One of the trickiest questions to answer after a divorce is when or whether to start dating. This is a question that often is asked during the divorce itself. It is not uncommon for people to start dating (or continue dating in some cases) during the divorce itself. Human beings crave companionship, validation, and affection. When you do not find those re-affirming values within your marriage you may have sought them outside the marriage, unfortunately. The same could be true of your spouse.
When and whether to date after marriage also brings up important questions about how to introduce a new partner to your children, if you have any. Remember that this introduction to a new partner may seem like small potatoes to you but to your children could rock their world to an extent. Look at the situation from their perspective. You, as their mother or father, are moving on with your life. Your attention is being placed on a new person (that isn't their other parent or them). That person is the same sex as your ex-spouse and to the kids may look like a placeholder or virtual facsimile of their other parent. To you, this may be a harmless and quick introduction. To your kids, it may appear to be something much more significant. So significant that they may not be able to process everything that they are experiencing and feeling.
That's not to say that you shouldn't date after your divorce is over. It can be rewarding to move on with your life and to create relationships that are not related to your marriage or life before the divorce. How you handle that transition and introduction period will define the nature of your relationship with the new person and can also impact your relationship with your kids. It is like walking a tightrope to an extent- trying to create a meaningful dating relationship while improving your relationship with your kids.
Recall that after a divorce you will probably not be able to spend as much time with your kids as you are used to. Even if your kids live with you that still leaves weekend visits with your ex-spouse and other periods of possession with him or her. If you subscribe to the theory (as I do) that relationships do not stay in the same place for any length of time- they are constantly improving or getting worse- then you need to decide about how to allocate your time and energy. Is it worth it for you to even date when your time could be spent focusing on your post-divorce parenting and children?
There is no simple answer or one-size-fits-all answer. All we can do in this space is discuss how you may want to approach this subject after your divorce ends. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan and our attorneys have been fortunate to be able to walk alongside many people who have found themselves in this type of position. When it comes to dispensing information, this blog post is a place you can go to learn strategies and develop a baseline of information sufficient to make good decisions.
If you want to learn more about how to get your divorce off the ground or are more interested in landing the plane successfully so to speak, give our office a call today. We can set up a free-of-charge consultation between you and our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are free of charge and are available in person at one of our two Houston area locations, over the phone, and via video. Don't speculate or jump to conclusions about your situation regarding divorce. Talk to an attorney with our office who has advocated for and walked beside people just like you in divorce cases across southeast Texas.
How serious is the relationship?
One of the first places you can begin when determining whether to introduce your children to a new partner is to think about the nature of your relationship. Without getting too into the weeds we all know that there are some relationships you can have with another person that is more complex and developed than others. If you are in a serious dating relationship or intend for the relationship to get to that stage, then it may be in your best interest to think about how to introduce your children to this person.
On the other hand, if the relationship is just starting or you have no intention of becoming serious with this person then you probably should not introduce your children to this person. As I mentioned a moment ago, this introduction may not seem like anything major to you but to your children, it can seem like something extremely serious. What you want to avoid is a situation where you find yourself having to introduce your children to an ever-expanding list of people after initial relationships did not last. Rather, determine the nature of the relationship before setting up a time for everyone to get to know one another.
It may be a good idea for you to talk with your partner to get their thoughts on the situation. This may be something that he or she has looked forward to – as far as meeting your kids is concerned. On the other hand, your significant other may not want anything to do with meeting your family. That may be a sign that the relationship is not intended to go very far or last very long. Consulting with your significant other before making the steps to introduce him or her to your children can save everyone some stress, anxiety, and awkwardness.
How to manage the introduction
Once you decide that you want to introduce your significant other to your children then you need to figure out how to go about managing that introduction. Some factors to consider when making this determination are the age of your kids, their level of maturity, how they are doing after the divorce from an emotional perspective as well as your partner’s level of interest in the introductions. These factors and more can help to inform the decision-making process going on in your mind.
Think critically and be intentional about the meetup. While you may be assuming that you can simply walk up to the kids one day with your partner and have them shake hands, the actual introduction may need to be done with more care and planning. Young children may not be able to fully process what is going on. Older children may have some understandable resentment towards your new partner. Consider these issues before making the introduction to avoid awkward or harmful interactions that otherwise could be avoided.
How to go about introducing your kids to your new partner
The nature of the introduction well obviously depends upon the circumstances that you and your family find yourselves in. For example, if you are a mother that you are likely the primary caregiver for your children. In that case, you will probably have less time for dating and are with your children more than your ex-spouse. In that case, you may want to first introduce the person as a new friend or someone that you know from whatever activity you are involved with that person on. If you all are having a birthday party or other social get-together you may choose to invite this person over at that time so that he can get to know your children in a group environment.
From there, you can gauge the reaction of your children and see how they handle the initial meeting. If they handle the meeting well, you may be able to introduce the person rather quickly as your boyfriend or partner. That main tail you are explaining what it means to have a boyfriend and what role that person will be playing in your lives moving forward. You may see that your children get accustomed to this person being around quite easily and therefore your ability to spend even more time with your significant other increases dramatically.
On the other hand, you may find that your children are not as receptive to the new person as you would have hoped. In that case, you may need to back off on further interaction between your significant other and your children. We're at least holding off until a later time when your children have had more of an opportunity to grow accustomed to seeing this person in their home. Remember that your children may react very differently to this new person depending upon their age. For example, if your children are older their reaction may be more awkward than younger children. I find that younger children are more accepting of new people given that they don't understand all the ramifications involved in this new person playing a role in your life.
One thing that you should bear in mind is that you may want to hold off on making the introduction for no other reason than not being sure about the future of the relationship. While nobody can tell the future with 100% accuracy, you almost certainly know when a person is going to be a part of your life moving forward and when a relationship is more temporary. For that reason, you should consider only introducing your children to someone who you can see being in your life over an extended period. Some children tend to develop stronger emotional attachments between two adults in their lives and others. You know your children and whether they are likely to develop a strong emotional tie to your new boyfriend. Based on this information you can better determine when and if an introduction should be made at all. You can talk to your children as rationally as possible about expectations for the relationship but they're in mind that a child has difficulty understanding things on this level. They may develop an attachment before you would have ever thought that they might have.
It can be harmful to your child's development for you to put a person into their life that they develop a relationship with only to see that person leave. You cannot control the course of a new relationship completely on your own. However, just the same your child may develop a bond with this person and that person no longer dating you or being in a relationship with you can cause your child to suffer to some extent. This is an issue that you should discuss with your significant other before meeting your child.
on the other hand, some children may develop the impression that this new person in their life is intended to replace their other parent. While this may not be your intention that could be the reaction that your child understandably has. In a way, that person is a replacement for your spouse as far as an emotional and physical bond is concerned. As we covered earlier in today's blog post-human beings do have a desire for a relationship and this person is fulfilling that desire in your life. By the same token, your children may not understand how this relationship is different than the relationship you had with your spouse. On a certain level, it doesn't matter whether your child fully understands what is going on. If you believe that it is a risk to your relationship with your child for you to be involved in a dating relationship then you may want to consider whether it is worth the effort for you to engage in a relationship like this at all.
The impact of a dating relationship during the divorce
Dating during a divorce is another issue that we encounter as attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. A common question that we receive from people who are beginning a divorce is whether they can either begin dating again or continue a dating relationship that they had already started. Some people begin relationships as soon as they separate themselves from their spouses physically period from there, a reasonable question would be what impact dating could have on the divorce. The answer to this question would be the same as any other question about your divorce. It depends upon the specific circumstances of your case.
If you do not have children, then that is a circumstance that you do not have to concern yourself with when it comes to dating. No risk dating your marriage could impact any custody determinations in your case. However, if you do have children then you need to consider what impact your dating relationship will have on conservatorships in custody proceedings in your case. For example, if you are dating during your divorce then that could share a negative light upon you in terms of your ability to make good decisions for your children period since decision making is a key component of the conservatorships question this may impact how a judge determines conservatorships in your case if you and your spouse are unable to settle in mediation.
Next, if you have chosen to engage in a dating relationship during the divorce then that could also affect the amount of time that you choose to spend with your children. If you find yourself in a position where you are wanting to spend more time with this new partner, than with your children then you can negotiate for less time with your kids and more time with this other person. However, I have found that most people go through a divorce certainly I do not feel this way all other things being equal.
I would caution you on spending money excessively on any person while you are going through a divorce. This could and probably would be seen as wasting community income and you may have to return that money to your spouse during the divorce settlement discussions. Additionally, you may suffer a penalty from the judge if you're dating or if adultery plays a crucial role in the breakup of your marriage.
These are all relevant questions and circumstances you should consider discussing with one of the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We can help provide you with information and first-hand knowledge regarding how your circumstances may coincide with Texas family law and divorce generally. From there you can develop a game plan for yourself and make decisions that are geared towards achieving your goals whatever they may be.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.