As a concerned fan recently tried to warn soon-to-be divorcé Dell Curry in a chaotic if rather amusing viral Twitter thread, there are many things a newly divorced man may have to worry about upon re-entering the dating space after years or even decades of marriage. From pegging and group chats to potentially lethal TikTok trends and a diet of turmeric and charcoal ice cream spoon-fed at the hands of a “child of Rihanna born in the fires of chaos,” there are many new additions to the dating landscape of which a man just returning to it for the first time as a divorcé may well be wary.
But if there’s one post-divorce dating anxiety of which I — a proud child of Rihanna who was, in fact, born in the fires of chaos — would encourage you to divest yourself of immediately, it’s any fears or insecurities you may have about re-entering the sexual and/or romantic market as a divorcé, and how that may affect (read: narrow) your options.
While negative cultural attitudes toward divorce and those who have been through it have shifted in recent years, stigma against divorce and divorcés is far from extinct. “Unfortunately, for some individuals there is still a sense of stigma around divorce,” says Jade Bianca, dating coach, matchmaker and founder of Dating After Divorce. “I hate to speak about it to perpetuate this archaic mindset, but it’s a reality for some divorced men who are dating again.” Naturally, divorcés who are ready to start dating may worry about how potential matches and partners will perceive them based on their marital history, as well as how those perceptions may limit their options or otherwise negatively affect their dating lives.
Fortunately, those fears are largely unfounded, or at least easily overcome. According to Dr. Kelly Campbell, professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, “The days of divorce stigma are long gone unless we’re talking within certain circles such as some religious communities.” Are there people out there who view divorce as a “red flag” in a potential partner? Sure, but those people are the ones who should be ashamed of being judgmental, close-minded jerks who are actually the ones limiting their own options by excluding the entire (very large) population of divorced men from their pool of dating prospects. Take it from me, a woman who has shamelessly and without reservation dated many a divorced man: there’s absolutely no reason to feel ashamed or worried about dating as a divorcé. In fact, there are many ways in which a divorce can actually be an advantage in the dating world.
You’ll get to immediately weed out some obviously bad matches
Again, there are definitely people out there who will consider a divorce a “red flag” or “deal-breaker” in a potential mate. (Though it’s worth noting that, according to Bianca, “In general, most women don’t care if a guy is divorced.”) While this mentality among some prospective partners may seem to put you at a disadvantage, it may actually help you save a lot of time and wasted energy on bad matches and dates that go nowhere. Why? Because you’re a divorced man — like it or not, it’s part of who you are. You can get remarried, sure, but you can’t get un-divorced. If a woman has a problem with your being divorced, that’s: A) her problem, and B) an obvious sign that this woman, however judgmental or close-minded her hangups may be, isn’t going to fit into your life, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that she remove herself from it as early as possible.
It is generally my belief that anyone is within their right to filter potential romantic partners based on the criteria of their choosing, so if someone isn’t interested in dating someone who has been divorced, it’s not really my place to pass judgment on them. That said, I tend to be of the opinion that anyone who would write off a potential date based entirely on their marital status is probably operating under some pretty archaic mentalities rooted in harmful beliefs that have kept unhappy people in unfulfilling marriages for centuries, and you’re probably better off without that in your life. As Bianca puts it, “If someone sees your divorce as a red flag, they’re just not the person for you.”
A divorce shows potential partners you are at least capable of commitment
I am by no means someone inclined to champion “commitment” — particularly of the lifelong, monogamous variety — as a romantic ideal. Sexual and/or romantic relationships can exist in myriad different forms that may deviate from the monogamous societal norm, none of which are inherently better or more valid than any other. Many people are not seeking commitment of that nature from a potential match, date or partner, and you — a man who recently ended a long-term commitment — may very well not be looking to leap into another one.
That said, many potential matches out there are looking for someone who seems amenable to commitment. And what says “I am capable of committing to another human being” like literal, legally documented proof that you have in fact committed to another person?
“While nobody wants to be divorced, it communicates to a woman that a man is capable of commitment and is seeking a lifelong companion, but just hasn’t found ‘the one’ yet,” says Joshua Pompey, dating coach and founder of Next Evolution Matchmaking. These, he adds, are generally seen as positive traits.
Meanwhile, according to Campbell, there may actually be “greater stigma attached to a lifelong bachelor than to a man who has been divorced” (sorry to the Never Married No Kids Guys of the internet). Why? Because “at least with a divorced person, you can be somewhat assured they value long-term commitment and marriage.”
Whether or not you’re actually looking for a long-term relationship or willing to entertain the idea of another marriage, your status as a previously married man might actually score you points with many prospective, relationship-minded matches who see a past marriage as a promising sign. Are there others who will, on the other hand, read a terminated union as a sign that you’re bad at actually keeping those commitments? Obviously. But again, you don’t need those people in your proud post-divorce life.
And that you’re resilient and capable of making difficult life decisions
In case no one has bothered to remind you lately: divorce is hard! It is, in some senses, a life milestone as worthy of recognition and even celebration as marriage. In recent years, attitudes toward divorce have shifted significantly, encouraging recognition of divorce as the difficult but often necessary and mature life choice it is.
Thus, to some potential dates and mates, a divorce can signal that you are a mature human being capable of making tough life choices and navigating the aftermath — qualities the right kind of person may find very attractive.
“Life-changing events like divorce take courage, and the right person will find that admirable,” says Bianca.
That said, a divorce itself does not necessarily a mature, evolved divorcé make. As Campbell notes, “The bigger question is whether a person has learned from their past experience, recognize[s] what went wrong, and accept[s] their role in creating the outcome.” While divorce itself shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, she adds, “It’s a red flag when a divorced person blames their partner 100% for the relationship’s demise.”
If a divorcé has done the work, so to speak, and has processed the event to the point that they are able to discuss the marriage and divorce openly and without negative emotionality, however, a past divorce might signal that someone is capable of processing difficult events and growing from them. “Being able to discuss a divorce in an open and honest way is a sign of maturity, and that quality should be admired,” says Campbell.
The older you are, the better it is to be divorced
In good news for all you middle-aged divorcés out there, Pompey suggests the only men who really have to worry about how a divorce might affect their dating lives are younger ones. According to Pompey, the younger a divorced man is, the more potential partners — especially those who have never been married themselves — may question why he was divorced at such a young age. Moreover, he adds, it’s likely that the younger women a comparably young man is presumably interested in dating have never been married themselves and “would like to meet someone that is in the same category.”
On the other hand, having a divorce or two under your belt may actually help rather than hinder one’s efforts on the dating market later in life. “I have found over the years working with men and women in older generations that they actually prefer someone who has been divorced, as opposed to someone who has never been married,” says Pompey. “Fair or unfair, they fear that someone who has never been married by a certain age has commitment issues or red flags that they don’t know about, whereas a divorced man in his forties and up, from their vantage point, may be a great guy, but just happened to marry the wrong person.”
Bianca agrees: “I work with a lot of single mothers who prefer fathers who are dating after a divorce, because they know the time and energy it takes to make a relationship work.”
You have a fresh start
As Pompey put it, nobody wants to be divorced, but that doesn’t mean a divorce can’t come with its silver linings.
“Dating again after a divorce can be a vulnerable time for even the most confident of men,” says Bianca. However, “The best thing about dating after divorce is that this is a new chapter of your life. You get to construct how it goes, think about what you want your next 10 years to look like and what changes you need to make to get you there.”
One of the first changes for most divorés, says Bianca, is shedding any residual fears or anxieties that may be holding them back from living their best post-divorce lives. “Marriage can keep you in a shell,” she says. “Your first step in your post-divorce life is to break out of it. Start putting yourself out there in ways that scared you before. Being comfortable in the uncomfortable is a great way to start.”
One great way to get out there and experience the uncomfortable? Dating.
“Dating can be scary for anyone at first, whether it’s after a divorce, or just getting out of a relationship,” says Pompey. “But like anything else in life, the more you do something, the less scary it becomes, and in the case of dating, it usually becomes a whole lot of fun.”
“Not many people get a chance to start over in life,” says Bianca. “Now is your time.”