Understanding someone who's recently divorced and not ready

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    Hello Everyone,

    I recently started seeing a guy who has been divorced for a year. I wasn’t bothered by it – I actually think it shows that he’s not afraid to commit to someone. Things were going really well for 5 weeks – we had instant chemistry/a spark, we were both attracted to each other, had similar tastes/interests, and shared some personal details about our lives. On the second date, he shared that his marriage lasted two years, but ended because she fell out of love with him and that he didn’t see it coming. (I wanted to ask more, but I didn’t think it was my place to ask. I figured if he wanted to share details with me, then he would, so I left it at that.)

    In the 6th week, he became less responsive and stopped initiating texts. So I waited a few days and then politely checked-in with him.  To my surprise, he responded that he just wanted something casual. Also that because of his divorce, he isn’t ready to date, doesn’t want the intimacy of a relationship, and surprise- now has a work trip out of town for a few months. That said, when I went to drop something off and wish him well, he kissed me, looked into my eyes, held me and was still seemed very much into me.

    So now I’m so confused. Why is he interested in having sex if he doesn’t want any intimacy? (Sex is so intimate.)  If he wasn’t ready to date, why did he go on dates with me? (He said he had a really had a nice time.) If he was only interested in something casual, why did he date/text/chat with me for 5 weeks? (He also treated me extremely well, came across as very sincere, and told me I was more than just sex to him – all which don’t give a “causal” impression.)

    I don’t meet many people that I’m interested in, so I let myself get excited. Now I feel silly and disappointed that I could’ve misread things so easily. Granted it wasn’t a very long time, but things well going well so I thought we were making a connection. I’m at a place in my life where I’d like to have something more serious. He seemed interested, so can someone want something and not be ready?

    I have other things to occupy my time, so I’m fine. It’s just that I started to like him and now I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again (maybe he’ll contact me when he gets back – maybe he won’t), so I’m just trying to understand.




    Sometimes divorce can actually make someone afraid to commit, so be sure not to rule out the possibility that he’s afraid to commit just because he committed to someone before. Divorce can create that fear, depending on the situation. I can see being blindsided by someone suddenly falling out of love with you while you still deeply love them creating that fear, for sure.

    To be clear… the following is all just speculation on my part from what I’ve learned over the years:

    To me, his actions do make it seem like he’s afraid. When he’s away from you, it’s safe for him to try to push you away because he can’t see you when he does it and this allows his mind to detach a bit, but when you’re with him in person, he can physically feel his feelings for you and he can’t push you away in that case.

    Also, sex is not an intimate thing in general to most guys. I say most because it is to some, for sure, but I have way too many guy friends, hearing what they talk about, to think guys in general really care about an emotional attachment to who they sleep with. haha. And he probably wanted to go on dates with you because he liked being around you and felt the connection you had but didn’t want to go deeper into a relationship because he’s afraid of going deeper (and that has nothing to do with you personally and it’s not something you or anyone else can change. He has to fix the fear on his own and also feel ready). And it’s probably that fear that’s making him push you away now. It definitely is possible that he started to have real feelings for you and that those feelings made him freak out, decide he wasn’t ready for the way he is feeling, and now he’s backing off again.

    So, overall, I don’t think you’ve misread things entirely. It sounds like you do have a connection with him, but you might have overestimated his ability to commit right now (and he might have at the beginning, too).  I’m a little over a year outside of a breakup that blindsided me in a similar way and that wasn’t even a marriage, so I can understand where your guy might be coming from a little bit. The pain that breakup caused me was devastating and now that I’m feeling pretty good again, I do want to be in a relationship but the idea of feeling that level of pain again freaks me out whenever I even think about actually dating. I’m telling you this because maybe MY feelings will help you understand HIS feelings a little bit more and how this really can happen.

    I don’t meet many people that I’m interested in either so I get where you’re coming from, too. It sucks when you FINALLY meet someone you like and they turn out to not be what you hoped they were (i.e., you find out they’re likely afraid of a real commitment).

    The good news is… this likely has absolutely nothing to do with you or your connection with him. There are just issues that he still needs to work through before he’s going to be ready. Hopefully he contacts you when he is or hopefully you find someone you like even better in the meantime.


    Dear Aila:

    Maybe, just maybe he sensed that you like him very much and he was afraid, that like his ex wife who “fell out of love with him”, you would too. And to prevent it being un unpleasant surprise for him like it was with his wife (“he didn’t see it coming”), he decided on seeing it coming and prepared himself to not hurt this much, this time, with you.

    You can still ask him about that, about what he shared with you. He brought it up  to you, must be something meaningful to him, something he will want to talk to you about?

    Such a talk or a series of talks can answer the questions you brought up in your post. After all, better approach the source of information first, when you want answers.




    Thank you Valora,

    When we had our last conversation (during the time I went to drop something off and wish him well), we talked and I asked him if I did something to turn him off. He told me that I didn’t and that it actually had nothing to do with me (like what you said). He told me that I was sweet, kind, generous, smart, attractive – but that it was just how he was dealing with everything. Maybe I did overestimate his ability to be available and commit. As someone who’s never even had a serious relationship, I just thought it was a matter of interest: if there’s a connection/interest, you pursue it. If not, then you drop it.  That’s why it was so confusing because I know there was an interest. I also thought a year was enough time and that he was dating, it showed he was ready.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to share how you felt and what you went through. Maybe he does feel something similar and is afraid (which fits) – I don’t know. All I do know is that things were going well and then he dropped off because he said he isn’t ready – which was confusing because he seemed very interested.

    Maybe a year isn’t enough time for him or maybe he just wants to enjoy his freedom without anyone for a while. Either way, I don’t want to freak him out – I really liked him and enjoyed the time I spent with him. So I’ll just give him the space he wanted and try to let him go completely. I hope his work trip allows him to take some time to sort things out. If he comes back to me, then I’ll have my answer I guess. In the meantime, I can just focus on me and maybe just take a break from dating myself for a little while.

    Thank you again,



    Thank you Anita,

    I appreciate you taking the time to answer my post. Maybe he is afraid – it seems like that may be the case.  Either way, I don’t think I want to push it or press him further.

    While I do want answers, I don’t feel entitled to them. I would love to talk with him, but he’s traveling out of town and hasn’t reached out – he actually even had a few days before his trip and he didn’t want to spend them with me (which saddened me since we had been having such a lovely time). If he’s trying to move on, the last thing he needs is me asking him to relive any part of it – I don’t want to burden him.

    I just care about about him and want to be understanding. The idea of someone being so interested/happy one moment, to then pull back to where all I hear is crickets the next moment confuses me. I thought if I could at least understand where someone like him (recently divorced and not ready) might be coming from/going through, it would help me make peace with it, accept it, and let it go.

    Thank you again,



    As someone who’s never even had a serious relationship, I just thought it was a matter of interest: if there’s a connection/interest, you pursue it. If not, then you drop it.  That’s why it was so confusing because I know there was an interest. I also thought a year was enough time and that he was dating, it showed he was ready.

    Yeah, once you’ve had a heartbreak or two, especially a devastating one, it tends to complicate things so that it’s not quite as easy as whether you feel interested or not. I’ve passed on some really great guys in the past because I just wasn’t ready to let myself take that risk yet. Sometimes you feel like you’re ready and you really want to be with someone, and then once you start to develop stronger feelings, it’s like whoooaaa, nope, not ready. haha. So when he said it wasn’t you, definitely believe him. I really think it’s just him still trying to deal with what happened, and there’s never a time limit for that. And it’s also good that this happened NOW rather than you two getting into a committed relationship for years and then him freaking out when it’s time to make a bigger commitment (like moving in or marriage) and him leaving THEN, even though you still love each other. That can definitely happen, too (there are some people that are comfortable with a relationship level of commitment but moving toward any deeper commitment than that causes them to run).

    I hope this trip that he is on allows him some alone time to do some thinking. Sometimes that’s all people need to calm down and get things back into perspective. Otherwise, I think you have a good plan, and it sounds like you’ve got a really good head on your shoulders. When you’re single, taking the time to focus on you and your own happiness for a while is always a great thing to do!


    Dear Aila:

    You are welcome. You  wrote: “While I do want answers, I don’t feel entitled to them”.

    If he contacts you and if you spend time with him again, you have the right to ask questions.

    If it so happens that sex is a consideration again, in relationship with him or with any other man in the future, you don’t only have a right to ask questions, you are entitled to honest answers.

    In your original post you wrote: “So now I’m so confused. Why is he interested in having sex if he doesn’t want any intimacy? (Sex is so intimate)”- for you it is intimate, for many it is.  But for many, more so men than women, it is a physical act, an act of biological attraction, build up and release. Nothing personal.

    You do have the right to ask a man about what sex means to him and you are entitled for an honest answer, an answer consisting of words and actions, both.



    Hi Valora,

    Thank you for helping me try to make sense of it. If that’s the case (that he’s scared to take a risk and still dealing with what happened), then I actually feel kind of bad for him and hope he heals soon.

    Thanks for the compliment – you seem like you do as well. I appreciate your response –  I’ve actually tried to let all you’ve said sink in this weekend, while attempting to find a way to turn this into something positive. I figure if I concentrate on me – it’ll give me a better sense of why I got so excited in the first place, and why I exaggerated such an inaccurate potential of things to come. Yet the more I think about it all, the more it makes me wonder if I’ve been chasing some kind of void and I don’t know what that void is (which I know may sound silly).

    I’ve always had this attitude that if you try hard enough, you can accomplish anything (like “where there’s a will, there’s a way” – but to an extreme). Though this has served me pretty well professionally, I don’t think it necessarily has personally. I’ve started to worry that maybe I have a pattern of trying to control things not always within reach and instead of recognizing it, just trying harder or in a different capacity – that if it hasn’t worked out, then something must have been missing, or it must not have been executed or planned properly. It trickles down into everything, an example being that if I do/say all the right things in the right way, it’ll foster an environment to make him appreciate me more and thus allow us to grow to see if we’re compatible.

    This weekend, I’ve tried to start recognizing that maybe it’s not always me – plus I shouldn’t put so much weight on whether he appreciated me or not. I wonder if this has contributed to why I haven’t had a serious relationship yet, which I’ve always seen as somewhat of a failure because it’s not for lack of fair effort.

    Weirdly enough what started out as me trying to understand him has led me to try to better understand myself.  So I’m hoping by taking some time to not date anyone and focus on me, it’ll allow me to clear my head as well – which ends up making this whole ordeal positive after all. Hopefully that way, it’ll be win-win: if he comes back interested in me and I still am too, then we’ll BOTH be in a better place. Yet if he comes back long forgotten about me or still not ready, hopefully it won’t bother me like it has been. And who knows – maybe by then I won’t want him anymore anyway. That said, if you have any recommendations or thoughts – I’d appreciate them!

    Either way, thanks again for listening and responding 🙂



    Hi Anita,

    Thank you for your response. What you said actually helped a lot. I’ve never felt comfortable asking any guy those questions, as I’ve always been concerned it would come off as nagging or rushing, etc. In the future, I’ll be sure to do so.

    Also, just a side note, I know guys don’t always view sex as something very intimate, but without giving too much information, I thought it was in the way that he and I experienced it. He came across as very sincere and respectful since the moment I met him. Plus he told me, when we last spoke, that I meant more than just sex to him, which led me to believe that I mattered more than just a biological release to him – meaning he liked me too and thereby contributing to my confusion. Maybe I’m wrong though, because ultimately he’s choosing not to be in touch with me at the moment, and says it’s because he says he’s not ready and now has this trip – so who knows…

    I’m not sure what’ll happen, but I’m hoping either way it’ll be positive.  At least going forward, I’ll keep what you said in mind to ask those sorts of questions for honest answers.

    Much appreciated,



    Dear Aila:

    I see the problem in this relationship and in your approach to relationship as the following: you are afraid to ask the man questions (“I’ve never felt comfortable asking any guy those questions, as I’ve always been concerned it would come off as nagging or rushing, etc”).

    What happened is that you assumed things instead of asking. You assumed that “he’s not afraid to commit to someone” because he was previously married. But the fact that he was previously married does not in itself indicates he was not afraid to commit then or is not afraid now. Maybe he got cold feet after getting married, as in: what have I done???

    You also assumed that “a year was enough time and that he was dating, it showed he was ready”, not necessarily so, lots of people date when they are not ready to have a relationship.

    When he became less responsive in the 6th week, you “waited a few days and then politely checked-in with him”- too polite, I say. When I recommend that you ask a man questions, I do not mean to ask in an interrogative way, like in a police interrogation with bright light directed in his face and so forth. There are ways to ask in a casual tone of voice, gently but also make the questions clear and direct, for the purpose of gathering information you have to have so to not be confused.

    You wrote: “if I do/say all the right things in the right way, it’ll foster an environment to make him appreciate me more and thus allow us to grow to see if we’re compatible”-

    To say the right things in the right way to one particular person,  you have to know who that person is, what motivates him, what scares him, what his life is like. To know these things you have  to ask questions and listen to his answers or lack of. You have to observe him over time in different contexts. To not assume, or if you do assume, to check your assumptions by asking and observing, then filing his answers and observations and continue to learn who  he is, over time, comparing new information with the old, listening to what he says and observing what he does.

    Also, people are often conflicted, having contradictory motivations, this is why their behavior is confusing, confusing until we learn what the conflicting motivations are. The most conflicting motivations in the context of relationships is the need and desire to have a relationship on one hand, and the fear  of it on the other.

    In the desire to have a relationship, men and women are often not most honest, behaving in certain ways so to attract the other person, to keep the person interested, appearing in a way that is not most authentic.



    Thank you Anita, that actually makes a lot of sense.

    Maybe I did assume too much (even if he was showing signs that he was interested at the time). So maybe you’re right and he was conflicted. Either way, he hasn’t been in touch with me. Trip or no trip – if he was remotely interested, I’m sure I would’ve heard at least something by now.

    So when I catch myself remembering something about him, I just tell myself that it wasn’t real – because if there was a connection or interest there, then he wouldn’t have backed off the way he did.

    You also made great points about what’s right to one particular person. I’ll definitely remember that going forward and I really appreciate you taking the time to write this – thank you 🙂


    Dear Alia:

    You are welcome and I appreciate you coming back to your thread to thank me.

    I have another point to make regarding what can be learned from this short relationship:

    You wrote: “we had instant chemistry/ a spark, we were both attracted to each other, had similar tastes/ interests, and shared some personal details about out lives… In the 6th week, he became less responsive and stopped initiating texts”. A few days later he messaged you that “he just wanted something casual”, and “isn’t ready to date”.

    What this teaches me is that the following are not dependable indicators that a relationship will last two months: instant chemistry/spark (there is was, gone in the 6th week), similar tastes and interests and sharing personal details about each other’s life.

    Better resist the chemistry and spark and get to know a man while not being sexually involved with him, for at least 6 weeks. After six weeks or so, evaluate: are we still motivated to see each other, are we still sharing about our lives, listening to each other with interest, wanting to know more? Are we enjoying our shared tastes and interests, by let’s say hiking together, if hiking is a shared interest. Then take it from there.

    You don’t want a guy to tell you he wants “something casual” and is not ready to date after having sex with him. Better find that out before.

    Post again anytime. I will be glad to read from you and reply again.





    Hi Alia,

    I totally agree with what Anita just said. Another good thing about taking the first 6-8 weeks to develop a friendship and then reevaluate is that if someone is only interested in sleeping with you and that is it, I’ve found that those guys tend to give up and run off before the 6-week mark. It’s a great way to weed that type of guy out (and good riddance, too!). Sometimes the chemistry you feel is just sexual and sometimes you seem to have so much in common because they are just telling you what they think you want to hear (and some are very good add it, asking all kinds of questions, seemingly trying to get to know you). However, if someone is TRULY interested and in it for the potential of a long-term relationship, they will have no problem with moving more slowly.


    Hello Anita,

    I am really grateful for your reply as you really confirmed my already strong convictions. Unfortunately, I do not have much success in finding a man who respects that.

    I believe in friendships before any physical contact. The problem is that men that I’ve met do not want to be friends first and try to kiss me pretty soon. I always refuse the kiss in the first weeks of meeting and it always ends there.

    Recently,  I’ve met a new man and he invited me for a coffee. He is a cop. He picked me up from my place and I asked where exactly I would like to go out. I said I prefer if he chooses a place. In that moment he proposed his appartment. I refused and proposed a coffe place on town. Then he said that he can’t show me in public as he is not yet divorced. My heart sunk.

    He can only invite me to his place for coffee as his reputation is important for him and people might see us in public. Apparently only 1 week left till divorce.

    I did not know how to react. I was really disappointed. I proposed a short walk outside of his building but he insisted to visit him.

    After a long convincing and promise that he won’t be forcing me to sleep with him, I went to his place. He seemed nervous and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Did not want to talk too much about his divorce, although I asked a few questions.

    Anyways, he tried to touch and kiss me but I told him that it should have a meaning for me and for now it is too fast.

    I also added that we can stay friends for now and get to know eachother but he replied that he wants cuddles and fun and that he is afraid of women.

    We ended our meeting on a friendly note with a big hug. Then he brought me back home and we parted.

    It’s been more than a week and I haven’t heard from him.

    I would really appreciate your advice Anita.

    What would you do in my situation?

    Would you react differently? What should I do next? Is it ok to call or text him now to find out if he got divorced?

    Also, I know that when dating we should wait with sex but what about a kiss? Sometimes I feel that I am too strict and overthinking.

    Please help me to figure this out 🙏





    Dear Dafne,

    anita left the forums a few months ago, not sure when she’ll be back. I can try to give you my perspective, and in short, I’d say: run from this guy!

    First, because he doesn’t want to date you in public. And it could be that it’s not just because he is not yet officially divorced, but because he isn’t planning to get a divorce at all! Because if someone is really “1 week left till divorce”, a) they’d be willing to wait that 1 week, if formality is so important to them, and b) they would have already been through a lengthy process of separation and estrangement from their spouse, and others in the community would have known they are going through a divorce, so it wouldn’t be such a scandal to appear with another woman in public. But in any case, if prudence is so important to him, he could have waited for a week or two more.

    Another worrying sign is that he didn’t want to talk about his divorce:

    Did not want to talk too much about his divorce, although I asked a few questions.

    This raises suspicion and could mean that he’s not actually getting a divorce, but wants to cheat on his wife. You say he has his own place, which might mean they are separated, however it might even be someone else’s place, which he uses to have some fun on the side. I wouldn’t bet this guy isn’t lying to you to get what he wants.

    And third, perhaps the most worrying, is this what he said:

    I also added that we can stay friends for now and get to know eachother but he replied that he wants cuddles and fun and that he is afraid of women.

    So he is afraid of women, doesn’t want to be friends with you, and simply wants to use you for sex. In other words, he’s not interested to get to know you better, he just wants sex and that’s all.

    That’s why I say: run and don’t look back!


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