Therapists recommend waiting one year before starting a new relationship since it takes time to adjust to life without your spouse, whether you loved or hated them. The practical adjustments can include living in a new place, handling grocery shopping, cooking, housekeeping, laundry, bill paying, managing your social calendar, travel schedule, etc. Being solo, you’re answering your own questions: What do I want to do for dinner? Where do I want to go on vacation? When do I feel like getting up Sunday morning? How much do I want to spend on a new car?
There are also the sometimes tougher inside adjustments: dealing with your anger, sadness, relief, regret, confusion, delight, anxiety, and/or depression over the termination of your marriage. Unless you’re numbing yourself with substances or activities, this wide range of feelings waft in and out on their own. Feelings also charge in when triggered: a comment about you/your ex by one of your kids, another legal bill… The inside adjustments evoke other questions: What kind of a spouse was I? Am I desirable as a partner? Are women trustworthy? Where do I find a good partner?
Since most men do go on to find another spouse after divorce, and those over 50 don’t typically wait a year to start looking for a new partner, I asked professional matchmakers about their experiences with divorced men seeking re-marriage. Leora Hoffman is a professional matchmaker in Montgomery County and a children’s attorney for the DC government. She specializes in working with men and women over 50. Michelle Jacoby founder of DC Matchmaking says, “Men in their 50’s have a short shelf life” since they don’t stay single very long. Both women have many years experience making matches and are very hands on with their clients.
1.How long should men wait before looking for a new wife?
Matchmaker Leora Hoffman says, “It depends. Some men can come out of a long marriage and fall for the next woman they meet and it works out. The men have to be in a place of readiness and have worked through their issues around the divorce before they can succeed in a new relationship. Couples can work through their divorces with each other and be a support for one another.”
In my personal and professional experience as a psychologist, couples who work through their divorces with one another have a rockier start to their relationships because there are now three or four people in the relationship – his ex and her ex, or just his ex. The ex-wife is “ghosting” every interaction. There are conscious and unconscious comparisons of the current woman to the ex-wife For example, the current woman asks the man if he’d like to NYC for the weekend. He snaps at her because his ex insisted they go to NYC all the time, despite his clear dislike of the place. Unaddressed ghosts can end up eroding a relationship unless each partner is insightful about their behavior and able to be honest with one another. Coaching or therapy can help with ghosts and other transitional concerns.
2. What tips would you give to fellows going back out into the marriage “market”?
Matchmaker Hoffman advises men to take their time in getting to know someone. “If children are involved take it in stages. Solidify the relationship before introducing the children into the mix. If there are financial issues, sometimes a pre-nuptial [legal agreement] is necessary. Have an agreement in place before going forward. In the 50+ age group it takes at least a year to determine if you want to marry someone. Ask them the ‘hard questions’ during this time period.”
3. What are the ‘hard questions’ you advise your clients to ask?
“Ask, where do you see this relationship going? What’s your vision of how life is going to look once we’re married in terms of career, family, having my/your children around… The hard questions are appropriate to ask at three to six months in to the relationship. At the 6 to 12-month stage, ask about more long-term issues and considerations,” says Hoffman.
4.When are men advised to ask the hard questions?
Take your time to get to know each other casually, i.e., before you become intimate. As a guideline, consider having 10 dates before having sex. Being willing to wait to have sex moves the relationship to more mature level. Instincts and hormones aren’t running the show and skewing judgement.
A grounded approach to a new potential long-term relationship involves each person getting to know the other’s thinking, attitudes, and behaviors before getting to know their bodies. It is the former that colors the relationship day to day and makes or breaks a marriage.
Getting to know another person can be uncomfortable at times. You may have questions or concerns you haven’t expressed. Having sex may initially appear to make things more comfortable, but beware if you rush it, sex creates a false intimacy. Being physically intimate doesn’t mean you are emotionally intimate, that takes time. You’ll know when you are emotionally intimate when you’re at ease asking personal questions and stating your likes and dislikes without fearing it will damage the relationship.
Emotional intimacy can be facilitated by a helpful third party such as a mutual friend or a matchmaker. He or she can act as an intermediary, and get some of your questions answered. Matchmaking services like Leora Hoffman’s and Michelle Jacoby’s DC Matchmaking checks in with both parties after their date and offers helpful information regarding the date with each.
Being at honest and at ease with yourself and your partner augurs well for the long-term success of the relationship.