First, let me say that I don’t believe there is one rule that fits every divorced person’s circumstance. There are a million and one variables that all need to be taken into consideration. All I can share with you is my own personal take and experience.
I had waited on writing about dating for several reasons. One of the big ones is that I had tended to go against the grain in terms of my take on dating while divorced. So I thought I’d wait until the time was right where I could judge whether or not my thinking worked or not. For me personally, it worked. After five years of divorce I have gotten married for a second time and couldn’t be happier or more optimistic. So what’s my take on dating and how does it differ from conventional thinking?
I’ve heard the rule, “wait six months before you introduce your kids to someone you’re dating.” I’ve heard the reasons as well. But here’s the thing; I disagree with many of them and here’s why.
- Conventional Rule: “You should know you’re in love and ready to marry someone before you introduce them to your kids.” Sorry, but this is, in my humble opinion, so off base and backwards. Assuming we’re talking about younger children, the person you’re going to marry and their relationship with your kids is as, if not more important than the relationship between the two of you. How you all mesh and interact as a family is going to be crucial to the success of your relationship. If you feel this relationship has some legs, to me a next logical step is to see if your kids like the person as well.You don’t have to profess that this is the person you’re going to marry. For me, finding out that a woman is nurturing and can handle the temperament of young children is a big deal. For them to see me as a parent is equally important. To have fallen in love only to learn that the kids didn’t like her or that she was abrasive with my kids would have been devastating. So how soon is too soon? In my instance I first let the kids know that I’d met someone I liked about four weeks in and introduced them in a very simple manner after about six weeks. They were then the ones who encouraged me to keep going. In short they were very much aware and a part of the process.
- Conventional Rule: “You need to protect young minds and hearts.” Yes, absolutely, this is very true. And you as the parent will know what your child is capable of handling. But here’s a reality; children will deal with loss their entire lives. Friends will move, loved ones will pass, it’s part of life. I’m not suggesting you introduce them to a new potential spouse every month. I’m saying, I think there are benefits to letting them meet someone earlier on in the relationship once you recognize there may be something there. As mentioned, you don’t have to say, “Hey kids meet your new mommy!” Keep it simple and just introduce them to a new friend. They’re not stupid. Kids are remarkably intuitive and will offer you some insights even you didn’t think of. And if it doesn’t work out, you’ll be there to help them through it and they’ll be there to help you as well.
- “You need to protect young minds and hearts Part II.” – Personally I think we can overprotect our children sometimes. I tend to be very open and honest with my kids. I don’t hide much. So the very idea of keeping that kind of a secret from them for six months; sorry, just couldn’t fathom it. And believe me, they’re not dumb. They know what’s going on. And I personally believe they’ll feel a bit of resentment knowing you kept it from them and didn’t include them.
Bottom line: dating is a part of life that each of your children will encounter. You will be there giving advice the entire time and they’ll likely ignore most of it. Here’s an opportunity for you to provide them with a lesson in real time. I believe these are amazing teaching opportunities. For your children to be able to watch you navigate dating and eventually / hopefully developing a new relationship and to experience the good and the bad with you is an amazing gift.
It was actually my daughters who set me up on Match after about six months of divorce. So they were interested in seeing me date. They even tried to set me up a few times. Throughout the five years between my divorce and 2nd marriage, my children asked me all kinds of questions about dating and the discussions we had were invaluable.
I never took dating lightly. I was never into one night stands or just dating to be in a relationship. I only dated a couple of women seriously before meeting my current wife. And the kids new about a good number of them. They saw me go through the process and learned from each one through open and honest communication. Through it, they learned that there’s more to a relationship than just attraction and getting along. And together we found a perfect match for all of us. I personally wouldn’t have handled a single instance differently.