A couple years after my divorce, I was leaving a restaurant and ran into an old friend who had also found himself single following years of marriage. After a few minutes of awkward chatter, he suggested we have lunch the following week. My excitement was tempered by his suggesting lunch rather than dinner. Hmmm, date or friends?
The following day, in desperate need of a male point-of-view, I turned to a most unlikely dating coach: my ex-husband. It was the first time I sought his advice on such dicey matters. We obviously knew the other was dating but rarely discussed our post-divorce love lives. "Just send an email back saying you can have lunch or dinner next Tuesday," he advised me matter-of-factly, before confidently adding, "If he chooses dinner, you'll know instantly what his intentions are."
After following directions, I found myself at dinner a week later, the start of a relationship that continued for several months.
Just to be clear, my ex and I didn't divorce and start giving one another dating advice the very next day; it took a long time for everything to cool off.
I know confiding in ones ex sounds insane since many former couples can't even stand to be in the same room. But if you remain on good terms, your former partner could probably match you up better than anyone else. After all, few people are more familiar with your personal foibles, desires and needs -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- than the person who's shared your life for many years.
My ex knows my propensity for always running a bit late, for being attracted to a strange, hybrid guy who is half metro-sexual/half macho, is aware of my neurotic spiral over the slightest cold and is quite clued in to the dirty fact that when I enter a perfectly clean room there are shoes, papers and makeup scattered all over the floor by the time I leave.
He's been helpful in separating the wheat from the chaff, guiding me away from those suitors who are either too metro or macho; too neurotic for my neuroses; or the sort of neat freaks who are never much fun.
Although a bit odd, there are a number of reasons the ex can be an ideal dating coach. So hear me out - and think about possibilities- even if they seem improbable now.
1. You have history: The past you share with your ex gives him or her valuable insights on the character traits that will truly make you happy.
2. Do it for the kids: They want their children to be happy and around someone who is a good role model.
3. They know your type: You're probably a great judge of the type of person your ex is attracted to. Maybe you watched, with much irritation, as he or she ogled certain types when you were out, or heard them say that a particular actor or actress was hot. Your ex knows if you prefer brains over brawn and what kind of person most floats your boat after the initial ardor wears off.
4. The best Wingman: When I ended up having the rare dinner with my former husband and the man I was dating, my ex became the best wingman ever! At one point he started talking me up in such a flattering light that it took me a few minutes to realize whom he was talking about. (For a minute, I thought there was still a potential alimony award on the table and that he was trying to marry me off.)
5. Blowing off steam: They also know what annoys you (and what's annoying about you!). Maybe they can even help disrupt some relationship patterns they've seen before.
Just to clarify: my ex isn't my therapist and is quite busy with his own life. I wouldn't expect that from him, nor would he have the slightest amount of patience to sit and listen.
Now happily married, he no longer needs my dating advice. But when he became serious with the woman he eventually married, we planned out the best way to introduce her to our son. When they had their first child we discussed how to tell our son in an effort to avoid the initial sibling rivalry.
Although we are no longer married, I still want what's best for him. And I know he wants what's best for me. That's when divorce works out best: when you lose a partner there's no reason you have to lose a friend.