I received an email some time ago that actually hit pretty close to home in regards to my experience with online dating: How should I handle listing my marital status when I was divorced after a very short marriage? Especially when the divorce was caused by the other person cheating? Here is the email that was sent to me (I’ve changed some details to protect her identity):
A few years ago, my very short marriage of about a year broke down because I found out my husband was having an affair. I feel like I’ve been ready to move on to a new relationship for some time now.
I’m ready to give it another go using online dating but before I do please could I ask your advice about the “Divorced” word? I think many men will see me as a strange case – 27 and divorced! They probably think: “She couldn’t make her marriage work!”
I hate being labeled as “Divorced”, it’s not something I believe in, and doesn’t represent any of my morals or beliefs. I was brought up as a Catholic and whilst I’m not devout, I believe in loyalty and commitment and the values of the church. But, the way I see it, because of something that somebody else did, I now have to wear this horrid label.
Do you think I should hide the fact that I am divorced and reveal it at a later stage if things went past a first date (and explain my reasons for not being upfront about it?).
When “Divorced” Delivers the Wrong Message
At the beginning of this article I mentioned this hit close to home and this is why: this was the exact situation that the woman I eventually married was in…except she was 25 and divorced. Same story too – in less than a year she found out that he had been having an affair during most of their relationship (and through all of their marriage).
The approach she took was she listed herself as single. Then on our first date she got that out in the open right away. She apologized and she was very emotional about it. It was obvious that she was sincere but her thoughts were she didn’t want to ruin her chances to find someone new because of what some jerk did to her. In a sense it was almost unfair to call her divorced because she had so little control over that situation! She would have never cheated or sought a divorce. He drove that situation forward so why should she pay? I can get behind this idea and I think it would be fine for other people to do the same.
As most people probably know, Facebook has an interesting relationship status that people can use: “It’s Complicated”. I think a case like this shows why a status like “It’s Complicated” was needed in the first place. I like the approach my wife took in her case: she listed “Single” but the as soon as we met she explained that it was actually “Complicated”. I didn’t feel misled and she was able to discuss her situation with me almost immediately, which I think was helpful for her peace of mind before we started to date with any seriousness.
One thing I’ll say: I think my wife had it right. The first date is where this information should come out. The longer she would have waited the more I would have felt misled.
But Isn’t This Lying?
I suppose some people would argue that this is lying but I don’t see this as anything like being dishonest about your age or weight or whatever. This is a very personal piece of information that doesn’t contribute much to who the person is at their core. It’s more about an experience they went through.
I’m not proud to admit it but I can’t say for certain that I would have contacted my wife if she had listed herself as divorced. Now that I’m married to her I hope that I would have, but I just can’t say with confidence what I would have done. And that’s the thing: putting a label of “Divorced” on a profile hardly tells the real story when that person was barely married and then betrayed in a matter of months.
This isn’t to say that I believe that everyone who has been divorced should list themselves as single. Listing yourself as divorced will often be the most correct thing to do such as if you were married for years or had children in the marriage. Still, I think there are cases where holding back on this information until the first date is the appropriate approach.