What To Say On A Date: How To Answer “Why Did You Get Divorced?”

what to say on a date

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

When it comes to what to say on a date, specifically answering the question “Why did you get divorced?” things can get complicated. I mean, undoubtedly, it will come up at some point. Right? I mean, can you blame someone for wanting to know?


As a person who has experienced those conversations, (both the one who has asked the question and who has been asked) I can honestly say that when people ask “Why did you get divorced?” or “What happened in your marriage?” they know they aren’t getting the full story. They are hearing their date’s side of the story. What I wouldn’t give to hear the responses of some of the ex-wives of the guys I’ve gone out with, but that will never happen. I’m sure I’d get a totally different perspective, which might or might not have an affect on the way I view the guys.


So, if we ask our divorced dates why they got divorced, and we’re only getting one side of the story, why do we want to know? Because we want to hear what they have to say. We want to see if there’s bitterness in the answer. We want to see if things add up. We want to gauge the sincerity of the response. Because even from one side of the story, we get the landscape of the person’s situation.


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A few months ago, I met a guy on Facebook who was newly separated. We decided to meet at a bar. I felt more comfortable with my friends around, so I made the evening a group get together.


The four of us talked a lot and eventually it was just he and I in a conversation. And, I say, “So, why are you getting divorced?”


His response was, “Well, my wife and I were going through a tough time and I did some things I probably shouldn’t have.”


I sat there listening with what I thought as an empathetic look on my face, but inside I said to myself, “Boom. Deal breaker. This guy is a cheater. I’m done. I have no interest in ever going out with him again.” Although he seemed very nice and normal, that was a deal breaker for me.




We stayed in touch on Facebook a little bit and a few days ago he called me and asked me some questions about dating after divorce. I decided to be honest with him and tell him without sugarcoating what I thought of his response to “Why did you get divorced?”


He then told me that he did not cheat on his wife, but rather that he flirted with some women, that it was inappropriate, and that he knew he handled things badly.


“Why didn’t you tell me that at the bar?” I asked.


Here is my point. How you answer, “Why did you get divorced?” is very important and can make or break a new relationship.


In this guy’s case, he is a total sweetheart. We had a long conversation and he admits he shouldn’t have done what he did, and that flirting and talking to other women is not a good way to handle a rough patch in a marriage. That he instead should have reached out to his wife and said, “You aren’t giving me what I need emotionally. I want this to work. I don’t want to lose what we have. Can we get help? Can we try to make our marriage better?”


If he’d have said those things to me at the bar, I’d have viewed him as he really is: a really good guy who made some mistakes, and actually, he didn’t’ even cheat. Maybe a tad bit of emotional cheating, but as a divorced woman, that wouldn’t stop me from dating him.


So, how do you answer, “Why did you get divorced?” First, have this answer prepared. I’m not saying rehearse it and be non-genuine. I’m just saying, really think about what you want to tell men (or women) about what happened in your marriage. If you know what you want to say, things will come out more smoothly.


Secondly, answer honestly. If you did cheat, you owe it to the person to say so. You can always follow up with how you regret it and what you now know you should have done instead.


Also, I want to add that you don’t have to go into tremendous details and air your dirty laundry about why you got divorced. Share as much as you feel comfortable sharing. But, make sure there is enough of an explanation so that the person knows who you are.


Lastly, don’t answer the question by talking about what an asshole or jerk or bitch your ex is. That just sounds classless and bitter. It’s unattractive.


Whether it’s in the first five minutes of a first date, several dates down the road or somewhere in between, the question will be asked, and how you answer it could be a game changer in the relationship, for better or for worse (no pun intended.)


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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

4 Responses to “What To Say On A Date: How To Answer “Why Did You Get Divorced?””

  1. Christie

    I got divorced because he cheated and left me! Plain and simple 🙁 However, a year later I’m on the mend, working with others to help them, and at least drink some wine and giggle in the process. Working to find my inner badass after she was burried in BS!

    Come and play with me!


  2. Vaz

    This hasn’t come up with me yet but hopefully I’ll go on a date at some point. I have no idea how to answer this question, my husband just out of the blue left me (& not for another women although he did start dating via match as soon as he left). As far as I’m concerned we had a solid, comfortable relationship, I really think he was just fed up I guess we were a little boring but that’s just normal life as far as I’m concerned. I feel like he just wanted to leave and experience something new as he never put any effort into improving things he just left. So what do I say in response to this question, I would not want to appear pathetic ‘he just left me’ I guess I’ll just need to say we drifted apart, things weren’t the same but I find that problematic too as though I didn’t value my marriage and didn’t try to make it work…..I would have done anything to have stopped it all coming to an end. I’m only 30, we were together since we were 16 so that in itself makes it harder….most 30 year olds are just getting married and that was me 2 years ago. Divorce would never have been an option I would ever have taken.

  3. Shana

    What is a good answer when you have come from trauma but you are in counseling getting healthy?

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      I’m not really sure what you are asking, but I think every answer is different, and it depends on the person you are out with and how comfortable you feel sharing with each person. Some people feel safe, while others don’t. Right? Whatever your answer is, I am thinking of you and praying for you. I’m glad you are getting the help you need and getting healthy. You deserve that. xo


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