Even just thinking about dating after divorce can fill you with dread, since the idea of getting back into the dating world after years of marriage seems daunting at the very best.
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That aside, chances are you will want to re-enter the dating pool after getting a divorce at some point, like most divorced people. The good news is that post-divorce dating doesn’t have to be overly complicated or scary, even if you have children.
Try the following six timeless tips to get back into the dating scene after your divorce in the most seamless way possible.
1. For Your Children
Explain your dating to your children in an age-appropriate way
What you should say to your children once you start dating again depends on their ages and relative maturity. While you’re the best judge of what to tell them, check out the development stage suggestions below for some help.
- For infants and toddlers, keep it very simple. Refer to the person you’re seeing as a friend; for example, “I’m going to see my friend, and I’ll be back soon.”
- With preschoolers, around the ages of three to five, still refer to the person as a friend but add more information to help alleviate fears, such as about how long you’ll be gone.
- If your child falls within the aged six to ten category, you can offer more information and should have a more in-depth conversation. For example, you can say you’re going to dinner with a person you met at work.
- With pre-teens and young teens, you can approach the topic of dating after divorce and use the word, “date.” At this age, children have an idea of what dating is. You can say, for instance, that you’re going with [the person’s name] for a date on Saturday and ask your child how he or she feels about you beginning to date. Note that you’re not asking for permission here, as that’s not healthy or appropriate, but starting a discussion that will probably be ongoing and giving your child a chance to talk about what they are feeling.
- For teens aged 15 and up, it’s important to be completely honest. For example, you can tell your teen you’re ready to start dating and ask how they feel about it. While having an open discussion is best, remember that you are still your teen’s parent and not their best friend.
Remember that each child will have their own reaction to your dating divorce. There is some post-divorce dating research available that covers some of the more common responses. The Huffington Post, for example, reports a 20-year study found that children tend to feel threatened by a parent’s new relationship, even if they’re older kids.
Any hope of you getting back with your ex will be dashed for your child once you start dating, and your children may experience loyalty conflicts between your new partner and their other parent later down the road.
Negative effects of your post-divorce dating on your children, however, are often temporary, and there are positives to consider. If you’re happier and in a better mood, that’s something your child will notice. Your child will get a role model in the form of a happy relationship between adults and new people who care.
2. Wait Until The Relationship Is Serious Before Making Introductions
Your child doesn’t need to meet every single person you date. In fact, that can be confusing and add to the feelings of instability your child is already feeling due to the life changes they experienced because of the divorce.
Generally speaking, you should wait until you consider the relationship to be serious before introducing your children to your new partner. This also avoids putting your children through a roller coaster of rejection and loss if you have brief relationships that don’t pan out at first and gives your new partner and your children a chance to adjust when things are going well.
3. Don’t Date Until You’re Ready
There is no golden time to begin dating after a divorce. Everyone is different, and your circumstances factor into when the “right time” is, too. According to WebMD, some people may need months, while others should wait a year or more after a divorce to date again.
At the very least, you should be no longer concerned with your ex’s relationship status and okay with moving out of your comfort zone before starting to date.
4. Listen To Your Children
If your children don’t like who you are dating, take the time to hear their concerns and consider what they’re saying. This can be tricky, because your children may naturally decide to “dislike” your new partner no matter who the person is or what they do.
On the other hand, they may have legitimate reasons to dislike your new partner and reasons you need to take seriously. Your children deserve to be safe and comfortable in your home, so if you learn your new partner is doing anything on the list below, investigate the matter further.
- Taking on a disciplinarian role.
- Teasing in inappropriate ways.
- Offering unsolicited advice or prying/interfering.
- Using nicknames your child dislikes.
- Interacting or touching your child in ways they find uncomfortable, regardless of how “innocent” it seems. This includes wrestling and tickling.
- Entering your child’s private space or room without permission.
- Discussing inappropriate matters or subjects with your child.
- Trying to coerce your child into anything they don’t want to do.
Bear in mind that you should never ask your child for permission to date. This is your decision that you alone must make, as putting your child into a parental decision maker role is simply not healthy for either one of you.
5. For Your Co-Parent
You don’t have to tell your co-parent about your casual dates, but you should let them know when you’re going to introduce a serious partner to your children. This is both for common courtesy and for safety, as all parents want to know when their children are being exposed to different, new adults.
If your co-parent is dating as well, remember that you don’t have to like their new partner. All that you need to know is that the new person is providing a safe environment for your children and treating them well.
Just as your co-parent has no say in whom you choose to date, you don’t have a say in who they decide to date. It is, however, reasonable to ask to meet the new person your co-parent is dating if they are going to be around your children, and your co-parent should readily oblige.
Enjoy your time in the dating world post-divorce, and don’t forget that you’re not required to enter another serious relationship until you’re ready and willing! It’s a scary time, but following the tips above should certainly help.