Wendy Newman is a dating, sex and relationship expert who leads workshops around the world. Her book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books, 20106) is part juicy tell-all and part anti-The Rules dating guide.
Excerpt from 121 First Dates
I’ve heard women say, “You don’t want a divorced guy; he’s used,” or I’ve heard them referred to as someone else’s leftovers. This is ridiculous. I think divorced guys are awesome because:
- Many of them know how to and are (eventually) willing to commit.
- They made mistakes in their marriage and (hopefully learned from them).
- They watched their ex-wife make mistakes and can save you from making the same ones.
- Throughout (or after) their marriage, they gained realistic expectations of what partnership is. A man who has never been married is making up what his future should look like based on the fantasies and fairy tales our culture feeds us.
- If he has children, you have the added bonus of having a man who has had his illusions shattered in the best of ways. Chances are he knows how to roll with anything. A dad has had tiny people vomit on him in the middle of the night and he loves them anyway. Now, that’s staying power.
May I add for the record my life partner since 2012, Dave, was newly separated when we met? He had only been separated from his wife of twenty-four years for a few months. I was his first date in decades. By all accounts, this pairing should not have worked, except it did. We are ridiculously well matched for each other.
When it comes to dating the newly divorced man, here is one thing to consider:
it’s best to leave money out of the conversation—at least at first. His whole financial world could have shifted and he may need some time to adjust and rethink how he lives his life and spends his money. On more than one occasion I was triggered into wondering if he was cheap when that wasn’t the case at all; it was a calibration issue that corrected in time. And whatever the story is between him and his ex, do not—I repeat, do not—interfere with his money and the money he pays her. This is not your business, my friend, even if you wind up marrying him.
Think of it this way: she was with him, took care of him in her own way, gave him what he needed, and dealt with the much younger, more immature versions of him that you never had to see.
For example, I know I got Dave 4.0 (the latest and greatest model), and his ex-wife got the previous versions all the way back to Dave 1.0, which, according to him, was no picnic. Consider that your sweetheart’s ex might have earned every penny. Whether it’s true or not, it will help you sleep through the night and be a nicer person on the planet.
So you have been dating this sweet divorced guy for a while now, and you are starting to wonder, “How do I get him to commit to me?”
Sister, you don’t. If you’ve been single for a while and he’s the newly divorced guy—and you’re not the ladder out of the deep, dark hole of divorce—then I suggest you let him lead. I told Dave shortly after we started dating that I was looking for my partner. I didn’t need to be married—I’d done that before—but I did want a lifetime partner, and I wanted him to know that up front. I knew we were in different places, and because he was fresh out of a relationship, I was going to let him set the pace for ours. I was going to let him lead and I would follow. If at any point he saw that we were not a long-term match, then he was to tell me immediately so we could stop dating. Well, he grabbed my hand and started leading us right into our long-term committed relationship.
Dave was the newly divorced guy with the outcome I was looking for. Here’s one that didn’t go quite so well. Welcome to my own hole-and-ladder experience.
Date # 60
I Was the Ladder (aka Bubble Boy)
Setting: Dinner at Amber India; hiking the steps of Coit Tower; late-night dessert at Fog City Diner, San Francisco, CA
He was a slightly more out-there male version of me. Same vernacular, same point of view. It added a certain creepiness to an otherwise excellent first date. Our differences came from our upbringing: he, an only child with a wide well-cushioned net and an ability to do what he wanted without concern or repercussions; me, not so much. I got my start as an accessory to a single teenage mother who skillfully navigated her way up the ranks to the middle class. Basically, I’m scrappy.
Halfway through our dinner he asked, “Ever climbed to the top of Coit Tower through the private gardens?”
At the base of Coit Tower, I swapped out my stilettos for the tennis shoes I had stashed in the trunk of my car (for this very purpose). We hiked the stairs, admired the view of the Bay and San Francisco hillside, smelled the roses, peered into rich people’s houses, and enjoyed conversation all the way to the top. And at the end of such a strenuous, healthy hike, what could be better than dark molten- chocolate cake, ice cream, and house-made marshmallows at Fog City Diner?
Nothing. But the real marshmallow icing on the cake was that my date is a VIP customer. He called ahead to reserve his booth, and when we arrived, close to 11:30 p.m., it was set and waiting. As I slid in, I saw golden engraved plaques lining the wall— legendary San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen and Charles Williams (founder of Williams-Sonoma)—and then I spotted his name. My date was among the celebrated luminaries. Wow.
“Can I take a picture of you and the plaque on my iPhone?” I asked, half joking, half not.
“No,” he kindly declined.
The date was enjoyable. He was a fun guy.
So what happened?
By 3:00 AM at the end of our third date, we found ourselves in my car, idling in front of a parking garage. We’d been parked and talking for hours. We didn’t want to leave each other’s side. This is when we went into “the bubble.” I’d never been in a love bubble before. It was elating, that frenzied level of mutual infatuation so strong we knew not to even attempt trying to be around others—we were too goofy.
When a bubble like this pops, it pops from about a thousand feet in the air and someone is dumped out of it on her head (ouch). This was my “newly divorced guy” lesson: It worked with Dave, but often it doesn’t. Two months into the relationship the bubble burst. He woke up one morning and just didn’t feel like being in a relationship with me. Didn’t want me gone; just wanted to be dating me along with others. It took me more than two years to get over him.
- Always have a pair of tennis shoes in your trunk, just in case.
- Be open to an adventurous time if fun is already being had. Just because the two of you aren’t MTB doesn’t mean the date has to end early. What else are you going to do with the rest of your Friday night?
- Enjoy the bubble—newly divorced or no—but tread carefully because bubbles pop.