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The Aftermath of a Broken Relationship...When You're A Single Dad

Updated on September 21, 2014

Step One: Understand and Re-Evaluate

The thought of being a relationship with a woman is so wonderful and beautiful that it’s rather easy to lose sight of what is important and what is not in your life. And your child’s life. Particularly for rebound relationships, emerging just out of a breakup with the luggage of a child, and suddenly finding someone who is there to comfort and nurture you may lead you to get carried away. You’ll want her because you’d rather live in the past and have a woman by your side, any woman. You’ll create expectations for the woman to be there always, not leave you like what happened in the previous relationship, and when she leaves you’ll end up in the same place you began. You and your child will be caught up in a cycle of trying to maintain the system of the past, always having a woman in the house. The actual woman won’t be appreciated; it’s only her physical presence that will be of value. And that’s unfair to many people: you, your child, and the woman. Understanding yourself and why you’re seeking to start a new relationship will make the next relationship seem easier and more stable and long-lasting.

How Will I Know She's "The One"?

In addition, don’t rush into the whole relationship thing because you just want someone by your side who you can turn to, regardless of who she is, or because you miss your old woman and you need someone who can stand in for her. Short relationships that are meant to do nothing for you but keep you entertained are extremely unhealthy for your family dynamic. As a single dad, it’s important to keep in mind that now, practically every decision you make will have a large impact on your children. They’re looking towards you for guidance and they need you to comfort them now that their mother isn’t here. If you’re always off looking for new relationships, your kids will be neglected and that ruins the family dynamic immensely. Additionally, when you do find that woman who you consider a perfect fit for your family, your children will be less willing to accept her, given the impression that you’re a man who changes his mind every few minutes. They need someone stable and the way you can kill the prospect of a whole and happy family in their mind, is to be off with any woman that comes your way.

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Too Fast? Too Slow?

So now you understand, it’s important not to rush but it’s also important to keep moving and not stand in a quicksand of misery for forever. But then you might ask, what is the pace? For this, there’s no one true answer. Everyone has different paces and depending on your circumstance, adjusting may take more time. It’s also important to consider your child. For example, for a young child, the idea of new and old relationships might fly over their heads. If your child is in elementary school however, the idea of a permanent loss of somebody and what it means to have a mother might settle with them firmly. Make sure that both you and the rest of your family is comfortable with the idea of having a new person in your lives before you go ahead and start looking.

Breaking the News to Your Child

However, when you do start looking and find someone who you consider to be a potential partner, how do you break the news to your child? How do you tell them that you love them and you’re not finding a replacement for their old mother? Their emotions to their mother may different vastly from your emotion to your ex-wife. As a young child, they’ll most likely have hostile reactions to the idea of a new woman entering their lives and acting like their mother. So how do you do it?

Surprise?

Sometimes, surprises are nice and a pleasant shock is appreciated. Surprising your child and introducing him or her to your new girlfriend out of the blue will most likely not be appreciated. Make sure that you pick an appropriate setting to tell the child and that you have his or her full attention. Based off of their age, tell them only what they need to know. A child is keenly perceptive so if you try to hide things, that may only make things worse when the truth is exposed. Neutral statements like “lately, I’ve been meeting this nice woman...” will be appreciated more than a sentence opener like “there’s this pretty woman who would make for a great mom...” On that note, make sure that you phrase the opening sentence in a way that doesn’t pressure the child to feel a certain way. Concentrate on the present and not the future. If you make the woman sound like she’s permanent, the child may feel hostilely towards her. Let the child know that you’re not planning on replacing the previous woman with her. Put the woman under a light that connotes friendship, rather than passionate relationship, especially the first time you confront a child about the matter.

Invite Your Child's Opinions

Most importantly, don’t forget to ask the child about what he or she thinks. Ignoring their opinions and thoughts will lead them to feel unvalued and not cherished. They will have more reason to believe that she will be the only center of your world which should not be the case. You want to build your family, not replace or create a new one and leave the old one behind. Let the child weigh in. Asking them if they’d like to meet her with you or invite them to meet your date with you will allow the child to feel as is she or he has a say in the matter. Understanding how your child feels about the situation will ease your mind as well because if it so happens that the child feels bitter, you can remediate that situation through different actions and loving words. Let the child know that if she is here to stay, she is a family member who will love both you and the child. Don’t wait to tell the kid when you know you’re head-over-heels. They should hear something about the relationship before you’ve confirmed it as love and a done deal. When you’re just beginning the relationship, give the child the time to come to terms with it. Avoid public displays of affection with the child present unless you and the woman have been going out for quite a long time. That means avoiding the overnight dates as well. Being presented with someone who just might potentially enter your child’s live and never leave will be overwhelming the kid. The child needs time to process you and the woman dating. If you wait until the very end when you and the woman have solidified your feelings already, your child will be shocked and will feel left out.

You've Got This

When things get complicated or you feel like you’re just tangling the knot more, remember the ultimate goal: happiness for both you and the rest of the family. Don’t lose sight of what you want the outcome of the relationship to be. You don’t need to rush to find a ‘replacement’ for the mother of your child but you also don’t need to wait until ten years have passed before you take your first step back into the dating world again. As a single dad, you might be viewed as “the man with all the baggage.” But, you should never let that hold you back and you should never let your child feel as though they’re baggage. They went through the process of leaving that other woman behind with you and they are now going to stay by your side as you find the next woman. They want to see you happy and you want to see them happy. Understand that dating as a single dad means you must work together with your child. Let them weigh in, and talk to them about the relationship. It can be a difficult discussion but the child, regardless of whether they’re in preschool or ninth grade, deserves to understand with who and why you’re spending so much time with. It’s the degree to which you reveal and the point of time at which you reveal that depends on the age of the child. When you introduce someone new into your life and your child’s life, your child wants to be reassured that no one will ever replace them in your heart. That is one thing that you can say explicitly. Understand yourself and understand your child. Then, you’ll begin to understand when you want to start the next relationship and with who you want to spend the rest of your life with.

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