• Dating After Divorce (with kids)

    Many people ask me, when is a good time to begin dating after the break-up of a relationship.  That is very difficult to say since there are so many factors involved:  How long were you in the relationship? were you married? planning on getting married? just living together? Did you have children together? Lots of different issues and concerns can alter the way you think about getting back into the dating game.  But the two biggest roadblocks are time and kids!.

    Don’t be fooled by believing there are different rules for those that were married vs. just living together when it comes to dating. The questions are whether you have children, and what you have learned about yourself before you dive into a new romance.

    If you have children, whether it is with the recent “ex” or another, you need time to let everyone heal. You are not the only person going through the trauma of a break-up. Your children have most likely formed relationships with your ex too, and are trying to make sense of how they are supposed to act and react to the changes in their lives, and yours, before they get used to someone new.

    As to time, if you have been divorced or separated for many years my guess is you have already moved past the hurt and pain. If you just moved his last piece of luggage out to the curb and you are seriously dating the person of your dreams the next day, you may have some smoke in your eyes.

    So, should you date now, later or never?  Here are some different views of how to handle the decision.

    1. Devote yourself to your children instead of finding someone new as a partner.

    This is a nice idea, and one that you might consider for a time, but figure out why you may be doing this. Is it possibly you are trying to show your “ex” – that “SOB” parent who is not devoting his life to the children how it is to be done or is it just because you don’t want to get hurt again? Are you competing with her new partner, or simply trying to cloister your children from allowing anyone else into their lives so they don’t have to cope with any more changes? Either way, if you have a fulfilling life without bringing another into it, go for it! If you ultimately would like to have a partner again, don’t become a martyr to your kids. They won’t remember it when they are living their own lives. They’ll just think you are sad and lonely…and you made yourself that way!


    1. ake some time before jumping in.

    Knowing why and how things went wrong in your previous relationship is crucial to helping you to not repeat the same thing again. You may make the same mistake in choosing a new partner, or you might make a different mistake and go too far in the opposite direction the next time around. “My first wife complained about my drinking, but my second wife handed me drinks; the difference felt good”; “My ex complained about me keeping a messy house and he was the neat one, but now I am with someone who is a total slob. I can’t stand it.”

    Taking some time to get to know yourself better and detoxing from the anger, resentment and confusion of your past relationship is not only healthy, but necessary to regroup, reground and replenish your energy! And you will need that detoxing if you are going to make the next one work!

    So, let’s say it’s been long enough and you are ready to date. What are the other factors that can get in the way of your dating?

    Your children’s reactions…

    Kids always want to see their birth parents get back together – whether it is the right thing to do or not.  If they believe there’s that chance because you are not dating anyone else, they may hold on to that wish for a lot longer than is healthy! They can also become the roadblock to anyone you may try to date in the future, often not liking them for reasons that make sense only to them. “He can’t tell me what to do …he’s not my father.” “She can’t tell me what to eat, she’s not my mother.” From a child’s perspective, they are now looking at 4 people telling them what to do…the parents and their new partners, instead of 2!  It is hard for them –and certainly not their place– to decide who you should date and when.

    If your kids are complaining, consider their ages. If they are younger and trapped with your decisions, ask them to tell you what they think about the person you are dating. If they have valid fears, you need to listen to them and weed out where their perceptions are coming from. If they won’t ever like anyone but the parent you have divorced, take into consideration that most children want their parents to get back together again because they are looking through kids’ eyes, not as peers.  It is up to you to explain to them that that is never going to happen, that you both love them, and you will both find other partners eventually. You hope that they will like them too, but it isn’t necessary.

    There can be issues even with older kids. I remember a “Frasier” episode where Roz explained to Frazier that she had been OK with her parents’ divorce because it was amiable, and she was an adult when it happened. She then went on to say that she had been close to her dad until he decided to remarry a woman that she didn’t get along with.  From her eyes, her father had chosen his new wife over his daughter, which may have been only her reality, not her dad’s.

    Your children need to know that you will always be there for them no matter what – but being there for them should not mean being without an adult partner for life, if that’s what you would like for yourself. Encourage them to tell you the truth about what they see without fear of retaliation, but no matter what they say, this doesn’t mean that you should let go of a good partner just because your children don’t like them telling them to eat their vegetables. If you are considering this person for your next life partner, here is a good place to write a mission statement and some ground rules for the potential “new” family.

    If they are older, they may find the whole idea of you being a sexual being disgusting! Thinking of one’s parents being sexual is difficult enough, but when it isn’t your parents together, and someone else is touching your mother or father in a loving intimate way, it may be perceived as outright uncouth!

    Kids may also be afraid of another kind of hurt. If they saw you go through the pain and sadness of your previous relationship ending, and they don’t want to see that happen again. Depending on their age, they may have a point because they were probably to some extent the victims of your changing moods and decisions; but if they are older and out on their own or ready to launch, they should be concentrating on their own lives….and leave yours alone!

    Another concern for your future dating could be your extended family:

    Your family’s reactions`…

    If you are concerned about your family’s (or friends’) reactions, remember this: If they passed judgments on your previous relationships, then they will most likely be passing the same kind of judgments on your new one: “He’s not good enough for you,” “She’s a tramp,” “You come from different religions/ethnic backgrounds/races,”  “Why should you take on the responsibility of her/his children?”, “It won’t work – you don’t see that now and it is our job to point that out to you,” …etc., etc.

    What can you do about all these people?

    Tell your friends and family that you are an adult and can make your own decisions about what is right for you. Thank them for their concern but remind them that they made their own choices and so should you. Just because you made some bad ones in the past, doesn’t mean you need or want their help now…unless, of course, you asked of it.

    Tell your children you will always be there for them, but you want someone to be there for you when they are off living the lives they want for themselves.

    So finally, what are your options?

    1. Don’t date, because you can’t please everyone, and the pressure is too much for you.
    2. Date, but be aware of all the potential problems and remember that all relationships have issues. Now that you are older and wiser, sweat less of the small stuff and concentrate on getting to know someone differently than you may have before.
    3. Consider hiring a relationship coach to help you keep bad past experiences from becoming present experiences. Instead of dealing with what is wrong with the new relationship, they can help weed out the extended family, children interferences, and old head noise from the past while allowing the space you need to achieve the life you want…rather than the life you thought you were supposed to have!

    ~Wendy Pegan, Relationship Builder


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