Dating after a divorce is not something that most people plan for, because divorce isn’t something that most people plan for. It’s not an easy situation to be in. And grieving for the loss of your marriage, is even tougher if you have children—you have to balance your feelings of loss with their feelings of loss.
Even after some time has passed and you feel ready to jump back into dating, it’s no longer just about you and the person you may end up with. It’s about your children, and all their complicated feelings.
While dating post-divorce, here are a few key tips to make your kids’ lives a bit easier:
Timing is really important.
If you start dating immediately after your separation, there should be no judgment. But in a realistic sense, there will be. Your kids will most likely not be extremely supportive of you going out and meeting new people, particularly if they’re young and expect their parents to eventually reunite. (Or even if they’re not young and expect that.) If you start dating shortly after your divorce, keep it private for a while. You don’t have to keep it secret from everyone in your life, but it’s definitely important to give yourself privacy from your children’s judgement for the time being. They don’t need to know exactly what your dating life looks like until everyone is ready for it.
Take your time introducing your children to a new partner.
Let’s say you feel ready to introduce your boyfriend/girlfriend to your family. Great! It’s really exciting to feel that strongly about a new person in your life. When you dated before marriage, before children, all of your choices were about your own personal desires. Dating post-divorce means you’re juggling multiple people’s’ feelings, so before you introduce them really think about if the timing is right. Your kids may potentially get really close to this person and if things don’t work out and that person leaves their life, it can be a painful experience.
Talk to your kids about your dating life.
In an appropriate manner, of course. Your kids may be curious about your dating life, or your intentions with your new partner. If they have questions, you should answer them the best you can. If they don’t have questions, but you’re ready to introduce them to your new special someone, it’s important to sit them down and talk to them first. Try not to spring a brand new person or situation on them. Instead, ease them into their new reality. Mention that you have been dating someone. Ask them if they want to meet him or her. Answer their questions. Let them express their anger, hurt, frustration, or excitement. Be open with them about your feelings. Assure them they are loved, by both or all of their parents. Make sure they know that your new partner is not a replacement, just an addition.
Don’t introduce your kids to everyone.
It’s hard to decipher excitement versus validity. When you’re returning to the dating world, it may be tempting to introduce everyone in your life to everyone you’re dating. You can go on a date with someone and be so excited that you rush home to tell your kids about it. Age is a significant factor here, of course. If you have adult children, they may genuinely want to hear about how your date went, younger children may not need to hear so much. But regardless of age, it’s important to let your own feelings simmer before sharing them. Even if your kids are adults, it can tiring for them to meet person after person. It’s wonderful to be eager about someone new, but make sure they’re someone worth introducing your family to before you do it.
Allow your kids to be themselves.
When you do start to introduce your children to the person you’re dating, remember that each of your children is different. Remind yourself who your child or children are. If your son is being timid and unapproachable, ask yourself if this is in line with who he is. If your daughter is excited and overly friendly, remind yourself that she has always liked new people and might actually be genuinely excited to meet this new person in your life. If you know your kids tend to be hard to get to know, let them be exactly that. Your kids, at different stages of their life, will be more or less receptive to your dating life. Be aware of that throughout your post-divorce dating experiences.
Don’t let your new partner discipline your children.
At least not for a while. If your new partner comes in and attempts to fill the role of mom or dad, it may be harder for your children to want to get to know them. It’s not easy for kids to accept a new person in your life, and if they come in with their own unique parenting style, it may be even harder. If you and your new partner stay together for a long time and even end up marrying one another, the discipline conversation can and should be had at a later date. When your children and new partner are just getting to know each other, it’s probably best to keep the parenting to the actual biological parents.
It can be very stressful to date post-divorce, especially if you have children to consider as well. But it’s really important to remember that you can date, even after such a tragic loss like a marriage, and still have a good time. Your kids will be okay, your ex-husband or wife will be okay. Focus on yourself, your new dating life, and your children’s happiness, and it will all work out.
Dating is tough regardless of which stage of life you’re in, but it seems to be particularly hard in a post-divorce world, especially when you have children. Above all else, remember that your children are people who have feelings and opinions of their own. If they’re not ready for you to date yet, keep your dating life private. If they are ready to meet someone new, be respectful of their feelings and boundaries. Take it easy, have fun, and happy dating!