Dating While Separated

Whether you’re separated or legally separated, you may be wondering if it’s the right time for you to get back out on the dating market. As you can probably guess, this is a pretty touchy subject with a lot of different things we need to look at.

And if it is something you can do, how do you handle dating while separated? Where do you go? What problems could you run into?

In this article, we’re going to answer all of these questions and more. If you’ve found yourself separated and are wondering what the next step or options are in your romantic life, let’s get into it.

Can I Date While I’m Separated?

Before we talk about anything else related to this topic, we need to address the elephant in the room—is dating while you’re separated okay? And while we can’t answer this question for everyone, we can give you the information you need to make that decision.

Here are five things you need to consider when answering this question

It’s important to note that the term separated is actually a legal term in the eyes of the law. And before we go further, that warrants us to state that we’re not lawyers and that you should really take this question up with a lawyer in your state if you need a concrete answer.

That being said, here’s what we’ve found during our research. The term separation refers to a relationship status that you get from working with the court system. You literally have to file with the court and go before a judge to get legally separated. It’s a step in between together and divorced that carries different implications depending on the state you live in.

When you’re legally separated, you should have no problems dating someone else. Again, confirm this with an attorney, but you should be free and clear to do as you please in most states, as long as you are abiding by the rules of the state and anything that was laid out in your separation agreements.

If you are NOT legally separated, you aren’t going to be breaking the law by dating someone else. However, what you do in the eyes of the court could be used against you in the divorce. They won’t care that you and your spouse have some sort of agreement between each other. In the eyes of the law, you’ll still be married, and they would view that as someone stepping out on their spouse.

Again, we’re not lawyers, so please take this up with an attorney. That being said, the bottom line from our research is that if you’re legally separated, you should have no problems dating someone else. If you’re not legally separated and just separated, you’ll probably be assuming some risk if you choose to date someone else.

Are You Potentially Getting Back Together?

Outside of the legal ramifications of dating while separated, there are moral and relational ones to consider. If you’re separated and just “taking a break,” dating other people is probably a bad idea. However, if it’s been made crystal clear that you’re not getting back together, dating other people may be an okay idea (contingent on everything else we’ve already talked about).

Are You Ready?

And on top of all of this comes the most important question of all—are you ready to start dating again? If you’re separated, the chances are high that the split was recent. No matter how tough you are or how amicable the split was or how long things were going poorly, it’s going to weigh on you emotionally. Make sure you’ve given yourself ample time to process, deal, grieve, and get over things before you start to involve someone else in the process.

Is Your Spouse Ready?

While you can’t live your life based on how someone else feels, this is a unique situation where you may want to consider the other person for two reasons.

First, consider their feelings. If you live somewhere that they’re going to see you’re dating other people and it’s going to take an emotional toll on them, maybe you want to wait until you’re divorced.  

Second, consider the crazy factor. Are they someone who is going to lose their marbles if they see you dating someone else? Obviously life has to go on at some point, but again, it might be worth considering waiting until you’re fully divorced.

Both of these factors become a lot more important if you’re still living together. Keep that in mind.

Consider Your Family, Friends, and Coworkers

Lastly, consider the way it’s going to make the people around you feel about you. Yes, we’re advocates for not worrying about what other people think or letting that dictate your life. However, again, this could be a unique exception. Many people, especially those that really believe in the sanctity of marriage, may frown upon you dating before you’re fully divorced.

Again, this will be something unique to your situation.

Is It Cheating to Date While Separated?

One of the most common questions we hear from people who are separated and people who are interested in someone who is separated is whether or not dating counts as cheating.

Here is our take on it. It depends on the arrangement of the people who are separated. If they are separated and there is no chance they’re getting back together, it wouldn’t classify as cheating to us. The relationship is effectively finished except in the eyes of the law.

However, if they are separated and just taking a break with the potential of getting back together, that relationships is not over. In that case, it would be cheating.

The easiest way to release some of the tension here is for the person who is separated to have a discussion with their spouse. A simple question of whether or not they’re okay with dating other people solves the dilemma pretty quickly. They don’t get the final say if you’re legally separated, but it’s a nice gesture if things are amicable.

Tips for Successful Dating When You’re Separated

  • Don’t start dating until you’re ready. – If you aren’t emotionally ready to get back out there, don’t. There are going to be plenty of single people months or even years from now.
  • Get legally separated first. – While we’re not lawyers, we can share from our research that dating before you’re legally separated can put you into some tough situations when it comes to your divorce. Weigh your options with your lawyer before you jump back into things.
  • Take things slowly. – When you do decide to start dating again, it’s exciting! But we want to caution you to take things slowly. It’s been a while since you’ve been out there, and there are no good reasons to rush into things.
  • Don’t rub it in your spouse’s face. – Even if your separation and eventual divorce are not amicable, it’s never nice to start a new relationship from a place of revenge. Don’t use your new love interest to get back at your ex. And even if things are amicable and they say they don’t care you’re dating someone new, keep your new love interests private. It’s better for everyone.
  • Consider the kids. – If there are kids in the separation landscape, things change. You have to weigh their thoughts and feelings when deciding what you’re comfortable doing and not doing. If young kids see you with someone new right away, it could have unintended effects on them.

How long should you be separated before dating?

There is no set amount of time that you should be separated before you should start dating. The answer to the question depends on where you’re at emotionally, what your plans are with your ex (getting back together, divorce, etc.), who else might be involved in the situation (kids, family, coworkers, etc.), and what your overall goal is. This could take as little as a few days after you’re separated to a few months or even years in some unique fringe situations.

Can you get engaged with separated?

Technically, yes you can. However, we’d probably advise you to handle your past relationships and business first before committing to something that serious with someone new. Again, it’s up to you, but this avoids the most headaches and potential issues.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.