Are there dangers to dating while separated? You betcha - and for both of you.
Relationships have gotten really complicated these days. With people marrying less and divorcing more, it's no wonder that the opportunity, and challenge, of dating while separated has become pretty commonplace.
It may seem like no big deal, I mean separated is nearly divorced, right? Not exactly. Dating while separated poses a number of potential problems.
I most often run into people dating while separated when they're separated themselves and involved with someone else who's separated too. A more accurate term for 'separated' in most of these cases would really be 'separating,' since few of these people are actually through their divorces or have completely ended their previous relationships. In some cases couples, because of children and other intricacies related to married life, are still deeply involved with their soon to be ex-spouses
One of the most common temptations people fall for when a relationship is ending is the desire to find a new love - and to do so right now! Often these people have been unhappy and missing love, companionship and sex for a longtime, and so there's a real pent-up, unmet need for love. The desire for these things is completely normal. And feeling urgency to find them when they’ve been denied to you for a long time is also normal. Those desires have to be tempered, however. Moving too quickly into a new relationship is almost always a bad idea, and those relationships rarely last.
Since I counsel men and women before, during and after a relationship or marriage, including through a divorce, I frequently see people dating when separated. And with the prevalence of cheating, a lot of times one partner has already begun a new relationship and the other partner is now seeking to get 'mine’. This is not a good way to start a relationship. Relationships that begin out of desperation and without both people being emotionally healthy are going to bring a lot of additional problems into your life.
Once it's been decided by one, or both, partners to end the relationship, most typically both partners start seeking a new relationship. Being separated and not dating is one of the hardest temptations to resist. After all, you're free, right? Well, not really.
So what's the problem with dating while separated? Here are 5 reasons why it's a bad idea, a big mistake, and will only cause you - and her - a lot of heartache:
- You're Not Really Available. If you're ending a marriage, obviously you're not legally available to remarry until the divorce is final, which can take quite a bit of time (info about dating someone legally separated). But when all relationships end, there's also a period of time that has to go by for the relationship to truly come to an end in other ways.You’ll have work to do emotionally, financially and practically (think living situations, legal issues, and friends) before you can honestly and fully put yourself out there.
- You're Not Ready. Now note that I didn't say you don't 'want' a new partner, because almost everyone does, but regardless of what you 'want,' you're not ready. No one is. You probably don't realize it, but you're not going to be ready emotionally or mentally while separated. And dating while separated interrupts this process. Even if you feel emotionally disconnected from your ex, leaving a long-term relationship brings up a lot of complicated feelings. Sorting through them and getting yourself into a stable place where you're able to be fully available for another partner takes time.
- You Haven't Learned Your Lessons Yet. Regardless of what you want to believe, you're responsible too for your relationship failing. There are important lessons for all of us to learn from our failed relationships, about our partners and ourselves, that when learned help us to have more successful relationships in the future. Sadly, most people rob themselves of the opportunity to learn these and they most often do this is by dating when separated. If you don't take the time to learn from your failed relationship before jumping into a new one, you're very likely to repeat the same mistakes with the next person.
- It's Emotion, Not Reason. Getting into a new relationship when you're separated is going to be more about emotion than reason. Your new relationship will be more like a fantasy vacation than a real, day-to-day relationship. And a lot of the time it's driven more by wanting to escape the old relationship rather than really wanting to be in the new one. This is not good or fair for you and especially not for the person you begin dating.
- The Odds Are Really High It Won't Last. Nearly all relationships that begin during a separation won't last. It doesn't have to do with you or your new partner, but just the timing. You're starting on the wrong footing. It's not infrequent that I'm counseling people with big relationship problems around trust and insecurity that originate from their relationship having begun before the previous one ended.
If you really care about your new love interest then you'll apply more reason than emotion to your decision about dating while separated. You'll also make your decision about more than just what you want. If the new person that you’re interested in dating is really the person you’re meant to be with, waiting until you’re really ready won’t hurt things. Truthfully, if they’re smart they’ll recognize that you need time as well. So as you’re contemplating your new freedom and desire for a new partner remember to make decisions wisely because a lot of heartache is at stake.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published November 9, 2013 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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