By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Dating after divorce can be challenging for many parents who have been out of the market for some time. But it’s even more challenging for your children. It’s only natural for them to be resistant to any new partner you bring into their lives. And sometimes they can be downright belligerent to keep you from dating post-divorce.
No matter how much you love your kids, they can represent obstacles to your future love life. This is a reality whether your divorce was relatively painless or high conflict. As a parent you don’t want to create more emotional drama or trauma for your children. You want to protect them from unnecessary conflict and competition for your attention. When you introduce a new partner, especially one who may be a parental figure in the future, be prepared. It’s not surprising that kids will want to express their feelings, test their power over you, and play games to sabotage your success.
Acting Crude and Rude
When kids are not ready or comfortable about your dating, there are many ways they can undermine your relationships. Remember, timing is important. If you bring a partner home too soon your children may act out in several ways to show their disapproval. This can often show up as anger. If they’re still hoping you and their other parent will still somehow get back together again, that belief can accelerate sabotaging behaviors.
Even long after your divorce children can demonstrate rude or crude behavior to discourage your new relationship. If they feel threatened by your partner replacing their other parent, life can become quite intense and awkward. They may try to make your date feel unwelcome. Your kids won’t care about hurting their feelings in the process.
Pretending Illness and Pain
Some children play sick to distract you from dating and developing a social life. Even with a babysitter on board, they may start crying or complaining of a stomach ache to keep you from leaving. If you’re at home with a partner they can create other sabotaging behaviors. This may include constant demands for attention, not falling asleep or unexplained pains. All to distract you from spending time with your date. Children get a sense of power when they can keep you away from a new love interest.
Comparisons and False Compliments
Children are not known for their tact. When it comes to making your new partner feel unwelcome, they use many strategies to get the job done. Often, they’ll make negative comparisons to their other parent, stating out loud that Mom or Dad is better looking, nicer, smarter, etc.
They may also make comments to create discomfort for the new “intruder”: their weight, looks, athletic ability. Whatever works at the time. Their goal is to break up the relationship. To get you back on board focused exclusively on them – and possibly their other parent.
Children between the ages of 9 and 14 seem to show the most resistance to new parental relationships after divorce. They need time as well as your patience. Most important, they need the security of knowing how much you love them. Be honest about your desire to date, meet other people and develop a happy relationship with someone new. Your children are looking for safety and stability after going through the divorce experience with you. The more secure they feel, the more easily they will accept your moving on. Take it slowly and don’t be impatient with the process of acceptance.
Also keep this in mind. The more their other parent is in their lives, the easier it is for children to accept another partner in your life. Remind them no one will ever replace their Mom or Dad. Your new partner will be there to enhance your happiness and add to their life. But no one will take the place of the other parent they love.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach as well as a Dating & Relationships Coach. She is the Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents and author of 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60! Rosalind is also an expert contributor to numerous divorce, parenting, singles and relationship website and blogs. For her free ebook on divorce and parenting issues visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com. Her free ebook on dating and relationship success can be found at www.womendatingafter40.com.