Road to happiness? ... divorce no longer a turn-off for women.
Do divorcés make better potential partners than men who have never married? A New York news station reported last month that divorced might be the new single. According to WABC-TV, perennial bachelors might soon be pitied in the same way that single women over the age of 40 often are.
In the past, divorce was a red flag for many women, a sign that the man involved would come with the baggage of a previous marriage. These days, almost a third of marriages end in divorce. As Samantha Jayne, director of private matchmaking agency, Blue Label Life, points out, eliminating divorced men from the equation can make finding a partner that much harder, especially for women in their early 30s and older.
Divorce has become a part of our social fabric, says RSVP's relationship expert and psychologist, John Aiken. "I think the stigma has really dropped away with regards to divorce. There are more people getting divorced than ever, it's something that's commonplace in the media, with celebrities, and kids are growing up with divorce, they're coming from divorced families," he says. "If someone's divorced, it's not necessarily seen now as something that's a flaw, but rather it's something that's just part of the person."
Eve*, 34, was 30 and still looking to meet "the one" when she decided she would no longer rule out dating a divorced man. "To me, it showed that they could commit and that they should have learned from the first marriage to know exactly what they want the seond time around," she says. Four years later she's happily married to a divorcé she met online, with whom she has a new baby.
Aiken says that more than merely accepting divorcés, women like Eve are now viewing divorced men in a positive light, and with good reason. "Most divorced men are in a better state (than bachelors) to make informed choices, and know how to run relationships in a much better way," he says.
Of the view that divorced men are perhaps more attractive potential partners than long-term single guys, Aiken says it's not so cut-and-dried. "I think you should probably take it on a case-by-case basis," he says. "The 35-year-olds that are single bachelors may not have necessarily met the right person for them, but are able to commit. And then of course there are plenty that are players that aren't ready to commit," he says. Commitment is the key word, and the advantage, in terms of dating divorced men, is that they a track record of having committed in the past.
According to dating coach Jane Roder, there's now more of a stigma attached to 40-something bachelors than there is to divorcés the same age. "My personal view is that the older a man is, if he's single and never been married, he's perceived as having commitment issues," she says. "The single man who's never committed, there's a perception of – why not – why hasn't he done that? Especially in a place like Melbourne, where's there's an excess of women," she says.
Divorced men might have proven that they can commit, but for many men, when it comes to marriage, it would seem that once is enough. Just over half of men who divorced in 2000-2002 could expect to remarry, with some resolving never to do so again after the dissolution of the first marriage, for various reasons. "Hopefully they're not hung up on the past but there is a possibility that they haven't let go of the previous relationship," says Aiken. "There may be financial issues because of the divorce and they're not as stable or secure as they once were," he says.
Then there's the not-so-small matter of children. A divorcé might get the green light, but kids are often a deal-breaker. "It's a big consideration," says Roder. "It depends on the individual. Love can conquer many barriers and many people do it, but it is easier for divorced people without children, I think." If you're wanting kids of your own, it's important to establish early on if a divorcé with kids from a previous marriage is willing to have more children, she says.
Kylie*, 38, married a divorcé, with whom she now has three children. "I think they're better (divorcés) the second time around," she says. "The only catch in my situation was that he also had a three year old, and I had to deal with the ex-wife. After getting used to things, it was all good. We are very happily married."
The reason for the divorce, and how the situation has been dealt with, are other factors to consider. "If he'd cheated, I definitely wouldn't have gone there," says Eve of her divorcé. It's also important that the divorcé has moved on fully before entering another relationship. "The most important thing is that those people have left that relationship and that it's respectful," says Roder. "If they're fighting and still angry with somebody, that's the issue more than anything else because it's a sign that it's unfinished business," she says.
Roder advises people to be very wary of getting involved with someone before a divorce is final. "When somebody has been separated for quite a while and is not divorced, that's a big warning sign," she says. "It's not complete, they're still attached to the past, and for some reason, the umbilical cord hasn't been cut."
According to Jayne, not being the first woman to walk down the aisle with their husband-to-be is still a major deterrant for some women. "Sometimes people get hung up on it, they think, 'I don't want to be that second wife or second husband'" she says. "I think women tend to worry more about it, they have this fairytale idea of what their future husband should look like and what his life experience should be. I don't think men are so concerned, if kids are involved it's an issue but generally men are fine with it."
The experts interviewed in this story agreed that divorce isn't actually the issue, rather, it's whether or not that person is willing and able to commit again. "What I say to single people is that everyone comes as a package," says Aiken. "Some people will be divorced, others will have kids, others might be widowed or they might come with an overinvolved mother. What you've got to do is you've got to stop and think, what are my deal breakers, and what are things that I can embrace," he says.
"It's not about divorce, it's if someone's emotionally available," says Jayne. "A man could be divorced with a lot of emotional baggage or a man who'd previously never married could have the same amount of baggage," she says. "A lot of clients say, I don't want to be with a divorced man because he's fallen in love with someone else. It's all about a person's beliefs."
As she reached an age where more of her potential partners had been divorced, Eve noticed another benefit. "A lot of the good ones who'd married earlier in life had since divorced," she says. "Which meant they were back on the market and getting back out there again," she says.
*other names have been used.