by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, LDS Psychologist
www.LDSdimension.com (FREE LDS online dating site)
In the "LDS Dating" Facebook group that I help moderate, I recently received a private message from a group member asking for some direction. Apparently, her ex husband was wanting to date again, but their teenager wasn't wanting him to and wasn't ready. Technically, whether her ex husband decides to date again or not under her control. However, the general topic is worth more attention: after divorce, when do you date again if you kids may not want you to?
My Theory and Feelings--2 sides:
This is a pretty tricky subject. My initial response is to think that the parent is the adult and should make the decision when they feel ready. The kids are the kids and they don't get to make that decision. Yes, it will often be a tough adjustment and challenge for them to adjust to mom or dad dating someone new, but as long as the choice of the new dating partner is a basically decent, respectable person, the kids will get used to it and eventually adjust and get used to it. That is one side and one perspective, which definitely has merit in some situations.
On the opposite side, what if the choice of new dating partner isn't a decent person and could act hurtful to the kids or drive a wedge between them and their parent? Obviously, this is why a choice of a new dating partner is something to be very careful with. It is definitely better to not date a new man or women that treats you and/or kids poorly--theirs or yours. This just adds damage to an already fragile situation. However, when the new dating partner is basically a good and decent person to you that would also treat your children well, things can become a little more complicated when deciding to date again or not.
During and after a divorce, it is a wise action to get your children as well as yourself some good quality psychotherapy as needed. This is will help for a healthier grieving process and offer support through the transition. When you finally feel emotionally and practically ready to date again, it is reasonable to also examine how well each of the kids have adjusted to that point and where their current emotional state is.
Assessing and Preparing Child Readiness for You to Date Again:
When you feel ready to date again, it is often best to first have a preemptive discussion with the kids. It is usually best to begin such a discussion with asking them questions to know where they are current at with the subject. Then you will better know how to direct your discussion from there as you decide how to proceed. Some possible questions to begin the discussion could include:
*What do you think about the idea of your mom/dad dating again? How would you feel about that?
*Part of moving on after divorcing is to date again and move on with your life. What do you think about that? Do you think I am ready? Do you think you are ready? How would you handle that?
*Do you miss having another man/woman around the house like before? How would you feel about me meeting someone new and dating again?
*What kind of a person do you think I should try to find someday to date? How soon should I start looking?
After gaining a basic understanding of where each child is with their readiness for you to date again, when to date again is still…100% totally up to you as the adult of when to do it. You have the ultimate responsibility as the adult. Based upon their answers to these kinds of questions, many kids are surprisingly ready and even eager for their mom or dad to find someone new. When you find such responses, deciding to date again is relatively easy and your efforts will be supported. Other reactions can be more…negative.
Handling Child Resistance
If you decide you would like to date again but you have a child that is resisting, remember that yes, ultimately, you are the parent, they are the child, You can and will hear and understand their feelings and where they are coming from. However, in the end, parents make all of the big family decisions. Firmly yet sensitively remind them of your parental role with such a decision, but that you will hear their issues, concerns, and challenges along the way. You can empathize with their difficulties during the changes and you can support and help their adjustments. However, you will be dating when you choose to do so. They do not possess a veto power.
A truly good and decent dating partner should basically treat both you and your children well. If not, please break up with that individual. If he/she does treat both you and your children well, kids usually warm up over time. Some family therapy that involves the parent and child of concern is often helpful to this effort. Perhaps consider eventually bringing in the new dating partner to therapy as well if the relationship becomes serious enough. Have some patience with your child. Even though most kids keep a permanent fantasy of their biological parents eventually reuniting, this will ease and lessen over time. Acceptance of a new relationship usually occurs with time, as the child sees how happy the new partner makes their parents, and with some opportunities to get to know each other and bond.
In short, patience and support should help your child accept your new dating partner when you choose a decent person. Just give it some time, patience, support, and good discussion. Kids are resilient, but still need to be considered and supported during such a transition. In general, apart from rare exceptions I recommend to get out there and date. Man and woman were meant to be together. Because "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18), and "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to email@example.com).