Dating after Divorce: Answering Frequently Asked Questions about Dating after Divorce
We applaud parents who are striving to maintain their child-centered divorce even when they’ve started dating again. It’s not always the easiest path, but it certainly is the most rewarding in the long-term for your children. It involves understanding and respecting your children’s needs whenever you are making decisions about your own life. As parents move beyond divorce and start thinking about the prospect of finding new relationships, there is much to take into account.
Here are some common questions we are asked and the advice we suggest.
Q: Is it OK to date when you’re separated, or should you wait until you are legally divorced?
A: It’s always better to take some time to prepare yourself before starting to date, legally divorced or not. Are you feeling clear and complete regarding your divorce? Are you emotionally comfortable and ready to move on? Did you learn the lessons you need to learn so you don’t repeat past mistakes? Dating won’t resolve anger, conflicts, and insecurities, so do the inner work first before getting out into the dating world, regardless of how long it takes. Both you — and your children — will benefit from your thoughtfulness in this regard.
Q: How long should you wait before introducing your “dates” to your children?
A: Take your time and get to know your new partner very well before introducing them to your child of any age. Children are emotionally vulnerable when new adults enter their lives, especially when they’re dating Mom or Dad. Don’t create a revolving door of new friends for your children to meet. Wait until you know this is a very special friend worthy of their attention. And then take it very slowly. Make sure you remind your children that no one will ever replace their real” Mom or Dad (unless you are justified in doing so). The transitions are a lot smoother when the new friend doesn’t come across as a new parent.
Q: On holidays, should you make an effort to try to spend time with your ex, to create a family-holiday atmosphere for your child?
A: In most cases the more time Mom and Dad spend family style with the children, the happier the kids are. If you can include your former spouse in holiday activities, even if for only a period of time, your children will appreciate that. You are modeling behavior your kids will emulate in their own lives. Give your children the gift of peace and harmony when you and your ex are together, and make it as often as possible! Special events, graduations, birthdays and holidays can be so much more enjoyable when the kids don’t have to choose between the parents they love, and those parents behave like mature adults in their presence.
Q: If you had a good relationship with your ex’s family, should you try to stay in touch?
A: You are only divorcing your former spouse, not your children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The more you can continue life routines as close to normal, the easier the transition for your children. Make every effort to maintain relationships with extended family on both sides. Your children will appreciate it and thank you! So will Grandma and Granddad.
Q: How long does it take after you are divorced to start considering getting remarried?
A: Second marriages have higher divorce rates than first marriages. That’s because too many people don’t learn from their experiences and errors. Take your time in exploring the lessons and gifts from your divorce. See a counselor or join a support group for outside insights. Enjoy the dating process. When you feel you’ve sincerely let go of the baggage from the past you can then consider starting another new chapter in your life.
Q: It’s the 21st Century, do you really need to be in a committed relationship to have sex?
A: In our culture sex is entwined with deep emotions, self-respect and security issues. Casual sex can work for a period of time, but usually not for both parties simultaneously. A committed relationship is based on trust, surrender, respect, safety, responsibility, and maturity. These qualities make sex more satisfying and meaningful. People with high self-esteem usually prefer the emotional fulfillment of sex in a committed relationship. If you don’t, it’s worth spending time asking yourself why. You may discover some insights worth exploring more deeply.
Q: Do you consider the children of the person you are dating as baggage, and does that necessarily have a negative connotation?
A: Anyone who considers their date’s children as baggage should never date anyone with children. Children deserve better than to be considered an annoyance to put up with. If you’re a parent, don’t ever date someone who does not love and enjoy your children. The relationship will only deteriorate and you never want to have to choose between your children and your love partner. If you feel burdened by your children, seek counseling to help work through this challenge. Children are sensitive. When they pick up on your feelings it will create emotional pain and insecurity that no child deserves.
About the author: Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, author, and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. Her books, coaching services, co-parenting courses, valuable resources, and free book on Post-Divorce Parenting can be found at www.ChildCenteredDivorce.com.