Starting over after a divorce is challenging, even more so when you have kids dealing with numerous emotional issues due to the circumstances. You spend hours, days and even years helping them work through the emotional pain, but what about your well-being? What do you do once you decide you're ready to be in a new relationship? There's no need to put your love life on the back burner until the kids are in college, you just need to follow some simple principles that will help you better navigate this time in your life and find the perfect partner.
Don't Start Dating Right Away
With your heart broken, you probably won't want to start dating during the first few months as a newly single man. Depending on how long you were in your marriage, you may not find yourself in any rush to join the dating scene, especially when you're juggling the kids' school events with your own work and social life. A good rule of thumb is to wait six months. This gives the kids some time to realize dad and mom aren't getting back together, while allowing you time to regroup and decide what you're looking for in a woman.
Photo by Ian D. Keating via Flickr
Do Discuss Your Need to Date
When you've decided it's time to jump back into the dating game, you need to explain this to your kids first. Family Education suggests you start with a reminder that you love them
and they'll always take priority in your life. Then tell them you need to spend time with other adults, just as they need to spend time with their peers.
Don't Introduce Your New Partner Immediately
Once you've gone on a few dates with someone and are ready to invest in a relationship with them, it's natural to want to introduce her to the kids. However, it's better to wait until you're really committed so emotional ties don't form only to be broken soon after.
Do Prepare Your Kids for Their First Meeting
Introducing your kids to your new girlfriend cold turkey is a recipe for disaster. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests telling your kids some facts about your partner
. She's a veterinarian and loves animals, she has two cats and a dog, her favorite dessert is a chocolate milkshake...etc. Also give your children some options about the meeting. Do they want to get to know each other at the local pizza joint or go mini golfing instead? Make them feel as involved in the planning as possible so they are comfortable.
Don't Let the Kids Get Prematurely Attached
If you break up, it will be hard on you, but worse on the kids if they're attached to your partner. Depending on their ages, they may not fully understand that daddy's girlfriend won't be taking them shopping or reading them bedtime stories anymore. Doctor Phil says kids get attached very easily, so it's best to hold out on allowing them to develop a deep relationship with your new partner.
Do Send Your New Love Appropriate Gifts
As you start this new chapter of your life, it's natural to want to shower your new girlfriend with gifts, especially if you feel like you're neglecting her in favor of your kids. It's easy to be so focused on their wants and feelings that you get a little behind in the love department. While in the getting-to-know-you stages of a relationship, small gifts are best. For example, deliver flowers
to her work, or send her a "thinking of you" card with a gift card to her favorite coffee shop or bookstore inside. None of these gifts will break the bank or give her an idea that a ring is in the immediate future, but they will convey the thoughtfulness you want to express.