4 reasons to date someone who's been divorced

Jenna Birch
Contributing Writer

In writing my book on relationships, I learned a ton of unexpected lessons. A few biggies: Timing matters more than I ever understood, consistency and connection are the bedrock of all solid couplings, and those who are brave and bold in their feelings typically find love faster.

Illustration: Thoka Maer for Yahoo Lifestyle

Another, more specific lesson I’ve been telling people about for the past year? Don’t be afraid to date someone who’s divorced!

There is still some stigma surrounding divorce in our society. In many people’s minds, divorce indicates you tried the whole marriage thing and you failed at it. You probably have extra “baggage” from your ex. You’ve made mistakes, or maybe commitment itself just isn’t your thing, and so on and on.

In interviewing people for my book, I found these sentiments about divorced men and women to be the furthest thing from the truth. My divorced (and often remarried) interviewees were some of my most insightful, most engaging, most relationship-ready prospects out there. In fact, they probably taught me more about modern love, how to find it and create it, than any other group. After all, when it comes to creating a lasting relationship, you often have to figure out what doesn’t work before you begin to deduce what does.

Illustration: Thoka Maer for Yahoo Lifestyle

So, let’s push back against the stigma! When you are swiping on apps and messaging potential suitors this spring, here are a few reasons you should say yes to dates with divorced people.

1. They know how to effectively break from their past

There’s “healing” from your past split, and then there’s just “moving on” from the past. Having to go through something as large as divorce, breaking your joint life with someone apart piece by piece certainly causes a person to evaluate what went wrong. Divorced men and women seem to fall into the healing camp more often than not.

In any major breakup, it’s wise to pause and ask yourself what really went wrong. Own your role in the relationship’s demise. Evaluate what incompatibilities existed that you absolutely do not want to repeat. This will help you become a more self-aware partner and ultimately build stronger relationships in the future.

2. They have a defined sense of what they’re looking for

I tell people all the time, “If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get what you want.” It’s shocking how many daters do not think about what they really want out of a relationship — and I’m not talking “tall, dark, and handsome.” I’m talking about the type of partnership that would make them happy, the values they’d want to uphold in a relationship (like complete honesty or consistency), and the nonnegotiable deal-breakers (be it religion, politics, shared interests, or other things).

While it was very common for me to find daters who hadn’t thought a whole lot about what they wanted in a relationship over the long term, it was very rare for me to find a divorced person who hadn’t challenged themselves to figure that out. If you’re looking for a stable, compatible relationship, ask romantic prospects what they want; if they can’t tell you, then they are likely further away from real commitment. Often, divorced men and women have a better idea of their needs — and they’ll tell you if you ask, so you’ll know pretty quickly whether or not you’re a match.

3. They notice problems faster, and seek to fix them more effectively

When you’ve been in a long-term, committed relationship like a marriage, you can see repetitive problems with cornerstone issues like communication, intimacy, and time management coming a mile away. Often, solving relationship problems is like preventive medicine. It’s infinitely easier to notice warning signs and make lifestyle changes to prevent a heart attack or stroke than it is to stop it once it’s already happening.

Of the divorced men and women I interviewed, most of them sought this quality out in their next partner and had the perspective to understand why sometimes small, short-term discomforts are worthwhile if they save your relationship from long-term havoc.

4. They’ve stopped following silly dating rules

When you’re dating the first time around, you kind of get hung up on “the process.” When to text. What to text. What apps to use, if online dating is even effective. Where to meet people offline. What to say if you want to ask someone out. How often to communicate and see each other. Is the pace too slow? Are you coming on too strong? There are so many potential rules. Divorced people? They typically understand that rules generally focus on how to get a relationship instead of how to actually connect with a compatible partner.

A divorced woman in her 30s told me she’d done “everything right” in dating and marrying her first husband, who pursued her like crazy into a problem-plagued marriage. The second time, she completely tossed the rule book and did everything wrong; she waited for a guy who was slow to commit, because she saw qualities in him that might lead to a strong partnership. A divorced guy in his late 30s also told me about how he asked his second wife out two days after he filed for divorce. He simply didn’t need to sow his wild oats when he’d met someone with whom he was so compatible, happy, and comfortable.

If I can leave you with just one final piece of advice, the underlying principle behind this entire column, it’s that you should challenge all those common rules and beliefs in dating. Toss out the stigmas. Do what feels right. Focus on connecting with each person you meet. And don’t discount anyone; sometimes, love is found where you least expect it.

Jenna Birch is the author of  The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love (Grand Central Life & Style). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to jen.birch@sbcglobal.net with “Yahoo question” in the subject line.

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