There comes an age when divorce isn’t an ugly word. It’s no longer something that only happens to other people’s parents. I’ve just realised, I’m at that age. As if dating wasn’t hard enough, these days it comes with the added variant known as the Divorced Man or the deja groom (if he manages to make it to the altar second time around, that is). How is it different from the usual dating disasters you might ask? Well, not much, if you exclude the baggage, the kids, the alimony and the ex-wife you end up frantically googling within five minutes of finding out her last name.

And, that’s why this growing fauna in the urban dating pool requires a special navigation chart, so that the ladies know the difference between a dish that deserves to be passed and one that deserves a generous second helping.

Firstly, the devil lies in the details. And, the deja groom has had plenty of them. Real, tangible details of an erstwhile real marriage. From shared home furnishings to conjugal morning-afters, with the coffee and coitus, from romantic weekend getaways to mundane chats about the laundry and bills, everything that we hope to have with him, he’s had already. So, much as we like to approach a new relationship like a clean slate, all parties involved know that this one isn’t. Hence, the preliminary housekeeping – also known as swapping divorce tales – is an anticlimactic must. And, weird as it sounds, for a lady it’s almost more reassuring to hear of the guy’s flaws that contributed to the divorce than to be told that it was entirely the ex’s fault. That just smells like a dead rat that no self-respecting woman would buy – even if she is desperate to start shopping for her trousseau. However, there is a fine line between need-to-know housekeeping and (not) nice-to-know morbid curiosity. That always mines into the minutiae of his previous relationship and leaves you tormented by all the graphic details and, unfortunately, will surely be used as triggers for spats even before the new relationship has had a chance to get onto its feet. And, how does one know one is crossing this Line of Control? Asking why he fell in love or married his ex is need-to-know information that helps you understand his temperament, his tastes and his approach to lifelong relationships. How he proposed, details of their honeymoon, or his pet name for her are just nosey details that help no one.

Ever heard of the phrase, once bitten twice shy? Well it mostly never applies to a divorced man. Because a man who is divorced has been married. Hence, he has already crossed the imaginary barrier of commitment phobia. Unless he divorced because he was a pathological philanderer, commitment isn’t his big issue. Sure, after the big D, he’ll take some time off, blow off some steam (and the new intern at the office, while he’s at it) and toy with his newfound singlehood. But, then, his inner husband will start rearing its tame head. And, like that guy who sneaks back into his house with his shoes in his hands after a big night out with the boys, he will want to sneak back into a secure relationship as soon as he’d had his metaphorical ‘big night out’. Hence, this is a guy you can skip that, “So where is this going?” question with. Chances are he’ll tell you himself soon enough. Sure, some may take longer than others to pop the question, but I’ll be damned if they don’t. How do I know? Because I’ve never actually met a sustainable divorced man. The minute I hear of one, he’s gone. Before I can contemplate introducing him to any eligible lady friend, he’s already been snapped up.

However, in no relationship will the ex-factor be as crucial as that with a deja groom. Whether it’s the remnants of her taste in chinaware, or a long forgotten Facebook album of a diving holiday, she is likely to be lurking around the corner when you least expect it. Like it or not, on this one it’s best to follow the man’s lead in the equation one is to have with the ex. If he is convivial, you better learn to see her goodness as well. If he’s apoplectic each time he gets off the phone with her or bumps into her at a party, you would do well to keep away, stay silent and be supportive rather than taking up any cudgels of your own.

And, then, of course, there is the ultimate baggage: children. I’m quite sure that the use of such a disparaging word to describe a man’s family to his new partner must play a part in why most of these relationships are awkward, tense and filled with resentment. Because the fact of the matter is that these aren’t inanimate pieces of luggage filled with one’s personal effects and dirty laundry. These are living, breathing people who constitute the man’s active and current family. And, while it’s easy to think that if you love a man you’ll adjust to his ‘baggage’, the truth is a bit messier than that. Unfortunately, that love-me-love-my-dog analogy doesn’t work at all when it comes to a family. I learnt this lesson early on, when the man I liked came with the baggage of a dog. Being a rabid not-a-dog person, I was contemplating this relationship under the haze of animal attraction (referring to the man) and actually fooling myself into mental compromises of ‘as long as he doesn’t lick me, it’s okay’ (referring to the dog), when my best friend broke my reverie with a blunt, “Don’t fool yourself, you hate dogs and he loves them. This will never work, and it will be a source of serious rift and angst even if you do get together with this guy.” Needless to say, I didn’t date this man, and he remains a faithful dog-lover to this day. And, since children are infinitely more nuanced than canine loves, I’ll risk a radical stand and say that if one isn’t prepared for the messy blurred lines of familial love, one should probably steer clear of a man with a brood.

But, once one has dealt with the ex, the kids, the alimony and the baggage, a deja groom does have some distinct perks. For one, he is completely house-trained and domesticated. Also, having been-there-done-that, he can hold your hand through the initial missteps of married life.