What if we said it was okay to fall in love with two people at the same time? Marriage traditionalists might retch at the thought, but the truth is we live in a world where blended families and complicated situations rule the dating scene. Romantic comedies pitch the concept that falling in love with two people ruins relationships, but the truth is it can strengthen your bond over time and build an unbreakable foundation for a healthy future. They key is to make sure the two people you fall in love with are your significant other and his or her child.
Many parents feel like they live double lives. There’s the life they spend with their children making waffles, attending school events, and kissing bruised knees – and then there’s another world where they get to dress up, go on dates, and enjoy a night out that doesn’t end in a Disney movie. Both aspects of a parent’s life are equally important, but it can be difficult to reconcile the two separate roles of parent and lover. There is no road map to love after loss or separation, but there are steps parents (and their dates) can take to build a love life while maintaining their children as the first priority.
For Significant Others:
Children come first. Sure, you like your date, and – good news – they’re really into you too! If your date’s child calls during a romantic dinner though, they’re going to answer the phone. Part of dating a parent is getting used to the concept that their child will always come first. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you are truly serious about this person, you will adopt a similar mentality and put the well-being of their child above all else.
Check with the ex. Barring a tragic loss, your date’s ex will always be in their life. Dealing with exes is awkward (to say the least), but the truth is many exes and current partners get along well. If your date has a “type,” you might even find that he or she has selected someone you already have a lot in common with. Some current partners and exes even become best friends and co-parent together harmoniously because they are respectful of each other. Try to build goodwill if possible and never speak badly of your partner’s ex – especially in front of their child!
Be flexible. Things are going to come up and, when they do, your date will need a supportive partner to understand their schedule. Children get sick, school events come up, and life throws curveballs which are a bigger deal for parents than they would be for the rest of us. Stay calm and simply reschedule if something comes up.
You’re being judged. Yes, your date’s kids are watching you. From the moment they realize you are interested in their mom or dad, your every move is going to be scrutinized, analyzed, and turned over. Children respect their parents and expect the same caliber of attention from other people.
Don’t hide your kids. Be upfront about the fact that you have children. Potential dates will weed themselves out quickly if this isn’t a challenge they’re willing to face – and that’s good news for you. You need someone who understands your life and is capable of supporting you when things get tough. We recommend disclosing the fact that you have children as soon as possible. They are a part of you and will always be your first priority.
Take it slow. …at least in front of the kids. Introduce your date only as a friend at first by inviting him or her to a group event where there is less pressure to interact. Continue to invite your date to gatherings, but do not show any physical affection in front of the children for at least six months. Once you and your date have established your intentions and know the relationship is heading toward marriage or a long-term commitment, it’s okay to then invite your date to more intimate family events and introduce your “official” status to the kids.
Let bonding happen naturally. Telling children to “be nice” when meeting someone you are interested in puts a great deal of pressure on your child. Instead, use group settings to establish a non-threatening rapport between your child and your date and let their bond grow naturally.
Be honest. At some point, your child will have questions. The best thing to do is to simply be honest. Mom and Dad might not be together anymore, but you both still love your child as much as ever. Reassure your child that neither parent is being replaced – both parents are still around. If applicable, your child will still see both of you on the same schedule as they did previously.
The greatest joy for a single parent is to see their child and new romantic partner getting along and building their own relationship. Introducing children to dates is difficult, but over time children can form strong bonds with new parent figures, looking up to them in much the same way as they would with biological parents. It is critical to build a respectful relationship with everyone involved to create a stress-free experience for your child.
Pursuing a new relationship puts parents in a unique situation. In most cases, parents want serious relationships. Between soccer games, PTA meetings and grocery shopping there simply isn’t time for short-term flings. It is critical to locate a compatible match right from the start to avoid heartbreak, stress, or even confusion on the part of your child. To build a healthy relationship with someone who understands your child will always be your one true love, contact a matchmaking service or professional dating service with a proven track record of success. Personalized professional matchmakers can identify a quality date to guarantee parents aren’t wasting their time.