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Parents... are you ready to date or more?

ESMOD's picture

It seems to be a common theme on here where people have rushed into dating/living together/new babies and marriage much quicker than logic would dictate.  We all see the fallout.  The complications.. the crapshows.

So, this is some advice for PARENTS out there thinking about getting into the dating world and a few ways you can tell whether you really are ready to dip your toe in that pool.

1.  You are "done" with your EX.  Really and truly, it is ideal if you can wait until the dust settles from your last relationship disaster before you go searching for Mr or Ms Right.  Ideally, the divorce and custody orders would be set and final, but at the very least, you should have a legal separation from a soon to be EX spouse.  If you weren't married, any legal ties should be tied off (no joint car loans...etc).  I am not saying this for the victorian mindset that you are committing adultery.  I'm saying this because when there are third and fourth parties involved in the end of time legal wranglings.. emotions can be high.. and people can become much more set on 'winning'.  I know this may be particularly tough when it takes a long time to legally finalize when parties are being high conflict.. but it is simpler when you don't have your new BF or GF tossing in their 2 cents from the sideline.  (which can rathet up your oponent even further too).

2.  Your kids sleep in their own beds. This comes up on here way too often.  Why on earth would a parent think it was OK for their child to sleep with their new BF or GF?  Why would they think that their new SO wants that either.  If you are so enmeshed with your child that you can't sleep in your own beds.. wait.  

3.  You struggle with raising your kids on your time.  If you are struggling, you don't need the "help" of a partner.. you don't have TIME to be dating because you need to spend more of it figuring out how to parent effectively.  This likely applies to men more than women who often seem to think that us single gals are crazy when we don't want to play mommy to their kids by former relationships.  You travel and think it will be great because the SO can watch them? NO NO NO.  Figure out your parentiing.. THEN you may be ready to date.

4.  Your goals for dating include the need for someone to share your financial burdens.  Get a 2nd job.. instead of dating people that should not be responsible for paying for your child(ren).

5.  Your kids are a mess.  Young, through Adult.  If your kids have serious issues.. work on them without the interference of a new person in your life.  Your new partner doesn't need to suffer because you are a crummy parent.

6.  You let your EX schedule your life.  

Look.. in the end, it's awfully selfish to bring other people into the toxic stew of your life when you don't have your things in order.  Is it lonely.. sure.. but lots of people on this site really suffer because their partner jumped into dating way too soon.. it's really unfair to hold yourself out as available.. when many times you really aren't.

I'm sure there are others.. 


Gimlet's picture

I would add #7 You are a mess.

Many of us ended up as single parents because we had a broken picker.  Spend some time exploring your own baggage and righting your ship before embarking on another journey.  I learned this the hard way myself.

Aniki's picture

#1 is YUGE. Unfortunately, too many people have zero tolerance for having no partner. For those I know personally, it has always been a case of those people not being happy with themselves. Instead of taking time to fix themselves, they rush into a new - and predestined to doom - relationship. 

Evil3's picture

Yes! OMG! I just don't understand people who have more than one failed relationship and rush into another one without doing the inner work to try and create a healthier pattern.

Aniki's picture

IMO, they do not want to face their demons because those demons are UGLY.

I once dated a guy just for fun. It was my first "bf" (I use that turn veeeeery loosely) after my nightmare marriage and I had NO desire for a serious relationship. I'd know this guy for quite some time, but only very casually. I was out alone one night, ran into him, and we had a blast! He asked me to go to a party the next night and I agrred. I had such a locked down and controlled marriage, that I'd had NO social life for years. 

I went a little crazy having fun and saw him a LOT. Again, NO intention of getting serious. After all those years of being suppressed, it was refreshing! Instead of being chastised for smiling, this guy encouraged me to let loose. If I wanted to dance, he didn't frown. Not only did he encourage me to join some other women dancing on the bar, he gave me a hand up!

This fun, but frivolous "relationship" came to a crashing halt when I got home from working OT earlier than expected and headed over to his place (he told me to come whenever I was done). There was another car in the driveway, but I didn't think anything of it. Until I looked through the screen door and saw him bouncing on his exgf!

Anyhoo, I later found out from some of HIS friends that they were sooooooo glad when I ended it. I knew he had... issues, but since I wasn't serious, it wasn't never a concern. Turns out that the boytoy couldn't stand to be alone ANY night, so any night he wasn't with me he was either with the "ex" gf or picking up some other gal. Meaning the ex also came over for sex after I left! Thank God I never had sex with him!!!

ESMOD's picture

orrrrr.. the other situation where their EX has moved on.. perhaps even cheated on them and they feel they have to prove they can get someone too.

My DH's Niece has a little girl who is about 3 yo.  She and her DH split up last year because of cheating on his part.. though I think it may have been some from her as well at some point.  Well.. now the girl who is in her late 20's is dating some guy that is not even 21 and childless.  I've met him and he appears to be an OK guy.. but what the heck does some guy at 19 -20 years old want with a woman nearing 30 with a 3 yo by another guy?  

I think part of it is she wants to prove that she is "datable" too.. but sheesh.. that poor kid is gonna have heartbreak over all of this.

Evil3's picture

#8 - The love you have for your kids is different from that of your spouse. If you have any urge to revoke your love and affection from your partner because your kids are present, you are not ready to date. Figure out that your relationship with your partner and your relationship with your DD are two different things. If you can't figure that out, you're in for another failed relationship.

lieutenant_dad's picture

9. Be able to accept constructive criticism about your preciouses, your parenting, and your interactions with the ex. If your immediate response is, "well you just hate my kids" or "you just think I'm a lousy parent" or "you're just jealous of my ex", then you need to stay out of the dating pool.

10. You have a fragging court order and child support in place, AND you follow both. I can accept if your ex won't follow through on their commitments, but I sure as hell need my partner to. You can't plan for the future if you can't even manage the present.

11. Don't expect me to love your child like my own. I won't, and that's okay and healthy. I have no rights or real control over my relationship(s) with your kid(s), and it's unfair to both your kid(s) and me to force us together when, at some point, you could rip us apart.

Curious Georgetta's picture

this when beginning  new or potentially serious dating relationships? Certainly, it might put an end to some relationships, but it would allow both parties to know about real breakers and unacceptable positions prior to making long term time investments.

I would think that a person who seriously needs to be " put first" should state that as soon as they begin to date a man or woman with a child.  I think it would reduce significantly the number of people complaining after the fact that he or she is not placed first, and being fisrt should be clearly defined. I

I also think that if you cannot be happy in a relationship where the in-laws are civil, cordial , or even friendly with the ex, that this is a position that should be stated up front  as the relationship becomes potentially serious.

These seem to be such major drivers and triggers for unhappy step situations.  Not only should parents address their readiness for dating ,but their potential partners should be upfront and direct about their expectations.

There seems to be so much anger when people discover that the partner is not meeting needs and expectations that they failed to articulate at an early decision making stage.

Introspection on the part of parents and honest and upfront statements from prospective dating partners would seem to be one way to eliminate a lot of later stage  unhappiness

lieutenant_dad's picture

A couple of reasons these issues don't get articulated:

1.) Society tell us all that we need to treat a stepchild "as our own", and we need to be besties with the ex and have matching t-shirts at soccer games, and that we should be equal parents in our household bevause we're the "bonus" parent, etc. It's not until we are in the situation that we realize that all of this may not be possible OR wanted, but we keep fighting to try and make it happen because it is what is expected. When the world keeps saying "they're your kids, too" but your spouse isn't giving you authority over them, or the other parent is disordered, or whatever doesn't fit within the social paradigm, it takes a LONG TIME before you think there may be an alternative path or that you need to end your marriage/relationship.

2.) Circumstances change that you weren't prepared for, and you didn't realize how much different your life would be. If you dated someone who had EOWE visitation and now the CP has died, you've just become a full-time SP to kids who aren't used to your day-to-day routine and are grieving the loss of their other parent. Or the other parent has legal issues that bring the kids to you all the time, so you're dealing with their trauma. Or the other parent up and leaves. If you've dated and married someone who could hold their parenting together for short periods of time, and the first time you see them actual parent long-term is years in the future after a tragedy, that can be VERY eye-opening. And guilty parenting after tragedy is a real thing, so even a strong NCP can become weak in the face of their children suffering due to circumstance.

3.) Expectations of a SP before marriage suddenly change after. It is not unheard of for marriage to change people's relationships because, again, social expectation for a married couple is different than for a dating couple. Or people lie and are great manipulators, and they suck you in until the ink is dry and their real personalities come out. Maybe those "quirks" they had while dating were just muted forms of who they would eventually become. And because it's impolite to talk badly about someone that your friend/family member is dating, your friends/family don't speak up.

4.) Love is a powerful thing and people think it conquers all. That's a fable that has been told around the world in nearly every cultural for millennia. That's why it hurts so much when you realize that no, loving someone isn't enough. You don't talk about hard issues because no one has ever taught you that you need to talk about hard issues, because we're too busy protecting kids from "adult problems" that they don't know that they actually need to talk about things and find compatibility with the person they are with.

Though, I agree in many situations with the phrase "you knew what you were getting into". I knew before getting married that BM was a piece of work. I knew that the boys had some issues. I knew DH was a pushover. What I DIDN'T know was that, after a couple of years of it, that I'd finally have enough of it and want/need to disengage. I came from a stepfamily, I did my research on being a good stepmom, and I even joined this site (under different user names) to get clarity.

This site bothered me greatly when I first joined because everyone seemed to hate their SKs and seemed "evil". But I started living through a disordered co-parenting relationship with my DH, and started recognizing that the kids had bad habits from BOTH their parents, and that DH has a sense of honor and responsibility that causes him harm - and by extension, me. So I realized that the dreams I had, and the reality that my "research" and limited life experience as just an SK and not a SP hadn't adequately prepared me at all. And those conversations I had to have AFTER the fact were difficult, and some of them have been met with empty promises because my DH is also human with the best of intentions but very real weaknesses that I've learned over the past few years.

So, if I can admit that I went into this having done what I thought I needed to do and STILL got burned (though not as badly as I could have been), can you admit that not EVERY parent goes out into the dating world with their sh*t together in a way that doesn't impact their future partner?

Trust me, I could an entirely separate post about the qualities that a stepparent needs to possess in order to make it work. They need to be able to communicate, be flexible with their wants and needs, be able to set boundaries, be able to be civil with other human beings that they don't necessarily like, understand that CS is like every other bill that needs to be paid, understand that parents WANT their kids more and WANT to spend money on their kids, etc.

But that isn't this post. So flying back on this post with "well, but what about the SPs" is a bit like coming back on a women's DV forum and saying "well, what about men?" We aren't dumb enough to believe, as SPs, that we aren't part of the problem, and ant SP who believes they aren't needs to get really real with themselves very quickly. I contribute to some of my own dysfunction because I'm human and my emotions outwit the logic in me more times than I care to count. But that's why I come here and seek advice, or come here to vent so that I can deal with the situation at home more clearly, or look at other people's blogs where I can form logical advice for myself. I know many others that do the same.

So, CG, always remember that on. SPing site, things will slant toward the SP. On a BP site, it'll slant BP, on a dads site, it'll slant dad, on a marriage site, it'll slant marriage, etc. That's just how these things work.

Curious Georgetta's picture

better is flying against this post or position.I would think that the ultimate goal would be to ask how can I make my  situation better?

Not many BPs are coming to ST looking to improve their situations.It is step parents looking to improve their situations.

We will all readily acknowledge that the only person that we can fix is ourselves. In my opinion , it would be more helpful to teach your audience how to speak up and articulate their  expectations than to address what others should be doing.

If you were speaking to BP that information would be most helpful because that is indeed  the kind of introspection that should be happening

You speak a lot about societal views of step parents. However, after viewing ST for a few years, I think that women particularly are afraid to articulate their needs and expectations prior to becoming seriously involved  and then become angry and even incensed when their partner/spouse acts contrary to their expectations .

If it is important to know what your potential partner should be doing, it is even more critical to know what you should be doing.

You cannot expect from others more than you are capable of bringing to the table.

Your insights on what the BPs should be examining are spot on,but you are not telling.your ST audience what they should be doing to prepare themselves to bring a healthy and insightful person in to the relationship.





lieutenant_dad's picture

Actually, there are a lot of BPs on ST looking to improve their situations. They just also happen to be SPs, or are currently leaving their relationships to become single parents. This post was likely triggered because another member going through divorce asked what she needed to look for when dating again.

Additionally, any SP could look at this list and go, "wait a minute, my SO hasn't done some of these things" and realize that their partner may be part of the issue, not just BM and the SKs.

Women ARE afraid to articulate their wants and needs because, again, society doesn't have many favorable things to say about vocal women. They're deemed b*tchy, rude, aggressive, etc. In the US, the number of women in powerful positions is still limited. We're still considered "hysterical" when we menstruate. Hell, whether you agreed with Hillary Clinton or not, newspapers were still more interested in reporting on what she wore versus what she said, and the main talking points against her being president in the early stages of her campaign was that a woman couldn't sit at a table with some of our adversaries and be respected, and that she'd be too emotional as a woman to logically address issues, and that she'd just be the mouthpiece for Bill since she was his wife. Nothing about her credentials, just her genitalia. And this was a former SECRETARY OF STATE - one of THE most powerful positions in this country.

So if we, as a society, can use the same tropes about women against even the more powerful ones, what do think the likelihood is that a normal woman is going to have as much speaking power? Of course women should speak up, but let's not pretend that violence isn't more readily to happen to them if they do, or that they won't be fired more quickly, or that someone won't talk louder.

But even if we take gender out of the equation, communication amongst humans in relationships is difficult and one of the leading causes of divorce NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF MARRIAGE YOU HAVE and no matter the number. It's a consistent problem that most couples run into, and there are copious blogs and advice pages and books on how to communicate better. And one of the top things that those communication self-helps cover is not expecting your partner to be a mind reader. And the very first question asked almost every time on this site with a new user is "have you talked to your spouse about this yet?" because we KNOW that you have to at least acknowledge the problem first before you can find a solution.

But even IF you speak up, society interprets what you say very differently when you're in a step situation. Real life example: when XH and I were married, we'd travel a lot. Everyone thought it was great because we were young and in love. Fast forward to getting divorced, remarrying, and becoming a SM. I tell people DH and I are going on a trip to Disney for a friend's wedding during the school year, and I'm asked of the kids are going. When I say no, it's the school year, and DH and I are using it as our honeymoon, I had more than one person tell me how sorry they felt for the kids that they didn't get to go - on MY HONEYMOON. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL YEAR.

Now that DH and I have more money, we take more trips and get the same responses from folks. Thing is, the kids don't want to travel. They like doing things close to home and sleeping in their own beds, so we take them to local conventions, escape rooms, mini-golf, etc. OSS has been able to travel abroad with school and do things we couldn't afford as a family, and the onky reason he likes it is because he can go with friends, get away from his brother and parents, and do something related to his passion for music. So the kids aren't missing out.

But, with XH, we had no business travelling that much. We put it all on credit and used it as a bandaid for our piss-poor marriage. Yet I got nothing but praise and being told how wonderful it was.

So how did that impact my behavior? I travelled more and more with XH because that was good, and clammed up about my trips with DH and felt guilty every time we took one. My experiences with DH were sullied because society thought what I was doing wad wrong - and all it was was taking a trip somewhere that his kids had ZERO desire to go to yet got to do what they wanted!

Now imagine that same sort of response about any other relationship arena. Eventually, you DO feel like you're wrong and you stop talking about it because you're tired of being beaten up emotionally for your thoughts and feelings. It's like with cheating. Your spouse could be denying you sex, never home, never kisses you, never touches you, etc. But you cheat and leave, and you're the bad guy because you didn't do the "utmost right thing" despite your partner not doing even the bare minimum right thing while doing a whole lot of wrong things.

You're right that we're only responsivle for our own behavior, which is why a lot of the advice on here is to leave. But leaving is a multi-step process. It takes time. Like quitting smoking, some people can just give it up but others have to try everything before it's successful. Same thing.

Like I've said before, it's not that you're always wrong, it's the delivery. It's the expectation that things happen super fast or should happen the same way for everyone. That's not how humans work.

lieutenant_dad's picture

Since my other post got long:

A good analogy is breast cancer. You think you know a lot about it until you're diagnosed. Even if you read up on it after diagnosis, what you read doesn't adequately prepare you. Sure, you KNOW that chemo will likely make you nauseous and cause your hair to fall out, but you don't know how you'll actually feel once it's happening. You KNOW your chest may end up scarred, but you don't know how you'll feel, or how your partner will look at you after.

And what happens when your diagnosis changes, or your treatment doesn't go to plan? Now you're logically scrambling to figure it out while on the inside you're feeling overwhelmed, scared, angry, etc. Feelings you likely thought you'd have, but the extent is greater, or lesser, than you expected. Or they don't come at all. 

Then add in all the outside components. How are you going to work or keep your insurance? If you die, is there enough money for your family? How will you function in the next few years with debt and disability?

Plus, and we don't ever say it to people with cancer, but there are lots of things that could have been done to make the situation better beforehand. Quitting smoking, getting tested for BRCA, getting regular mammograms, doung self-exams, etc.

I'm not saying steplife is an equivalent, but I think we can all recognize that, when met with any new situation, that even the most careful planning and preventing and trying may not result in the outcome we hoped for. And we won't know that outcome until we're in it and navigating it. And even our best efforts may end up in a loss, which no human being wants to accept loss easily, even if the stakes are just their marriage.

ESMOD's picture

CG.. I think LD articulated very nicely why SP's aren't always able to state their needs clearly.. or even know what those needs will be.

But.... I actually will agree with you to an extent about the basic message of your post which I believe is that people should proceed with their eyes wide open and their cards on the table.  For a variety of reasons, including the most basic love is blind, many people enter into relationships that aren't healthy for them.. or their kids (if they have them).

I also get a little jaded to the statement... "my partner and relationship are perfect.. except when the Skids are around".  I understand that relationships are dynamic, but in many, many cases, it's clear that the SP didn't like the child(ren) from the very beginning and somehow rationalized themselves into believing that their partner's love would conquer all.  SP's can be just as much to blame when they put themselves into a relationship and stay because they want what they want.. rush in.. move in.. want a lot of changes to the household (even positive ones can cause stress).. and get themselves pregnant way too early.. then want to entirely marginalize the fact that their partner has a child from a prior relationship.. "can't they just go away". 

Yes.. things change.. but I do agree that there are situations where the SP is not cut out for this kind of life.. and they would have done everyone a favor by doing some self reflection before going too far down the road.