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Dating Advice #169: Learning to Trust Again
Dating Advice 169

Dating Advice #169: Learning to Trust Again

After an abusive marriage, how can she hope to find a 'good man'?


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am recently divorced from an abusive man. We were married for less than two years and have no children. The abuse started from the first week we were married and got progressively worse. It became physical at the very end and I filed for divorce immediately. This has left me feeling quite depressed, as I obviously had feelings for him and wanted to have beautiful home and family.

I decided when I left him that I would take a minimum of six months off before dating anyone new. So what advice can you give me about dating a potential spouse in the future? I am afraid to date guys who were divorced because my perception is that men are frequently the cause of divorce. I am also wary of single guys who have no experience with marriage.

What should I do?


Dear Hanna,

We can understand that you are wary of divorced men, but we believe that because of your terrible experience during your brief marriage you are misjudging a large population of wonderful men who may be eminently appropriate for you. As a family lawyer who spent more than 20 years helping clients end their marriages in as humane a way as possible, and as a therapist who has observed a number of troubled marriages, we do not agree that men are more at fault in the break-up of a marriage.

There are many reasons why marriages end after a short time. They include one or both parties lacking the interpersonal skills or being too immature for marriage; unrealistic expectations about married life that could not be reconciled with the realities of marriage; a spouse who has never individuated from his or her parents; not understanding that the difficult transition from singlehood to marriage is normal and that in time they will adjust; a couple who is infatuated with each other and only learns after marriage that they have little in common; or in-laws who interfere with and destroy the marriage.

Some couples marry before each of them knows the direction they want their lives to take, and later discover that their goals and values are too dissimilar; some people marry with the unrealistic belief they can change what they don't like about their spouse and later decide that it's something they can't live with; other couples don't focus on maintaining their emotional connection and grow apart. There is no single person "at fault" in any of these circumstances.

We have seen many people who have had brief first marriages learn what went wrong, and then mature and/or work on improving themselves, and go on to have successful second marriages.

Unfortunately, some marriages end because of physical abuse. But this is the minority of cases, and the majority of divorced men are fine people. Until you are able to understand this, and get over your distrust of most men, you are not ready to return to the dating scene.

In addition, a six-month break from dating appears too short a time to deal with the trauma of the abuse you experienced, and learn how to trust men. We hope that you will work with a therapist as you continue to heal.

When you are ready to begin dating, you will need to be more open-minded in your approach. We suggest that you focus on the positive qualities you want in a marriage partner, rather than on the qualities you do not want your future husband to possess. You can do this by writing down the most important qualities you are looking for, and narrowing down that list to four -- e.g. your desire to meet someone who has a realistic view of marital responsibility, and who will treat his wife with kindness and consideration.

It is possible to learn if someone you are dating has these qualities. You do this by guiding your conversations to topics of the home-life you hope to have someday, the responsibilities each of you foresees having when you are married, and your expectations of how family members will treat each other.

You can look for someone who wants his wife to be his partner in life, who respects and has a high regard for women, who expects to share responsibilities with his wife, whose father treated his mother well, and who feels that his parents' own good marriage is something he would like to emulate. You can also observe how your date acts toward his own family members, friends, and the people who perform services in the community, such as a waiter, taxi driver or store clerk.

Surely there are divorced men, as well as never-married men, who possess these character traits.

Each of us has worked with clients who endured a great deal of emotional and physical pain because of abuse, but went on to have good marriages and happy lives. We hope you will soon be ready to start dating, and will find a man with whom you will build a healthy, loving marriage.

Rosie & Sherry

January 1, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, September 16, 2007 9:26 PM

abusive relationship

I too have just ended a relationship with a man whom was very abusive to me emotionally, verbally, and physically. It was a relationship that went on off and on for four years. I realized that the year and a half that we were apart were the best because I did not have to listen to his abuse, lies, and infidelity. He is with another woman now who knows he's abusive, lies, and cheats. He has been diagonsed as having a personality disorder. I took him to the counselor and psychiatrists while he was here in hopes that he would get better while we were together. However, she constantly kept in touch with him via my cell and then he purchased a cell phone and would ask me and her to marry him at the same time. He was also verbally abusive to me in public and in my home in front of my family. I finally said he had to leave and he did thinking I would allow him to come back. When I didn't he told me he was going to marry her and later sent me a text message saying he was married to her now. I truly hope he continues his meds and counseling or she will endure much heartache from him.

I have an appt. to see a counselor next month. I couldn't get an appt. sooner. I care for him and still love him but know I could never be with him again because of his abuse. I know I deserve to be in a healthy relationship. That is why I'm attending counseling. I don't want to get involved in another abusive relationship. My x-husband was verbally and emotionally abusive to me for 20 years. I divorced him because of his infidelity and verbal abuse. My boys did date girls whom were abusive and are now dating healthy girls. My oldest daughter is now dating an abusive man and I worry for her safety. I have talked to her about this but I can't keep her from seeing him because she's 18 years old now. I just pray she gets out before he hurts badly. He has left marks on her and has pushed her and has verbally and emotionally abused her.
I encourage all women whom are in abusive relationships to LEAVE IMMEDIATELY! It doesn't get better and you can't change the abuser. He has to want to change and it doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of work on their part for them to be healthy and nonabusive.
I don't plan to date for a very long time. I am learning how to spot men whom are abusive by reading many articles and books on abusive relationships. I hang out with my friends whom are a positive influence to me. I also do things I enjoy doing like hanging out and doing things with my friends. I'd rather be alone than to be in an abusive relationship. Being in an abusive relationship totally drains your energy and you are walking on "egg shells." I no longer want that kind of life for myself.
Good luck to everyone and know that it's better to be alone than to be abused. There are men who know how to treat a lady with respect and are honest and faithful. Just be patient to meet him when you become healthy again. I look forward to the day when I'm healthy again and find someone special to share my life and dreams with. Until then, I'll enjoy sharing my life and time with friends and family. God Bless!

(7) Jean, August 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Im there right now.

Im so proud of you getting out! it must of been really hard, the reason i say that is im in that situation right now and we've only been married for 3 months! but..for you situation and the whole dating thing dont look, just let it come to you, that way you know your really ready.

(6) Anonymous, January 29, 2005 12:00 AM

i was there

i was married to an abusive man for 7 years and we have one child. sometimes i wish i would never have met him, but then i look at my daughter and change my mind.. she is the only one that makes sense in my life. but anyway.. it took me 5 years until i was even willing to look for someone to date! i wasnt interested in any type of relationship..not even friendship, because i was afraid that if i met someone i would not be able to detect the personality traits in him that i didnt detect in my ex-husband. it scared me ex is so charming to everyone he meets.. no one would suspect that he would dare to raise a hand to his wife!!!
he is a great salesman.. of himself.
when i did start to date again, i started meeting people who restored my confidence in myself and told me that i have lots of good qualities (something i hadn't heard in many years). i still havent found the right one, but i am having fun looking :-))
it is scary out there, but you have to be willing to take chances.. good luck to us all!!

(5) Anonymous, January 6, 2005 12:00 AM


I was in a emotionally, verbally and financially abusive marraige for over 5 years before I finally got the strength to leave. It's very difficult and I was in a support group. It's been over 1 year and we are still not divorced yet. Although I would like to one dat have a happy marraige, at this point in my life I am not even interested in dating. When I was dating my husband, he was really totally different that he was after we were married. If you met him, you would think he was smart, funny, charming, intellegent, caring, etc. Right after we got married, the anger and abuse began. This article gives me some hope that there may be a kind and considerate man out there for me, but I still question my judgement about men. It will take a long time.

(4) h, January 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Best Wishes

My own mother was in an abusive marriage for many years and just a few years ago she began dating a 'not-so-exciting' man from her past. He had many good qualities and a few quirks. Oh and yes, he was divorced.
I say this to let the writer know that people do heal and good matches are out there. Eventually you too will be happy and in a nice marriage. Even if the man was divorced.

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