Each month, SilverSingles proudly brings you curated guest posts from some of our favorite online experts. Their opinions can be caring, controversial, witty, or warm (and sometimes all of the above), but one thing stays constant: This is expert dating advice straight from the heart.
This month: We interview Divorce Mediator Joe Dillon from Equitable Mediation about the ins and outs of dating while separated. If you’re ready to get back into dating after your split, this is a must-read!
SilverSingles: Hi Joe, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Joe Dillon: I am a divorce mediator, and along with my wife Cheryl who is a divorce coach, help people negotiate and come to an agreement on all the required logistical and financial issues associated with the divorce process. We also provide emotional support along the way through our coaching program.
We feel by addressing both the emotional and tactical issues surrounding divorce, it gives couples the best opportunity to avoid a drawn-out, costly and contentious divorce while at the same time, enabling them to remain fully in control of the terms of their agreement. A true win-win.
SilverSingles: It definitely sounds like that process could help you move on faster than if you had a more acrimonious split! So, you think you’ve moved on – but how do you know if you personally are ready to start dating again?
Joe Dillon: My wife, our divorce coach, tells me when you can let go of the energy you have around something or someone, that’s when you know you’ve truly moved past it.
So in the case of dating after separation or divorce, when you can think about your ex-spouse without anger or regret, and instead look at your time together as a positive, that’s when you know you’re ready. If your blood pressure starts to rise, or you want to call them up and shout nasty names at them, you may need some time to move past the hurt feelings you’re currently experiencing.
SilverSingles: While we’re talking about communication with your former partner, do you have any tips for talking to your (soon-to-be-ex) spouse about dating other people?
Joe Dillon: We find that in most divorces, there is one spouse who is driving the divorce, and one who is reluctant or simply going along as they feel they have no other choice.
Especially if you’re the spouse driving the divorce, you need to be extra sensitive to the fact that your soon-to-be-ex is feeling left behind. Let them know that while it may be difficult to see at this moment, eventually everyone will move forward. And just because they’re not ready to move forward at this time, there’s no rush, and they’ll move forward when they’re ready. It puts the focus on their feelings, instead of putting you on the defensive and having to justify your desire to start dating.
And it’s important to establish some rules of engagement when it comes to dating other people. You want to be respectful to your soon-to-be-ex, but you also don’t want to allow them to control your dating life. I’ve had a number of cases where the “non-dating” spouse wanted to put a whole series of restrictions on the “dating” spouse and insisted they not date for a period of one year post-divorce, pay a financial penalty if the dating spouse introduced the new partner to their children, etc.
SilverSingles: I can imagine that get even more complicated if the divorce is not yet finalized. How is dating while separated different from dating after divorce?
Joe Dillon: When separated, you’re obviously still married and, in many cases, still sharing finances. So, you need to be careful to keep your dating finances and marital finances separate. When people continue to use the joint credit card or bank account to do things with their new partner, not only does their soon-to-be-ex see what they’re doing, but it could be held against them when devising a settlement. Also, when children are involved, you need to be upfront with your spouse if dating while separated, as anyone with a child knows, if you want the whole world to know a secret, tell a child. They’ll tell the whole world!
Once you’re divorced, it becomes much easier as you are in control of your finances and free to do as you please. But it’s still a good idea to give your now ex-spouse a heads up when you have children. You may even wish to introduce your ex-spouse to your new partner, so they know who their children will be spending time with when they’re not with them.
SilverSingles: That raises a good point: is it even legal to be dating while separated?
Joe Dillon: I’m not sure if it’s illegal, but it certainly does pose an ethical dilemma…
Editor’s note: Certain states still allow divorce on fault grounds (you can check your state here). In these states – or in any divorce where the settlement revolves around adultery – you’ll want to be careful when being intimate with someone new. It’s highly likely that you can still date during your separation – but we recommend checking in with your lawyer or mediator first.
SilverSingles: Another ethical dilemma: should you let your new date know that you are separated rather than divorced?
Joe Dillon: Absolutely. Approximately 5% of our divorce mediation clients reconcile while in mediation and return to their spouse. So, while unusual, there is a chance that you may work things out. Also, when it comes to finances and sleepovers, when separated, you need to be more discreet whereas when divorced, your finances are now separated and you’ve most likely established your own residence.
SilverSingles: And finally, do you have any words of encouragement for anyone who is currently going through a separation?
Joe Dillon: To them, I would say don’t focus on the loss but rather be grateful for the time you shared with your soon-to-be-ex. Chances are, you raised some amazing children, had some great times together, and experienced the joys of life that I know you will once experience again soon.
About the Author: Equitable Mediation Services specializes in helping divorcing couples negotiate a fair settlement that is customized to their unique needs and that puts their children first. Founders Joe and Cheryl Dillon are passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and know first-hand that the right information, combined with the right expertise and the right kind of support can make the challenging process of divorce less expensive, less time-consuming and less stressful for their clients and their families.