People the world over, no matter their age, race or religion, believe in romantic love. Remember the time you had your first heartbreak? I do. I called in to work sick and spent the whole day crying taking breaks in between to breath and drink an Irish whiskey and cream based liqueur, made by Gilbeys of Ireland. You probably know it better as Baileys. I was in so much pain that I thought being run over by a truck would be more bearable. I swore I would never see another guy ever and I would never be vulnerable to rejection ever again. I was done with the whole dating thing. Am pretty sure the universe was looking down on me and laughing knowing that it was only a matter of time before I found a new catch and forgot all about my pain. You see, we are all designed with the need to connect and be paired with a member of the opposite sex. That’s why people who have lost their partners from a painful divorce, death or a rejection of a girlfriend/boyfriend with whom they share a child with sooner or later come out of their pit of loss and embrace the possibility of love.
Dating a single parent is not easy, both for the single parent and the person dating the single parent. They both have complicated questions for which they require answers. The single parent wonders “how will my dating affect the bond I have with my children? Are the children ready for me to start dating? Will the person am dating love my children as their own and not harm them? How in the world will I introduce my new catch to the children, will they like him/her?
The person dating the single parent on the other hand wonders, how will I make a good impression on the kids? How the hell do I date in a crowd? (that’s dating with kids in the picture 🙂 ) If we do settle down together, what will be my role in this ready made family? What will my friends and family think of our union?
As you can see, its very complicated. In a biological family, the couple comes first. The marriage precedes the family and it is the foundation upon which everything else is built on. There is no competition between the parents and the children. The children draw their strength and security from the marriage. If dad and mum are happy, the kids are happy. However, when single parents have a love relationship with someone who is not the biological parent of their children there is a competing attachment. To the children, their parents love and new dedication to a new partner will not strengthen the children’s relationship with their parent. Rather, it will compete. This is what we all refer to as the child being jealous. In the same way the new partner may also feel like they are competing with the child for the time and affection of the parent.
A jealous child + a jealous girlfriend/boyfriend + a clueless single parent is a real recipe for disaster. That’s why once you get over the initial dating phase, after the sparks fly, after the fireworks and unexplainable chemistry that drew you two together fades and the butterflies in your stomach and the warm hearty feelings are no more and you think you are in love and ready to begin a new chapter in your life. After all that, then the real work begins
Always keep in mind the complexity of becoming a new family. Whether you are the single parent or the person dating a single parent. You will have to be consciously aware of the competing attachment and know how to get over the hurdles it will place in your path. Beware of your emotional , psychological, spiritual and relational preparedness for dating and at the same time keeping an eye on the children and see how the dating is impacting them if you are the single parent. Note that while adults are ready to move on and find new love and form a new family the children are always ten steps behind. As the parent, walk with them at their pace, explaining in a manner that they understand what is going on with you and your new life and your new partner. Always reassuring them with words and actions that none of that take away your love for them.
If you are the one dating the single parent, be aware that you are not only dating the mother or father of the children but you are also dating the whole family. And that you will have to also bond with the children and create a friendship. You will have to earn their respect and this will take as long as the kids will need to feel comfortable enough to let you in. They set the pace, not you therefore you will need to be patient with them. Veeeeeeeery patient.
I got you! and I will give you guidance through this blog on how to overcome the challenges that step-families present before, during and after they are formed. The issues are classic and every stepmom and stepdad faces them. I personally went through them and if you are in the same situation, you are not alone.
WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER!