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An Anonymous Questioner asks:

I divorced about 4 years ago, and have been through two relationships (one about 2 years, the other about 8 months) with women who were divorced. Lots of passion, but emotionally frustrating. Both of these women carried deep scars from their previous marriages, scars what made them either skeptical of or scared of real love. I am in my 40s, and find it difficult to connect with much younger women, particularly those that have never been married, but it seems like the divorced women I have met or dated are so damaged.

With my divorce, I had married for real love but lost my wife over the years to worsening depression and alcoholism until she became a hollowed out husk of the person I had married. I became like a widower living with a ghost. Losing a spouse/marriage this way was like a death. Made me think that perhaps a widow (in the 35-45 range) might be a good fit for me for many reasons. Curious to hear your thoughts.

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Dear Anonymous,

I sympathize with your plight. I too have met men so damaged by past relationships they seem incapable of forming anything deep with a new person.

I have also met men thought my being a widow gave me a clean bill of emotional health.  One guy said he was thrilled that I was a widow because I “wasn’t broken like the rest of us.” Another said that my being a widow from a long marriage meant that I could get along with men. Unfortunately, both these guys were were frighteningly self-absorbed.  One was such a self-righteous, entitled schmuck that I wrote about him as a “type” to avoid. My Bitchy Article

And now you see the problem.

Each person has different emotional baggage regardless of how they came to be single.

Just because I’m a widow doesn’t make me any less “damaged” than the divorced ladies. I’m probably more bitter and cynical than most.  Just not about my late husband.

Nonetheless, when one spouse divorces another, they’re rejecting their partner, physically and emotionally as well as legally. This rejection can be emotionally devastating to the spouse who didn’t want a divorce, and can inflict psychic damage on a par with, or worse than, death. The rejected spouse feels betrayed by the divorcing spouse.  It calls their entire marriage into question.  Impact of Divorce vs. Death of Spouse

Unlike widowhood, divorce can involve stigma where the person divorced  feels ostracized. Friends may desert her. One blogger characterizes life after divorce as “one of withdrawal by friends and placing blame, one of growing isolation, one of constant interference in efforts to re-establish a recognizable ‘life.’” Daily Plate of Crazy

In death we confront the finality of a loved one’s passing. In divorce, though we don’t generally wish our partners dead, we sometimes realize that life would be easier were that the case.  Self-esteem will take a hit. Legal battles may rage on for years. And although the marriage is over, the rejected spouse still has to deal with her former husband.  We demonstrate more compassion when it comes to widowhood although the ghosts of the divorced still walk the planet.  Death or Divorce: Which is Worse

Personally, I have felt people respected me and were prone to like me because I’m a widow. I stayed with my husband, and was his caregiver, through cancer. I survived his loss. If I’m out and about, I’m exhibiting resilience!  I do not feel judged. But it sounds like some divorced ladies feel they are judged, and consequently abandoned by friends.  This could really damage someone who is already feeling abandoned by her spouse and who feels vulnerable!

Plus, I need not question my marriage.  It ended because of my husband’s death.  I mourn the marriage, but I don’t doubt my choices or my husband’s love and loyalty.

But why your particular ladies are damaged, if indeed they are, is unique to each of them.

Perhaps, they don’t want the commitment you crave.   They may not be ready.  That bond may be something they don’t want regardless of perceived damage.

Offering “real love” can be subjective.  It means different things to different people.  I’ve dated guys who allegedly wanted deep commitments, but really wanted a woman who would cater to their needs. One guy talked about a partnership, but really wanted a de facto mother. Another thought we had an amazing connection, but used me as his shrink. “Real love” is a beautiful idea, but the reality is open to interpretation.

Passion is wonderful; finding someone for a deep committed relationship is so difficult.  I’m going through it wth my boyfriend of one year.  We have passion.  Is he permanently damaged from his divorce and that makes him unable to see outside his  own viewpoint?  Maybe he always lacked empathy even before he was married or divorced. Or is my idea of love selfishly based upon someone who can nurture me through the grief process such that my damage is dooming the relationship? (Nope, he doesn’t read my blog).

You have asked a complicated question which depends on too many variables for a definitive answer:

  1. Is your idea of “real love” something mutual beyond your own construct?
  2. Are the divorced ladies really damaged or is it just that they don’t want the same thing that you do?
  3. Are we dealing with character traits that exist irrespective of divorce?
  4. Would a widow be less “damaged’? (Well, it depends on the widow in question.)

So, by all means broaden your search to include widows, but please don’t expect us to be a less flawed group.  Each woman in question will have her own transcendent qualities, and possibly accompanying baggage, requiring an individual evaluation.

I’m so sorry about your prior marriage. I think the quest for real love is a beautiful one, and I wish you luck in finding the right person.

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Dear Readers, do you think the divorced are more apt to be”damaged” the the widowed?   Does one or the other make for a better prospective mate?   I’m really curious about this.