So, you’ve gone and done it, have you? Jackpot. You’ve found your soulmate, finally. The future is bright. So bright, you’ve got to wear shades. But there’s a catch. The love of your life is legally married. Sure, you wouldn’t have wished it to have gone down this way. Dating someone who is separated is a bad situation for both parties. But it’s hard to resist of falling in love with the “potential” of someone who you’re either really attracted to , who you might deeply connect with, or has something you want in this world.

So if you happen to be involved with someone who is separated, which means they are still legally married, you want to at least understand what to expect. According to the experts, here’s what you should do.

Dating someone who is separated? Here’s how to make the best of a bad situation

Number 1: GET REAL

Get real. Get honest. And understand from the beginning if you’re dating someone who is separated, which means there are still married, you’ve got to look at the reality of the situation. The odds of moving forward into a healthy committed relationship with a potential even of marriage is really tiny. And I mean really tiny. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, it just means the odds are not in your favoUr.

Write about the benefits of being honest in your communication with the person who is still legally married. Talk about the fact that maybe the best move would simply to be friends with benefits, or a no strings attached relationship until this individual is not only divorced, but after divorce has one year of counseling underneath their belt in order to clear up the past emotional decisions they made in love that did not obviously work.

3 Keys to Dating Someone Who is SeparatedDon’t stay locked in the world of fantasy. It’s common to jump into talking with this married person about a beautiful future, one filled with puppy dog tails and daisies—instead of honestly talking about the fact that they may not have the time or energy  to put into a new person when they still have the stress of divorce, and maybe even still raising children with their still married partner.

One of my clients, in her 30s, was dating a separated but still married physician in his 60s. They had initially fallen deeply in love, and he told her that once the divorce was final, that they could start talking about planning the rest of their life together. The only catch? He had been separated now for seven years. She obviously didn’t pay attention to that when she fell in love with him , Instead was stuck in the illusion that he was going to divorce his wife anytime soon. But if he hadn’t done it in the past seven years, where was the guarantee that he would do it now in a timely fashion?

So I encouraged her to have this brutally honest conversation, one of the reasons that she was attracted to him was because of the large amount of money he made, which meant going on multiple trips was effortless. She didn’t have to worry if her car broke down, she didn’t have to worry if she wanted plastic surgery because he would take care of all of her expenses. I also encouraged her to talk openly to him about why he was so engaged, mesmerized by having her as a potential partner down the road. Well the answer was she was very young, beautiful, had a great body, and it made him look great in public.

When they both first started having these conversations, he was against them. He didn’t want to deal in reality. But after a number of months of her pushing the issue he finally sat down and they had this very conversation I’m talking filled with reality. Now, with this type of open honest communication, they could potentially move forward as friends in a dating relationship, but there was no more illusion about it turning into a full born monogamous relationship anytime soon.

So now they are living in reality. Will their relationship work? I would have to be brutally honest and say that the odds are tiny. Why? Because now he’s going into his eighth year of separation, with no date set for the actual divorce to take place. But my client at least has become realistic, realistic in the fact that she’s dating a guy for benefits, just like he’s dating her for his own benefit.

Number 2: UNDERSTAND HIS EMOTIONAL AVAILABILITY—AND YOURS

If you’re dating someone who is separated, legally still married, they are emotionally unavailable. And what does this mean? It’s simply means that they can’t give you 100% of their attention. They can’t give you all of their free time. They still have to give the attorneys, money plus effort, they still have to deal with their former wife or husband, and if they have children, they still have to put time into their family life.

Another client of mine who is dating a married, but separated man, became very frustrated when he went away on family vacations with his multiple children and his still married to wife. But as I explained to her, it’s just another sign that he’s not emotionally available. He still hasn’t moved on from the past.

And here’s the shocker of the year. If you’re dating a man or a woman who is still legally married, which means they are emotionally unavailable, that means that you are emotionally unavailable to.

3 Keys to Dating Someone Who is SeparatedAs a matter fact, most of the clients I work with who are or have been in a relationship with someone who is married, but legally separated, they will often say to me that one of their deal killers in love is to date a married person. But somehow, they broke their own words, their own integrity, when they got involved with someone who is separated, which means they are still married.

A healthy, independent person, would never allow themselves to fall in love with someone who was separated, still legally married. It should be a deal killer for everyone. Unless you just want a friends with benefits type of arrangement, any healthy, independent person knows that  getting involved with someone who is still legally married is probably one of the worst moves you could ever make.

One of the most famous celebrities I’ve ever worked with actually fell into the same trap. She was gorgeous, well known, and was swept off her feet by a guy who she believed was her night in shining armoUr. After meeting on an exclusive dating site, he started to “love bomb her” by sending flowers on a regular basis to her home and to her office. He brought her to exciting concerts, wonderful trips, sent her amazing love notes via text and email on a daily basis. She was smitten. And for six months thought for sure she had found the man of her dreams.

But many of our dreams become shattered. And hers was shattered when she found out the truth, that he was still married, contemplating divorce, and she couldn’t break away. No matter how much logic her and I talked about during our sessions, and regardless of how many times she said she was going to end the relationship, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

The sad news? Which is actually very common in these type of arrangements, is that after three years together, he finally got the divorce and started immediately dating someone else. Painful. But the truth.

All of this says the following statement quite clearly: both people are emotionally unavailable, which makes them a perfect match for each other. It might be a match made in hell, but remember, someone who was independent and emotionally healthy, would never get involved with someone who is still legally married. Period.

Number 3: GIVE AN ULTIMATUM

In many cases in working with my clients who are dating people who are separated but still legally married, it comes down to presenting to their dating partner an ultimatum.

The ultimatum will have things like the day and the time that they expect a partner to be fully divorced. In other words, it’s a contract. It’s an agreement. That I will date you from here on out, if you sign an agreement that says that your divorce will be final within the next six months, nine months, or year. Between now and then, I will continue to see you, date you monogamously as long as you are dating me monogamously.

In this agreement, I encourage all my clients to also put an ultimatum, that the person they’re dating goes into counseling once a week for the next 52 weeks. And why is that? Because you want to make sure this person is exploring the reasons for their divorce, the reasons that they are still legally married, the reasons why they haven’t pulled the trigger and make the divorce final.

So in essence you have several options if you’re dating someone who is still legally married. You can make it a friends with benefits type of arrangement, were you both have the comfort of each other without any commitment whatsoever if that’s what you choose to do. Or you can jump to the ultimatum, and see if they’re serious about following through with the words and actually ending their marriage that they’ve been separated from in the past.

But let’s be honest about another point. If you’re going to date someone who is still legally married, don’t be surprised when there’s constant chaos and drama in your relationship with this person. If you’re going to complain, you haven’t accepted the truth that being in this arrangement is going to be filled with ups and downs, much more so than any other type of relationship you might ever experience in life.

David Essel is a number one best-selling author, counsellor, master life coach, and international speaker whose mission is to positively affect 1 million people or more every day, regardless of their current circumstances. 

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