I don’t judge anyone who starts dating before their divorce is finalized. It can take months to go from separated to divorced in the legal process.
I know that my marriage was over long before I filed for divorce, and even though I moved out and moved on, it would be months before I’d hold the final notice of divorce in my hands from the court system. If I’m honest, I started dating a few months before I received that official notification.
To be fair, I was extremely open about my marital status when dating. I told potential partners upfront that I had filed for divorce, relocated, and was waiting for the final official notification. I was clear that I no longer lived with my ex and that the only interactions that existed were around co-parenting.
Some people were okay with this as my status while others opted to avoid the potential mess of dating someone still going through a divorce. I could understand either choice.
Relationships can be messy and complicated because feelings are messy and complicated. The divorce process just adds another layer to it. There are a few things to keep in mind when dating a separated man.
1. He Might Be Married — Not Separated
It might seem obvious to some that a separated man is obviously still married, but in this particular instance, I’m referring to the men who say they are separated but are actually still in the relationship they claim to have left.
When dating a man who is separated, it’s important to verify that he’s actually out of the relationship. Some men use the term “separated” to cheat on their spouses who have no idea their significant other is out there dating and claiming their marriage is over.
This is also true for people who claim to be polyamorous. As a side note, it’s always important to verify this before proceeding. It’s possible that this is another way someone could be cheating. Don’t believe their claims of ethical non-monogamy before verifying them.
Investigating social media is one way to substantiate these claims. I once knew a man with multiple social media accounts — and he was still married on one of them. It’s a good idea to perform some basic due diligence before entering a relationship with a man who might still be involved with someone else.
It might not be possible to speak to the partner they’re separated from, but it should be possible to verify if they are still living together, sharing space, and sharing their lives as a married couple.
2. The Relationship Could Get Complicated
It should be noted that dating a separated man could make your relationship with him complicated. This is especially true if children and child custody are involved. It’s understandable that a not-yet-ex-spouse wouldn’t want a new partner involved in the lives of their children so early on in the relationship.
It’s also possible that the person they are separated from will view any new relationship as infidelity as the divorce isn’t yet finalized.
While it would be nice to think that this won’t be your problem, if you’re dating a separated man, it could quickly become one. I always pay attention to how someone talks about their exes because it reveals a lot about their own character.
No one enjoys having their new partner vent constantly about a former one. If this happens to you, you’ll need to some set firm boundaries with the separated man you’re dating. Otherwise, it’s easy to become his sounding block — and to become his ex’s enemy even without trying to be.
When children are involved, you’ll have to accept that your new partner will likely have regular interactions with his soon-to-be ex-spouse.
You’ll have to make your peace with co-parenting. It’s going to happen, but you can make sure that the boundaries around this co-parenting relationship are healthy for you and your relationship.
Talking this out might be uncomfortable, but it will save you a headache later to have some clarity now about how co-parenting will work. Expect that the child(ren) will always come first, or you’re going to be in for a major disappointment. Any good parent is going to prioritize their children and those children’s feelings.
3. You Might Be His Rebound
I’ve been the rebound following a divorce, and it’s a heartbreaking experience. I fell in love, but he might have just been working through his post-divorce feelings.
The truth is that a man who is not yet divorced but is in that process is likely to find a rebound person to make the process easier. Unfortunately, it won’t make the process easier for you.
It’s important to ask if you’re the first person he’s dated since separating from his spouse. If so, you might want to keep that in mind before falling head over heels for him. It’s hard to tell initially if you’re the rebound or if he’s genuinely catching feelings for you. Proceed with caution.
4. He Still Needs to Put in Healing Time
Every relationship needs healing time, but a lot of people want to skip right over this and find their next relationship. Is it a terrible idea? Of course! Do people do it anyway? Absolutely!
A man who is separated and not yet divorced is going to need healing time, and if he hasn’t taken that time, you should know that you will likely be the one to suffer for it.
I’ve been there. I loved a man who hadn’t finished healing after the last relationship. It wasn’t unusual for him to misinterpret something I said or did in the relationship as selfish — because that’s how he viewed his ex. There was a filter on our relationship where that unprocessed hurt was projected onto me and my motives.
Had he healed, he might have given me the benefit of the doubt or tried to get more clarity when misunderstandings came up. Instead, his lack of healing became new hurt in a new relationship. Don’t let that happen to you by ignoring his need for time to process and heal from the last relationship.
5. He Might Not Be Ready for a New Marriage or Commitment
The truth is that a man who is going through a divorce might have negative feelings about commitment and marriage. After all, he’s seen how hopes can be dashed. He’s been through the process of wanting to marry someone who now he’s getting divorced from.
Don’t expect this man to want to rush down the aisle with you. He might need some time before he’s ready to even consider a new commitment, especially marriage.
It’s important to figure out if he’s swearing off marriage forever or if he just needs space to heal. The danger in falling for a separated man is that you might want to get married and live happily ever after, and he might want to be single, footloose, and fancy-free for a little while following his last marital relationship.
You might be building fantasies of white dresses and exotic honeymoon locales when he has no desire to ever legally tie himself to another person again. This is why talking out our future plans is so important early on in relationships.
Skip this step at your own risk. I once dated a man with multiple marriages behind him. I didn’t judge the marriages or the divorces — life happens, and sometimes, things go wrong. But I thought I might be his exception. I thought I’d be the one that went right.
I was dreaming of a life together, but he was actively dreaming of a life that didn’t involve another marriage. And I might have been able to make peace with that if I’d been sure that I was the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life loving.
In that case, I could take or leave the legal designation. But the doubts grew, and the fact that marriage was off-the-table, and no other reassurance was forthcoming, only confirmed what I had suspected — he was not going to commit to me the way that I had hoped.
6. He Could Reconcile and Stay Married
It’s also possible that the separated man could choose to reconcile and stay married. As long as he’s separated, it’s always a possibility. It’s important to go into a relationship with the separated man keeping this in mind.
Otherwise, you could fall hard only to have him walk right back into his marriage, breaking your heart in the process.
Even if he says reconciliation is off the table, that’s not certain until the divorce is finalized. You’ll have more confidence that it’s truly over when the legal relationship is severed. You might want to believe that he’d never go back, but it’s possible for married people to separate and then decide to try to work it out later.
7. It Could Work Out
I have a tendency to look at all the worst-case scenarios. It’s possible that he falls back in love with his ex or decides that he wants to sow wild oats before committing to anyone else. But it’s equally possible that your relationship with a separated man could work out.
The truth is that sometimes relationships are all about timing. He could meet you during the divorce process and figure out that you’re the love of his life. The timing might not be ideal. The situation might be messy. But what if this is the guy for you, and everything works out?
I’m far from an eternal optimist, but I think love deserves a chance. It might not work out, but that’s true for dating anyone regardless of their marital status. That’s even true when you’re married.
Yes, it could go wrong. Your heart could break again. But it could work out. You could find that this separated man is the love you’ve been hoping to find.
So, will you give him a chance, or do you prefer to wait until he’s got a clean slate to start over? Only you can say what’s right for you. I’m just saying that in all of the what ifs you imagine, don’t forget that one possible scenario is everything working out beautifully.
On Dating a Separated Man: A Summary
Life and love are both messy and sometimes you’ll find that the person you’re dating isn’t quite out of their marriage yet.
An official separation often leads to divorce, but you do need to be careful when dating someone who is still technically married. You might want to jump right into the relationship in the heat of the moment, but please allow cooler heads to prevail.
The separated man might be divorced any day now. He might have spent months or even years processing the relationship’s end before he actually left the marriage or was left. You won’t know until you have open conversations about his marriage, what went wrong, and what he’s looking for now.
I don’t recommend a first-date interrogation, but I do recommend talking openly about all of these issues before deciding to date him exclusively or updating your relationship status with him.
A separated man can look very good on paper. He could be a great guy. He might even be your guy, but if he is, he’ll be willing to have the hard conversations. He’ll even be accountable for his own actions in the demise of his marriage.
These are the green flags you might notice in a separated man who is also emotionally healthy. You can choose to rule him out until he’s officially single, or you can take the time to talk it over and figure out where he is in the healing process — and if your goals for the future align with his.