"Dating a Married Woman Who is Separated" - Mr. Marriage Counselor


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    We get a lot of questions regarding separation, divorce, and dating. Many of them center around when it’s okay to start dating again and if it’s okay to do so while you’re separated but still married.

    There are many variations of separation and divorce, but for all of them the challenges and problems remain the same. Dating while separated or even newly divorced may seem okay, but there are many unforeseen pitfalls.


    Below is a question a reader sent about dating a married woman who is separated and my answer.

    Pitfalls Of Dating Someone Who's Separated But Not Divorced

    Reader Question:

    I have been dating a married woman who is separated for about a month, but we both agree it feels like we have known or been dating for years. She has been separated for over a year, but her husband has been dragging the divorce out. She was married to this individual for 10 years. She is now 35. I am 38 and never been married. She has been dating prior to me, but I don't think it has been as serious as us. Things had been going really well until this last week and could feel her getting a bit distant. I finally asked her about it last night and of course it was a bit late. I asked if she did not feel the same way about me as she did. She said no she does. She felt circumstances were freaking her out. She is still married and doesn't know if she got into a serious relationship with me because she still is. I feel like she is scared of our relationship for fear it may end up again like her last? I have been treating her like I treat my other relationships, but I don't think she has been treated this well or nicely. I believe this may be adding to the freak out. I asked if she felt like she was missing out on some part of life of not being married? She said no again. What should I be asking or saying?" -Richard L.

    Richard isn’t alone in his confusion.


    The process of divorcing takes some time and many people are eager to move on with their lives and find someone new while still in it. That’s understandable, but there are many issues that will arise for both the person going through the separation and the person they’re dating.

    Here’s the answer I gave him.

    My Answer:

    A common mistake a lot of people make is getting involved in a new relationship while an old one is still unresolved. And I don't just mean unresolved in regard to the divorce process being finished, but unresolved psychologically and emotionally as well.

    A typical scenario is that when people finally decide to separate, often after years of being unhappily married, they immediately start looking for a more positive relationship.

    They want to feel,
    • Attractive

    • Desired

    • Loved

    Again, this desire is understandable, but it usually leads to getting involved in a new relationship too soon after the separation.

    I'm counseling a man right now who within weeks of finding out that his wife was cheating on him, separated and started dating.

    Within 60 days of separating, he was in a pretty serious new relationship. That was 2 years ago and he admits now that he jumped into the new relationship way too soon. And as a result, it didn't last.


    While I can't say precisely what's going on with the woman you're dating, Richard. I can say that dating a married woman who is separated is complicated.

    I would bet that the emotional and psychological baggage of her marriage is causing your girlfriend to become distant.

    What can you ask or say?

    Probably not much, other than suggesting that the marriage she’s leaving is having an effect on you guys and there are things that she still needs to resolve.

    Here are some suggestions for what you can do now:

    1. Don't take it personally
    1. Don't pressure her
    1. Don’t force the matter of her being distant to get resolved
    1. Give her some space
    1. Suggest that she talk to a counselor for help

    It sounds like she's not ready to have the relationship you want right now.

    Sometimes the timing is just not right. This doesn't have to mean that you can never have a relationship with her, but waiting until she’s in a better place will greatly increase the likelihood of success.

    Why There Are Problems With Dating Someone Who Is Separated

    People who are separated or in the process of divorcing have likely struggled with their prior relationship for a long time.

    Divorce typically isn’t an overnight decision.


    Because there’s probably been years of growing resentment and distance, it’s not uncommon for one or both partners to crave attention and affection. To put it simply – they’re love starved.

    They typically feel a combination of negative, uncomfortable emotions. Such as –

    And they’re eager to feel a positive, romantic connection with someone - sometimes anyone - again.

    Because of this a person who’s still married but separated is vulnerable to making poor choices when it comes to dating.

    This doesn’t mean that you, as the person they want to date, are a poor choice, but that during this confusing time they’re either,

    • Unaware of


    • Unrealistic about

    what they can really give to a relationship and their own current emotional state.


    Rethinking Dating A Woman Who Is Separated

    If you’re considering dating a woman (or man) who’s married but separated it would be wise to reconsider.

    As strong as the attraction may be, the likelihood that the relationship will last is small. And taking that chance will put in you in a very real position to be hurt.

    It will also cause problems for the other person and limit their healing.

    If the connection between the two of you is strong enough, it’ll survive the time he or she needs to become someone fully available and ready to commit to a new relationship. The benefit will be a relationship that’s much more stable and less complicated as a result of you both waiting.

    What To Take Away

    To say dating while separated isn’t ideal is an understatement. Relationships that begin during this emotional and logistical grey area are set up to fail and therefore cause pain for both partners.

    If you’re currently dating someone, or considering dating someone, who’s going through a separation, keep the following in mind:

    • No matter how “ready” a person says (or believes) they are, if they’re going through a separation they almost certainly aren’t.

    • Many people going through separation are desperate to feel wanted and loved – this can make them eager to jump into any relationship.

    • Relationships that start during a separation aren’t likely to last.

    • Waiting until the dust is settled and that chapter is closed will increase the likelihood of success.

    If you’re dating a woman who’s married but separated, take a lesson from Richard’s story and wait. Both of you will be happier in the end.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published June 5, 2010, updated on November 27, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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