There will come a moment after the dust settles and your heart beings to heal that your thoughts will turn again towards love and . You will want companionship and maybe even wish to consider trying marriage again. Before you travel too far down that road, there are a few things you need to keep in mind if you are thinking about dating after divorce with children. Even though your ex is now in your rear-view mirror, your children still love – and, hopefully, still have – an ongoing relationship with their other parent. It is important to never put them in a position of feeling like they must take sides or divide their allegiance.
Steps for Those Considering Dating After Divorce With Children
These steps will help to keep the focus on your children – and set the stage for creating a successful blended family someday, if that’s your goal.
1. Be Sure You Are Ready for Dating after Divorce
The loneliness may set in before you are truly ready to date again. Do not rush into another relationship just to fill a void. Examine your motives and make sure the decision is not made from fear or even revenge. Take the necessary time to heal and remember your children, regardless of their ages, need time to process and heal as well. Introducing a new partner too soon, will bring on confusion in younger children and resentment in the older ones.
2. Lay the Groundwork for Dating
Before you actively begin looking for someone to date, introduce the idea to your children. Pick a casual, non-stressful time and start the dialogue. Obviously, if the children are very young, this might not be appropriate, but if they are a little older, and especially teenagers, tell them that you believe it is time for you to start dating again. Ask their opinions and gauge their reactions. You do not have to halt your decision if they resist, but you must be prepared for the journey to be a little rocky. When you do find someone, keep the lines of communication open. If the goal is to blend families, it is extremely important to consider their feelings and needs.
3. Include the Children in Your Activities
Obviously, you will not want them along on every date, but you should make times and schedule events where they are welcomed and invited. If they are older, do not force them to participate, but make sure they believe the invitation is genuine. One word of caution, do not take this step until you feel comfortable with your dating choice. The first date jitters should be gone and some relationship groundwork started before including the children. They should see you happy and comfortable with this person, but be mindful of displaying too much open affection in front of them at this stage.
4. Pace Yourself While Dating after Divorce
After going through the sadness and pain of a divorce, it will be exhilarating and exciting to meet someone who is really interested in you. Be careful not to rush the relationship. Do not spend all your free time with them and put your children and their needs on the back burner. This opens your children to resentment and confirms their fears that their life may once again be turned upside down. The family unit must remain your priority and the children should never be viewed as an obstacle to your new romance or feel like an outsider in their presence.
5. Expect Some Ups and Downs
Remember that you were not the only one affected by the divorce. The children not only lost one parent in the home, but also their feeling of stability in the world. Even adult children will suffer grief at the loss of their parent’s marriage. One moment they will want you to be happy and move on, and the next they will be sad, or even angry, at the changes forced upon them. Also keep in mind their loyalty to the other parent. They will often become confused and conflicted if they truly like your new partner, but see pain if their other parent is upset about your decision. Do not expect too much from them and allow them time and space to sort out their feelings. Be sure to also objectively measure your new partner’s attitude and connection with your children. There may be some adjustment time involved with them as well, just make sure your children are always treated with respect.
Moving forward with your life and dating after divorce is very challenging. Desiring a new companion is natural and will eventually happen. This time around there is more to consider; when there are children involved there must be more time and thought put in to the entire process. If the goal is to re-marry, then the stepfamily dynamic will be a reality and it starts way before a new marriage, it begins in the dating process. The steps you take, along with the patience and time invested at the beginning, will go a long way to a peaceful and successful blended family.