Q: I’m a single dad and am just now starting to date again. I’m worried about how this will impact my kids and I’d like to know whether there are any guidelines. Are there rules about how long I should wait before introducing someone to my children? It’s been so long since I’ve dated anyone, what should or shouldn’t I tell the person I’m dating about my situation?
A: Whether you’re a single dad or a single mom, starting a new relationship-with all the dating and extra showers and being on your best behavior-can be a traumatic experience. For that reason, you should be careful not to start dating too soon. Your friends and family are probably trying to fix you up, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being by yourself or with people you have no romantic interest in. No matter how tough you think you are, you’ve been through a rough time and a break will do you good. Once you’ve made the decision that you’re really ready to start dating, start slow: Parents Without Partners and a variety of community and church groups frequently organize picnics and other events for single parents. This is a great way to meet people who know exactly what you’ve been through. In addition, here are some important dating dos and don’ts:
Do: Keep your kids and your dates separate. Try to do your dating when you don’t have the kids or at least meet them someplace else besides your house. The idea here is to not introduce your kids and your dates unless it’s clear that you’re starting a long-term relationship. If you’re going out with a lot of different people and you introduce them to every one, they’ll get confused. If you absolutely can’t avoid having your children meet one of your dates, introduce her only as a friend, someone you’re just hanging out with.
Do: Have some variety. The last thing you want to do right now is get into a long term relationship with the first woman you go out with. She may make you feel loved and needed-perhaps for the first time in a long time-but chances are you’re nowhere near ready yet.
Do: Be up front with your dates. If it turns out that the woman you’re with doesn’t like kids, she may be pretty pissed when she finds out your little secret. And if she does like kids she’s going to wonder what kind of guy doesn’t care for his children enough to even talk about them. Don’t underestimate the importance of this question: a lot of women think that the way you relate to your children is the way you’ll relate to them. So do everyone a favor and tell your dates you have kids. And talk about them-but not too much. Your dates want to know that you’re interested in them too.
Don’t: Talk about the other women in your life. If you’re widowed, your dates and prospective girlfriends have a right to know. But if you talk about your deceased wife constantly, they’ll feel intimidated. And if you have an ex, talking about how wonderfully the two of you are getting along will make your date think you’re headed for a reconciliation. On the other hand, don’t spend the evening badmouthing her. A new girlfriend is naturally going to side with you against your ex but your relationship should be built on something more than a mutual dislike for someone else.