Every day as a divorce lawyer, I see people face the sad reality that their “happily ever after” has come to a crashing end. I myself got married never expecting it would end in a divorce, with my son being raised in two households. And yet, once you re-adjust to your new life and your new identity, you come to accept what should be an obvious reality in life: there are no guarantees in anything.
Those willing to date again re-enter that scene post-divorce with a much more tainted view on relationships than those that have never married or had a spouse pass away. (By tainted, I don’t necessarily mean jaded, but it is undeniable that divorce leaves a lasting impact on someone– you can always hope for the best, but you just never know if it’s truly going to last.) And if you are a parent, you then have the added challenge of wanting to shield your kids from any further loss while still showing them that life does go on.
When dating post-divorce as a parent, it is important not to let the kids see a revolving door of people. You don’t want to send the message that people just come and go in life, and you definitely don’t want them to get attached to someone and then have that person disappear. This is known to create major attachment issues, and that is the last thing any of us want for our children.
If you can, resist the urge to introduce kids to someone you are dating for at least a few months. Then, ever so slowly, you can start to integrate the kids into some of your activities, but avoid sleepovers for awhile. I understand that these self-imposed limitations may not been easy, but you have to proceed with great caution for the sake of your kids, who will need time to adjust to the fact that you are in a relationship with someone other than their parent.
Be prepared to answer a lot of questions, and make sure you check-in regularly with your kids, especially before you start making any plans about moving in together or getting married (which should not occur until you have been together at least a year). If you need help discussing any transitions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the school’s counselor or a family therapist. You can never be too cautious when you are introducing a big change into a child’s life.
Some of my divorce clients have said that they would prefer to hold-off on dating until the kids are out of the house, and it is easy to understand why they feel this way. Once you have already disrupted your kids’ lives as part of the divorce, you may well fear creating any further drama for them. And yet, somehow most of my clients do get back out there and often remarry, thereby showing their kids that we can overcome major setbacks in life, and remain hopeful about finding love.
The fact is 80% of us will give marriage a shot at least once, even though almost half will not last. But far from becoming jaded, the experience can teach you to appreciate the good while it lasts, for as we age we also start to see that guarantees don’t exist in any aspects of our lives– not with work, health, finances or any relationship. Rather than hide these harsh realities from our children, divorce can at least open up the lines of communication so that parents can prepare their kids for the multitude of setbacks that potentially lie ahead for them.
Once you push past the pain caused by a divorce, allow yourself to appreciate all the lessons and opportunities created by this event. Hopefully, you can accept that there are no guarantees in life, and then you will find peace in simply enjoying a good thing while it lasts.