“So, how is dating going now being divorced with kids?”
It’s almost cringe worthy, isn’t it? The immediate judgment.
I felt the same way. I was dealing with a separation and many men seemed to take notice. The random Facebook messages trying to spark a conversation, the creepy men hitting on me that I have never met before from my surrounding hometown area (how did they even know what was going on?!). I was extremely private and quiet about my separation and pending divorce. I was attempting to finish my degree, find myself again, and understand how to be alone completely, with really no one else to rely on.
Then it happened.
The day my world shifted. I received a message from someone I had met and worked with while on deployment years ago, whom I actually thought did not really like me at all. He wasn’t creepy, he wasn’t weird, he was normal in his message, which was refreshing. I was NOT looking for anything at that point besides figuring myself out (discovering I actually struggled very much with this after years of emotional abuse). He asked how I was and if I wanted to catch up and meet for a drink. He gave me his number and we chatted a little about meeting up.
Wow. I had never been so intrigued in my life. I decided to play it calm because I had no idea if he was genuinely interested in me or just wanting to actually catch up and become friends. I made him wait a week instead of a day so I could focus on my finals. The day finally arrived, a Friday night and I was weirdly nervous. I guess in part also because I made him wait until longer in the day so I could complete more assignments as well, and I went shopping for a new outfit (of course, who knew how this night would turn out).
He said he would pick me up and I agreed. Then the time came and my doorbell rang. I was so nervous. The last time he saw me I was NOT a mother, I had no stretch marks, no leaking breasts, I was only maybe 22 years old, I did not have a boyfriend or a husband at the time, and I sure as hell was not going through traumatic experiences in my life as I currently just had. I opened the door and Oh. My. Lanta! I did not remember him being THIS attractive on our deployment. My insecurities all came rushing. I had never dated, I had been in a marriage for the years before this.
What do I do?! Act cool, act cool. Strike up a conversation. Let it flow. Ask about his life? Overshare about mine? Talk about my kids? Show an insane amount of pictures of my kids? Okay, I really don’t know. Just go with it.
Let’s just say, the night was amazing and completely unforgettable. What was supposed to be a meet to catch up, turned into a date with so many amazing conversations, laughs and lots of drinks. We are still together, living in our home, with my two kids, our two puppies and I am happier than ever.
That being said …
I have many internal issues with myself due to insecurity and self-doubt. For a long time, I did try to push him away. After all, in my head I thought, who would want to a ‘broken woman’ with two children, like me? He had never dated someone with children before, but he does know a bit about divorce. He lifted me up, he pushed me to become a better person, and never, ever view my kids as a negative in our relationship. In fact, he got upset with many of my friends who told him “Gina is a package deal, are you ready for that? It’s not easy”. He could not understand why people came from such a negative place in regards to dating a woman with children. Granted, they are not his children, but he has such an amazing bond with them and treats them as if they are his own. He is the love of my life and I am beyond lucky to have not had to go through anymore heartbreak or awful dates, ghosting, or someone looking at my mommy tummy with disgust.
I get it, I got lucky though … its not the same for everyone. This is where I am going to tell you the negatives, some mistakes and how to get through it:
Do not, I repeat, do not go on social media or dating apps looking for a fling, especially if you are not mentally or emotionally ready. Just don’t do it. If you believe you are there and have given yourself love, grace, healing, understanding and built your confidence back up … absolutely no judgment. A girl has to get hers too. But I am serious when I say you need to focus on yourself. I try to focus on myself more now, but I don’t know if I would be where I am without his love, support and understanding.
REMEMBER THIS: If you find yourself obsessing over your ex’s new life, who they are seeing, what they are doing, and everything in between … you are absolutely not ready to date. Unless you are worried about who your children are around while your ex has the kids, mind your business and respect his/hers. If you want your boundaries respected, theirs should be as well.
UNDERSTAND you are at a very uncomfortably vulnerable stage in your life. You will be emotional. You will over think. For some, you may even blame yourself for a long time. Try not to focus too much on your divorce or ex, but focus rather on being the best version of yourself. When you engage in a conversation while getting to know each other, the last thing you should do is talk negatively about your ex and all the upsetting things that have happened. Try to avoid talking about your kids too much. I know, right? Its hard. First things first, get to know this person and find out if they are worth your time to even speak about your children. They should know the type of person you are outside of every day life. So, have fun and let loose.
ASK YOURSELF: Does this person bring me joy? Can I see him/her in my future? Does he/she bring out the best version of myself? Unless they are a long time friend, they are still a stranger to you and your children. Listen to your instincts. Trust your gut.
DO be extremely open and try to not let your past relationship dictate how you see all future relationships. Do not let your past relationship create intrusive thoughts in your head this person will hurt you the same. If you cannot trust this person, do NOT date them and do not involve your children. Trust is everything, even more when you have children involved.
Keep your new relationship private for a while and about the two of you. The more people involved, the more opinions you will hear, and they want you to know all about it. My ex’s friends and family were not at all happy when I finally posted photos of the new man in my life. They were even more upset when they saw photos of my kids with him. An unbiased person would see healthy and loving relationships, but there are always those with their opinions on your life choices who will talk. Try to keep things on the down low until you know it is serious. When they meet your children depends on your choice (and possibly even your ex as well if you do have a good relationship).
DO set boundaries and expectations. Let this new person in your life understand you and your entire self. Let them know the type of relationship you want them to have with your children and how you parent. The last thing you want is to resent someone for doing the opposite of what you expect. Your children need to have a strong and trusting relationship with your significant other.
Dating in general can be an emotional roller-coaster and very unsettling. Trying to balance your children, job, every day life and then work on building a new relationship is HARD! Be the best version of yourself, always. If someone or something does not bring joy to your life, toss them into the pit of disappointment and keep it moving! One perk of divorce: you already went through the worst and you know what works for you and what doesn’t. We always grow through what we go through.
Best of Luck, Mama.