Dating After Divorce: Want Clarity? Look at Basic Truths

Eliminate Relationship Confusion
Eliminate Relationship Confusion

– Are you feeling confused about your relationship?
– Do you feel uncomfortable or wonder if you’re going anywhere?
– Do you want to know how to turn things around so your relationship is like it used to be?

These are not always easy questions and frequently involve countless hours of heart-wrenching, agonizing  discussion with friends and family. I totally understand and have been there myself.

Let me share what happened this week with a new client that may help if you are in a similar situation. This will give you a better understanding of how I work with clients.

Betsy called to talk about her boyfriend of eight months. She’s recently divorced and met Bruce online while he was completing his divorce.

Relationship Details:
Betsy, 38, is an executive with a demanding job. She travels for business, is self-reliant and still recovering from the self-esteem damage that occurred in her marriage. Enter Bruce, a professional partner in a small firm that is doing extremely well. His job is also highly demanding and very lucrative. Bruce’s divorce hasn’t been too taxing, but never the less, it is a traumatic experience to end a marriage.

The couple started seeing each other right after meeting – they just clicked! The relationship moved into a nice rhythm and they saw each other as often as they could given the 3 hour distance. To Betsy, it was fun, romantic, and supportive. Bruce said he was totally smitten.

When Bruce’s divorce became final, things started to change. He decided to renovate his new house and started pouring all his money and time into the project. He became less available to get together all though he still kept in touch almost daily.

Betsy started feeling uncomfortable and  questioning what he was up to. Was he hiding something? Why was he so non-committal about actually getting together, yet stay in close touch?

Betsy talked with Bruce several times. She felt that being direct and honest was the only way to go. Yet, he was definitely not answering her questions and told her he wasn’t ready for a  full-commitment, even though he said they were exclusive.

You may wonder as Betsy did:

– Was Bruce cheating on Betsy?
– What changed that made him pull away and become less available?
– Why wouldn’t he just be direct and honest as she was trying to be and requested?

His Motivation Doesn’t Really Matter –  Just the Outcome
We could make some guesses like maybe he is seeing another woman but wants to hold onto Betsy. But, from this dating coach’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter why he’s doing what he’s doing. In fact, those might not be the right questions. This is what I said to Betsy.

“Let me reflect back what I’ve heard over the last 30 minutes, boiling down the details to these basic truths:

You’re not happy with how things have progressed – or not progressed
You’re not getting answers
You’re feeling uncomfortable  and aren’t sure if you can trust him
Your self-esteem is being undercut as Bruce pulls away”

Normally, clients spend enormous amounts of time trying to understand what motivates a man to do what he does. That’s what women do. But, you may never know the motivating forces that drive him or get clear on his behavior. Even Bruce himself might not be clear.

Truth is, NONE OF THIS MATTERS. The only thing that matters is HOW BETSY FEELS. Reacting to that is the only thing she really can do. Since talking about this situation only seems to push Bruce away, there is just:

One Choice Left – Pull Back
Set a deadline for how long Betsy will allow herself to be unhappy and feel unfulfilled in her relationship. Stop pushing and asking, and instead pull away herself.  Sometimes this creates a space for the man to step forward. If things don’t shift somehow before the deadline, WALK AWAY.

All the talking, figuring out, trying to understand won’t recapture the way the relationship was. It is wasted energy. Regardless of how unfair and cold this may seem, its the simple truth.

At first Betsy was a little shocked by this advice. But as we continued to talk, she became more aware of how her self-esteem and confidence were really starting to suffer. She had worked hard to reclaim her power after divorce and didn’t want to revert to old patterns.

Self-Preservation Comes First
Betsy chose a deadline that is a few months away. My hope for her is that she holds fast to this. There are times in a relationship when self-preservation becomes the most important consideration. For Betsy’s future, moving on is the best possible choice if Bruce doesn’t turn things around. Let’s say a prayer for Betsy that she can follow through if needed.

photo credit: Kapungo

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.

3 thoughts on “Dating After Divorce: Want Clarity? Look at Basic Truths”

  1. any advice for a post-death relationship that was full of passive-aggressive behavior? my mistake was tolerating it & walking on eggshells. feeling my judgement was poor and having a hard time understanding whether i even
    should consider a new relationship. Thanks!

    • Mieke – not sure I understand – post death but if it was passive aggressive and you had to walk on egg shells, there’s o repairing that. Your best bet is to walk away and work on boundaries and learning to know when to get out. Situations like this NEVER get better.

  2. A tricky one. I think sometimes the finality of divorce can make people even more aware that their actions do have consequences and make them more wary of venturing too far too quickly.

    He could also be moving on in some ways, and have relegated Betsy to Option Girl otherwise known as Fallback Girl.

    Ronnie, great advice. There must be a realistic time-frame to go by. This could be months down the track. Obviously there is a certain amount of grief at the end of marriage. If your gut instinct is that the guy is a good one and may just need time, then go with that for the time being
    in the meantime, move on to become more content in your own life.

    eg When any man pulls away, he may actually be thinking more seriously and not be ready to act on it. So either way it pays to live your life to the full. Work on your own projects rather than waiting around for him, catch up with girlfriends and family.

    Choose to really live today.


Leave a Comment