What To Say On A Date When Asked About Your Divorce

what to say on a date

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Let’s face it. People get nervous on dates, especially first dates. You want everything to go well, and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Actually, people think way too into things when it comes to what to say on a date and what not to say.

One question that will almost always come up, either on a first date or soon after is, “Why did you get divorced?” I mean, you can’t blame the date for wanting to know, right? This is just part of getting to know one another.

As a person who has experienced these kinds of conversations on dates, (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.

The former spouse isn’t on the date to offer their side of what happened in the divorce. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could hear the ex-spouse’s side? It would tell you a lot about your date, but that’s not going to happen.

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 can get the landscape of the person’s situation.


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Several years ago, when I was dating, 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. So, I asked him, “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 tried to hide the fact that my jaw was on the ground. This guy just admitted to cheating.  Boom. Deal breaker for me. This guy clearly got it wrong. Immediately, I was done. From that moment on, I had no interest in ever going out with him again. I know that sounds judgmental, closed-minded and short sighted, but that’s how I felt. It was a complete turnoff, and what was sad was, he really did seem like a good person. Still, there was no turning back from that response.


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Since then, we have become friends, and have always stayed in touch.  A couple years later 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. It would have made a huge difference.

What to say on a date in response to questions about your divorce:

The point of this story is, how you answer questions such as, “Why did you get divorced?” is very important in a new relationship.

In my friend’s case, he is a total sweetheart. He knows now that 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?”


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


So, what do you say on a date when asked, “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. I think you will find that most men and women are understanding and forgiving.


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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 the real you is.


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 and it shows the date that you clearly aren’t over the divorce and might not be in a good place to get into a relationship.


Whether it’s in the first five minutes of a first date, several dates down the road or somewhere in between, questions about your divorce will be asked, and what to say on a date on this topic is extremely important. How you answer this and other divorce questions could be a game changer in the relationship.

Like this article? Check out, “Dating After Divorce: What to Say, What To Wear and Other Tips”



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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    7 Responses to “What To Say On A Date When Asked About Your Divorce”

    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

      • Sunny

        This is a good question and one I don’t think many men or women give much thought to when they’re asking someone on the first date “why did you get a divorce?” If you are a domestic violence survivor this is the last thing you are going to tell a date you just met. These are very personal questions that should only be brought up after you have spent time with someone, getting to know them. I say wait about 3 or 4 dates and if you’re comfortable then you can reveal the details you want. Appropriate questions on a first date are “what do you like to do for fun?” “What kind of music do you like?” “ Do you travel and if so, where have you been?” First dates are supposed to be fun not an interrogation.

    4. Gene Freeman

      As a man if you say you cheated 20 years ago it’s an automatic DQ with the woman. However, the lady can cheat, and she (and her friends) feel that it is perfectly understandable.

      Time and views need to change ladies. For example, years ago having a baby out of wedlock was considered taboo. Not so now. This past week the babys born in Columbus, Ohio were 11% to married parents, 88% to no married couple, and 1% to fathers unknown.

      Cellphones with data ability, along with the WWW in general have changed things, A LOT!

    5. Bob

      RE: Gene, you are correct in that assessment of the bias that exist between the sexes, women show almost no accountability for their actions. 80% of divorces are filed by the women. 30 years of marriage, separated for 3 then divorced 3 years ago, ex claims she settled and that she is not taking care of no man (it’s in the email to our marriage counselor in which she stop going after a year) – So, what do I say if asked about my divorce when out on a date? I say, 8 years of courtship (college to finish) and 30 years of marriage and my ex claimed in an email that she just settled. If a date is looking for an excuse, don’t worry she or her friends will develop one after they get the FREE drinks and food out of you. So I disclose the reason for the divorce in the talking phase to weed out the freeloaders. Praying for everyone here, to one day be in Love with someone you’ll love through thick and thin – Blessings to all


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