One of the most common questions asked after D-Day is, “How soon is too soon to start dating?”
The best answer I’ve ever seen to that question was, “When you’re ready.”
Alas, there are always those who insist you shouldn’t date until you are officially divorced. You are married until you are no longer married. Some proudly talk of wearing their rings until the divorce was finalized. Others insist upon referring to the lying, cheating spouse as their husband or wife instead of soon-to-be-ex because “I’m still married and that person is still my spouse.”
Funnily enough dating seems to be the one line in the sand that many draw when it comes to being separated but not yet divorced. No one ever says, “I would love to have fresh flowers all over my house but my husband always hated that. I’m still married so I need to respect his wishes.” Or, ”I can’t take up belly dancing until I’m divorced. Married is married and he’s always hated my passion for belly dancing. I need to respect that until the ink is dry on the divorce decree.” We don’t wait to get a new job or redecorate the bedroom or even get a new apartment until we’re fully divorced. So why the hard on for dating? I digress.
I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’ve broken it down. I would really like to thank that commenter over on Chump Lady who talked of the two parts of marriage- the legal and the spiritual parts. I truly believe that and that’s how I separate the two parts of a marriage.
First you have the legal part. As long as you have a marriage license, or a “permit” as it may be, you can go into any courtroom and have a judge marry you. It’s a little more complicated than that, but the important point is there is no need for a big, fancy church wedding. There doesn’t need to be a lot of planning. Once you have that license, that legal form, you can get married pretty much whenever. It’s a legal contract which gives you certain rights.
Then you have the spiritual part. It doesn’t have to be a church wedding in order for it to be spiritual. The important thing to note about this part is that the spiritual part concerns your feelings for this person. It’s all about love. You’re not getting married because your parents have arranged this. You’re not trying to combine your families’ fortunes. In other words, it’s not a business deal (see above regarding legal marriage). You’re marrying because you love this person.
Because you love this person you trust them. You make plans for your future with them. You might buy a house with them, have children with them, move all over the country or world with them for their career. You think of one another as a team. You’ve got each other’s backs. You plan on growing old with this person.
When your partner cheats on you they betray you. All of those things you’ve planned- together- they take away without your knowledge or approval. Having sex with someone else is only a tiny part of it. It’s everything else that accompanies that that makes it so hard. You feel like you’re going crazy because of all of the lies and the gas lighting. There may even be health implications if your spouse gets an STI and passes it along to the unsuspecting spouse. Your life as you know it is over. Many times the cheated on spouse is left in a vulnerable financial situation- how will they support their children, where will they live? Will you be able to keep your house? Will your kids have to leave their schools and their friends? Who will hire you, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for most of your marriage? Bankruptcy and poverty are not unusual events when a spouse who has been the primary breadwinner leaves. And of course, the most obvious, they’ve been planning this new life with the new person while you’ve had no clue. You were still invested in the life the two of you shared while they were busy creating a life with someone else behind your back. All those dreams go up in smoke when your spouse steps outside of your marriage and leaves you for another person.
For those who insist that even if your spouse has moved 1000 miles away and has two children with the side piece you should remain chaste and faithful to him because you’re still married!!!! I say, “You’re delusional.” This isn’t about the fact you shouldn’t have to put your life on hold while a lying cheater does everything in their power to delay a divorce as they skip happily off into the sunset with the whore. It’s about this idea that cheating is not about the sex. It’s about the betrayal and the discard.
That’s where the legal and spiritual parts of marriage come in. Your marriage does not automatically end in the legal sense because the other person was out fucking the neighbor. Or their cousin. Whomever. That’s very true. You are still legally married. You have to have a judge sign off on your divorce. But while you are waiting for that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dating if you are ready for that.
You haven’t blindsided anyone. Your “spouse” is not happily planning a future with you while you are busy planning one with another person. They’ve already done that. They’ve left. They’re off living their very best life with this new person. You are not Plan B.
Furthermore, you’re not lying to them and gas lighting them. There is no sneaking around. You’re not telling them that there’s no one else. You’re not letting them invest in you while you take, take, take knowing full well that you are not faithful to them and/or are planning on leaving them.
As long as you don’t sleep with your STBX you have no chance of passing along an STD.
They are not financially invested in you while you’re out dating. You’re not siphoning off marital money to give to your new boyfriend or girlfriend, and you’re not using marital monies to fund your dates. More importantly, you dating someone is not going to lead to your STBX losing their home, having to move, and wondering how on earth they are going to support their children. They don’t have to worry about any of that because they’ve already left. There are no ramifications of you dating someone else. Nothing happens to your STBX or their life because of this.
In other words, if you choose to date while you’re still going through your divorce it’s all above board. No one is being played. It’s not being hidden. You’re not lying to buy yourself time to deplete marital funds. No one is being lied to. You and your STBX aren’t planning a future together when in reality you’re planning on dumping them. Everything is out in the open.
I know there will be those out who disagree and insist that you are still married so you shouldn’t date, and if you do date, then you are no better than the cheater you are divorcing. To those people I say, “Bless your heart,” as I hand them a cookie as a reward. It’s got to taste better than those shit sandwiches they’re choking down.