Dating Your Ex-Spouse - It's Complicated.

Rediscovering childhood sweethearts is becoming more common and continues to be a somewhat surprising and enchanting story. Part of the allure of youthful sweethearts is that youth is more open, less cautious, and emotional bonds are more easily formed. Youthful sexuality is so much more intense that the ensuing biological connection is that much stronger and often the source of delightful erotic memories that strongly contribute to the experience of being in love.

Well, here is an outrageous thought: don't most ex-spouses fall into the category of childhood, or at least younger, sweethearts? Of course this is true for almost all marriages, but the ex is "the ex" for obvious reasons, and most divorces have been angry and disappointing affairs. The attractions and dreams that moved us to take on the arduous work of marriage and family are betrayed, and we often feel like abject failures together, so very few would be open to another round.

The preposterous proposition is that the sweetheart who became the source of such pain and disappointment still has many of the endearing qualities that brought you together in the first place. And hopefully both of you have grown significantly since the divorce, perhaps enough to consider dating again. I am not suggesting a return to failed attempts of "working things out" and endless couples therapy sessions, since most divorces are quite difficult and the achieved separation is a significant accomplishment. In fact post-divorce "healthy" boundaries that allow one to get on with life and independently explore other "worlds" are often what was missing in the marriage and contributed to its demise. Instead, why not evaluate the possibility of a "new" relationship with this person, based on who you've both become in those other worlds since the divorce?

Love is challenging and requires a combination of intimacy and respect to work. Many partners bring immaturities and personal inadequacies that contribute to eventual breakups. These issues remain challenges post-divorce, and reasonable happiness requires personal growth, or history repeats itself with new relationships (national divorce rates show that while about 50% of first marriages end in divorce, nearly 65% of second marriages fail as well). But maybe it is worth revisiting the childhood sweetheart that you loved enough to marry to see if a new up-to-date, meaningful relationship is possible. After all, where else would you find someone with shared sexual and life history, and perhaps children that are loved by both of you? Maybe this time around, after some time to break old routines and habits and do some personal growth, things might work out differently.

About the Author

Harry K Wexler

Harry K. Wexler, Ph.D. is a research and clinical psychologist and the director of the Center for Aging Sexuality and Meaning in New York City and Laguna Beach.

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