Post-Divorce Dating When You’ve Got Kids

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The rules of dating used to be simple: wait three days before calling, don’t answer on the first ring, and you ask, you pay. You followed the rules and found the one you thought was “the one”. Then you had kids. Then you divorced. And now, naturally, you want to get back in the dating game again. Well guess what? The rules have changed.

A father hugs his sad and tired looking daughter.
Photo credit: iStock.com

After all, you’ve changed. There are kids to think of. It all seems so complicated, but it’s not impossible! Before you forfeit your shot at love again, consider these new ground rules.

Take a Break Before You Date

There’s no set of hard and fast rules, but six months to a year after divorce seems to be a good rule of thumb for getting back into the game. This means taking some time off after your divorce to consider you, your needs, and your kids’ needs.

Make a list: What have you learned? What is your vision of the future? What patterns do you want to avoid? How are you going to frame your new dating life to your kids and keep them feeling loved and secure? Refer to this list often and modify the list as you go.

Don’t Rush In

It’s going to be tempting to rush headfirst into mad love, but you’re not starring in a cheesy rom-com and now you’re not the only vulnerable one. As for introducing your new special someone to your children, wait until you are on solid ground. Three to six months may sound crazy, but think of your dating history: you’ve probably had relationships that lasted three months that, looking back now, seem like a bad dream or at least a huge mistake. 

It may seem like a long time, but in the long run, it’s time well invested in your kids’ stability.

Be Transparent

Don’t waste your time being coy. Have a frank conversation with your new romantic interest — the earlier the better — about their values and feelings when it comes to kids and family. Rather than worrying about scaring a potential mate away, think about the pitfalls you’re avoiding in addressing your issues now. This may feel a lot like negotiating a deal. That’s because it is.

Shut up and Listen 

When you do decide it’s time to date again, discuss the topic with your kids in an age-appropriate way. “I know how much you love spending time with your friends. I need to take time to make my own friendships, too.” And then sit back and listen to what your kids have to say about you dating.

Read their body language. Is your child closed, with folded arms or lack of eye contact, or is she showing vulnerability, hunched over or fidgeting?

Set Boundaries

If you have your children part time, try to schedule dates for your weekend off. While you nurture your new relationship, make sure you have alone-time, too. And once you’ve introduced your kids to your new partner, carve out time for just you and your kids.

They may feel like they’re losing you. Reassure them they’re not, but stay firm on your need for adult time. The last thing you need is for your young child to think he or she runs your social calendar.

Have Realistic Expectations

Don’t assume that two people you love are going to necessarily get along. You can be crazy about your new partner, but that doesn’t mean your children are going to bond with them (at least not right away). It doesn’t always work out that neatly.

Then there are some unofficial rules.

Let the games begin!