When asked what she wishes her mom would do differently while dating, Rachel, a smart young graduate student, replied, “I wish she would recognize her own impulsivity and emotional rollercoaster.She does and says things without recognizing that to some extent our whole family is dating this guy.This year I came home four times from college and he was in town every single time.
’ Yes, well, that’s because you were with your boy.” Dating for two is difficult; dating in a crowd is downright complicated.
The kids are engaged, at least on some level, even when you don’t think they are.
And everyone has strong emotions and opinions about who is involved and what the outcome might be. Here are a number of dating “best practices” for single parents: 1.
Realize that you’re not just forming a relationship; you’re creating a family.
When kids predate dating, the couple’s relationship inherently creates competing attachments.
The choice to be with the dating partner or children generally means the other is left waiting … Even before dating, single parents begin a series of conversations with their children that ask, “What if I began dating? ” Periodically, they engage the conversation again and again: “What if Sara and I began dating regularly?
and wondering how their relationship with you is being influenced by your relationship with the other. ” “What if John’s kids came over every Friday through the summer? ” Each dialogue is both assessment (How are my kids feeling about these possibilities and realities?
In addition, children commonly feel some insecurity by mom or dad’s relationship with another person. ) and intervention as it prepares them for what might happen.
Wise singles recognize this important dynamic and don’t assume that becoming a couple necessarily means that they can become a family. Parents who begin dating quickly after the end of a relationship (whether by death or divorce) or who reach a quick decision to marry after a brief dating period often find their children more resistant to the marriage. Smart singles take a good long look in the mirror before dating. Smart single parents don’t let their children’s emotions dictate their dating progress, but they do listen and give serious consideration to how the children are feeling (becoming a couple is up to you; whether you become a family is up to them). Teens and adult children need to move toward your dating partner at their own pace.
They attend to both and take time assessing how the potential stepfamily relationships are developing. This sabotages the ability of a stepparent and stepchild to get off on the right foot with one another and puts the family at risk. They examine their motivations for dating, fears (e.g., their children not having a father), loneliness, and unresolved hurt (e.g., after divorce). Engage in these conversations throughout your dating experience, especially in anticipation of each stage of a developing relationship. If you make it your agenda to get them to accept your partner and relationship, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. Early on your kids may meet your date, but the first few dates should primarily be about the two of you.
Instead, make opportunities for them to get to know each other, but don’t force it. At first reference your date as “a friend” or if your kids are prepared, call them your “date.” Casual introductions are fine when you start dating someone, but don’t proactively put your kids and the person together until you are pretty sure there are real possibilities for the relationship.