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Dating and Divorce

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.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in dating, Exercise, Uncategorized

 

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Going Off The Divorced Deep End

I am indeed very proud of the relationship I have with my kids. As a divorced dad, I’ve attempted to be more aware of specific interactions I have with them and how we work together and communicate. Yet, as much as I believe my relationship with all three is very strong, like most parents I struggle with the big picture and how to ensure that as they get older that bond is maintained. Despite my own insecurities and fears that I’ve completely messed things up, once in a while I get little hints from the universe that maybe I’m on the right path.

Recently while at the lake with my kids one of the people renting a house directly next to us came over and introduced themselves. They made a comment about how great it was to see the amount of interaction between our family. I was somewhat taken aback and thanked them for the kind words. The encounter caused me to step back and think more about the family and how we interact. We’ve been going to the lake each summer for over six years now. And as I heard the comments it made me consider how my relationship with my kids has changed and continues to evolve as they get older. We, like most, have our good days and bad. And one of the nice things about the lake 2014-05-25 11.03.49trip is we’re able to focus 100% on each other. OK, maybe 90%, but you get the point.

With one now entering her teen years and another not far behind, attempting to keep up with their needs both physically and emotionally can be a real struggle. What created a bond with my eldest six years ago is very different than it is today. Expecting her to focus 100% on her family for a week, when she is entering a social circle and is more emotionally dependent on her friendships outside the family, is frankly unrealistic.

“So Bill, what’s the point of this post?”

Awesome question. The first point of this post is to let you know that the world is watching. As a divorced dad you have a unique opportunity to change the perceptions of the divorced dad. For far too long the “dead beat dad,” “the cheating ex-husband,” “the dad who was never there for me,” has been the focus of media and TMZ. We need more examples of dad grocery shopping with the kids, coaching soccer teams, being a positive influence in their kids’ lives and jumping in 62 degree water because your son wants you to play in the lake with him. You can be that person. But it takes hard work and sacrifices. It takes shifting priorities and searching for balance; which let me tell you, is hard as hell. Oh, and you’re going to screw up. But as long as you keep your focus and keep reminding yourself that the next 10-15 years is going to go by quickly, you can motivate yourself to drop what you’re doing and be involved.

The second point is that you need to be open to changing the way you interact with your kids based on both their individual personalities and needs, but also their stage of development. This is a tough one for me as it means seriously honing in on your kids and being open to adjusting your own mind set from time to time. Doing so also means you can’t take things personally. When your thirteen-year-old blows you off to text friends back home, sometimes you have to recognize that this is an important part of his or her development and you need to work with them on boundaries and guidelines that are a win/win. Basically you have to find compromises and offer a little give and take.

The third point is, sometimes all your kids want to see is that you’re trying. Making an effort and letting them know they’re important is sometimes easier than you think. It simply takes being aware and catching yourself and sometimes forcing each other outside of your comfort zones. Make a point from time to time to let your kid know they’re the most important thing in the world to you and that you enjoy their company. Not by saying it, but by blowing off other priorities once in a while in order to give them your undivided attention, even when they’re saying they don’t want it.

What I’ve found over the past thirteen years of being a dad is that gathering up the muster to make that first jump into the lake is a struggle. It’s much easier to just watch from the shore. But I’ll tell you, once you’re in the water, you’ll find it’s even harder to get out.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Ho Ho WHOA!!!

While the title of this blog is “Life as a Divorced Dad,” a good majority of the posts I write can easily be read by parents from just about any situation with a sense of, “yup … been there.” However this particular post will most likely resonate more with divorced parents than any other.

Like most parents, we invest months of preparation, planning, spending, anticipation, anxiety, stress, sleepless nights pushing ourselves to emotional extremes culminating in few days of hurried chaos as we attempt to accomplish splendid memorable moments of holiday cheer of epic proportions for our children. (deep breath)

We then groggily wake up on the 26th with a sense of, “Whoa what just happened?” For most, the sudden contrast of calm can be a little unsettling. The pace of our lives has been ludicrous speed and it’s now come to a screeching halt. For the typical family unit there is still a sense of wholeness that accompanies these feelings as the kids play with their new toys, a pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchen and parents 2014-12-02 22.17.53attempt to begin the process of cleaning up.

But for the divorced parent, there is often a much larger sense of contrast. For a divorced parent the experience can be remarkably cold and empty, especially if they spend Christmas morning with their kids and then hand them off to the other parent the day after. We wake to a Christmas ghost town of deadly quiet as we look around the house at shreds of ribbon strewn about along with a few empty boxes and left over Santa cookies. It can very much feel like slamming into a brick wall.

Throughout the year the transition from having kids to not having kids is most likely the most difficult adjustment for everyone involved, but the holidays take it to a whole nother level. It is an experience of extremes and the emptiness of handing your children off during the holidays can be unfathomably cold for no other reason than it’s an extreme shock to the system both physically and emotionally.

As hard as it may be at first, take advantage of the quiet. Rest. Reflect. And look forward to the next time you’ll get to see your children. Send them a text and let them know you’re thinking about them. Send a picture of you enjoying a gift they got you. Let them know that even when you’re apart, they’re still with you. Some children will feel guilt for leaving a parent alone. Letting them know you’re OK will allow them to enjoy their time with the other parent, so long as you stay positive.

Remember that everything you did during the holiday rush was to ensure your children had a joyous holiday. That’s still the focus. Part of that includes time with their other parent. Know that everything you’re doing, including sitting alone on the stoop, sipping on a cup of java, you’re doing to give your children memories and relationships they’ll cherish as they get older.

You did good. And you deserve a moment of peaceful reflection. Enjoy it while you can because in a few days, you’ll start the chaos of a new year all over again.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Uncategorized

 

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So, Are You Seeing Anyone?

A common question for the divorced dad is, “are you seeing anyone?”

I’ve shied away from the topic of dating for a number of reasons. Probably the biggest is the fact that quite frankly, that’s kind of personal. However it struck me recently as I’d seen other people I know who have been divorced for a couple of years; how easy it seemed for them to just jump into a new life with a new partner and move forward.

Really? How the $&%@ did you do that?

It took me thirty-one years to find my partner. Sure a lot of that was on me. But still. That’s a long time. I was very career focused and had grown accustomed to being single. But when I met my wife I was convinced I’d found my soulmate. Then for it to all blow up in my face the way that it did, I feel a little jaded and even more cynical about relationships. So the thought of integrating another person’s life into myFatGuyCupid-300x298 own again is somewhat intimidating. Perhaps I take it all too seriously, but that feels like a big deal to me. Which is why I’m always amazed when I see other divorced dads married again or in a serious relationship after a year or so of getting divorced. Frankly it blows my mind. Kind of the same way I’m always floored when I hear that a guy has had a couple of affairs. I’m like, seriously? I had a hard enough time finding ONE woman. How the hell are you finding like, nine at the same time?!

To answer the question you’re probably asking, “why yes, I’ve dated some.” And truthfully there have been women I could see myself with. Women who represent many things I didn’t have in my marriage and whose company I very much enjoy. But here’s the thing. When you’ve gotten back into a mode where you make your own meals. Manage the house on your own. Make the bed the way you like. Pick the laundry soap you like. Wear a shirt that is completely hideous and not care. Lie on the couch for no damn good reason without fear of retribution. Manage the kids day to day on your own terms when they’re with you (albeit with some basic coordination with the ex as in my case). And basically do what you want when you want. It can be a challenge to consider the prospect of going back to a system that, in our case, didn’t work.

Listen, after a divorce, getting to a point where you feel strong as an individual and completely self reliant takes a lot of effort and is remarkably empowering. The thought of giving that up again and finding ways to balance it with leaning on someone else can be a struggle for some. That’s true whether you’re a divorced man OR woman. Let’s face it. There are many aspects about being single that are kind of cool. I like being independent. I enjoy being self reliant. I enjoy my time to myself when I can manage to get it. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be awesome to have someone to share it all with and someone to connect with. I would personally love that. But I think it’s reasonable to be somewhat skiddish and over protective of your mental state after what we’ve been through as divorced parents.

So to you guys who have managed to find your way into a new relationship. I applaud you. Would love to hear how you managed to cross that threshold. For those of you who haven’t. Don’t sweat it. Enjoy the positives of calling the shots and being independent. There are many perks. I believe if and when it’s supposed to happen it’ll happen. Until then; when someone asks, “So, are you seeing anyone,” just hold your head up high and proudly say, “Nope. Are you?”

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in dating, Divorce

 

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Too Young To Date?

Sing it with me, “She is 13 going on 29.” Honestly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to be an eleven-year-old in today’s society. The peer expectations and influences are mind blowing. The idea of dating has actually come up in our households. It’s also coming up in our daughter’s friends households and I’m sure there are different opinions in every home if not more than one. Couple that with the fact that our kids are inundated with messages on television and on-line that are down right scary; and you’ve got quite a challenge. As parents it can be difficult to stick to your guns on the topic. So I started putting some thoughts on paper and came up with 10 tips that may (or may not) help.

1. You know as well as anyone that our kids are great at making it sound like everyone else’s parents are “OK with it.” Well, trust me, they’re not. Just call and ask them. They’re likely in the same boat as you are. A goodyes relationship with your kid’s friends’ parents is golden. Support each other as much as you can. Or if nothing else, let them know the rules in YOUR house so that they’re aware because I guarantee you your daughter’s friend has said “Her dad said it’s OK.”

2. It’s OK to make your ten-year-old delete their “Vine” and “SnapChat” apps. I’m sorry, but they’re not appropriate for a nine or eleven-year-old. I don’t care who else has them. Some of the videos and images shared on these platforms are down right offensive. And I can’t think of any reason a ten-year-old would need to ensure an image is gone after a few minutes. Why go there?

3. I’m a firm believer that every kid, as much as they argue and battle, like knowing that you’re all up in their “stuff” when it comes to their personal lives. That doesn’t mean you have to be hateful about it. Just a part of it. They want to know you care enough to stick your nose in their business. I also believe whole hardily that they need and “want” us to help them say no, because on their own they feel pressured and overwhelmed. Knowing they can use us as an excuse to say no is not a bad thing. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to be mean or a jerk about it. Just subtly let them know you’re watching and involved.

4. Trust your gut, but be open to giving a little. It’s important for your eleven-year-old to learn how to interact with the opposite sex appropriately. If we can encourage boy/girl friendships and give them opportunities to learn to respect and appreciate each other as more than just the opposite sex at an early age I think it’s a win / win. Because in a couple of years their bodies and hormones are going to take over and they’re not going to be thinking straight.

5. Now more than ever you need to put aside your differences and work out a mutually agreed upon plan of
action with your ex in terms of how you’re going to approach dating and your pre-teen. If your kid knows their mom and dad are unified and that both are going to be communicating and sharing, it’s a huge coup. the-delicates-too-young-to-date-londonConversely, if they feel left to themselves to figure it out or learn that they can play mom and dad against each other, I can’t imagine it working out well.

6. It’s going to mean giving up your free time and off-nights, but be open to being there as a parental chaperone for group get togethers perhaps even along with your ex. It’ll drive your daughter crazy but as a dad (and mom), this is a great compromise; “Sure, you can go as a group to the movie, as long as I’m there too.” And if you go, don’t make a big deal about it or be an ass. Just be there.

7. Listen. Just listen. Don’t wait until it’s a big discussion or argument. Make a point of opening the floor to your kids at an early age over tea before bedtime, or at the dinner table. And just listen. You’ll be surprised at what they’re willing to share once they get rolling.

8. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t believe for a second that if you ignore it it’ll go away. Your kids are being exposed to things we didn’t see until we were much older. And I’m sorry, but you can’t protect them from what their friends are sharing and talking about. Don’t think for a second that just because you’re not talking about it that they’re not aware of it. And if you stick your heals (and head) in the sand and wait until they’re sixteen to talk about it, brother you’re going to be in for a big surprise.

9. Educate yourself. Do your best to keep up with the latest apps and what kids are talking about. Your kids find things on-line. So can you. Learn what’s influencing them. Don’t just send them off into the world without fully understanding to the best of your ability what they (and you) are up against.

10. Baby steps work best. So start now. Don’t wait until she (or he) is fifteen.

Remember, the underlying tone here is, this shouldn’t be about sex. This should be about learning how to be social on expanded fronts. That said, as a dad I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start talking to your daughter about how stupid boys get when they’re thirteen and around girls and why they get stupid. Give your daughter some perspective and teach her that she too should have as much control over a situation as anyone. It’s good to be trusting, but in some situations having your guard up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And please, PLEASE, teach your sons to respect girls. Don’t let them be stupid or ignorant just because they’re boys. That’s not an excuse. Educate them. It’s your job. Above all, don’t be stupid yourself believing that your boys and girls are perfect angels. Because they’re not. No matter how smart or good they are, they’re still going to be dealing with hormones, peer pressure and ignorance. Don’t be afraid to be the adult. And remember, every kid has a different capacity for understanding. You should know best what your child can handle.

This is a touchy subject I know. And everyone has their own opinions of what’s appropriate at what ages. But I think the more open we can be about it and the more we can stand up as parents and guide our children appropriately starting at an early age, the more chance we have of getting our kids into adulthood with an appreciation for each other. Lord knows the internet can at times send the wrong messages. We need to be there to help them decipher those messages and understand self control, boundaries and rules can be a good thing.

Good luck! We’re rootin’ for you!

 

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