Dear Dr. Chani,
I am a single girl in my late 20s and I have been dating for eight years. I go out fairly often and I have been blessed with many options for dates with really good guys. Yet, I have not been lucky enough to find “the one” who is for me. Recently, I was told about a guy who seems like he is perfect. He was described as kind, seriously religious, responsible, hardworking, family-oriented and good-looking. The shadchan remarked, “He is truly an exceptional person who has a heart of gold. Everyone loves him. The only thing is that he got married when he was young and he has a child. His wife had an addiction and some other mental health challenges, which made life very difficult. Although they tried therapy and couples counseling, his former wife continued along the same path, so they ultimately got divorced.”
My question to you is: What considerations should I be thinking about when deciding if I should go out with this guy?
I have already given this decision a lot of thought myself. On the one hand, he seems like an amazing person who had bad luck earlier in his life. Why should he be punished for that? Maybe I should give him a chance and go out with him, just like I would date any other guy who fits his description. On the other hand, there are many other guys who I can go out with who do not have a child. I am unsure if I should be taking on the responsibility of a child at this time. I do not want to simply go out with him if I know that I will ultimately break up with him because of his circumstances. That is not fair to him.
What should I be aware of in order to make this decision? What aspects of the situation should I take into account before I reply to the shadchan about dating this guy?
Thank you in advance for your help,
Your questions are very sensitive and thought-provoking. It is wise that you are taking the time to think things through before you decide whether or not to go out. The contemplation you are doing increases your self-awareness. That can both enable you to make the right decision and can help you start your relationship off on the right foot, if you do choose to go out with him. Let’s explore some aspects for you to take into account as you consider this decision.
Based on the fact that you already gave this matter a lot of thought and then wrote to me, it sounds like you recognize that it might be in your interest to date this guy. There seems to be something drawing you to him even though you have hesitations. Why might you be interested in him?
For starters, you have been dating for a while and have not yet found someone to marry. Maybe you have not felt drawn to anyone you dated. It sounds like if you put his previous marital history aside, you have a feeling that there is something unique about this guy that could be a good fit for you. You are interested in getting to know him to see where your relationship goes.
In addition, perhaps surprisingly, his previous marital history itself might be partly what is intriguing you about him. Maybe you sense that he emerged stronger because of what he went through. He might have a greater awareness of how to navigate marriage and create a healthy relationship because of the trials and tribulations he experienced. He might have also refined his skills in communication and managing conflict. Maybe you have also heard evidence about his wonderful qualities as a father because, unlike most people you date, he already has a child to demonstrate his fatherly love. Furthermore, he might be inclined to appreciate your qualities more than the average guy, precisely because of his negative former experiences.
You ask, “He seems like an amazing person who had bad luck earlier in his life. Why should he be punished for that?” It sounds like you are able to put yourself into his shoes and feel the unfortunate situation he is in through no fault of his own. This sensitivity demonstrates empathy on your part, which is very admirable.
At the same time, do your best to be in touch with your underlying feelings about dating a person who is divorced with a child. It sounds like you might think that it is your duty to right a wrong so that he does not suffer for something that was out of his control. Maybe you pity him and want to rescue him from singlehood. If so, this is very noble of you and it may be an added bonus that pulls you to marry him. At the same time, you need to be self-aware. If you also feel like you will be settling to marry him because of his situation, then you are not doing yourself—or him—a favor. He does not need someone who will feel like she is settling. He deserves someone who will date him because of who he is, and will appreciate him. Ideally, he should marry someone who will love him more because of who he is after what he went through.
Keep in mind that you do not need to know from the outset how you feel about his circumstances in order to date him. As long as you are open to getting to know him, you can agree to date him. You might be under the impression, which is pretty common, that if you agree to date him, that means you are OK with his circumstances. But that is not the case. You are merely dating him. Part of the dating process includes getting to know him, and seeing how you feel about his family situation.
I often hear from people that they feel compelled to make a decision about whether or not to date someone, or to continue dating someone, because they fear that they will be leading the other person on. They put pressure on themselves to make a decision, often prematurely, because they assume that by proceeding they are demonstrating interest in a commitment. It is usually incorrect. The process of dating means that you are putting effort into exploring, not into committing, even if it takes you more time than you, or someone else, would have thought. It is all part of the process of dating.
You can see that in this situation, too. Let’s imagine that we ask the guy you are considering if he would rather you said no because you are unsure how you feel about his situation or he would rather you date him and give the potential relationship a chance. He would probably be more than happy for you to agree to date so that you can get to know each other and see if there is potential. Even though, on paper, the fact that he is divorced with a child seems daunting and unusual to you, after you get to know him, and especially if you get along well, you might not even care. The bottom line is: By agreeing to a date, you are not committing; you are not agreeing to marry him. You are giving him and you are giving yourself a chance.
Reflect on these ideas and see where they take you. I hope you develop the mindset and get the clarity you need to make your decision with confidence.
Wishing you much success,
Dr. Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist and relationship coach, specializing in teaching emotional connection and communication skills for over two decades. She coaches individuals and couples, and teaches online courses to help you create your ideal relationship. Get free relationship resources and contact her at www.chanimaybruch.com.