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Dating After a Divorce
Finding true love again after your first marriage ended in divorce can feel like a second chance at happiness. So be sure to give this new love in your life room to feel included in family activities.
- Are you divorced with kids and dating someone new?
- Are you feeling hopeful about this relationship, but you're not sure how to introduce this person to your children from your previous marriage?
- Are you wondering how to help your new partner feel welcome in your family?
As a woman happily married to a man with a child from a previous marriage, I understand the unique challenges of trying to bring a blended family together.
These tips about remarriage, stepchildren, and stepparenting are gathered from my own experience and from insights from marriage counsellors, relationship experts, and parenting specialists.
Listen. Talk to your partner and find out what would make him or her feel included. Making people feel included starts with asking them how they feel and then honoring their perspectives. Listening to your partner isn't just good advice for blended families and second marriages. It's good advice for anyone who wants to have a stronger, more loving, and intimate relationship with their partner or spouse.
Be flexible. Make room for new routines, without disrupting too many of the old ones. When a new person enters your life and becomes part of your family, it's inevitable that some routines may change. If your new partner has a full-time job, volunteers in the community, or goes to school part-time, his or her schedule may bump up against some of the established routines you have with your kids.
Learning how to cope with change is a part of life. Children shouldn't expect to have everyone’s timetables revolve around theirs. Finding a way to work through scheduling challenges as a family takes patience, compromise, and self-awareness. Some schedules, such as school and sports activities, may be non-negotiable, but moving the regular family dinner from a Sunday to a Monday so that everyone can be present is not an unreasonable request.
Stand back once in a while. When you feel that the person you're dating is “the one,” encourage your new partner and your children to start spending time together one-to-one and as part of bigger group activities. Avoid the need to constantly check in and see how everyone is doing. Try not to manage the one-to-one activities that your new partner and children do together. Don’t hover. Treat your new partner and your children as capable, creative, assertive people who will find their own ways to connect and bond.
Would you date someone who was separated but not yet divorced?
Most important is the recognition that stepparenting is different from primary parenting. It can be just as satisfying, it can be a reciprocally loving and caring relationship between parent and child, and it can provide some very good moments when it works, but it is different. -- Clare Berman, author of Making It As a Stepparent
Stepfamily statistics (USA):
- 1300 new stepfamilies are formed every day.
- Over 50% of US families are remarried or re-coupled.
- 30 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and that parent's current partner.
Source: The Stepfamily Foundation
Give teens and tweens some space. Give older kids space and time to connect with your new partner on their own terms. Older kids sometimes struggle with adjusting to a new family dynamic. The teenage years, even in the strongest and most loving families, can be hard. Adolescence is the time in life when young people start coming into their own, often challenging authority and testing boundaries.
As teens become more independent and less reliant on their parents to entertain them, family activities may feel 'uncool' to a teenager who just wants to hang out with his/her friends. In this case, it's not about you or your new partner. It's just a common phase that many teens go through. Don't take it personally.
Find ways to interact with tweens and teens on their terms instead of making them participate in shared family activities they don’t want to do. It's OK to ask your teens and tweens to participate in some family activities because it's important to teach them good manners and positive social skills. Encourage tweens and teens to choose an activity that they’d like to do to make your new partner feel included in the family.
Be patient. Be realistic about how long it will take for the people you care about to start feeling like a new family. Successfully bringing blended families together takes time. Not every activity, every interaction, or every conversation will go smoothly. There aren't many families, whether biological or blended, that don't have some sort of conflict or disagreement from time to time. Biological families are not perfect, so don’t expect your blended family to be perfect either. Give everyone time to get to know one another. Be patient while everyone works to finds common interests.
How long do you think you should wait before you introduce a new partner to your children?
© 2014 Sadie Holloway