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When To Disclose Divorce To My New Boyfriend – 6 Relationship Experts Share Invaluable Insights

by Ileana Hinojosa – MLA, LMFT, Becky Bringewatt – MA, LPC, NCC, Amy Sherman  – M.A., LMHC, Randi Gunther – Phd, Sally LeBoy – MS, MFT, Shauna K Zotalis – MA

When To Disclose Divorce To My New Boyfriend

“The first step in a relationship is honesty and trust. Be honest and you’ll grow to trust. With trust you learn to accept your love.”

~ Rachel Andrews

Rachel Andrews First Step in a Relationship is Honesty and Trust Quote
Shauna Zotalis

Dating after divorce can be hard for many reasons, especially if you have children. 

Once you have determined that both you and your children have worked through the stages of the adjustment process and are ready to date, then you may be wondering about when to disclose your divorce to people you are dating. 

In general, practicing transparency and open communication is beneficial in intimate relationships, and it can be a good practice to let potential dates know early on that you are divorced, especially if you have children, for several reasons.

Some people may not be open to dating someone with children or willing or able to handle the complexities of stepfamily life. 

Parents with kids will have many relationships to juggle with not only their children but their ex-partners/co-parents and extended families and may not have a lot of spare time to spend with their dating partners.

There may be difficulties in introducing children to dating partners as well since children can see them as threats, and it is recommended to wait until the relationship is more serious to introduce the new partner to the children. 

Those processes can be frustrating and disappointing, among other feelings. 

For these reasons and more the dating partner deserves to know what type of situation they are getting into to see if they are up for it. 

The divorced parent also deserves to know that the dating partner is open and willing to navigate the challenges of stepfamily life if they end up together long-term.

Another reason to disclose divorce fairly early (even as early as it being included on a dating profile if you are online dating) are related to cultural or spiritual differences. 

Some people do not believe in divorce for cultural or religious reasons so filtering out dating partners who do not agree with your life choice is easier for both parties to know up front that they are not a suitable match. 

While you may worry that disclosing divorce may push people away, the truth is – divorce is now a part of your story and you likely do not want to be with someone who is not up for or does not agree with your life or family situation. 

Happy dating!

Shauna Zotalis, MA – www.mended-families.com

Becky Bringewatt

Of all the land mines in dating, talking about past relationships is one of the most difficult to navigate through. 

You must assume that everyone you date has had past relationships, possible many of them. And you might also assume that some of those relationships have been serious or long-term, and may have involved a marriage or co-habitation for a period of time. And I also hope your date would expect the same from you.

I don’t know that there’s a “right” time to talk about past relationships, divorces, etc, but there are definitely wrong times. 

Even if you’ve been texting or e-mail or even talking on the phone for a while, if the topic of past relationships has not yet surfaced, the first date is never the right time to talk about your divorce. 

This is a time to get to know each other as you are today and as you will be with each other. 

Yes, your divorce is very much a part of you and who you have become, but it’s not a romantic subject, and the first date is a time for romance – which most divorces are not.

If you are upset about your divorce, it’s also not a great time to bring it up. 

Your wedding anniversary or some other important day in your past marriage or right after you’ve had a fight with your ex are very bad times to talk to your new guy about what happened in the past. It will be colored by your emotions of the moment, and that simply isn’t fair to someone getting to know you.

It’s also not a great idea to talk about your divorce with your new beau when you don’t have time to do it justice. 

You want to make sure it isn’t a passing comment or that you’re not in a good place for further discussion. There may not be a lot of follow-up, but expect that there will be some, even if it’s just the facts. Make sure you bring it up intentionally instead of accidentally.

A great time to talk about your divorce is when you are talking about what you have learned about yourself and relationships because of your past. 

Show your new guy the person you have become by going through that experience and that it hasn’t turned you off of relationships for good.

After a few dates, when you know you’ll be dating for a while, set a time with your new guy to talk about your past relationships, including how much information you each want to know about the other. 

Most of this information will come out over time, but it’s great to begin the discussion before too long so that it doesn’t become taboo. And remember, he’s got some relationships in his closet, too.

Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC – www.mantiscounselingandcoaching.com

Ileana Hinojosa

It is important to be honest about your past in the right context. 

Go with the flow and answer questions naturally as they come up in conversation. Once you realize that the relationship is getting serious it is important to disclose this information, especially if there is baggage from the divorce. 

Pertinent information would include knowledge about an intrusive ex , financial agreements or shared custody of children. 

Do not over share about the past relationship and present the information in a matter of fact manner. 

If you are calm about the way you present this information then you can usually expect a calm reaction. 

Answer questions as truthfully as you can. 

Do not criticize your ex or put him down. This can be a turn off and will make you seem like a victim. This is not a good way to start a relationship.

If there is information that you are not comfortable sharing in the beginning, then say so. 

Set your boundaries and don’t feel pressure to explain or justify yourself. You are an adult and life happens. Be mindful of the type of questions you are being asked about your past and the divorce. 

Be mindful to respect your own need for privacy regarding your past and what your future partner needs to know at this point in the relationship. 

If there was violence in the relationship and this is the reason for the divorce, then that may be something you may want to wait to share. You do not want your partner’s pity; you want his respect.

Do not try to hide the divorce as it will eventually come out in the wash. 

It is important to disclose if the divorce is not final because your potential partner could be dragged into court if your ex is contentious and spiteful and he finds out your dating someone new. 

Go slow and be mindful what you share. 

Share this information when you are in a good place and not after an upsetting conversation with you ex. If the topic does not come up and you feel like it is time that he needs to know because the relationship is moving on to the next level, then sit him down and tell him that there is something important that you need to tell him. 

Remember to keep it drama free and state the facts. How you present it will set the tone regarding how he will receive the information.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net

Amy Sherman
  • You may be divorced but are you prepared to be dating again? 
  • Are you feeling clear and complete regarding your divorce? 
  • Are you emotionally comfortable and ready to move on? 
  • Did you learn the lessons you need to learn so you don’t repeat past mistakes? 

Dating won’t resolve anger, resentments and insecurities, so it’s important to do the inner work first before getting out into the dating world again.

The reason why this is significant is because your next partner will eventually need to know about your past, and if you are uncomfortable discussing things, sharing the good and bad aspects of your life, you may not be ready to be dating.

Dating “on the rebound” – too soon following a divorce – inevitably leads to a failed relationship and often depression. 

So, to understand your part in the break-up, what you can do differently to support and empower yourself and how you can open the door to a fresh, healthy, new partner, is essential if you want to start a relationship with a clean slate.

If you feel resolved about your past and feel comfortable discussing difficult issues with your partner, you are ready to share details about your divorce. 

You know your guy well enough and trust that he will help you or be supportive enough to understand unresolved issues from the divorce. You’ve learned through hindsight about the challenges two people face when being together week after week, month after month in today’s stress-filled world. 

You know it takes awareness, flexibility, great communication skills and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship work and you understand that disclosing this information may be a shock to your partner, initially. 

Seeing things from his perspective may help, listening to his feelings openly and objectively is good and assuring him that your past will remain in the past is also advisable.

This difficult topic does not have to be filled with shame and negatively, but it can be the stepping stone to thinking, feeling and behaving differently so that with this relationship you are giving 100% of yourself to make it work.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

Randi Gunther

The successful staging of new relationships has never been so complicated. 

Because so many intimate relationship seekers now are far from their origins, they often begin potential partnerships with sparse information about the backgrounds and baggage of those they meet. Whether instant connections like Tinder, or more extensive explorations like OK-Cupid, daters have almost no real way of knowing who the person really is.

Photo-shopping is not just visual. Because of the background anonymity, relationship seekers can present themselves absent of fact-checking to people who are likely doing the same. 

Authenticity and openness early in a relationship are behaviors that could be risky when they have no idea how that person might react. 

Or, whether honest information offered might sour a deal that would have a better chance of surviving were the data to come later. (See my Psychology Today Blog, “When Should I Have Told You?”

There is privacy, and there is secrecy. 

Privacy is our right. Whether sexual fantasies, past errors that have resolved, things we once did that we never do again, or anything else that brings on those terrible feelings of humiliation for deeds done when we didn’t know any better, are ours to confess or not when, and if, we are ready to. Until you know someone very well and would not risk a re-awakening of painful judgment, those stories are best left in the past.

Secrecy is the withholding of information that might seriously affect that other person’s desire to be in a relationship with you were they to know, and your own personal integrity will tell you when to let them know before he or she risks too much. 

A common example would be telling a potential partner about an STD before sexual contact. But there are many others. 

Current or potentially inherited illnesses that could affect progeny, large financial indebtedness, children from prior relationships, seriously-in-doubt relatives, lurking enemies, angry ex-partners, emotional trauma that drives random acting-out scenarios, addictive problems, DUI’s or jail time, or any repetitive behaviors that have damaged prior relationships are just some common examples.

The rule of thumb is the Golden Rule: 

  • What would you be distressed about not having been told that might have deterred you from getting involved and what are you withholding that might make another not trust you?

It’s natural for any of us to want to make a good enough impression by presenting ourselves in the best light possible. It’s also natural to hope that, given enough good stuff, the contrasting cost might seem less in that new light. 

My own experience with the hundreds of couples who come to me to repair the damage of unexpected and unwelcome data, is that authenticity up front is always the best route in the long run. 

What is important is the way you present the data. Even during a first date where you get the wonderful dual feelings of comfort and excitement, there are ways to share your assets and liabilities from a place of comfort and self-compassion.

Here’s an example:

The first meeting is going really well. Both of you seem uniquely engrossed and reticent for the time together to end. It’s apparent that there is mutual desire to continue seeing each other. 

You’ve both shared the common interests, something about your own journeys, and what you want in your life, and you like what you’ve heard so far. There are moments of genuine honesty and realness, and you want to share and learn more. 

If that interest and joy increase in the next couple of dates, it’s time to tell her or him anything they would need to know that would allow them to vote up front about anything that might be damaging later.

  • “I want to tell you who I’ve been, what I’ve learned, what I’m looking for in a life partner, and what I think I bring to the table. I don’t know if you’ll continue to want to know me more deeply after this, but I care enough about you already to make sure you know what you’d be getting in to if you still want to spend time together. I’ve made some mistakes in my life, and I’ve learned a lot, and will continue to be the best person I can become, but I want you to know.”

That very approach is an important screener. 

You’ll want the person to lean in, to want to know and understand, and to be honest in the way he or she feels about what you’ve said. If that person looks offended, outraged, critical, or shocked, it’s so much better that you know at this point in the game. 

The most hopeful and encouraging kind of response would be something like, 

  • “I’m so impressed with your willingness to be open like this and it’s only fair that I reciprocate.” But, it’s also okay if that potential partner says something a little different, like, “Wow. That’s a lot to think about, but I really like you. Can I just take some time to digest this? The fact that you’re willing to tell me this makes me believe I could really trust you in the future, and I want to be as honest as you’ve been.” 

Any response that’s along these lines will tell you who that person is now, and would be, if the relationship were to mature.

The past doesn’t define anyone’s future unless the lessons of the past remain unlearned and the person continues to repeat patterns that have never worked before. 

If your belief in yourself is expressed as, “This is where I’m doing great, this is what I’m working on, and these things are still a problem. I’m a work in progress, and hope to always be,” that self-accepting and self-re-enforcing position is very often attractive to the kind of partner that can rock with the challenges that any long-term relationship is likely to face in the future.

Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com

Sally LeBoy

Divorce is no longer a taboo subject for most Americans. Almost everybody has had a divorced relative or friend. Although we are all optimistic at the altar, 50% of us will eventually divorce. It seems to me that following an invitation to tell him about yourself, you would probably then say that you were married and are now divorced.

I don’t think details have a part in any initial conversation. 

When you first meet someone, you are both looking to see if there is enough attraction and compatibility to make a second date. 

You may need to share some personal information but in a general way. 

“I’m Christian and am looking for someone who shares my faith.” is important because it’s a prerequisite for moving forward. 

Not disclosing would potentially waste time and energy. “I’m not looking for a relationship; I just want to have some fun” dictates the tenor of the relationship or even whether or not there can be a relationship. It’s the kind of information both parties should have in deciding whether or not to move forward.

That’s probably the main criteria for deciding what to share. 

If the information will be likely to influence the choice as to whether or not to make a second or third date it should probably be shared. It goes without saying that some information must be shared before a relationship becomes sexual. 

You need to know that it’s safe to have sex and I think you should know what it means emotionally to have sex. For some people it can be casual and for some it can’t. It’s nice to know before you’re actually in someone’s bed.

Getting to know someone should be a gradual process. 

It shouldn’t be forced and unless the information is vital in some way you are under no obligation or timetable to open up. 

Pay attention to your instincts when it comes to sharing yourself. 

Also pay attention to your instincts when it comes to asking the questions you need to have answered to feel confident moving forward.

Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

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