By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
I applaud parents who are striving to create a Child-Centered Divorce. It’s not always the easiest path, but it certainly is the most rewarding in the long-term for your children. It involves understanding and respecting your children’s needs whenever you are making decisions about your own life. This includes all facets of co-parenting. It also moves into decisions about starting over and dating after divorce.
As parents move beyond divorce and start thinking about the prospect of finding new relationships, there is much to take into account.
When it comes to issues related to dating after divorce, here are some common questions I am asked and the advice I suggest.
Is it ok to date when you’re separated, or should you wait until you are legally divorced?
It’s always better to take some time to prepare yourself before starting to date – legally divorced or not. Are you feeling clear and complete regarding your divorce? Are you emotionally comfortable and ready to move on? Did you learn the lessons you need to learn so you don’t repeat past mistakes? Dating won’t resolve anger issues, unresolved conflicts and insecurities. It’s crucial that you do the inner work first. Find the answers, work things out in your mind and heart before moving on into the dating world – regardless of how long it takes.
How long should you wait before introducing your “dates” to your children?
Take your time and get to know your new partner very well before introducing them to your child of any age. Children are emotionally vulnerable when new adults enter their lives, especially when they’re dating Mom or Dad. Don’t create a revolving door of “new friends” for your children to meet. Wait until you know this is a very special friend worthy of their attention. And then take it very slowly.
Make sure you remind your children that no one will ever replace their “real” Mom or Dad (unless you are justified in doing so). The transitions are a lot smoother when the new “friend” doesn’t come across as a new “parent.”
Test the waters with short meetings. Ask your kids how they like your “friend” and really listen to their responses. Never force the issue. Take your time with these introductions. And never get into a relationship with someone who doesn’t like kids, doesn’t like YOUR kids or competes for your attention around the kids!
On holidays, should you make an effort to try to spend time with your ex, to create a family-holiday atmosphere for your child?
In most cases the more time Mom and Dad spend “family style” with the children, the happier the kids are. But not every divorced parent is comfortable with that situation. If you can include your former spouse in holiday activities – even if for only a period of time – your children will appreciate that. You are modeling behavior your kids will emulate in their own lives. If it’s not a good fit, make sure the kids spend special holiday time with their other parent. Give your children the gift of peace and harmony when you and your ex are together. Make it as often as it works well, respecting everyone’s comfort levels!
Special events, graduations, birthdays and holidays can be so much more enjoyable when the kids don’t have to choose between the parents they love. And especially when those parents behave like mature adults in their presence.
If you had a good relationship with your ex’s family, should you try to stay in touch?
You are only divorcing your former spouse, not your children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The more you can continue life routines as close to normal, the easier the transition for your children. Make every effort to maintain relationships with extended family on both sides. Your children will appreciate it and thank you! So will Grandma and Granddad.
How long should you wait after you are divorced to start considering getting remarried?
Second marriages have higher divorce rates than first marriages. That’s because too many people don’t learn from their experiences and errors. Take your time in exploring the lessons and “gifts” from your divorce. See a counselor or coach. Join a support group for new pathways and options available to you. Enjoy the dating process. Make sure you’ve sincerely let go of the baggage from the past. Only then can you consider starting another new chapter in your life. And always take your children’s perspective into account. You may be in love, but are they? If your kids are not receptive to your new partner, life can be challenging. Often insights from a counselor or coach can help everyone find a path to happiness together.
What about sex? Do I really need to be in a committed relationship to enjoy intimacy again?
In our culture sex is entwined with deep emotions, self-respect and security issues. Casual sex can work for a period of time, but usually not for both parties simultaneously. A committed relationship is based on trust, surrender, respect, safety, responsibility and maturity. These qualities make sex more satisfying and meaningful. People with high self-esteem usually prefer the emotional fulfillment of sex in a committed relationship. If you don’t, make sure your partner is in emotional agreement. It’s also worth spending time asking yourself what sex and intimacy mean to you. You may discover some insights worth exploring more deeply.
Do you consider the children of the person you are dating as baggage? Does the person you are dating think that way?
Anyone who considers their date’s children as baggage should never date anyone with children. Children deserve better than to be considered an annoyance to put up with. If you’re a parent, don’t ever date someone who does not love and enjoy your children. The relationship will only deteriorate. And you never want to have to choose between your children and your love partner. If you feel burdened by your children, seek counseling to help work through this challenge. Children are sensitive. When they pick up on your feelings it will create emotional pain and insecurity that no child deserves.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, and learn about her coaching services, programs and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit https://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca. All rights reserved.