Managing Your Single Life with Children
Divorce overturns an established order, and the single parent -- particularly the single mother with small children -- faces a difficult regime. The new normality of life at times seems like a forced march across very barren terrain and an uphill climb. The new order very much depends upon how the old one ended. A single mother still battling her former husband about custody, visitation and support starts out at a terrible disadvantage. For many of these single parents, life after divorce becomes an exhausting pillar-to-post struggle across terrain cratered by financial sinkholes.
Most people who divorce eventually marry again. About 85 percent of the men and 75 percent of the women remarry within three years of a divorce. The popular wisdom holds that second marriages have a higher success rate because the veterans of a failed marriage have learned from their mistakes and are "older and wiser." Like most conventional wisdom, the conventional wisdom is wrong. About 60 percent of all second marriages end on the rocks in a sad reiteration of the fractured dreams and dashed hopes of the first.
Hope springs eternal, however, and the reward of divorce suffering is experience, but the failure of second marriages is often related to the debris floating in the wake of the first. Second (and subsequent) marriages bring with them the excess baggage of the first (or previous) marriages. Second marriages mean people are finding partners in a pool of people who themselves are scarred veterans of first failed marriages. That means, stepchildren and step-relationships. It means pinched finances. In short, it means a steeper climb than a first marriage that at the least begins on a level field.
Rebounding from the pain and suffering of the first marriage, many divorced people leap into a second, but they do not understand what went wrong the first time.
After a divorce, most people need time to adjust to the new routine of single life before they begin a new intimate relationship. And many people who are new to divorce make the mistake of jumping into a new relationship on the rebound. Perhaps people leap into rebound relationship (and even marriage) because being a solo parent is so difficult, but it is possible to be a very good single parent. Everyone in a divorce situation needs some time to adjust.
A healthy adult should never feel guilty about wanting an adult relationship outside the family structure. Loneliness is a fact of the human condition, married or single, and one-night stands and alcohol soaked evenings at a singles bar only serve to amplify that feeing.
When is it Time to Date?
It is difficult to determine when it is time to date again, but in general most people need time after a divorce to get used to the idea of being a single person.
Telling the Children About Dating
Grown-ups have friends too. It is important that you tell children about dating partners. The children may not be thrilled because many children have the hopes that their parents will eventually get back together, so they may look at dating as revenge. Eventually, they accept the fact that parents need a social life.
Children should be introduced into the new relationship when it becomes clear it has a future. A good time is when the relationship is a steady one. For the first few dates, it might be a good idea to meet the person somewhere other than at home.
If the relationship becomes serious, the significant other should spend time with the children so that everyone can become familiar with one another. Both adults need to see how the new person interacts with the children. Hard as it is to accept, the adults involved need to consider the whole relationship if the child does not achieve a rapport with the new partner. It is important to communicate and be honest. Step relations are another dimension to divorce that require hard work. They just do not happen because a divorce parent marries again.
Children should never be given false hope. They should be told if the relationship is a serious one. Children usually resent the fact that their parents are not a happy couple, and they are determined to reunite their parents.
Divorced single parents should think carefully about living together, particularly if the children do not like the idea. From a child's point of view, a new man or woman in the bedroom can be very disturbing because children need to be in an environment that is predictable. The same logic applies to moving them into someone else's house.
If the relationship is a new one, the court frowns on such living arrangements in the event of a custody dispute.
It is most important to create a healthy environment after a divorce. It is also very difficult.
Common Questions and Answers
Q. What is one of the greatest pitfalls for single people after a divorce?
A. Remarriage too soon. Hope springs eternal, and most divorced people go for another spin of the roulette wheel of romance. The reality, however, is second (and subsequent) marriages bring with them damage of the first (or previous) marriages.
Q. What should a divorced person do before remarriage?
A. Examining why the first marriage failed and give it thorough examination for the part they played in the failure of the first marriage. Instead of honest soul searching, many divorced people become convinced that at end of a quest for a successful partner is a Mr. Right or Mrs. Wonderful. In short, the right partner. Alas, there is no perfect partner -- only flawed mortals (and in this case, many of them battle-damaged veterans of first failed marriages). In this routine, the former spouse (now the villain) becomes the basis of comparison to the new love (who is everything that the villain was not). All the while, the one spouse focuses on what the villain did wrong (or did not do right), while overlooking his or her own negative contributions to the marriage that failed.
Q. What is the reality of second marriages?
A. "Going into a second marriage without realizing why the first failed is like NASA building a new rocket before finding out why the last one exploded," one observer said.
Useful Online Tools
Resources & Tools
THE DON’Ts – Good parenting through divorce has a dimension that is negatively defined. Good divorced parents do not speak badly or make accusations about the other parent in front of a child. They do not force a child to choose sides, or use a child as a messenger or go-between, or pump a child for information about the other parent, or argue or discuss child support issues in front of a child. In short, they do not use a child as a pawn to hurt the other parent.
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