When the topic of dating separated and divorced men comes up, one of the questions I get most often is, “How much contact should he be having with his ex?” In other words, if a man is divorced (or going through a divorce), how much visiting/talking/texting/helping the ex-wife is expected for the sake of good relations, and how much is too much?
This is an important question, because the nature and frequency of contact with his ex can tell you a LOT about whether or not he’s a good choice for you. As I discuss in Dating the Divorced Man, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Where is He in the Divorce Process?
A man who’s in the early stages of a divorce will likely have more contact with his ex-wife than a man who’s already divorced. They need to deal with the legalities of the divorce, figure out their living and financial situations, separate their belongings, etc. If a couple has children, they will need to talk more in order to coordinate their parenting responsibilities, even after a divorce is finalized. However, contact should die down once the divorce is moving forward and certainly once it finalizes.
How often is the Contact?
One thing to look at is how often a man is in contact with his ex-wife. Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Numerous times per day? Early in the divorce process and during any crises with the kids, a man may need to talk with his ex-wife often to deal with these issues. During separation, he may be called upon to fix a broken toilet, pay a bill, or deal with other household issues until he and his ex-wife agree on how to handle such things now that they aren’t together anymore. However, daily or near-daily contact should be the exception, not the rule.
What’s the Nature of the Contact?
This is the most important question. Contact to discuss business such as any divorce logistics, splitting of property, or money is unavoidable during a divorce. Contact to coordinate parenting time, school, or other kid stuff is necessary. These things can be done over phone, text, or email.
Contact of a personal nature is a different story. While it’s always helpful to keep up positive relations with the ex, a man who’s separated or divorced should not be having regular chats with the ex beyond the occasional happy birthday email or rare lunch. For example, I had a client whose divorced boyfriend sent his ex-wife a Happy Valentine’s Day text. Valentine’s Day is romantic, and such contact with the ex is inappropriate when he’s involved with someone new.
Likewise, a divorcing/divorced man should not have to serve as plumber, gardener, or IT guy to his ex-wife anymore. That’s what husbands do, not ex-husbands, and no woman wants to feel like her boyfriend is still taking care of another woman. Some of that is normal in the early stages of divorce – it may be cheaper for him to just fix it than to pay for someone else to – but not after that.
Another example is when a divorced man spends holidays at his ex-wife’s home. This is common when a man has kids. Again, the single guy can get away with this. But no woman wants to date a guy who spends important holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with his ex-wife.
Generally speaking, when a man has too much contact with his ex, a lot of personal contact with her, or plays Mr. Fix-it with an ex, it’s a sign he hasn’t yet let go of his marriage. This is common in men who were married a long time (20 years+) or who have difficulty with change. Most don’t want to be with their exes anymore, but they don’t want to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable, so they become “Divorced Husbands” – i.e. men who aren’t living with or sleeping with their ex-wives, but are still playing the husband role in many ways.
I’ve yet to meet a woman who likes dating a Divorced Husband. With these men, it’s best to end things, let him cut the cord when he’s ready, and then revisit things 6-12 months down the road.