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I want to start dating again, but everyone sees me as 'the divorced guy'

  • Author: Wayne and Wanda
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published March 10, 2017

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Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I met my wife in college and we married right after graduation. We had kids right away. Things were good for a long time, and then they weren't. I don't want to go into details but for the most part, our decision now to get a divorce is one we came to together after a lot of hard conversations and even some counseling.

Once we agreed on divorce and told the family and kids, I got an apartment. Now, for the first time in years, I'm actually going out with friends.

But I feel like I can't have a conversation with anyone without the divorce coming up. People ask the craziest and most personal questions, like if one of us cheated, or if she's "cleaned me out." Meanwhile, after having a fairly platonic marriage the past few years, I'm dying to get back out there, even if things just start out casual. How can I wade into dating again and stop being "the divorced guy" in my friends' eyes? Because there's a lot more to me than that and I'm ready to move on.

Wanda says:

But are you ready to move on? Are you really? As someone who dated a newly separated dude, I'm playing devil's advocate. "Bryan" seemed perfect — sincere, romantic, attentive. Then one day, Bryan stopped texting and calling. In fact, Bryan straight-up ghosted. Months later, he confessed that the relationship was suddenly "too much" amid his navigating his divorce, crazy ex's antics and his kids' emotional needs. We never reconciled.

What I learned: Even those people with the best intentions who think they know what they want may not, which is well and good until they involve others' feelings.

You haven't dated in years and you've just now ended your marriage. Do you really want to leap back into dating? Maybe you'd actually prefer some harmless but ego-inflating flirting. Maybe you just want some no-strings sex. All of this is OK! Just be honest with yourself and with those in your path. And don't fall into a relationship simply because you can't remember how to be alone.

Personally, I'd advise you stay single a while. Get to know yourself again. You haven't had this much quality time to focus on yourself in years. And it's true what they say: You can't be a solid partner until you're up can stand solidly on your own.

So pump the brakes, and relax. You won't be single forever, but being single for a while won't hurt. And most importantly, it will give your children time to process this major change in their world without additional confusion, or with you feeling like you have to hide something from them.

Wayne says:

Here's an idea: Meet new people, go new places, have new fun.

Of course your friends and extended family members want to know what the hell happened in this marital melodrama — whether they truly care about how you're dealing with it all or if they really just want the juicy details. I'm guessing most are currently married and mildly bored. Your breakup is the most interesting thing to happen since the Catalina Wine Mixer!

It's time for you to exit stage left. You're suddenly feeling free, living single and craving change. While Wanda feels it's best for you to sit in your apartment and memorize "The Four Agreements," I suggest getting out of the apartment and the old routine and staying away from the old friends for a while.

This doesn't necessarily mean you need to get on Tinder ASAP. Or maybe it does. Just go with what feels right and stay away from the people who are dragging out what's already an emotionally exhausting situation for you.

I will echo Wanda and remind you to stay true to yourself and your kids. Don't go all midlife-crisis-cool-dad and get a new hairdo, a new car and a new girlfriend. You'll regret it all before the ink on the divorce settlement dries. But you've got enough stress in your life right now. Enjoy some fresh air, faces and fun.

Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at wanda@alaskadispatch.com.

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