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Dating When you are Divorced and with Children
The end of a marriage and the consequent process of a divorce can be traumatic enough to put a man or woman off the thought of ever dating again. But if there are kids in the scene, going out to meet new singles seems completely out of the question. And yet going back to dating post-divorce is a healthy sign that you are moving on. There are some challenges and rewards of dating when you are divorced and with children.
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The primary obstacle to dating as a single and divorced parent is lack of time. You may want to go out for an evening of fun and frolic and even have fixed up a date, but there are more than a hundred things at home waiting to claim your attention – dinner has to be made, homework to be supervised, the groceries to be bought and most importantly a babysitter to be arranged. If indeed you manage to breeze through all these requirements and still go out for the evening only to discover that your date was a miserable experience, it all seems such a waste. And enough to put away any further thoughts of dating for some time. So be choosy about whom you are going to meet. Remember time is at a premium and you simply cannot afford to waste it by dating the ‘may-bes’ and ‘lets-give-it-a-trys’. Rather get to know your potential dates a little over the phone or email. Find out if they are indeed what you are looking for; if yes, go ahead with fixing up a date and if no, keep looking.
The convention of an evening date with a movie and dinner is pretty hard on single, divorced parents who have to juggle kids, household chores and a job. So instead of spending an entire evening on a man or woman who ends up boring you to tears, go for mini-dates in order to get a feel of how it would be to go out with him/her. Arrange to meet this person for a cup of coffee on a day when you can get off early from work. Or call him/her up and ask if he/she would like to grab a bite with you during lunch break. In fact if find out that you both live in the same area, you could also arrange to meet him/her while you go for your early morning jog or do your shopping at the supermarket. Make use of these small opportunities to sound out a potential partner and then if you feel you want to know them better, by all means go on to a full-fledged date.
If you have been lucky enough to find a partner you want to date exclusively, having kids at home can add an extra layer of challenge. Not only is your dating life vulnerable to sudden illnesses and non-availability of trusted babysitters, but another man or woman can be pretty wary of dating a single parent who already has other areas of emotional commitment. However lying about your marital status or the fact that you have kids back home is the worst thing you can do to further your romantic attachment. Instead briefly explain your situation and point out that there may be times when you might need to cut short or cancel a date. At the same time however, give your partner undivided attention when you are with him/her. When on a date, stop worrying whether the kids have had their dinner or if they are still watching TV and avoid the temptation of ringing up the babysitter every fifteen minutes. Also refrain from recounting horror stories of your former marriage and the divorce on your first or second date. There will be time enough for that later, if and as your relationship deepens. Just try and make your date a pleasant experience for your partner; focus on having fun with each other so that both of you have something nice to take back home.
Talk to the kids
What makes dating as a Single and divorced parent different from dating as just a divorce(e) is not only that there are the kids to consider but that the kids may be still seeing their mom/dad under child-visitation rights and thus unable to accept the idea of you seeing someone else. This is the time to reassure your kids that no matter who you are seeing, you all will always be together as a family. Keep in mind that your divorce has already put the kids through a lot and in all likelihood they are still struggling with feelings of abandonment, anxiety and even guilt. Who knows they may even be harboring secret fantasies of you getting back with their ex-spouse and when they see you with someone else they realize it is not going to happen which perhaps further increases their turmoil. And if in the midst of this all, your ex-spouse comes to know of your dating again and wishes to make life difficult for you through their influence on the kids, things can seem hopeless than ever. What you can do however is to take your kids into confidence, tell them that you will always love them and try to be with them as much as possible but that at the same time you need to go out sometimes and be with ‘friends’ of your own. Avoid introducing your kids to your date unless you are sure he/she means a lot to you and you are moving towards a committed relationship. Also refrain from having your partner pick you up or drop you at home so that everyone around is spared the embarrassment of lengthy and complicated explanations.
Finally be kind to yourself
Understand that dating as a single parent is worlds apart from dating as a single or even dating as a divorced single. Don’t get caught up in unrealistic expectations from a partner who will unhesitatingly mould his/her life to your needs and priorities. But at the same time don’t shut yourself out from happier possibilities merely on account of fears that it will never work. Above all don’t look for a prospective mom or dad in your dating partner. Remember you are blessed to have loving, beautiful kids of your own and looking after them is primarily your responsibility. Strengthen your support network made of family members, neighbors and friends. Leading a fulfilling life with your kids will make you a positive, loving and mature person who is ready to look for a partner for all the right reasons.