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He Won't Talk About His Divorce

By Jim Duzak, JD

Dear Jim: I’m 53 and have been divorced for ten years. I started dating again in 2010 when my youngest graduated from high school. In the beginning, all I seemed to meet were guys who told me far too much about their divorces---how they were victimized by their nasty ex-wives, bloodsucking attorneys, stupid judges, etc. I was really turned off by the negativity.

Now, I have the opposite problem: I’m seeing a guy who won’t say a word about his ex-wife, his marriage, or his divorce. All he says is that it was a long time ago and he doesn’t want to rehash the dreary details. There’s an adult son from that marriage who lives “back East” (he won’t say where) and is apparently out of his life.

I don’t want to make him uncomfortable, but it feels strange not knowing anything about a major episode in his life. We’ve been dating for four months and it all feels good except for his secrecy. What do you think? (“Dawn”)

Dear Dawn: Up to a point, I can understand his reluctance to discuss painful events. It’s not unusual for a man to deal with problems by mulling them over in his head until he feels he’s got them figured out.

In a man’s mind, talking with someone---especially someone who wasn’t there and doesn’t know the people involved---wouldn’t change anything and would only dredge up issues that are dead and buried.

But I think it’s unfair for a man not to share some of the crucial facts about his life with a woman he’s been seeing for four months. It’s not as if you’re being nosy for the sake of being nosy. If you’re serious about this man, you have a right to know whether there are issues that could affect your relationship in the future.

You’ve already learned that some divorced men are angry and resentful. Maybe the man you’re seeing is, too, but is keeping it hidden by refusing to talk about it. Does he think that women are untrustworthy? Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but you have no way of knowing.

And if he’s estranged from his son, there’s got to be a story there. It’s undoubtedly a painful story, but if he refuses to tell it he’s keeping you in the dark, not only about the facts but also about how he deals with stress, disappointment, and loss. These are important things to know about a person you’re dating.

I think you should be gently persistent. Try not to make him feel under attack, but convey the message that you care about him and you need to know more about him and about the people and the events that have played a big role in his life. If you make him feel safe, he’ll probably come around.

Good luck, Dawn, and please let me know how it turns out.

Jim is a graduate of Boston College Law School, and practiced divorce law in Boston for over twenty years. After moving to Arizona, he became a full-time mediator for the family and divorce court in Phoenix. His experience in working with divorcing couples, plus his own life experiences---he was a 20 year-old husband and father, and a single father for several years after his divorce---prompted Jim to write a book (“Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment”) that helps people avoid divorce by teaching better ways to communicate and resolve disputes.Jim is currently an advice columnist, relationship writer, and personal coach. He also puts on workshops dealing with marriage, divorce, post-divorce dating, and other aspects of men-women relationships. Jim writes for HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, CupidPulse.com, and LAFamily.com. See Jim’s website at www.attorneyatlove.com

 

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