Dating Again After Divorce (with Kids)
The ink is dry on the divorce papers, you’ve spent enough time telling Ben and Jerry your problems and you’re ready to re-enter the world of dating. I’m definitely not qualified, nor do I want to be, the moral police. Go out and live it up, date 100 people, sow your wild oats, but do it when your children aren’t around. When it comes to involving your children in your dating life, my cautionary advice is to take it slowly, take it very slowly.
Although you may be lonely and feel the need for companionship and validation as an attractive human being, your children need adjustment time before being introduced to anyone new. Many experts agree that a year is the time necessary between the divorce and the children meeting a new significant other in your life.
What Dating After Divorce Means to Your Child
Here is what dating might mean from your child’s point of view:
- It shatters their dream of their parent’s getting back together.
- It takes your time and attention away from them.
- They may feel like they aren’t enough to make you happy.
- They may feel vulnerable to rejection from an “outsider.”
When you do start dating after divorce, restrict your dating to times when your children are with the other parent or otherwise occupied. They do not need to meet everyone you go out with. In fact, don’t introduce your kids to someone until you are relatively sure that person is going to be a permanent fixture in your lives. Before you introduce your child to someone new, discuss it with your children. It’s not permission you’re seeking, but it’s only fair to prepare your children for the introduction of a new person in their lives.
When introducing a new person, arrange the first meeting on neutral grounds, such as a picnic at a park or a child-friendly pizza place. Keep the initial meeting casual and under two hours and refrain from being too touchy in front of your children. You may be feeling comfortable and affectionate towards the person, but it’s a new situation for your child. Any physical displays such as hand holding and hugging, needs to come gradually. In the beginning, contact with the new person should be infrequent, once a week or less, and focused on fun, family activities.
Discipline and Daily Life
Your new partner should NOT be involved in disciplining your child! Steer clear of anyone that wants to come into your home and take control and “whip things into shape!” As the parent, it is your role to discipline your child.
The dating partner should not be involved in intimate activities with your child such as bathing and toileting. Paranoid? Maybe, but it is your job to ensure that your kids are safe. Make sure you’ve checked someone out before you allow them to become an integral part of your children’s lives. Have you met their friends and family? Listen to your gut and if something feels “off,” listen to your instinct.
When It Doesn’t Work Out
Of course, sometimes we think a partner will be permanent and the relationship doesn’t work out. In the ten years I was single, I introduced my kids to three different men, including the man that eventually became my husband. One man smoothly morphed from a potential partner into a lifelong family friend, no harm, no foul on either of our parts.
Another man that I thought was “the one” was definitely not and we broke up after several years. I explained it to the girls and, fortunately, they understood and seemed able to move on fairly easily. In fact, they also felt he wasn’t a good fit for us, but I still felt bad for having brought another temporary relationship into their lives.
As parents, we’re not perfect, we do our best to protect our children but sometimes we realize we’ve made the wrong choice and needlessly involved our children’s emotions. Have fun meeting new people and enjoy dating, but when it comes time to involve the kids, take it slowly, look at things through your children’s eyes, listen to your gut and protect yourself and your children.