How do you know you are ready to date? More importantly, if you decide you are ready to date, do you share that with your children?
Those of us who share custody have an advantage when it comes to dating. It is not something we have to tell our children, as we have the ability to date on nights the children are with the other parent. But do you tell your children that you are, in fact, dating? Or maybe the correct question is, when do you tell your children that you are dating?
That question needs to be answered way before you introduce them to anyone you are dating. I don’t think it should be sprung on them all at once. Guess what? Mommy is dating, and this is Bruce.
And I do not believe they need to meet everyone you go on a date with. There is a difference between going on a date with someone and dating someone. The latter alludes to multiple dates with the same person.
I wasn’t very good at dating before I married the first time. Really, how much time did I have to date when I got married at barely 19 years of age? I wasn’t any better at it after my divorce. I actually had no interest in dating after my divorce. I was okay to just be alone the rest of my life, my plan for not getting hurt ever again.
Initially, I went out with groups of people and had groups of people over to dinner or just hung out. My children met some of these people, and yes, some of them were of the opposite sex.
It was harmless. We were all friends; there was nothing to explain to my children.
The first date I went on was with one of the men from this group of people I was going out with. It just kind of happened. In my Valentine blog, I told you how I didn’t even know I was being asked out. It felt normal, comfortable, easy. We had been out many times in our group, now it was just a smaller group, a group of two. Since we did many of the same things we did with our group, it didn’t seem like dating at first. Then as it progressed, and we were more often than not just the two of us, there was no denying we were dating. Since he had met my kids due to group events, there was no uncomfortableness of having to introduce him to them. On the other hand, I had not met his children so it was a nervous ordeal for all involved when that day came.
But even though he had met my children and they knew who he was, when he was around more often or they asked who I was out with and the answer was the same, they began to question whether I was dating him. I was honest: “yes, I think so.” But they had questions I was not ready for: was it serious? Did I love him? Was I going to marry him? (Remember, my daughter was only 5.)
A couple years later when I started dating another man, it was different. My children did not know this man, had never met him or had an opportunity to be around him. And because I do not do things without my children on my parenting days, it was quite a long time before I introduced him to my children.
I eased into it. First casually answering the question of “What are you doing?” or “Who are you with?” First the answer was “a friend,” then I gave a name. After a while, they realized they had heard that name quite often and the question was asked: “Are you dating him?”
I am not sure my children at 16 and 9 truly understood what they were asking. I just think they wanted to know if this person was becoming part of our family. Way too early for that decision to be made! But I did explain that I liked this person and enjoyed spending time with him.
Eventually they did ask if they were ever going to meet him. Tough question for me to answer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get serious, definitely didn’t want to ever get married again (famous last words!) My divorce was so painful and ugly that I never wanted anyone to get that close to me ever again. With that in mind, I didn’t think I needed to introduce the person I was dating to my children.
I, for lack of better wording, lived two separate lives, one as a single woman dating, and one as a single mom with kids keeping me very busy.
But no matter what we think, our kids are smart, sometimes too smart, and caring. My sons wanted to know so they could protect me, since now with their dad gone, they were the men and it was their job to protect. My daughter was so young that she was simply curious, and loved everyone, so this just gave her someone more to love.
I was a rare breed in that I didn’t “date” much. I enjoyed my life with my kids, and I enjoyed my friends and being in groups of people, so I guess the question of whether and when to tell my kids was a bit easier for me. Looking back, I think they were ready for me to date way before I was! So over a 6-year period, I introduced my children to two men I dated. The first they had known as a friend from the beginning, and the relationship evolved and dissolved on its own. The second was harder since they didn’t know him before I dated him. I was worried about them liking him, and him liking them. What if they liked him and then I didn’t? What if I really liked him but they didn’t? Such a different world than I ever expected to be in.
What are your thoughts on dating after divorce when you have kids? Did you date a lot? Did you tell your children? Introduce your children?