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Before I get started with this one, I want to indicate that this problem is not gender specific.  Both men and women are equally obsessed with or tormented by a former spouse or partner.  Since I’m a woman, I’ll use the term Mr. My Bitch Ex-Wife but it could just as easily but a Ms. My Asshole Ex-Husband.

One of the biggest obstacles with dating after a divorce is getting past the damage caused by your former marriage.  It’s something I struggle with, as my divorce was incredibly traumatic.   I faced betrayal, lies, fraud, infidelity and was nearly destroyed both financially and emotionally.  I’ve been the very person I’m going to describe here, and I still struggle to get past it.  I’m not as bad as others, but I’ve got much room for improvement.

I’ve found on most dates I’ve had with total strangers, they usually blow their cover in the first 10 -15 minutes of the conversation.  It’s happened so often, that I could almost take a stopwatch and time the first comment that will issue a red flag in my head.  I’ve heard lines like the following before the waiter dropped off the menus.

  • My ex-wife is such a bitch
  • I hate my ex, she’s pure evil
  • My ex-wife is crazy, insane, psycho, etc.
  • Isn’t divorce hell, my stupid ex-wife ruined my life

For the rest of the date,  literally every topic somehow goes back to their ex-wife.  A drink reminds them of the bitch ex-wife, the food, my phone, my dress, a story from my past, my hair, it just doesn’t end.  The worst cases will demonize their former partners to such a degree, that I might believe their ex could be a danger to the public.. Their former partner is a complete raving lunatic, hellbent on destroying lives and impossibly cruel..  If I believed everything a Mr. My Bitch Ex-Wife tells me, then they were somehow a hapless victim who got tricked into marrying a she-devil who flipped out the minute their nuptials were final.

Now sometimes they could be speaking the truth.  Both men and women can unwittingly marry sociopaths, narcissists, serial cheaters, partners with untreated mental illness, substance abuse problems or violent raging tempers.  Marriage and relationships are a crap shoot, and most of us enter into them with the best of intentions.  No one has a crystal ball to see into the future and people do change their personalities, or deep-seated problems surface years into a marriage. Regardless, if their conversation revolves around stories about an ex, they’re probably not ready to date someone new. It’s doesn’t matter if they are beautiful, charming, funny or otherwise perfect, if they are that fixated on an ex there’s no room for a new partner. However there is some gray area here.  If you’re past the age of 35, you’re not going to find an age-appropriate partner who does not have some complicated baggage.  It’s hard for anyone to get past a major break-up or divorce, so it’s not unusual or unexpected behavior to vent about a former partner.  It’s also next to impossible to talk about your past if you have to block out 10 years or more to avoid talking about an ex.  No one is perfect but some warning signs to look for are the following.

Speak in absolutes – When they speak of their ex, it sounds as if they are describing a fairy tale villain.  There are no redeeming qualities, the person is completely evil, mean, cruel, or vicious.

Take no responsibility for picking their partner – Regardless of the circumstances of my divorce I do take full responsibility for choosing my husband.  Yes, he lied to me and was incredibly deceptive, but I chose to ignore several warning signs that could have indicated something was up.  I wanted to live in denial.  I didn’t want to face reality.

Portray themselves as complete victims – In some cases this is true, but how did the person react to abuse?  Did they take steps to get out of the marriage?  Did they fight back?  What did they try to do to change the situation?  In some marriages, especially ones with children, people can feel trapped.  What they do to save themselves or the situation is very telling. Even just standing up and calling out the abuse can be quite courageous and proactive.

Every ex is crazy – I knew one woman who literally claimed that all four of her ex-husbands tried to kill her.  The stories she told were fantastical, and she had problems keeping the details straight.  Anyone can make the mistake of marrying or dating someone with a propensity for violence, but it’s highly suspect if every former partner is unstable and violent. Either they love being in destructive relationships, or they are exaggerating their past.

Ultimately it comes down to what you are comfortable with.  If you want to take a chance on someone who spends half the date ripping apart their ex, then go for it.  You might be happier though with someone who actually wants to get to know you, and not treat you like a free therapist.  If he says the words “bitch” and “ex-wife” in the same sentence right after meeting you, it might be a clue that you’ll end up being the next “bitch ex” in his life he’ll complain about to someone new.

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2 comments on “Dating After Divorce: Mr. My Bitch Ex-Wife

  1. Pingback: Dating After Divorce: I like you…but you’re not HER. | JulietJeskeblog.com

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