Getting back into dating after divorce can be scary enough. Thinking through the potential impacts on your children makes it even more intimidating and I’ve met plenty of people who are content to just put it off. But maybe we’re not giving our children enough credit.
My current guest, Fiona McGlynn was eleven years old when her parents divorced. Here’s how she recalls thinking about her parents dating after divorce:
I remember feeling quite upset at the time when my parents started to date, because that, to me made everything final.
I think children like to hang onto the parent trap idea.
That everything might go back to the way it was.
As I remember, that took some adjustment and there was, from my sister and I, a lot of resistance, initially.
I have to hand it to the partners who are entering a divorced family. It must be hard to enter to that kind of resistance from children for no other reason than you just represent what they’re not really interested in and it takes awhile, I think. I’m sure it’s frustrating. I hope that divorced parents and their partners know that it takes time and in time kids can adjust.
I so clearly remember my step-dad being there for me when I was 16.
I think I had my heart broken for the first time. I was just beside myself and I remember him being the first person I saw. It was 2 a.m. and I was up crying. He was the only one who heard me. He came up and sat with me and just patted me on the back and comforted me. That was a real moment of realizing I had another wonderful parent there to support me. I think those opportunities come up.
My sister and I, living with my mom, thought it was really fun to watch mom go on dates and help her get all dressed up. We loved sharing the stories from these dates she went on. A lot of the times she’d bring them back to the house and we would get to meet these really nice guys. That all felt great at the time and it wasn’t, in fact, until she met her current partner that suddenly my sister and I thought, “Oh my goodness, this isn’t a game anymore. What’s going on?” Then we had some resistance. I think when it was early on it was just really fun playing dress-up with mom before a date.
Just watching your parents go through the whole gamut of relationships is such an awesome gift to give your children in many ways, because everything I’ve learned from my parents’ relationship and divorce—for me I hope I don’t get divorced—but I know that would not be the end of the world if that ever did happen. It wouldn’t be.
I think the unknown can be scary and having seen my parents go through it, I can look at that and say, “Alright, that’s a thing that happens in life,” and I would be well setup to experience it myself.
Then, having watched them go through all of the dating, I was able to understand their thought processes about what they were looking for in a relationship.
I think we’re always looking to learn from our parents and how they’ve lived their lives. I think watching my parent’s marriage in what worked and what didn’t work for them certainly has left me with a very clear idea about what I want in my relationship with my partner.
I think one thing that I notice in my parents’ relationship that I became very cognizant of in mine is when a little bit of resentment creeps in. It’s something that you see grow over time, in all relationships, not just in a marriage—but even with friends, but you see that little seed of resentment around something and you see it grow and grow. It’s what becomes the all-encompassing tension around a relationship. I find myself very aware of that in my relationship. If there was some little bit of upset or resentment, I feel very quick to address that and have a conversation about it or get complete over it, so it doesn’t linger.
I think it’s really been a great part of our relationship.
The Divorce Coach Says
It’s easy to see how you could over-share about your dating experience with your kids but as long as you can keep it age-appropriate and they can handle it, there’s much to be said for being a role model for your kids on how to date especially if your kids are teenagers.
There’s so much they can learn from you … dating etiquette, setting your expectations, defining what you’re looking for in a relationship, getting to know someone and of course, handling the end of a relationship whether it’s your choice or the other person’s. It does mean being intentional about your dating and thinking through your choices but done right, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to guide your children.
What information about your dating life do you share with your children? How do they respond? Any guidelines you’d like to share?
Based on her experience as a child of divorce, Fiona McGlynn has written a beautiful book, i and the Great Divide, aimed at helping children understand that their parents’ divorce is not their fault.