People say that dating after divorce is like riding a bicycle … you don’t forget how to do it. The trouble is that some of us were not very skilled at it first time around and then, dating as a parent after divorce is definitely different. More complicated.
Antonio Borello has been divorced now for over three years. During that time he’s dated a lot, he’s been in a few serious relationships and he’s learned that dating as a parent brings new considerations. Here’s Antonio:
When my divorce was final I started dating a woman that had been divorced for I think three years at that time. It was my first relationship after being married for so long, definitely an intense relationship, and one that was probably challenging for my ex-wife to deal with because she wasn’t in any type of relationship at that time.
It was very wonderful to feel those butterflies again and that excitement of dying to really like someone and dating them. It was refreshing and wonderful to know that those things were awakened and were alive within me.
I had probably dated for seven or eight months and that relationship didn’t work out. After that I was convinced it was my second chance to get this right so to speak and so I really started dating quite a bit because I wanted to be in another long term relationship.
The last relationship I was in initially started as more of a long distance relationship and when you are in a long distance relationship there’s a lot of things you don’t know such as her day-to-day activity and routine.
When you aren’t sure of something because you haven’t been in that person’s environment that much, you fill in the blanks in your head, and you usually do that in positive ways because you like the person. Then when she got here and settled in and we started to continue this relationship, there were things that just weren’t so apparent to me before.
Also she was a person that wanted to move very quickly, and introduce the kids together and my kids weren’t ready for that. That was a problem for our relationship as well.
Generally speaking, I’m interested in dating other divorced or single parents and something that’s important to me is that the person is civil and maintains a positive relationship with their ex. There are situations where the problem is all or most of it is due to one person’s issues and it makes it almost impossible to be civil with that person, but for the most part, the people that I dated they had positive relationships with their exes.
In fact, most of the women that I dated had a very good relationship with their ex-husband. Consequently, I met all of them and we were able to be at functions where the three of us were together. That wasn’t a problem because I think of it as a pre-requisite for going out with someone. I was looking for someone that could understand my situation because they were in the same type of situation.
I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to dating someone that didn’t have any type of contact or relationship with their ex, but when there are situations where there’s ongoing and current conflict – it’s not an easy situation for anyone. It was not anytime easy for the kids, not easy for someone that’s potentially a new partner and those things tend to trickle down.
My kids know that I date. I think that my son couldn’t care less but my daughter who is ten now, is a lot more possessive over me and inquisitive. It’s interesting because I don’t talk about dating or dates or friends with my kids or in front of them, and their mom does.
I think the other day I was picking up the kids, and my ex had made some mention about someone that she was supposed to go to dinner with but she didn’t want to go or she wasn’t interested. She was joking with my daughter about it. It was a very open and easy conversation that I just couldn’t imagine happening between my daughter and I because she would just be a lot more critical, I think.
It’s not that I don’t talk about dating because she knows that I do. I just probably wouldn’t be more specific with her unless I was at a point where I wanted to introduce my kids to someone because she is more possessive over me. I think one time she might have overheard me on the phone, not knowing that she was in the room, telling this person she was beautiful. I remember my daughter asking me all kinds of questions about that and I think she felt threatened by that a little bit.
The Divorce Coach Says
When you do start dating after divorce it’s important to recognize whether you’re dating for fun and to get to know yourself, or if you’re looking for a committed relationship. And if you haven’t done the work to heal from your divorce, then I recommend the former. Don’t take it too seriously and definitely don’t rush into another serious, exclusive relationship.
You are in a time of tremendous personal change and growth. Finding someone who will grow with you through this is challenging, even more so if they are also recovering from divorce.
Dating for fun will help you identify the values that are important to you, much as Antonio chose to date other divorced parents or single parents because he felt they would better understand his situation. This is very much a matter of personal choice. You could decide you’d rather date someone who’d never had children or whose children were adults because you don’t want to deal with potentially blending a family.
As with many aspects of parenting, it’s interesting to see the different approaches to handling your dating with your children.
You definitely have to consider your child’s disposition and maturity as Antonio does with his daughter, and within that, I think there’s tremendous value in being open about your dating in an age-appropriate way.
Dating is something your children will do sooner or later and you being open about your dating allows you to model healthy dating choices for your child. If you limit your dating to your non-parenting time or make no mention of it to your children, you are limiting your opportunities for conversations around what will be a key area of your child’s life.
Plus, when it does come time to introduce your new partner to your child it won’t come as a major shock or big surprise and your child won’t feel that you’ve been keeping something from them.
Dr. Antonio Borello is a psychologist and relationship therapist. He and his ex are collaborating on a book about relationships. You can follow his tweets at @eDatingDr and follow him on Facebook at Relationships 2.0.
Photo Credit: 2015© www.clipart.com