Dear Paulette,

I need some advice. I am currently the TP (Transition Person) with a man who has been separated from his wife for about two years, but they still live in the same house (she lives upstairs and they don’t see each other), and they are still technically married. They were together for 12 years. Throughout the two years of their separation, he has tried to get her back by taking her out to dinner and talking. When we met, he said the last time he had done that was about four months ago.

He has been extremely honest about everything right from the start so I can’t blame him, but we have been dating for three and a half months now, and last night I told him I loved him. He said he likes me a lot, but isn’t ready to say that yet and still has feelings for his ex – and that he just needs time to get over her, finalize the divorce and sell his house, but he can see himself loving me someday.

Is it possible that he could still fall in love with me? Or is this just a bad situation that I should get out of?


Dear Transition Person,

It sounds like a difficult situation. Although he’s been ‘separated’ from his wife for about two years, they live in the same house still, are technically married, and he still has feelings for her. Plus, he has continued trying to reconcile (until just four months ago).  Even now, he admits to having feelings for her and says he needs time to get over it.

There are no guarantees which way this could go—will he get over her or will they reconcile? It’s possible that he’ll divorce and move on, becoming available to love you, but that isn’t the case right now; and it’s important to see that.

There are some things I don’t know about you, like your age and what you’re looking for in a relationship. If you were a woman under 40 who still wanted children and had a brief timeline to make this happen, I’d advise you to move on and look for someone with the same goal and readiness level.  If you don’t want kids and aren’t looking for a serious relationship right away, then you could consider dating him and other people, to see what happens.  This latter possibility would take a lot of strength though.  You’ve already said that you love him so you’d need to feel that love without attaching it to an outcome or expectation of commitment.  This means you’d also have to give other people a chance.

Think of it like a game of tennis. You wouldn’t keep serving if no one was hitting back.  You want to invest the appropriate amount to match your partner.  He is asking you for time and space so he can date you and entertain his options with her, or at least tie up loose ends.  So, if you want to do the same, you’ll need to keep your emotions in check and stay in reality. If you can’t do that, than I’d suggest moving on and dating others.  You can let this man know when he’s fully divorced he can contact you… if you’re available.

In the end, you need to take responsibility for your own happiness and vision. Only then will the right man step up!

I wish you the Best in Love,


Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman is a psychologist and author of “Dating from the Inside Out” and “When Mars Women Date.” She has a private practice in Manhattan and does dating coaching by phone. Learn more at
  1. I was in the same position – but he had moved out and was going through a terrible divorce. And not matter what he says or thinks – they are not emotionally ready. How do I know? I went through a divorce and even though I tried to date – had to accept I was not ready. So the answer for you is to walk away. The pain will be terrible. How do I know? It took the best part of 3 years to get over him and the best part is he finished with me! I know what you are thinking – you will never find anyone like him. Even though it is hard to believe – you will. I did. Good luck.

  2. I too, was in a similar situation where the woman I was seeing was still in the same house as the pending divorced to be husband. Only when she started to date me did he all of a sudden realize the threat and it only made things to sticky and outright emotionally raw.

    I realized that I could not save her from her bad marriage by dating and seeing her. I COULD SAVE MYSELF from the frustration of the whole situation so I repeated told her that no matter what, she has to finalize a divorce with her in house legally still married spouse, if she wants to truly be free whether I am with her or not.

    There were children involved too…

    You love this man, and want to care about him, but he has to work on moving on with his life which requires him to get his divorce done so he can be free no matter who he could be with.

    So, if you love him, be his friend and set him free.

    You will save yourself heartache too.

  3. People don’t suddenly get divorced. First they try all kinds of things – whether official like therapy or unofficial, like compromising and turning themselves into pretzels to avoid a conflict – to make things work. It’s this “pretzel effect” that makes transition dating dangerous. Someone who has twisted themselves into someone they’re not for a relationship needs time to untwist before you even really know who you’re dating. If they rebound too fast into another marriage, they will eventually untwist inside that marriage and you will wake up next to someone different than the person you met and married. This is part of the reason why my divorce therapist gave me a rule of thumb: only date people after 2 years go by from the time the ink is dry on their divorce papers. A second problem is tied to the pretzeling effect. Let’s call it the “freedom effect.” If they’re not divorced, even if they’re dating, they aren’t psychologically free. People in the transition space are human. They get lonely, they want to be with people who appreciate them and are uplifting – unlike their marital relationship, they still want that closeness. But that’s not the same as being ready to re-commit. When these transitioners are finally free, many are suddenly infused with a brand new sense of joie de liberte and want their freedom for real – if only for a few months. These people will drop a loyal relationship faster than a hot potato, and you’ll be sitting there wondering what you did. It wasn’t you. And seldom will they return to the person who saw them through the break-up, because that person now reminds them of all the crap they went through. So, in sum, I disagree with Dr. Sherman, who is trying to be supportive and in my opinion, therefore, going to easy on our poor friend who is dating a transitioner, giving her lots of choice-making room. I say call it like it is – very unlikely to end well.

  4. Never ever date someone that’s not legally divorced! Even if he promises you that “DREAMHOME!!!!

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