6

 The doorbell rings as you adjust your make-up one more time and pray that you won’t trip in your new platform sandals. You shake your head and think “I haven’t dated in decades. What am I doing?” You take a deep breath and open the door to your date.

 There is more than a 50% chance that American adults will find themselves dating in midlife. Statistics tell us that the happily ever after marriage is not always forever. Many will face divorce and some find themselves widowed. These folks grieve, they heal and then many say, “Now what?”. They enjoyed being part of a couple and find (sometimes to their own surprise) they want to do it all again.

Dating after marriage feels far more complicated. Aside from a myriad of emotional and practical issues you deal with as you consider entering the dating world, there are the issues facing your children.

Allowing your children time to adjust to the divorce/death before bringing a new person into their lives is important regardless of how old they are. While you may be thrilled that your grieving period is over, your children will most likely take longer in their grieving process. They may need more time to heal before they can embrace the idea of someone new entering your life. This does not mean you put your own need for socialization on hold, but be sensitive to their needs. Your children do not have to know everything you do, or have input into your decisions. Dating is a grown-up decision, as is the decision to divorce. However, if your children are uncomfortable with your dating, then you can pursue relationships while your children are visiting his father or out with friends. The same goes for older children, even adult children: you don’t need to lie, but you do need to be discreet.

Forcing young children to accept a new person in your life before they are ready can create many problems. They may feel this new person will take you away from them. Or they may worry that you will “like” this person better than you like them. Sometimes young children want to be included all the time and while you can bring them on occasional outings, remember, this is YOUR friend. You need couple time, alone. Explain to your children that they have their own friends, and so do you.  If they are older, they may feel your behavior is inappropriate; for example, when the other parent is still grieving the loss of the marriage or if the parent has died and your children are still in their mourning period.

If your date turns into a something “important”, bring the children into the relationship very gradually. A child may resist a relationship because he/she feels it is disloyal to the other parent. You can be supportive by emphasizing that this new person will not be a substitute for the child’s other parent. Furthermore, assure them that your new relationship will, in no way, undermine or disrespect your child’s feelings about his father. However, if your kids resist, honor their wishes to take it slow. All of you will have years to work on forging solid relationships. Be patient.  However, on the other hand,  if they bond with this new person and it doesn’t work out, then you have to deal with all of you grieving a loss all over again!

Regardless of their age, all children implore that their parents are sensitive to issues of sex. Both young children and adult children have expressed discomfort and concern about their parent’s sexual relationships. Please be mindful that your adult children do NOT want to hear that this is the best sex you ever had! Always be aware when children are in the house and proceed in your intimate relationship with the utmost discretion.

Children hear more than we think they do. One adolescent girl shared with me that she was concerned this new man was hurting her mother as he locked the bedroom door and she heard her mother crying out. Another teenage boy, whose bedroom was adjacent to his father’s, shared his discomfort because he could hear the banging of the headboard!

This new relationship may feel like the greatest thing that ever happened to you, but chances are your children will feel differently. Both children and parents need to recognize that this discrepancy is not only acceptable, it is appropriate. Adults can have more than one spouse, but children have only one set of parents. Validate and respect your child’s feelings, but not at the cost of your own. It is one of those times when you can agree to disagree.

Be aware that your roles keep changing – wife, mother, single mother, and now girlfriend. Even though you may be ready to date, your children may feel differently. It is a balancing act; honor their needs, but not at the cost of your own. Work at doing what you need to do for yourself, while staying sensitive and open to their issues.

 

© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Marianne on the 09. Apr, 2014 remarked #

    I have been seeing a widower for 2 years now. We have a very nice, comfortable, trusting relationship. One of his two adult married children has fully accepted me, as have all his friends and other family members, which include the entire family of his late wife. They have all accepted me and have told my partner how happy they are for us. However, my partner’s other adult married child says that he isn’t ready to meet me, and doesn’t know when he will be ready. I am excluded from all of my partner’s family events whenever this person is present. I have expressed how hurt this makes me feel to my partner. What is appropriate in this sort of situation? Should my partner continue to keep me from attending his family events where everyone else will be present at, just because one of his married children ‘isn’t ready yet”? Another family event is coming up soon, and I have already been told by my partner that he will not ruin his relationship with his adult married child. What about my feelings? I understood this better a year ago as I had not met everyone yet at that time, but now one year later and I have met everyone, and they have been more than accepting of us together as a couple. This hurts me more than one could ever imagine. I feel he is not being sensitive to my feelings regarding this. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you

  2. DeAnn on the 06. Jul, 2014 remarked #

    I opted out of parenthood, so I never had the issue of bringing my kids into a relationship. I have had to deal with the men’s kids.

    Each age of kids has its own issues. Little kids blame you for the demise of their parent’s marriage and either fight or ignore you, middle school to teens let you know your just a girlfriend, not a wife or their mother, young adult kids think they don’t have to respect you, older adult kids worry that you’re going to take their inheritance.

    It was more trouble than it was worth to me. I opted out of dating men with kids of any age in 1982 when I was 27yo. I eventually found me a nice gentleman with no kids who was OK with a life with no kids For those that can do the blended family thing, more power to you.

  3. Marianne on the 08. Jul, 2014 remarked #

    Here’s an update…..I will be meeting my boyfriend’s adult married son this coming weekend at a picnic outing where all his family and close friends will be at. All I can do is be the person that I am, all the while keeping in the back of my mind that the son will come to accept us as a couple as he works thru the various stages of grief that children go thru…no matter what age they are at. My boyfriend and I have a very nice relationship, and all of his family and friends have accepted us as a couple and are happy for us! My boyfriend says ‘it’s time’ for me to meet his son.

  4. Dawn on the 07. Aug, 2014 remarked #

    Marianne, how did it go? I’m in the same boat. The oldest daughter is not ready. Her father and I have been dating 10 months and we started dating very shortly after his wife’s death. I’m trying to be understanding and patient, but it kills me that he goes to these family events and I’m not invited. I understand he needs to build a relationship with them, but it doesn’t help the hurt I feel.

    • Marianne on the 17. Aug, 2014 remarked #

      It went well. I arrived there a little late, just so everyone could get there first. I was greeted by my boyfriend’s sisters in law (his late wife’s sisters), then by everyone else there.
      I was introduced to the daughter in law first. She was very nice, quiet, but did open up to conversation. My boyfriend came over to me and took me to where his son was. He introduced us, and I waited to see if his son would shake my hand first…and he did. He was polite, and I immediately shifted the topic to his kids, and told him how cute they were. During the time I was there, I mingled with all the inlaws and friends. At the end of the day, I went up to his son and told him it was nice meeting him and he said the same to me. The next morning I received multiple text messages from those who were at the picnic telling me how well they all thought things went. My boyfriend also felt it went very well. It’s a slow process, but hang in there. I am also a widow, and in cases where ther were strong bonds in the previous marriage, it takes a lot of time and patience. If you love him as I do my boyfriend, you will hang in there, but stress to him that meeting in a large group for a first meeting is a proven technique with adult married children who are holding onto that loyalty to their deceased parent. Hang in there and best of luck to you.

      • Donna Ferber on the 17. Aug, 2014 remarked #

        Thanks for your comment. It has been edited due to length but the message is the same. Patience makes a big difference!