So you’re dating a guy that you really like. He’s got a lot of potential, but he hasn’t moved past the issues he developed because of his separation or divorce. There are many patterns of unwanted behavior he might be displaying, but we’ll stick with two biggies for now:
- He’s Insecure and Draws too Close
If he was cheated on and / or left, then he might fit the emotional profile of insecurity. Maybe he gets a little emotional when you don’t text him enough. Maybe he can’t understand why don’t want to see him every waking moment. Maybe he’s a little too…well, clingy.
- He’s Distrustful, Puts up a Wall, and Keeps too Much Distance
Many factors can contribute to this one. Maybe he was cheated on. Maybe he was left without any justification. Maybe he was simply ignored for years. Or perhaps things just went south on account that neither he nor the ex were compatible, so he’s disconnected from women period. Whatever the reason, he doesn’t respond to you affectionately enough or he’s moving too slowly for your liking.
If you want to stick with him, there are a few things you can do to help support and encourage him back to a healthy balance in either scenario. If you can do the things mentioned below, at least you should know within a few months whether or not he’s going to be able to develop a healthy connection with you long-term.
Breaking the Myth of Gender Personality Differences
Before we discuss ways you can support him, consider an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Bobbi Carothers and Harry Ries conducted a scientific study entitled, Men and Women are from Earth: Examining the Latent Structure of Gender.
I have provided the link above for you, but I’ll admit; while informative, it’s quite long and boring. So I’ll briefly break it down for you:
When it comes to personality traits, men and women really aren’t so different. 🙂
Yep, that’s about it!
Sure, there were a few personality differences that stood out. For example, men tend to be more assertive, but the study showed so much overlap in all areas that it made me wonder if the popular book, Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus, is really all that accurate. Further scientific studies in neuroscience have also shown that the most important organ, the brain, doesn’t show that much difference between gender personality traits either.
That’s good news. It seems fair to say then that if the guy you like is showing more personality traits that seem to be a little feminine (like clinginess) or overly masculine (like strong emotional detachment), I wouldn’t drop him just yet. Wait…did I just make a generalization based on gender differences!? J
In all seriousness though…
It doesn’t take a lot of common sense to realize that after an emotionally draining time like divorce, whatever personality traits they’re showing probably isn’t who they really are. Once they’ve had time to adjust, they could show you the balance you need. Proceed with caution, but give the advice below a chance.
What to do When the Guy is Insecure
Let’s deal with the insecure guy first.
I can relate to this one. For the three years leading up to the day my ex told me it was over, I had developed some insecurities that shouldn’t have defined my true personality to any woman. Personally, I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I had even developed them.
I was never insecure dating in high school or college. At least I never let a girl see it. I always played it cool. Even after the ex and I split, I dated fairly early and none of the insecurities I had developed manifested.
Then I met the one that through me for a loop. I knew that she had the potential to be something long-term. And that’s when it happened. I had stumbled upon something that I really liked, but since I had lost my wife, I began to fear I would lose her too. It was an irrational fear. Never once did she indicate she wasn’t interested. But after I had developed a strong attachment to the idea that we were really good together, I began freaking out when she didn’t respond to my text in a few hours or cancelled plans to hang out for very legitimate reasons…like work!
She was so different than what I was used to. I had always attracted clingy girls. This is all I knew about the dating scene. In both high school and college. I didn’t understand a strong, independent woman who knew exactly who she was. When she didn’t seem to have the need to see me for days, or even a week at a time, I was perplexed. She wasn’t as emotional as the ex either, which further confused me. The truth was, I didn’t realize that this was normal behavior for a woman who was secure in herself. And it was wildly attractive. And confusing.
Luckily she was emotionally mature enough to recognize what was really going on with me. She was smart enough to know what a fourteen-year marriage must have meant. We had talked about some of the things the ex and I had been through already so she was able to step back and be objective and took the time to properly assess my emotional struggles.
So what did she do? Simple. She came straight out and told me that it bothered her, but she also told me it wasn’t a deal breaker. She verbally acknowledged that she understood. While she let me know that she wouldn’t tolerate it forever, she also reinforced the fact that she was willing to support me while I worked it out. In other words, she made me feel like I was normal and didn’t have to be embarrassed about it after it manifested.
This instantly took the edge off. In a about a month, I was back to my normal self. Her real secret, ladies?
She didn’t come to me frustrated. She didn’t come to me argumentative. She was firm, but gentle. She made me consciously aware of my insecurity problem without judgment.
I had a few relapses, but she was so calm and reassuring every time that it happened that I knew she had my back. Within a month I realized I didn’t have to feel insecure with her anymore. Most importantly, I realized she wasn’t my ex-wife and that I shouldn’t compare her to any of my previous relationships.
She also took one other very important step to help me alleviate my emotional insecurity. She explained where she was at in her life. She let me know some things that I needed to understand her so I could know what to expect in the future. Ah, gentle communication. Best thing she could have ever done.
Now let’s take a look at the other guy.
What to do When the Guy is Distrustful and Keeps too Much Distance or Puts up a Wall
If you’re really into a guy like this, I believe you’re going to have be a little more patient. He’s going to be a harder shell to crack. But there’s a few very important things you can do to get him to trust you more quickly and see how awesome you are.
Most importantly, give him time. When he backs off, do the same. Respond by spending more time with your friends or doing something that you like. Show him that you’re able to have fun and enjoy life without him. But don’t stray too far. Maybe even send him a quick text before going out to let him know that you’re thinking of him. Then go out and have a good time. Don’t respond until he’s contacted you back first. You want to keep him interested with some mystery thrown in. Guys love that. We love a strong independent woman who can make us show our own emotional side when we have to. Like we miss you. (I believe a secure woman respects this too). 🙂
Some guys just need to chase a little. It keeps us on our toes. Contrary to popular belief, a girl that can make us wonder what she’s up to isn’t a bad thing. Now for a guy who’s distrustful of women after a divorce, you can’t go too far with this. Throw him some bones to let him know he’s a priority if he wants to be, but at the same time let him know you’re not going to drop everything if he’s got some trust issues to work out. This makes you seem strong, independent. It’ll make you desirable in the early stages until we can really get to know you later and decide that you’re not the ex-wife or anything like her. This may seem like game-playing, but it’s really not for the guy who’s been through a separation and divorce and needs it. Sometimes you just have to roll with the situation as it is for us.
I also recommend having an important conversation with him after giving the space and the time he needs. Once you’ve given him what he needs, follow up with the verbal acknowledgment that you’ve given him these things simply because you understand what he’s been through. It’s a great opportunity to reinforce trust and help him build confidence in the fact that you’re something different than what he formerly had. Contrary to popular opinion, sometimes guys need the extra verbal acknowledgment and communication is a good thing for us.
Also realize that if he’s been through hell, the last thing he needs is a clingy girl that’s reacting to his distance. He probably just needs the time to see how cool you really are.
The third girl I dated after my separation made herself too available. She truly wanted to spend every waking moment together. She was very attractive. After our first date I looked forward to the next, but then I was getting texts five times before my lunch break at work every day, and I didn’t know what to make of it. It was overkill after my separation. I needed some time to process and explore, and she hindered that. She was fun to be around at first, but the suffocation I began to feel soon after let me know that she didn’t respect me enough to stop and consider everything that had just happened to me. Perhaps she thought I was completely ready. But I had had a few conversations with her after our first date that should have registered some of the things I had to take care of on my own before I was ready to leap into a strong commitment. I was still in the mode of wanting to have a little fun and freedom. Yes, I know it seems ironic that I just got finished telling you I became the clingy one after I found the girl I was really interested in, but that really wasn’t me, remember? If this one had played it cool I would have given it more of a chance.
Also take into consideration: she wasn’t just showing me that she was a little clingy. I could have handled that. After what I had formerly been through with the ex, I would have initially enjoyed it. But she began showing me that she wanted a start a life together. Any guy that had been through what I had certainly shouldn’t be thinking like that for quite some time. Which brings us to another important point.
Dating a Guy after Marriage is probably going to be a Little Tough for You
Remember in the beginning of this article I mentioned the scientific study that showed men and woman really are both from earth? Not really that different despite cultural bias?
Any woman who’s been through a divorce and has recovered already knows what’s probably needed for a man who’s been divorced. But if you’re new to this, you’re going to have to be patient and understanding all around. At least for a time.
If the guy you’re dating has been broke by his ex, trust is a hard thing to realize again. How fast he learns to trust a woman again in either emotional state will depend a lot on you. Sucks, huh? But it’s true. So you better like him enough to put up with it for a short time.
He’s going to be looking at how you respond to his condition as well. The truth is, guys can be just as emotional as you no matter what wall or front we throw up. And he’s going to test you a little because of it…or a lot. Either by getting clingy or distancing himself. Even if he’s not consciously trying to. He’s also going to compare you to the ex. He won’t be able to help it. This could even be a lot of the reason for what you might consider his emotional imbalances.
So show a little patience, at least for a time. As you can see from my advice in both scenarios above, you don’t have to put your life on hold. In fact, you shouldn’t. Ever! He’s got to have at least enough emotional stability and respect for you to realize that you shouldn’t, or he’s probably not really worth it. But ultimately you are probably going to have to be the stronger person for a time. That’s teamwork. And again, if he’s worth something, he’ll be able to return that favor when you go through something emotionally trying next.
Now let’s take a look at when you might be being taken for granted.
When it’s Time to Move On
If you’re consistent with the understanding and behaviors mentioned above in both guy scenarios, and there’s little progress, it should probably send up some red flags. Why? Because you’ve given him what he needs, and he’s not emotionally mature enough or really ready to respond. Any girl that’s been giving a guy what he needs for months ought to get something back in return. He should start to respond in a way that satisfies you too.
Separation and divorce can be hard on us, and we all respond a little differently. But if a girl came along that I was physically and emotionally attracted to, and cool enough to understand me with the kind of emotional maturity that you gave me in the above scenarios, I wouldn’t take it for granted for long. If I did, it probably means I’m not ready to meet your expectations and won’t be for quite some time.
Give the advice above a try for three or four months. If still nothing changes, it’s time to move on. There will always be exceptions, but any guy that doesn’t respond to you some after three or four months probably means there’s a deeper issue that might need counseling. There’s plenty of fish in the sea and you don’t want to put all your time into someone that isn’t going to fulfill you. There’s always someone else out there who can.
If you’ve been trying to convince a guy to respond to your needs for a year or longer, you’re definitely wasting your time. It’s only going to build resentment.
The bottom line is, if you’ve showed us awesome support after our marriage ended through patience and understanding we should begin to respond to you fairly quickly. The good ones, that is. 🙂
As always, feel free to contact me through the contact form on the blog if you have any further questions. I’d be happy to offer my perspective.