• The Expert Scoop

Dating After Divorce For The Dad Who Puts His Kids First

By Laura Bonarrigo

The rules for dads around dating after divorce get tossed around in confusing and misleading ways. The problem is knowing how to balance your care and concern for your children with your emotional needs for love and companionship.

What most dads miss is the fact that there’s real healing to do from the legacy of wearing the Scarlet D

When you work on your own healing, you give your children an enormous gift. If you don’t do your work, if you bring someone new into their lives because you need any woman to help you feel whole, you’re setting yourself up to eventually having that person leave. As a result, your children will be left with even more healing to do.

Statically speaking, they too will suffer divorce working through the issues that you didn’t know to do when you could. No amount of sex or the comfort of another adult in your life can take the place of the kind of healing your heart and mind must go through after divorce. This is a big mistake most people make. Instead of doing their own work, parents leave the legacy and scars of their divorce to their kids to clean up for themselves. Here are a few basic rules for how a dad protects his kids.

Where to start with dating after divorce…

You try to keep your dating (and having sex) on the level of previous bachelorhood behavior (sneaking around during the day, in between work appointments or late at night). But mostly, when the kids are with their other parent. Remember how they weren’t allowed to see you and their mom having sex? Keep that rule in place at all times!

The pitfalls of dating as a dad

At a certain point, that person you’re having sex with is going to begin asking for more and wanting to enmesh themselves in your family life. You probably won’t be able to simply have casual relations without the demand for commitment. Commitment as a parent means, introducing your children to your lover. This is when things get more difficult because no child wants to share their dad with a lover.

When do I introduce my lover to my kids?

Some people feel they can introduce their teenagers to their lovers without too many repercussions. Others feel divorced parents should wait until their children are at least eighteen. My experience is this: when that lover can show up for you and your family – putting themselves second to being a step-parent to your children – then, and only then, do you introduce them to your kids. And that usually has to come with an engagement ring.

What could possibly go wrong?

Most divorced dads don’t get this and then find themselves with a girlfriend who’s ingratiated themselves into their kids’ lives but who shouldn’t be there. Dads who try to force this bond with their children aren’t helping themselves or their family.

Your kids will know this best. They’ll let you know they don’t feel comfortable. They won’t want to have your lover spending time with them. They’ll begin to play games and you’ll be put in the middle negotiating terms between your partner and your kids which isn’t fair to you either.

This is the cost of forcing or allowing a lover to enmesh themselves without being properly invited into the family. And your children, will break you up. Or make your lives pretty miserable replicating the fighting and drama you just left. So be careful, wise, timely, and certain before you bring your lover into the role of step-mom.

Which is why so many people will advise you to wait to bring a partner into your kids’ lives. I know this is difficult. It’s not about a date or an age, it’s about getting your healing work done. The legacy of divorce is real – your children will be left with the scars – the pain and stigma and shame of your divorce if you don’t do your work. So do your work. You deserve a healthy, happy home. And you’ll get there if you allow yourself a chance to put your family first.

Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura’s a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce School an online coaching program for those ready to shed the pain of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to lose the identity of your past, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and laurabonarrigo.com.

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