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How to Date Someone Who Is in Transition

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It happens to the best of us. We go into relationships with the best of intentions. We fall in love. We talk about the future together. We get engaged. We get married. Sometimes our relationships end abruptly through death or betrayal. Sometimes they just run their course.

Whatever the reason you find yourself single now, it’s important to heal and understand that it does take time for you to be ready to get involved with someone new. It’s quite likely that you don’t know exactly what you want when your life is in transition and your emotions are at an all time high. You know that you want companionship. You know that you want to fall in love again. You sign up for an online dating site, hoping to find someone to ease the pain and help you move on.

Like it or not, we sometimes need a transition person to help us through our life changes, divorces, or breakups. Sometimes, without anyone’s fault, we end up becoming a transition person.  Being a “T.P” isn’t a disease. It can help both singles grow as they get back into the dating scene. It can be very helpful to the one who is going through a divorce or mourning the loss of a loved one. It can also be hurtful to the one who ends up being the transition person.

I spent many years being a transition person to a man I loved very much who was going through a divorce. He said I was “the one.” He said he never felt this way about a woman before. I thought we were on the road to “Happily ever after.” After several years, he just couldn’t commit to marriage. He needed more time to heal. The ink was barely dry on his divorce papers. He just couldn’t sign up. Eventually, he remarried. It was just a case of bad timing for us.

Now I am not here to discourage anyone from dating someone who may need a transition person or is going through a divorce or suffering the loss of a loved one. I’m just suggesting that you understand their needs now may differ from their needs down the road. The distraction of the legal issues, if going through a divorce, may linger on for longer than anyone would expect. It can take a toll on your relationship.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, in order to enjoy your time in your new relationship, it’s important to communicate these issues when you first start dating. Once you know you have met someone you would seriously like to be involved with, express your concerns if you think this scenario might apply to you.  Some singles will not date a man or woman whose status is “separated.” While there isn’t a category of “separated, divorce pending” to select from, if you are not legally divorced, you are still married and may be unavailable.  

The guy who broke my heart couldn’t imagine life without me. He also couldn’t sign up for marriage so soon after his wife had betrayed him and he spent years in litigation. To this day, he thanks me for helping him start his life over. He is grateful that he had a transition person. I, on the other hand, vowed never to be that T.P. again. It would be like putting my hand in the fire.

Is every transition person only there for the time being? Is it possible to be the transition person and actually be lucky enough to meet someone quickly after a death or divorce of your loved one? More often than not, a transition relationship will run its course. Not always, though.  It is more common in cases of a difficult divorce than in an amicable divorce or the loss of a spouse. I know of many happily married couples that met shortly after one’s spouse had passed away. When one had a happy marriage, they tend to want to be married again. It isn’t about replacing someone, but adding someone into your life to create a new chapter with together.

To help you if you may be the T.P, try not to compare the new person in your life to the old one. Make sure you are emotionally available for a new relationship. If you are separated, don’t say you are divorced, even if there is no chance of reconciliation. Be honest from the beginning. If your divorce is almost final, share those details with the new person in your life without dragging them into the emotional roller coaster you might be on.

The bottom line is, every relationship serves a purpose, but is limited. Don’t be angry if you were a transition person. Try to get over the hurt if it doesn’t work out. Try to remember the memories that you created together. If it’s possible to stay friends if you had a deep friendship, don’t toss that person away completely. They were in your life for a reason, even if it didn’t go the distance. Understand that being the transition person is harder for the one without the prior loss.  Know that you are not alone when you are dating in transition.

Julie Spira is a worldwide expert in online dating. She’s the author of the bestseller, The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online. Visit her at CyberDatingExpert.com where you can share your online dating stories and learn how to create an irresistible online dating profile.

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16 Comments »

  • Mia says:

    My situation is, perhaps, different. A former coworker who I was close to for two years got a divorce six months ago. The marriage was always a disaster, but he had a hard time extricating himself. He has asked to see me many times via Facebook, says he misses me. I was in a relationship too when we were work buddies who definitely had a strong connection. I finally met up with him yesterday–he lost a bunch of weight and went from hot to smoking hot. Because he knows me as friend first, and has seen me through the worst of days, I felt at ease…except I think I’m in love and always was–just suppressed.

    Problem is, he just broke up with someone he’s still in love with three weeks ago after a four month relationship. He wants to spend time with me, but I think just as friends. I can already see a future.

    I’m going to hang out with him and he’s asking me out, but I don’t sense that he wants more (though I felt an attraction years back).

    Am I a transition? His marriage was always a disaster and he didn’t love the wife, but she is a difficult person and they have kids, so this doesn’t feel like a not over her thing, but rather a not over the next girl thing. Ugh. Worse than this, this other girl he’s sad about is NOT for him! And I say this as a friend who listened to the story of her. I’m definitely this guy’s girl and am really hoping for him to get it.

    Any suggestions?

  • BigRed83 says:

    Hi everyone. I think I’m the TP at the moment as the person I’m seeing has only split up with her ex about 3 months ago! She’s said she’s not ready for a full on relationship which to that I said I’m willing to take it at whatever pace she is happy with. After all I really like her and we enjoy spending time together. The only other issue is she still talks and sees her ex as friends but it’s only making it harder for her but she won’t admit it!
    What should I do and how should I work this out between us. I don’t want to loose her as I’m really happy since I met her.
    Please someone give me some advice

  • lovesick11 says:

    Does anyone know of a good book based on dating someone who is in transition?

  • Julie Spira says:

    I’ve just read so many of the comments that each of you have written regarding your experience as the “Transition Person.” This is something that is so emotional and painful for so many. How you can feel the most euphoric love ever, think about your future with someone, and often they end up marrying someone else. Timing is everything in life. When it comes to relationships, it’s the magical combination of meeting the right person at the right time, when both parties are ready for the deeper commitment. You can meet the right person at the wrong time, and the wrong person at the right time and more often than not it will not work.

    I hope this article continues to help others and please do continue to post your comments.

    Wishing you much love and joy in cyberspace, or wherever you may roam.

    Julie

  • Elinda says:

    I’ve consciously chosen to be the “transitional object” for several divorcing men, for reasons of my own. In none of those cases did I hope to become The One, and in all but one, those men still think of me fondly and thank me when they bump into me online or in the world.

    Well, damn it. Now I’m at an age where I want to be in an LTR again (my only child is finally on her own!) and I spent 4 months not even dating anyone, planning to make it six, when…wham! I met someone who I think is amazing! On so many levels – honest, sexuality, kindness, personal strength, shared experiences, compassion, etc. – we are a great match!

    I already know I’m falling for him, and I can see quite plainly he’s falling for me. His amicable divorce will allegedly be final in a few months. There are three teenagers involved whom I don’t plan to meet any time soon.

    I do not want to remarry, although I do think it would be delightful to “live” with this man several nights a week. (4-7 would be great!) We are both starstruck, but I’m the first Other Woman he’s been with in 17 years. I know my “worth” on the dating market – I’ve got a lot going for me – yet I feel really antsy because this terrific guy is in my hands and I want him to stay. On the other hand, if he freaks out in 1, 2, 5 years because he went straight from his marriage to my bed, I’ll be 1,2 or 5 years old and frankly, my star is going to start waning any day now.

    I guess I’ll “carpe diem” and just deal with the aftermath if/when it happens. But boy, am I afraid of this decision!

  • Anita says:

    After being single and pushing every man away for the past 4 years..
    even some really good ones.. I innocently met a man that is going through a divorce.. it should be final in a few weeks.. the kicker is that I’m falling in love.. ugh.. and I hate it.. but love it too. I was so afraid for so long that I would never love again.. and he’s been so honest..
    and I’m so terrified that I will push him away.. i’m trying to be patient but I’m not as patient as I should be.. I don’t want him to think that I’m not thinking about him but I also don’t want to push..

    This is so hard.. I’ve started to pray again.. I feel like a teenager..
    my heart is in my stomache..

  • SAM WILLIS says:

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A WOMEN SAYS SHIMIN THE TRANSITION

  • Teri says:

    Hi I met a man in may,He just lost his wife in jan, But he said he was ready to move on and love again, We both knew there was a connection, He said he can see me in his future and was making plan’s on taking me with him,He told me he was my man, I fell inlove with him and he told me twice he loves me, Future plans were in the making, He kept telling me it will get better for us when he move’s from the place him and his wife lived for yr’s, Everything was going GREAT!! Well this morning i woke up,Went into the livingroom, Said you did’nt come back to bet, He said sorry, So i went back to bed for a few min knowing he went on his walk,When he returned he came into the bedroom and said, Why don’t you go home for a few day’s and give us a break,Then come back and we will go to the concert and see what happen’s, I said ok, So i went into the livingroom sat down and asked,What is really going on with you, He said he is not falling inlove with me and he don’t love me, He thought he was ready to move on but he is not, Said he is used to being with his late wife of 17 yrs, and being alone as he was a truck driver and said he was only home for acouple days Then gone again, He stopped when she fell termianally ill, He told me he’s not emotionally there and not ready for a relationship, He said it’s not me at all just that he need’s more time, He went from making plan’s last night getting a small business going wanting me to run it,To this morning breaking it off, Just telling me wed night he’s my man, oh and friday night reminding me that i will wait.. I am so hurt and so confused, I don’t know what to think, My bestfriend said she thinks he has feelings for me, But he’s just scared and has alot to get over before he can move on, Please help me if you can, Thank You!!!

  • I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I’ll learn lots of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  • CAROLYN DUARTE says:

    I answered an online date request, and followed all the tips–email first, phone second (for a week) and then meet in person. My gut told me he wasn’t my type, but he was so sweet I gave it a shot. He told me he was divorced, but the papers were final on the exact date of our first date. I said, “oh, I’m your transition woman.” He said he didn’t know what that meant. His marriage lasted 17 years, and she left him. I knew better, but he was so attentive and considerate that I told myself to just go with the flow–nothing too serious. Long story short–we fell in love. One problem–the ending of his marriage left him a commitment phobe. I tried to tell myself that we started this relationship as a non-committal agreement, but my feelings changed–his did not. He said he loved me and didn’t want to ruin it. He swore that it would me that would leave him, and he couldn’t go through that again.

    After 5 years I gave him an ultimatum. When he said he thought we were doing just fine dating each only and would not change his mind, I ended our relationship.

    That was 2 years ago. I emailed him last week to apologize for the harsh way that the relationship ended. (I had tried 3x to apologize–no response from him) Finally, he responded. He very angrily told me his life was going great and that he had met his “soulmate” last December, and they are getting married next year.(He wrote this in an email)

    I feel that I gave so much to our relationship. We had so much fun.
    Not just him, but his daughter too. She was very much included in our outings.

    I worked so hard to build a positive relationship with his daughter (she was 11 when we first met, and did not speak.) She was a very well behaved girl and would talk, but only when asked specific questions. She and I built a very quiet but solid relationship. I miss her and hope she’s okay. The first thing that he said was going great in his life is that his daughter is now 18, and he no longer has to pay child support. I had asked her 3 years ago if she had any interest in going to college. She answered yes back then. While writing and re-reading this–I realize just how bitter I am.

    I know this is lengthy, but I feel so used. I was 47 when I met him. I will be 55 next month. I put more effort into our now defunct relationship than any of my others. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Now, after less than a year of meeting someone, he’s ready for marriage.

    I was told by him how lucky he felt to have found me. I was told every single day how much he loved me. (I told him too) He swore he just didn’t want another failed marriage. I feel very betrayed. Why wasn’t I the one? Strangers on the street would comment on the way he looked so in love with me. How can he be ready for marriage so quickly?

  • Chantal says:

    I’m sorry Julie, but I disagree with your belief that ”people go into a new relationship searching for a transition person to ease the pain. It just happens.”..

    I Certainly DO think that EVERYONE who is an adult, knows this – that is why you have the notion of a ”rebound relationship”. Its just plain wrong if the person who’s divorced, widowed, separated communicates anything but to the new person. I don’t care how much they think/say they are ready — its a crock.

    Being a TP is NOT a good thing for anyone but another TP or for someone who really isnt serious, has an unrelated agenda and does not care about ‘wasting time’.

  • betzelelgalut says:

    that is why i waited till after the divorce was finalized before joining sites like this. it would be totally unfair to be “separated – divorce pending” and be in a relationship with someone who has the expectations of a serious relationship. even if you had the intentions of becoming serious with that person. i think the biggest thing a person can bring to a relationship is integrity. i personally would not want to date someone who was just separated. the reason why, is if they decided to get back together with their mate, it would create a “Sotah” situation, where that womans virtue is in question. also if you had a child together there would run the risk of creating a “mamzer” which creates karmic repercussions for the child, up to the 10th generation. that is basically placing the responsibility of someone else’s life out come in your hands.
    just some food for thought.

  • Julie Spira says:

    Hello Stevennnnn,

    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. It’s certainly a subject that many of us can relate to. There was nothing more you could have done in your situation. I think it’s always best to trust your intuition when entering into a new relationship. It takes time to get to know someone. In two weeks time, you can know what someone’s intentions are overall for a relationship, but there’s no guarantee that it will work out until you get to know them better. I’m sorry for your hurt and pain. It’s not fun being a transition person, regardless of how long your relationship was.

    Julie Spira

  • Stevennnnnn says:

    I just got involved with someone, very deeply involved, but it turned out that I was just her transitional guy, and I tranzished out of her life pretty quickly. I don’t think that asking a lot of questions is protection enough against getting hurt, though, because I put her through a catechism of questions about commitment, being in it for the long run, being seriously into me, and even got e-mails from her putting her sincere and total commitment in writing, so there could be no ambiguity about what exactly she was promising me, but that didn’t stop her from bailing on me two weeks into this relationship. (I would have asked for even more assurances, but didn’t want to risk scaring her off–I just wanted to be assured that she would be there at least long enough to work through any issues that presented themselves at first. None did, but she jetted anyway: “I’m just not that into you. Sorry,” two weeks after promising me that was the one ‘reason’ she would never give me.) No more separated-but-not-divorceds for me, no matter how beautiful and charming and smart and sweet. I violated my own hard-and-fast rule against dating such women, but there really are no exceptions to good rules like that, and you break them at your peril.

  • Julie Spira says:

    Hello loundandclear,

    I understand your pain and appreciate your comment on the article. To answer your question, sometimes some people get lonely at the time their relationship has ended. Even if they aren’t over their previous relationship, they just want companionship. I truly don’t believe people go into a new relationship searching for a transition person to ease the pain. It just happens. I’m glad that you are moving forward. I know it hurts. It’s important to ask a lot of questions before getting too deeply involved with someone to see if they are truly available for a relationship or not. Then it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the risk of opening your heart. Best of luck with your search.

  • loudandclear says:

    perfect timing on this article. I recently got dumped after getting really close with a man I met and then after our amazing connecting over a couple of weeks and getting really close, he tells me that he’s not over his ex and still has feelings for her. Oh, and also that I remind him of her. Needless to say, I was disgusted, shocked and extremely hurt and felt used to boot. Moving forward and believing everything that happens is for my best interests…. My question, why get involved with someone knowing you’re not over the one before? Hurtful!

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