What Dating Looks Like When Your Partner Has Been Married Before
“I’ve been married before,” he told me on our first date.
There are still a lot of taboo subjects in society, and divorce is one of them. I find myself assuming it hasn’t happened to many people, but if I took a show of hands in a room, my guess is that many would go up. There is a lot of great information out there for navigating the end of a marriage and rediscovering love. However, there isn’t a lot of information on dating someone who has been married before.
As with everything in life, people handle relationships differently. Some may have a hard time swallowing the idea that their partner has been married, while others feel it’s no biggie. Those who’ve been previously married know the pitfalls to avoid—which some new partners can find comforting.
While I tend to be on the not-that-big-a-deal end of the spectrum with dating someone previously married, I did have to face some of my self-conscious demons when, on our first date, my now-boyfriend told me he’d been married before. I was grateful he was so open with me from the beginning, but I also remember thinking that I would have never asked because I didn’t even know I was old enough to be considering those kinds of questions.
The part I struggle with is that my boyfriend already took significant life steps that are fresh and new to me. In dark moments, I worry that if our relationship progresses towards marriage, it won’t be exciting or meaningful for him because he’s already been there, done that.
But it’s not a worthwhile rabbit hole to go down. Every relationship is different, and each experience new. Just because you went to Argentina doesn’t make going to Singapore any less thrilling or special—not that marriages are countries. Still, travel is an analogy I find easy to contextualize.
A relationship comes down to love, trust, and communication—and I find all of that in mine—regardless of the inner monologue that keeps me up at night. I’m not actually worried that I am dating someone who has been married before. The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old, and that leaves a lot of time to get back into the dating game and open your heart back up to the possibility of living your life with another person.
What The Relationship Experts Say
Esther Perel, a relationship psychotherapist, says, “What hurts you more? The fact that [they] did it in the first place—or that [they] did it without you?”
The idea of a marriage previous to your relationship can make you feel left out. When I think too hard about the concept of my boyfriend being previously married, it bothers me, and that is okay. But when it gets down to it, is it going to stop me from loving my boyfriend or make me less interested in dating him? Not at all.
“Each of us brings into marriage a boatload of unarticulated thoughts about what it means to be married based on what we’ve seen, heard, experienced, or formulated in contrast to our parents’ example—and those unconscious thoughts influence our behavior and reactions,” says relationship expert and author Peg Streep in Psychology Today.
The same goes for divorce. We all come with our own ideas of how we want our life to work out, and our views on marriage are a big part of that. Whether we want to be married or not, if your partner already had a wedding and marriage, it can throw your internal life plan off course.
There are so many ways that relationships can go, and at the end of the day, you have to give it to your partner for putting themselves out there and look for love. I find it admirable that someone would have the strength to know when something isn’t working and be able to call it quits.
How, then, do you navigate the world of dating someone who’s been married before? Here are my tips:
Take your cues from them. While you have every right to ask the questions bouncing around your brain, let your partner lead with the information they feel comfortable sharing; it was their experience, after all. Then, as your relationship progresses, you can begin to ask harder questions and have two-way conversations.
Reach out to others. I thought that being divorced was very uncommon. But upon talking to more friends, many had dated or are now married to someone previously divorced; it is always calming to find a community.
Look inside. If your partner has been married before and it’s bothering you, take a step back to think about what in your past might be triggering a negative response. Then go from there. As with everything in the past, it is not something you can change, but to continue dating, you need to find a way that works for you to approach it.
At the end of the day, whether you love each other or your relationship is in its infancy, I don’t think it is worth limiting yourself because your partner had a life previous to meeting you; you did, too.
Sarah Spoljaric is a California girl through and through. She has a BA in World History from one of the top 10 greenest campuses in the world, The University of California, Merced, and is a Content Curator. Say hi on Instagram!