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Dating After Divorce Dos and Don'ts

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Dear Kim:

I'm newly divorced and back on the dating scene after (wait for it) 18 years. Within the last few months, I've become smitten with a new man, but between his work and child-custody schedules and the fact that he lives 45 minutes away, we only see each other on the weekends. These dates are wonderful; full of fun adventures and hours of talking, and it's clear we're quite attracted to each other. However, during the week, despite keeping myself busy with work and my own friends, I miss him and wish he'd make an effort to reach out between our dates.

I've tried to show him by example what I'd like by sending brief texts to let him know he's in my thoughts, and emailing him the occasional link to a site/article/song I think he'd enjoy, but his responses have so far been appreciative rather than reciprocal. In other words, my attempts to reach out to him have reached a flirting dead-end.

How can I ask him for the attention I'd like without seeming too needy?

Dear Dead-End:

That’s easy, talk to him.

Since you’re dealing with a matter of the precious, newly single heart, I realize the situation is delicate. This is a man, after all, and they think so differently than we do. To get the male perspective, I asked a couple of men who experienced the flip side of your quandary.

Bruce Sallan, who is now remarried, was a working divorced father who dated. His immediate reaction was to ask, “Is he really divorced?” Many men, says Sallan, will say they are divorced when they are merely separated, or perhaps not even that. “Have you been to his house?” Sallan also asks. If you don’t know for sure whether your sweetie is truly divorced, and you haven’t yet visited his home, it may well be that during the week he must hide in the bathroom to read your texts on the sly. In that case, run.

But we can’t go around with suspicious minds all the time, can we? Otherwise we wouldn’t ever leave the house, much less dare to go on dates and risk actual joy or even new love.

Another friend of mine is currently living the life of your weekend sweetheart. He is a divorced father juggling his job, his children, the demands of his ex-wife, and the joys of a new significant other. His weekdays are actually quite full. Work is so busy that he doesn’t have time to text or email his lady friend from the office, and parenting takes up all his time at home. Weekends are when he can focus on developing his new relationship. “Having said all that, communicating your needs and wants is probably the best advice,” he admits.

There is hope, Dead-End. Your guy has a slot for work, a slot for parenting, and you are fitting nicely into his slot for dating. You need to help him create a slot for mid-week communication. Here's how you can go about getting the response you're looking for in your new man.

1. Talk to him. I know it’s scary. But since you are a smart, engaging woman, he must have some brains, too. Give him some credit, and talk to him. It may well be that he is incredibly busy on weekdays, and simply does not think to initiate conversation with you beyond making weekend plans. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He may just be the kind of man who can only focus on one thing at a time. But if it’s important to you, and you are important to him, he’ll appreciate knowing that you’d like to hear from him during the week.

2. Try some good old positive reinforcement. Reward him for the behaviors that you want to see. (Negative reinforcement works, too, of course but that’s much less fun, and makes you feel bad.) When he responds to your texts or emails on a Tuesday, let him know in person how happy it made you. You might punctuate that thought with an activity that he really likes, if you know what I mean. Behavioral conditioning works just as well on men as it does on animals. Next thing you know, he’ll be sending you messages out of the blue.

3. Let it go. If he simply cannot give more, you’re going to have to decide whether or not his mid-week radio silence is a dealbreaker. Many harried wives and mothers might read your question and think you’ve got it made. Your life all to yourself during the week? What a lovely rest that would be!

But I know the grass is always greener. Find the greenest patch you can on your side of the fence, Dead-End. But if you wind up giving too much of yourself and not getting enough in return, by all means, keep grazing.

Do you have a dilemma that’s too big for your friends, but too small for a therapist?

Send it to me at mommecs@bermanbraun.com. I’ve got your back.

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