One of the many reasons I love being a divorce website writer and dating columnist is that almost every time I meet someone new and they find out what I do, they ask me for either dating or divorce advice, or in the case of two nights ago, dating with kids advice. I love when I feel like I might have helped someone, especially a woman I met recently who was asking about dating after divorce with kids.
She started telling me how she’s been divorced for a couple years and recently met a man she is falling in love with. The only negative: her 17-year old son is not accepting mom having a boyfriend.
“Tell him he’s leaving in six months for college, so get over it,” was my initial advice. We laughed about it, because obviously I was joking. Sort of. While I think telling your children to “get over it” is harsh, I think saying something nice that is semi-equivalent to that might be appropriate.
I have to believe that this woman isn’t alone, and that countless divorced people dating after divorce with kids have gone through a time when they weren’t totally on board with the new guy (or girl.)
You could get lucky. Maybe a lot of time has passed. Maybe the other spouse in the divorce is already married again, so by the time you meet someone special, your kids are relieved and happy for you.
But if you’re in a situation dating after divorce with kids, where one or some or all of them aren’t accepting of the man/woman you now love, think about some of the things that might be going on in their heads. These include:
1. The thought of mom or dad sleeping with someone who isn’t their parent might be very disturbing to them, especially if they are teenagers who are experiencing sexual feelings for the first time.
2. They might feel insecure, that maybe you are going to give all your love to your new man (or woman) leaving little or none for them.
3. They are thinking they might be getting a new roommate, and they don’t want some guy (or girl) eating cereal in the morning with them.
4. They might still have hopes that you are getting back together with your ex, and this is the person who is preventing that.
5. They might be thinking you are the person responsible for their parents splitting up, (in other words, you were having an affair and left your spouse for this person) and they are angry and resentful about it.
6. They might still be angry about the divorce and they are taking it out on your new boyfriend (or girlfriend.)
7. The other parent might be alone and they feel sorry for him or her, so they don’t want you to have anyone either.
8. They might not give the person a chance and let first impressions make their decision. “He’s weird” or “She bugs me” are things I’ve heard kids say.
My advice for dating after divorce with kids:
Have “The Talk.” What’s “The Talk?”
Sit down with your kid or kids and say something like this.
“I want to talk to you about “so and so.” I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for you to see me with another man/woman. If I were you I’d be really freaked out and think it was weird. So, there are a couple things I really want you to know. First, So and So will never, ever take the place of the love I have for you. I love you more and more each day and nothing or no one will ever change that. EVER.
Secondly, your dad and I are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together. We are not staying apart because of So and So. We would still be apart even if I never met So and So. Third, this is someone who is making me really really happy. He is kind and good and he loves me, and I love him. When your dad and I split up, I never really thought this would happen to me again, and surprisingly so, it did. And I am so thrilled about it.
I feel like I deserve to be happy in a romantic relationship. You are all going to leave home someday and I am going to be alone. But if it works out with So and So, won’t you be happy that I have someone in my life who makes me happy after you leave home?
Lastly, put yourself in So and So’s place. He or she is a good, kind person who loves me. Can you imagine how he or she must feel, knowing that the kids of the woman (or man) he or she loves don’t accept him or her? How would that make YOU feel? Again, I love you more than anything, and I hope you will consider accepting this person who I am in love with. I know that’s hard to hear, but I think when you grow up and fall in love, you will understand.”
This should be followed by many hugs and kisses. But then, you have said all you wanted to say, and you shouldn’t have to defend yourself anymore. Don’t apologize for being happy! If they are still acting that way, it is their issue. Try to be patient and kind, but be firm and try not to let it bother you.
In closing, one last tip. This is a mistake a lot of people make, in my opinion. Here is what happens. They get this new boyfriend (or girlfriend) and they feel like you did in high school, so in love, and all they want to do is see him or her. (which is great) Right? So, every time they make plans with the kids, they invite him or her. BAD IDEA. Make sure to have plans with your kids without your new guy at times. They will appreciate that a lot.
In closing, dating after divorce with kids is tricky. It’s not easy, but it can be wonderful if you let things breathe, have patience, and try to enjoy your relationship even without the kids’ blessings. It’s sad, but a reality that you might have to compartmentalize your relationships for awhile. That’s OK! Try to have gratitude that you met such a wonderful person and focus on that.