Single Parents Dating After Divorce: Myths versus Reality
When single parents are ready to date again they face many challenges some in the form of myths about what to expect during their dating relationships. If not challenged, these myths can serve to undermine individuals and couples in nurturing their relationships. The article presents 4 myths, and does a reality check to assist singles and single parents in setting more realistic expectations for their dating experience.
How do myths get started? They're basically stories that take form as fact when they are repeated but rarely questioned by people who appear to have some authority on the subject. People make decisions and assess relationships based on myths and this can be frustrating, disappointing and even destructive. Expectations become skewed and distorted because people are influenced and guided by information that is not only untrue, but also sets ridiculous standards that are not based in reality. Myths are particularly prevalents and can be damaging when it comes to single parents dating with kids in the mix.
The challenges of dating when you already have children, are countless. The myths that couples experience in step dating are also not unlike the ones experienced in step families. And therefore having good information, fact not fiction, about what you can and should expect, is even more important. Instead of the couple enjoying the luxery of concentrating solely on each other, they have to nurture their new relationship while balancing time with kids who may be transitioning between households. They have to figure out the relationship dynamics with the kids, and be aware of the multiple missteps and pitfalls that can derail the new dating relationship. And most importantly, they have to understand that the success and sustainability of a new dating relationship is dependent on having realistic expectations, being flexible as the relationship evolves, being proactive about the challenges and understanding myth expectations versus reality.
Some of the common myths that impact on single parents dating are:
1. Myth Expectation: We should love each other's children as much as we love each other And/or we should love our partner's children as we would our own.
Reality: Just because dating single parents develop a close and loving relationship, it doesn't mean that they will instantly or ever love each other's children. Relationships take time and when kids are less than impressed when a parent starts to date, this can slow the process of becoming close and connected. Over time, as friendship and trust grow, a deeper relationship may develop between a partner and the kids, but understand it can't be manufactured just because the parents have great chemistry. Love for the kids may follow and when it does it's a huge bonus, but it should not be a condition for the adult relationship. In lieu of love, dating partners, can care for the well-being of their partner's children, and have respect for what is in their best interests. This creates a much more solid foundation for the success of the relationship and the well-being of the children involved, than the perceived need for love.
2. Myth Expectation: We'll be one big happy family, like the Brady Bunch, if we spend a lot of time together.
Reality: Kids need time to adjust to a new dating relationship and the worst thing is to throw them immediately or constantly into the mix. They may feel insecure, displaced or even threatened by the loss of time and attention because of a new love interest, so it's important to spend time alone with them and maintain the security of consistency around their schedule at home. Slowly introduce a new partner and gradually spend time together, being aware of the child's comfort level. There are distinct stages of development in transitioning into a new relationship and they are different for everyone; kids especially need to move slowly. Remember, they are not usually on the same emotional time table as the couple is
3. Myth Expectation: We need to be equal partners in co-parenting our kids.
Reality: The biological parent has the singular job of disciplining and the dating partner should act only as a friend, assuming the role of coach or mentor. It's acceptable to emotionally support a dating partner in their parenting role, but taking an active part in disciplining a partner's kids is guaranteed to inspire resistance in the child, and ultimately resentment between dating partners. It should be avoided at all costs. The issue of children and discipline should be discussed early on so there is no confusion about who is in the parental role. Most often people don't talk about these issues and just hope things will go well; but this is a recipe for disaster and can create even more confusion for the child(ren) involved.
4. Myth Expectation: Our deep love for each other and devotion to the relationship will take care of any challenges we come up against.
Reality: Single parents dating with kids in the mix face a multitude of challenges on many different levels. Although it's romantic to believe that problems and issues will work themselves out because of the power of love, the reality is the more informed couples are, the more prepared they will be to deal with inevitable hiccups. Being aware of issues, understanding the reality of myths, knowing what to anticipate and how to take action is a more effective relationship insurance policy than depending solely on the magic of love. Love is undeniably an important aspect of any relationship, but awareness, acceptance, commitment and the willingness to take the time necessary to get to know each other and to begin to appreciate what is required in a relationship that involves children, are absolutely critical ingredients for success.
The Dating Myths that single parents and singles face when children are in the mix, are but one aspect of dating after divorce. Having a reality check goes a long way towards debunking these and other myths and is an important first step in establishing more realistic expectations for your step dating relationships. As two people vision how they see things evolving over time and set realistic and developmentally appropriate expectations, they will be taking the first steps in creating happy, healthy and sustainable relationships that are good for everyone involved.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and a Licensed Relationship Coach. She founded The Step and Blended Family Institute. Yvonne coaches step dating couples with children, offers Remarriage Preparation and coaches existing stepfamilies to achieve success. To learn more about how to safeguard your step relationships or to find out more about the myths that threaten step dating relationships go to http://www.stepinstitute.ca