Author wishes to remain anonymous
Suddenly single lonesome nights beget thoughts of getting back out there. Whether you have been kicked to the curb for cause or the romance died of natural causes you are back in a world that may have changed significantly since the last time you were single. Selecting from social media options to vast to discuss here, returning to the bar scene, the attractive person from work, or the potential perfect person that your mother, friend, or relative has in mind for you are all on the list.
There are a number of things to consider before taking the jump. First, you are either beginning, in the middle of, or have just finished one of the most emotional events of a lifetime. Yes tough guy…I said that this will be, is, or was emotional for you. Many experts compare divorce to the death of a loved one in terms of the emotional toll that this event takes on most people. Everyone’s experience is different but realizing this and trying to understand how divorce is or has reshaped you deserves some time and effort on your part before blindly diving into the deep end of the dating pool.
The second most important thing is children. I say second only because if you’re not right they won’t be. Don’t be tempted to include them in your dating life. It is hard enough for them to deal with the fact that you and mom are not together anymore much less have them help you cull through options while finding someone new. Bear in mind that you may hear about mom’s new boyfriend from your kids but resist the urge to compete with her and do yourself and the kids a favor by keeping your love life to yourself. Always honor your visitation commitments. Blowing your kids off for a date is unacceptable and any woman worth your time will understand how important time spent with children is.
It is not uncommon for most people, both men and women, to have one or more transitional relationships. This is one of the primary reasons to keep the kids out of the line of fire. One night stands are not recommended and may never happen but don’t be surprised if a couple of cocktails lead to a fabulous evening of mutual ex-trashing and a late night in someone’s bedroom. Sometimes when two people are hurting it feels better to express yourself with a member of the opposite sex. Remember to be prepared: you know where the closest Walgreens is and be sure to have the Uber App on your phone. And by the way…a gentleman would pay for her Uber too.
So now that the uncomfortable possibility of the one night stand is out of the way the more common transitional relationship may be with someone just like you. Divorcing or divorced, kids, job, bills, ex, etc. Finding a match in divorceland is much more difficult than finding a match in the real world. Several things to know. First…give the girl a break. Second, single mothers have it way harder that you do. If you have your kids every other weekend and Wednesday nights for dinner she likely has the parenting flipside. Once you have your kids for a week while your ex is on vacation you will understand how tough your new gal pals life may be. You may find a nice girl that you feel an attraction with but navigating all of the complexities of single adult life can make it hard to make a relationship grow. Third, this is the primary reason to keep the kids in the background. It may take several tries, for varying lengths of time, to find love again if that is what you are looking for. Waiting at least six months and a gentle introduction at a neutral location is the only way to move forward in the transitional world. Your kids may become more attached to someone new than you do and it may be hard for them to go through separation again if a relationship doesn’t last.
Neutral options include an outing of some kind that is somewhat kid focused, where the activity is not too competitive and is age appropriate. It’s better to introduce yourself to her kids first to get an idea of what you may be dealing with when it is time for all the kids to meet. This will give you some insight into how she parents and give you an opportunity to see just how consistent your parenting styles may be.
As a general rule something like cosmic bowling is better than a movie. Keep a respectful distance from your girlfriend and try to interact with her kids more like an uncle than a dad. Keep the first meeting short and sweet and it may be preferable to meet them at the activity location rather than to all travel together. Cosmic bowling is only one suggestion but if you find the activity successiful you may want to rinse and repeat with your kids as both you and your girlfriend will have some expectations about how the date will go.
Some people are bent on blending early and this can be difficult! Getting both sets of kids together from the get go is not the cautious approach. Picking the activity that is age dependent may be difficult if one set of kids ages are considerably different than that the other. Cosmic bowling is still better that a movie but a big age difference may lead to unwanted competition and some difficulty between the kids. Try to keep everybody separated to some degree and in this case it’s ok for everyone to get a participation trophy. In this situation remember to be a dad to your kids and an uncle to your girlfriend. Keep any affection to a minimum…especially if you have daughters. Remember that you loved them and they loved you first! It’s going to be difficult for them to process this new relationship and there should be strict boundaries when it comes to any display of affection.
Make sure to compare notes with your girlfriend soon after the event. She may have viewed things much differently than you did so pay attention! Make sure that you reassure her about your feelings for her as she is not used to you behaving towards her like her uncle. There may be some natural competition between the two of you regarding all of the kids and that is pretty normal. I suggest trying to get to a point where you can treat her kids like your nieces and nephews…you love them but just not as much as you love your own.
There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to meet the girl of your dreams but it is just a little more difficult with kids in tow. The eventual blending of families is successful for many couples but remember that visions of the Brady Bunch are a bit unrealistic. This may take a few attempts but there is likely someone out there that you can make happy and will make you happy kids and all!