June 2004, Message of the Month
Hello June! Welcome Summer!
The subject of dating for divorced parents has been discussed several times in the last few weeks. I thought since I am presently in that situation, I would write about dating.
For the past eight years I have kept my private adult life separate from my children. My feeling has always been that if the friendship cannot encompass my children then it would not be my choice to introduce my children at all. Most of these eight years has been dedicated to working on myself and the Re-creating Families Program. Recently, however, I met someone whom I care about tremendously. Neither one of us had introduced our children to anyone in our lives so this was a new experience for both of us.
We introduced our children to each other one night out to dinner as friends only. Our children had fun together and paid very little attention to the adults. We all enjoyed the dinner together. I waited quite a few weeks to speak with my children about this person because I wanted to be sure I was ready to take the next step. In some ways I wanted a guarantee of stability because I did not want my children to become attached to someone only to have that person leave. I am sure I had the same fear for myself. I do realize that there are no guarantees; not for me or my children. But we can open ourselves to love and enjoy what is here now. Part of my vision that I want to teach my children is to remain open in life and to always know how to love. This means not living in fear. This means knowing I am will be ok if this person and I are together and even if we are not. It means still loving myself. My children are a part of this lesson as well.
I spoke to each of my children separately letting them both know that I cared about this person and I wanted to include he and his son in things that we might do together. My son’s response was “great!,” while my daughter had a few more reservations about the changes occurring. She was worried that I would not have enough love for her anymore. She noticed I now had phone calls and e-mail messages that took some of my attention (she felt away from her). I let her know that I had enough love to go around and this meant we would have to make sure she and I had special time together everyday. We try to spend 15 minutes of uninterrupted time together where she picks the activity. We now needed to really guard that time and make sure it happened.
I shared with my daughter that someone else joining us could mean more love for her as well. She liked this idea a lot! We continue to talk about any feelings she has in order to keep our communication clear between us. Bu, I must remember that this is a process and not done in one conversation.
My daughter since, has asked me my opinion on some hypothetical situations that have her worried. She asked about step-parents who are not nice to the children when the other parent is not there. She specifically wanted to know if I would believe her if someone was not nice to her. She also wanted to know if I would ever marry someone who does not love her or her brother. My answer was “no” I would never marry someone who did not love them and that I would believe her when she told me about her experiences. She seemed very reassured by this answer. I realize that my daughter’s favorite movies are still Cinderella and others with images of evil step-parent figures.
We continue to have new experiences of having all our children together or having one or two only. The most difficult challenge seems to be having adult time alone as our visitation schedules are the exact opposite. Remembering to take things slowly without a lot of big expectations seems to work out well, along with having a practice of gratitude for what is here and now. Dating will not be like it was before marriage and children because we simply do not have that same kind of freedom and yet, it can be a truly wonderful experience. It is just love.
I think an important element in dating after a divorce is to let things unfold slowly rather than to force them to go quickly. Everyone needs time to adjust to changes. People also need time to discuss their feelings regarding those changes. Being able to have these kinds of discussions with safety really aids in moving forward in life. It creates a stable foundation of trust between family members as well.
The practice of gratitude is good anytime in life. Remember to be grateful for what is here and now. It is a gift and that is why it is called the present.
I Believe . . .