As most divorced adults eventually resume a social life, dating enters the picture. It’s probably one of the more difficult things for a child to undertake, and it’s not easy on you either. A child’s usual reaction to mom or dad’s first date is a negative one.
Time is your best ally. Don’t be in a hurry to have your children participate in relationships.
Rushing into dating after a divorce threatens a child’s world. Your children may view your dates as competition for your love and attention, and as a rejection of their now-absent parent. Their fantasies of reconciliation will be damaged, and the loss of your attention can reawaken fears of abandonment.
Beware of letting yourself think that finding a new spouse will make your family “whole” again. Remarriage based on that agenda often has more “holes” than “wholes.” Keep in mind that children typically accept dad’s dating more than mom’s dating. It’s hard to definitively say why this is, but the general belief is that mom is often considered the primary caretaker and is thus expected to maintain the status quo.
Socializing with your kids included is a good way to approach the social scene. It takes the pressure off of meeting someone because you can always enjoy being there with your children.
For most, dating and sex the second time around is scary and stressful. Just because you’ve been married doesn’t mean you’re confident or even experienced in this area.
Becoming socially active again is important because it helps free a parent from becoming obsessive about his or her parenting role. Letting your adult life revolve around your child’s can be very hard on your child.
To help out, here are some dating do’s and don’ts:
- Meet your dates away from home in the beginning of a new relationship.
- Introduce your dates as friends if your child resents your dating. Explain that parents need adult friends too. Add a tag, such as “so-and-so is my tennis partner,” or “a co-worker from the office.”
- Try not to have a slew of different dates running through your home and your child’s life. This lifestyle may be fun for you, but it’s confusing and hard for the children.
- Enjoy the benefits of joint custody, if you have it. You can perhaps confine your dating to the times your children are not with you. If you only have access to your children on weekends, they may have to share in your daring life. Just remember that the longer this takes, the easier it will be for your children.
- Begin locking your bedroom door for privacy before you have something spending the night, just so that option is available to you.
- Carefully choose the significant others you allow to get close to your family. Children get attached to people you date over a long period of time, and these breakups are often harder on them than on the adults involved.
- Letting your ex-spouse know your whereabouts when going out of town is a responsible act. Unfortunately, many parents do not keep the other parent advised of their travel. If your ex will not give you a phone number where you can reach them, suggest that they let you know who can reach they should an emergency arise.
Be prepared when your children attempt to sabotage your dates through a variety of rude comments, obnoxious behavior, and “forgetting” to pass on phone messages. You can let a child know that you understand what they are feeling, but make it clear that their behavior is unacceptable. As for your sex life, recognize that children are usually uncomfortable with their parents’ sexuality.
It’s not necessary to reveal the sexual component of any relationship, at least until some commitment seems to be around the corner. You can avoid forcing your child to deal with this by taking an overnight trip, going to a hotel, or waiting until you have some privacy in your own home.
Time is your best ally. Don’t be in a hurry to have your children participate in relationships. If you find yourself feeling uneasy about having your “friend” stay overnight while your kids are around, don’t issue the invitation.
Many parents go to great lengths to keep their love life private, even when their children are in the house with them. There are as many solutions to finding privacy as there are single parents. Be prepared for surprising questions about your marital and premarital love life.
Your kids may want to know whether you and your ex-spouse slept together before you were married, whether you were monogamous in marriage, or how many partners you may have had. Be as honest as you feel is appropriate. Teens in particular may be looking for reasons to say no to peer pressure, so make your answers constructive for them.
If your love life isn’t so hot, it can be agonizing to see your ex dating or in love. One underlying reason for your pain, as we all feel when uncoupled, is fear that we’ll never be loved again. It’s not true. Love comes when you least expect it. It often comes after your heart has healed or when finding a partner is no longer a consuming objective.