By Richard Asa, Special to Tribune Newspapers
January 16, 2013
With divorce rates in the U.S. consistently reported at 30 to 50 percent, odds are pretty good that anyone on the dating scene is dancing, dining and moviegoing with someone who has been divorced, and often more than once.
Relationship experts don't necessarily see problems with dating someone who has been divorced more than once, but it depends on circumstances.
"If you are thinking about casually dating someone who has had multiple marriages, then there is likely no issue," says psychologist Holly Parker, who teaches a course called "The Psychology of Close Relationships" at Harvard University. But if you want to progress to a committed relationship, there's more to think about, she says.
First, consider why the person has been married three or four times, Parker says. And ask yourself: Does this person acknowledge the mistakes he or she made that contributed to the divorces?
Research does suggest that people who marry multiple times are more likely (than people who do not marry multiple times) to have personality traits and issues with emotional health that make it difficult to maintain satisfying, long-term relationships, Parker says. That can mean, even if you're not looking for anything lasting, you won't have much fun with a narcissist whose self-absorption and emotional detachment helped end several marriages.
So be keenly aware of the pot you've jumped into and why. If you aren't clear about that, you might want to consider professional help to empower yourself and hone your introspection, says Karen Sherman, a relationship coach based in Plainview, N.Y.
Dr. Gail Saltz, a New York psychiatrist and author who specializes in relationship issues, says it's difficult to pigeonhole people. "There is no one-size-fits-all answer, because people get married and divorced for many different reasons," she says.
That said, she still would want to know how the marriages ended, what the person learned about himself at the end of each marriage, what his concerns are regarding future marriage, and what his relationship is like with his ex or exes, "which will shed much light on how things could go with you."
By the numbers, it's important to know how a once-divorced person has processed what went wrong, and whether he or she has done any work and gained insight toward correcting the problems. Twice-married people can indicate there are issues not understood or resolved, Saltz says. For those married three or more times, it's more likely they have problems choosing someone appropriate or "staying the course" in intimate relationships.
Marcy Miller, author of "Rebooting in Beverly Hills: A Wise and Wild Path for Navigating the Dating World" (Bancroft Press), has been married four times. She contends it's "absurdly judgmental" to assume anything from the fact that someone has had multiple marriages.
Still, she allows that catching white lies should be "red flags" and believes you should Google your date, even after the first get-together, just to have more information.
"Integrity and trust are essential elements to any relationship, business or personal," she says. "There are a million reasons marriages fail, and the particulars will be discovered during dating."
Psychologist Holly Parker offers tips on signs to be watchful for, whether it's a man or woman:
•The person seems distant or removed when you're spending time together or talking, e.g., not emotionally expressive or hard to connect with on an emotional level.
•You find that she blames every ex and takes no responsibility for the relationship having problems or for selecting a partner who doesn't fit her.
•The person you're dating doesn't share how he feels about you. This doesn't need to be deep or signify serious commitment, but you need to know where you stand, especially if you've been dating a while.
•Your date seems self-centered and much more interested in himself and his own needs than in you or your needs. If you see these tendencies now, they are likely to continue.
•You suspect the person has serious emotional issues that make smooth interactions nearly impossible to achieve.
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