By Ashley Edwards Walker
Diving back into the dating pool post-divorce can feel overwhelming, but the good news is that you’re not alone. With roughly 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, there’s less stigma than ever around this particular piece of someone’s relationship history. “A huge part of healing past the divorce is owning that part of your story,” says Liz Higgins, therapist and founder of Millennial Life Counseling.
Still, figuring out when and how to tell a new Bumble match that you’re divorced can be confusing. Should you state your divorced status on your profile? On your first date? Wait until you know the relationship has some staying power? According to the experts and daters we spoke to, there’s no right or wrong way to approach telling someone that you’re divorced. In the end, it all comes down to your individual circumstances and feelings. But these tips and this advice can be helpful to keep in mind when you’re ready to talk about your past marriage.
First, decide when you are comfortable having the conversation
You may feel pressure to tell a match you’re divorced right away. And while the experts we spoke with agreed that you shouldn’t wait too long to have the conversation, you should feel empowered to disclose at your own pace. No matter what your individual circumstances are, Higgins suggests starting the process by asking yourself, “At what point would I feel emotionally safe to share something that’s personal and potentially vulnerable with somebody?”
Get your head right
One emotion you should definitely let go of when preparing to disclose your divorce? Shame. “Everyone experiences relationships that didn’t work out,” says dating coach Benjamin Daly. “The fact that you were once married demonstrates that you’re someone who’s serious about long-term commitment. And now you have the experience to form a better relationship.” So rather than approaching the subject as a potential concern, view it as positive and start the conversation with a confident attitude.
Then, consider how you want to bring it up
The first date is a great time to have the divorce convo. “It’s enough time to start a connection, but before there’s any emotional investment,” says Daly. But if you’re vibing in Bumble chat or via text and it comes up earlier (or later, but don’t wait too long) don’t fret. “It’s best to bring up the divorce when the moment is right, usually when you’re on the topic of relationships,” says Daly. Higgins agrees. “The right time to bring it up is going to be unique to you.”
In other words, let it happen naturally if you can. Like Lee, 35, whose strategy is to talk about other areas of his life that may lead to discussing his former relationship. “I don’t specifically put that I’m divorced in my profile, but I usually mention I have kids so most women assume I’ve been married before,” he says. If you don’t have kids, or are looking for another way to broach the subject, Higgins suggests starting with a more values-based question. “Rather than just putting it out there like, ‘By the way, I’ve been divorced,’ I would maybe ask, ‘How important do you feel it is to know someone’s full relationship history? Do you like to know the big details or do you prefer not to know? What feels important to you when you’re in the dating phase?’”
Be truthful—but don’t criticize your ex
You definitely don’t need to share more information than you want to. But whatever you do disclose, be honest and “keep it high-level,” says Daly. That means no trash-talking your ex. Like Mimi, 31, who keeps the details of her divorce on a need-to-know basis. “When it feels right, I talk about what my relationship is like with my ex-husband in regard to our coparenting,” she says. “I don’t want to dwell on the divorce; that’s a closed chapter. I want someone to get to know me, not dissect my marriage.”
Expect some questions
Daly recommends having the conversation face-to-face so the person you’re dating has an opportunity to ask any questions they might have. “The more comfortable you are talking about it, the more comfortable they’ll be,” he explains. “This shows that it’s not an issue for you, and won’t be an issue for them.” But again, you are in charge of determining how much information you want to share. So if you match with someone who continues to ask probing questions? “Let them know that it’s handled and it’s in the past,” advises Daly.
Treat the whole thing as a litmus test
At the end of the day, you may match with someone who just isn’t open to dating someone who’s divorced—and that’s fine! All that means is that those people aren’t for you. “Everyone has a past,” points out Daly. “And if they can’t accept that, it won’t work.” That’s exactly how Emma, 34, feels. “I wear my divorce as a badge of honor,” she says. “I figured out what I won’t put up with. And if that level of expertise through trial-and-error isn’t for you, that’s okay.”