me he has stopped dating/ sleeping with other women. Even says he won’t do it because of us. Also says he doesn’t want labels and is afraid of how we have progressed. I see him every week and we talk every day. Honestly it’s been great and I know for a fact he cares for me, just can’t figure out how the story ends. From the beginning he knew I wanted a relationship and I know he needs time. Just wondering how long do I give him? I’m actually not ready for a relationship with him just yet but I’m a single mom and I am looking to get married to someone eventually. So it won’t be much longer before I know I will want a commitment.

    • Hi Maria, So sorry to say it doesn’t look good. Yes he likes you but, not wanting to label the relationship, being afraid of your progress and telling you to see others ALL point to him NOT BEING READY. And there is no deadline on getting ready, so it could take YEARS. In fact, usually the first woman a man dates during/after divorce is for companionship, regular sex and healing, not the long run. This is why I say don’t date a separated man. They need time to heal.

      Helping a man get over his ex is likely to result in him leaving for another woman once he feels better. That’s because being with you will remind him of a time when he was weak or hurting. He’ll want to leave that behind. Since you have hopes this will become lasting love, you should know it’s unlikely based on from everything I’ve seen in 18 years as a love and dating coach. Take his advice and date others if you want lasting love

  8. Hi Ronnie, I’m in a year long relationship with a man who has 3 kids. He is separated but not yet divorced. The divorce will hopefully go through November/ December. He rents a house and the rent is up for renewal in October. We want to live together and be together, probably get married too. Everything we want we know we want. My issue is if he moves in with me in October, will his to be ex-wife be able to claim anything from my earnings or the home I own that I have made over the last 5 years? Should we wait until the divorce is over before he moves in – the rental contract will be another year. Thanks H

    • Hi H, I’m not a lawyer so I can’t give legal advice but I don’t see how his ex would have any claim over your earnings or property. ASk an attorney to be sure.

      Too bad the timing is bad because it would reassure me if your man could complete his divorce first before moving in with you. Otherwise, he could move in and you could be left hanging about his divorce in case there’s a snag somehow. It happens. One solution would be for your man to ask his landlord if he could rent month-to month until his divorce is truly final or for a 6 month extension. The landlord might be happy to do this since he can put off advertising for a new tenant. I think you want to look out for yourself to be sure he’s really free before he moves in.

  9. Hello Ronnie,
    I’ve dated a separated man for 3 years, it was not easy, I haven’t met all his Kids and they don’t know that his father is dating me, then last year he was diagnosed with cancer, I cared for him so much but I am torn if I should stay or leave. I need your advice

    • Hi Meg, it’s been three years. What possible reason is he still married? Why has he not told his children about you? Something is not right with this situation. You know this already in your heart. If you stay, you could be throwing away more years on a man who will never be free to marry you. The choice is yours. I hope you make a decision that is in your own bet interest.

  10. Hello Ronnie,

    I have been dating a separated man, who also had children. We have been dating for 6 months now and he has not even told his wife or children that he is seeing someone. I hardly get any of his time. Because of his occupation he is very busy and then his days off are with his children & wife at home in another city. I get the odd day here and there, sometimes 2 plus weeks without seeing him. We are suppose to be in a relationship. It doesn’t feel like it to me. He says things will change when the children are older and start college, but that is years away. I feel I am wasting my time and then sometimes I feel I’m being unfair and selfish. He has to spend time with his children so I can’t have him all of the time. But I’d think he’d at least give me a day every now and again. I don’t think he understands how it makes me feel when he is always going back to stay there where his wife is living too.

    • Dear S, I can hear how painful and confusing this is. He’s not READY for the relationship you want. You ARE in a relationship but on HIS terms. This is not an equal partnership and you are NOT a priority in his life – so you can FEEL that you don’t matter enough to him. That is NOT selfish!
      1) Time to strengthen your self-worth and know you deserve a man who treats you well. A divorced man with kids has to see them – but there are divorced men who have HEALTHY relationships too.
      2) Don’t date separated men -they are most often not ready emotionally and often haven’t worked out custody issues or schedules.
      3) How do you know he’s separated? He visits his wife? You might be his side thing – he wouldn’t be the first man to lie.
      4) You need standards. If you’re looking for a guy to spend most weekends with (or at least half) plus another night or two during the week, and the man you’re seeing can’t do that or won’t, he’s not the right man. This becomes a “deal breaker” and is not selfish at all. Your current guy cannot deliver on this.
      5) Get clear on what you want from a man and a relationship and then expect that! Once you know how you want to be treated, you’ll find it easier to decide what is unacceptable. Then you can move on to find the right man for you. Love doesn’t mean you should suffer. Love should add to your life and bring joy.

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