An Open Letter To Newly-Divorced Men – Spoiler: Tough Love Ahead

At the risk of sounding insensitive…. Oh screw it.

Disclaimer: I will be a bitch in the upcoming memo to divorced guys. Trust me, it’s for your own good.

Dear newly or almost divorced guys,

Once upon a time I was going to weddings every weekend. Some weekends I’d have more than one wedding to choose from. Open bars were fun. Some of the other wedding stuff (especially the showers) got old. At one point I was complaining and my mom said, “Be thankful. You’re in the early phase. Right now you’re going to weddings. In a few years it will be baby showers and divorces. And baby showers for people trying to avoid divorces. Then it’ll be second marriages. And then you’ll start going to funerals. So you’re in the blissful stage now.”

Well, folks, the train has officially stopped in Divorceville. Population: One million awkward guys.

I write this with love. And a little out of fear. But mostly out of social discomfort.

You guys are freaks!

There, I said it. Divorced guys. It’s like they went into some weird brainwashing cult, and came out minus any social decorum. They say, “It’s been awhile since I’ve been single.” But the behavior they display was NEVER OK. Not in college. Not in high school. Hell, the guys that were lucky enough to be my “boyfriends” in middle school had more tact and self-control than these guys (and there was no sex-having or anything in my middle school – so this truly was the sweet, innocent, first days of learning about love).

My point is, since you seem to have no social decorum, I’m here to help. The awkward you create is awkward for all of us. You will never find a good catch as long as you act this way. You’re not showing interest in someone, you’re showing blind, sweeping, desperation for ANYONE.

So, here are some ground rules.

  1. I know you’re lonely because you’re used to being with someone all the fucking time (seriously, how do married people do it), but that’s no one’s fault but your own. Any time a relationship ends, there’s a period of loneliness. Your new loneliness is YOUR JOB to work through. Find a hobby. Take up video games. Get a second job. Spend time with your kids. Learn to read. Buy a fixer-upper house. And learn to fix it up! Seriously, though, your loneliness, although seemingly debilitating, is no one’s issue but your own. Find a way to work through it alone. You can’t drag others along for the ride.
  2. Put your phone away. I swear, cell phone companies should not allow separated or newly divorced guys access to unlimited texts plans. Just because you CAN send a million texts a month doesn’t mean you should send them all on one day to one person. Put the phone down. You are able to send one text, but you must wait for a reply before you send another. If your long text is met with a one-word answer, you’ve reached the end of the conversation. Let it go for several hours or days.
  3. Facebook is a stalker’s dream. As a newly divorced guy who may not have had social media in your former single days, it might seem like a pervert’s dream. But here’s the deal – the truly proficient social media stalkers are not creeps about it! Here are some ground rules:
    1. Do not friend someone the second you meet them, unless it happens in a funny, “I’m friending you RIGHT NOW way.” Don’t friend her as soon as she walks away, ESPECIALLY if you weren’t formally introduced or don’t have an easy way of finding her from a mutual friend. Maybe you’ll wait until she posts something in a mutual friend’s timeline, and then you’ll friend her a few weeks later. Or maybe you’ll be tagged in an event or check-in and you’ll friend her off of that. Searching for the girl and friending her out of obscurity is creepy.
    2. Do not comment on every status or picture she posts. If you must, HIDE HER from your timeline. And visit her profile no more than once a day. It is best to comment no more than three times a week. So choose wisely.
    3. DO NOT, under any circumstances, comment on photos of her more than five or ten deep. If you must be a stalker, look through the ones from 2007. But do you know how creepy it is for an almost-stranger to comment on a picture it must have taken hours to find? Level five million creepy.
    4. Do not, for the love of god, post anything about being lonely, alone, abandoned, or depressed. This is true for all people. But if you’re looking to make a move on a girl, the pity card is not the way to get there.
    5. Likewise, do not post pictures of your kids or you and your kids and mention that “that special person” is missing, and you can’t wait to fill the gap in your lives. First of all, (in the majority of cases) these kids still have a mother, and you’re only pouring gasoline on her beehive. Don’t piss the ex off. That will only make women LESS LIKELY to date you. Second of all, have some fucking confidence. You and your kids SHOULD be enough. If it’s not, keep it to yourself on your mostly-public profile!
    6. Have some self-respect. For real, if someone doesn’t reply to your texts, respect yourself enough to walk away. If someone avoids your inquiry about going on a date, don’t mention it again. Everyone in the single world is trying to be sensitive to your newly single status, but there’s only so much we can do to ease the way. You have to respect yourself for anyone of any type of quality to be interested. And being over-bearing or overwhelming is NOT the way to get there.
    7. There’s a reason there are dates one through fifteen. Don’t cram all of those questions into one text or one Facebook message. Get to know someone slowly. Be interested in more than just facts. Try to figure out if there’s chemistry through normal conversation. As you should have learned with your first choice for a wife, “the right one” isn’t just checking off items on a checklist.
    8. This is the biggest one – DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT approach someone who has been single their entire life, while you’ve been unhappily married – but married, and say, “I’m ready for the right one. Where is she already!?!” Um, asshole, you’ve been single for three months. I’ve been single my entire life. And I haven’t compromised and married the first person who came along and offered or didn’t run away. I DO NOT have pity for you in your fifty days of being single. Just because you’re here and ready for “the right one” doesn’t mean she’ll crawl out of the woodwork. I have been searching for the right one my entire life, refusing to compromise. If you really want the right one, then you have to be patient like the rest of us. If you don’t care about the right one, and just want ANYONE, then why did you get divorced? Being single is not a game of pity. Fuck, I don’t even feel sorry for people who have been single their whole lives and haven’t found someone. There’s more to life than getting married. Enjoy fucking life! If you enjoyed life, you’d probably meet like-minded people. And you’d be confident and approachable, and you’d get to know them naturally, not through a barrage of over-texting. So, whatever you do, don’t come out and complain about suddenly being single. Trust me, none of us care. And honestly, your married friends probably don’t care, either.

So, that’s just a crash course. Over the past two weeks, I’ve watched three almost-divorced (legally separated, waiting for the divorce to be final) guys spiral into social awkwardness I didn’t know existed. And when called on it, they claim ignorance. Have they been hiding in a hole their entire marriage? Did they never come out of the house or have access to the Internet? Newly single is not a free pass to Crazy Town.

The truth is, you should probably commit to a year single, much like addicts commit to a year of single sobriety. The government should probably require some reentry into society class, not unlike the one former prisoners go through when they get sprung from the clink.

You’re still an adult, and you’re still required to have respect for yourself and treat those around you with at least a minimal amount of normalcy. No one should have to demand you stop texting someone. You should know. Do you keep talking when a person physically walks away from you? Do you have some smart ass comment for everything every person in your social circle says when you’re out together? If so, it’s a surprise you even have friends.

Relax a little. Get to know your newly single life. Figure out who you are, where your marriage went wrong (spoiler: It wasn’t just her), what you want different this time around. And that doesn’t mean a list of obscure features in the next woman. It means the type of life you want. The big picture issues you want to be aligned on. And, most of all, the connection you want this time that you didn’t have last time.

Trust me, those true connections you find with someone are rare. And if you married your first girlfriend and weren’t ever really happy, you’ve probably never had a real connection. Take your time finding it. It’s not a race back to the altar. That’s what got you in trouble to begin with.

Life as a single person is actually kind of nice. You have the freedom to do stuff alone. Go to the movies alone. Go to dinner alone. Take a vacation by yourself. No, seriously. For real. These are all very freeing things. I’ve actually gotten to the point I prefer movies alone. Spend time in your house just yourself, no technology. Just doing whatever it is you like to do. You don’t know what you like to do? Well, now’s the time to figure that out! I enjoy reading, painting, cooking, restoring old furniture, sewing, doing semi-small scale craft projects, experimenting with new foods in the kitchen, framing and hanging pictures I’ve taken on vacations, redecorating a room, and even just sitting there enjoying the sound of rain.

Set small goals. If being alone is depressing, set a goal of being alone, doing nothing for five minutes. Next week, do ten minutes. Work up to spending an entire day alone, without communicating with anyone else. Maybe you like to fish. So go fishing alone, and really get in touch with who you are, and where your happiness comes from. I’m not saying you can’t invite your buddies along on future trips. But on those occasions they’re all busy, don’t be afraid to do stuff alone. It’s OK to take a class on something you’ve always wanted to do. You might meet some new friends there. Is your career not where you want it to be? Guess what? Now that you’re single, you have time to spend on it!

There are limitless possibilities of ways to spend your newly single time beyond stalking women and pitying yourself.

No, go out and do something not creepy! I know you have stable, healthy, non-terrifying tendencies in you.

Edited on 8/16: After talking directly to a newly divorced guy, I’ve realized part of the problem is not only that these men are disconnected from reality, but I think marriage has made them very self-involved. Their logic hinges on what THEY want. On THEIR timeline. It’s not healthy. I used to say I’d catch a guy “the second time around” after he’s already married for the wrong reasons, had children, etc. And then I could get married and enjoy traveling and a life based on the actual important things. But after my experience, admitted a small sample size, but 100% of the sample size, I am no longer interested in dating anyone who’s divorced. Or being married for that matter. What a pain in the ass to be married to these selfish, instant-gratification, over-inflated ego men. I hate to be “that girl” but, ahem, no wonder they’re divorced.

Guys, you want to be a truly good catch? Think of someone other than yourself. Be empathetic. Be patient. Be kind. And realize relationships are on both people’s timelines. And take the time to understand why someone else’s is different than yours. Not assume they’re wrong because this timeline suits you. (This goes for all guys, but somehow, single guys don’t seem to be as selfish. I can’t believe I just admitted that.)

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