Children and Relationships

Hola Everybody,
I will submit that when things are at their most challenging is when we most need to be vigilant and most need to apply the principles we live by. All this can very easily devolve into a huge mess — or a bigger mess.

A dear friend once asked, about the following, so imma try. But remember: I don’t even own a cat!

Dating and Our Children

 Group of children looking down into camera

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
— Khalil Gibran

 

About half of marriages in the US end up in divorce. Of the half of the people who stay married, 80% state that they are unhappy in their marriages.

Think about that for a moment…

One consequence is that the odds are that you will more than likely date someone with children from a previous marriage. Personally, I have dated maybe two-three women in the past ten years who were childless. Children present yet another dynamic in newly forming romantic relationships and it is one that cannot be ignored. You have kids, you are still vital and you want to date.

At a previous job, I became the unofficial “therapist” for a select group of my co-workers until I put a stop to it (it got out of hand). One day, a co-worker came rushing into my office obviously upset.

“Do you think I have baggage, Eddie?” she asked.

I was like, Huh?

She explained that another co-worker informed her that because she had two kids, she had “baggage.” I found the idea so preposterous that I laughed, which made my co-worker cry. She had taken the observation seriously. After assuring her that any man worth her time would never see her children as “baggage,” she walked away feeling a little better, if not firmly convinced. In fact, I do think there are people who consider children as baggage. It is true.

For those of us recently divorced, we may feel that we will never love another again. Or, as my co-worker, you may feel that your “baggage” may preclude you from remarrying. Though many divorced people claim that they never want to get married again, statistics show that vast majority do remarry (proving the cliché about eternal optimism). Chances are that at some point you will feel ready to date again and will want to enter into a new relationship. As you explore the territory of new relationships, there are some questions you may find yourself asking and stages you can expect to go through.

The question put to me was thus:

How will children impact my relationships?

First off, your children, no matter what their age, are the first casualties of any failed relationship and it will take time for them to accept new ones. In order for this to happen, you need to communicate honestly and openly with them. Explain that you are beginning to date again because this is what adults do (face it: even the most ardent breeders need nookie). Most importantly, children need to know that a new relationship does not mean that you will love them any less.

At first, you may want to protect your children from confusion or anxiety by dating discretely and occasionally. Some people don’t understand that it’s not necessary to introduce every new date to their kids. Instead, you might wait until your new relationship becomes serious. It will certainly be confusing to your children if there is a parade of new people who come in and out of your life and, consequently, theirs as well.

When there is someone special in your life, explain to your children that you care about this person very much and hope they will get to know each other. Don’t expect your children to embrace your new partner as a new father or mother figure — this can make them feel guilty or disloyal to their other parent. Finally, give them time to adjust to your new relationship, and make sure that the children feel confident that they will get plenty of your love and attention, regardless of whether or not you are in a relationship.

The other side to this equation is that you will have to accept the fact that the biological mother/ father of your lover’s children will always be a part of your life. This is an inescapable and sometimes unpleasant fact. Though it may be next to impossible, you’re going to have to find a way to deal with that person. I’m always fond of saying that love ain’t a feeling, it’s an act of will. If you truly love your partner and their children, you will make that commitment work — somehow. There are so many issues here, it’s hard to stay on track, but another impact is being an effective step-parent. If you’re in a relationship with a person who has children, somewhere down the line you will have to shape the influence you will have on that child’s life. In many cases, you will called upon to act as a parent only to have to step back when the time calls for it. This is not an easy task, to say the least.

One last note: I find it offensive when women (and to a lesser extent, men) allow the romantic partners in their lives parent their children. I’m not talking about long-term, committed relationships, but relationships that phizz out after a year or so. When you commit to a relationship as a parent, you’re also committing your children to that relationship and it isn’t fair that a series of what are essentially strangers parent your children. That’s a major impact of having children: they seriously limit how you do relationships.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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