Confessions of a Divorced Dad: Dating And The Divorced Dad
There is no simple answer to that. It differs from person to person based on a variety of factors.
But one universal truth is --DON'T RUSH INTO ANYTHING!
The death of a marriage is just that -- a death -- for you, your spouse and your children. It requires a grieving process. And you cannot help a child grieve this loss if you refuse to got through the process yourself.
Recently divorced or separated men and women rush back into dating dating for a varity of reasons. Some want to "stick it to" their ex. Some feel the need to prove they are still desirable to the opposite sex. Some are just terrified of being alone, while others just want to hide or dull the pain of the breakup.
None of these are good reasons to start dating again and all are almost guaranteed to lead to additional heartache for yourself, the person you date and, most importantly, your child.
Here are some additional keys to dating that divorced parents need to keep in mind to avoid emotional land mines.
Don't Look For Freulein Maria: Let's face it, Julie Andrews is the poster child for step-mothers. But if you start dating in the hopes of finding a step-mother for your children, you are in for a world of hurt. Remember, you are DATING. You are not wife-shopping and you are not looking for a nanny. If it happens that relationship blossoms and possibly leads to marriage, it has to be natural. It cannot be your goal or else you will be disappointed and she will be resentful.
Enjoy the dating process and keep things easy and light.
Do Not Go On Dates During Your Time With The Kids: This is mostly directed toward the parents the children are not living with but can apply to all parents. Your time with your children is precious. The minute you tell kids you are getting a babysitter so you can go out on a date, it immediately tells them they are not your top priority. This is a HUGE land mine and one that is easily avoidable.
Your Kids Do Not Have To Meet Every Person You Date: While it is important for you to be honest with your dates about being a parent, they don't all have to meet your kids. You have to remember, no matter what they may say out loud, parents splitting up is a traumatic event. They are fragile.
And in their eyes, every person you date is a potential step-parent. Hold off on introducing someone to your children until you feel like the relationship is really going somewhere.
Talk You Your Kids About The Person You Are Dating: If your kids are old enough, spend a little time when you are alone with them talking about the person you are dating. Get some feedback. Kids are pretty good judges of character. You don't need your kids' permission to date. But if you plan to get serious with someone, you'd better make sure your children are on board. If they balk at a person it may be a sign they are feeling neglected and need some more "special" time with you. Pay attention to the signs. Which brings us to ....
Don't Bring Your Children On Dates Until Wedding Bells Are In The Air: You know how badly it hurts when you break up with someone you are in love with? It hurts children 100 times more. And if they fall in love with the person you are dating and then you break up, they will be crushed.
With that in mind, steer clear of the family outings until you are pretty sure this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Take things very slow. And along those same lines:
No Overnight Dates While the Kids Are With You: No, no, no. It sends all kinds of mixed signals to the kids and it sets a bad example. Trust me, when your kids are 15 and start talking about having sex and they bring up YOUR overnights, you'll wish you had listened to me.
Don't Ask Your Kids About Who The Other Parent Is Dating: This is beyond not cool. And finally...
Learn As Much As Possible About The Person You Are Dating Before Bringing Them Around Your Children: As questions, get information, Google the person, do a CORI check if need be. You are responsible for the physical and emotional well being of your kids and that is FAR more important than your personal happiness. Before bringing anyone, male or female, into their lives, you have an obligation to make sure they are safe.
Bill Gilman is a 48-year-old divorced father of two sons, ages 23 and 21. He has been a divorced dad for 19 years and has been married to his present wife for 15 years.