I was thinking earlier today on my way to work that if there's a Creator, S/ He's made basically two types of people: those who should marry and procreate and those who should remain alone and have sex only for fun. I am firmly convinced that I'm in the latter group. Not that I've been having much "fun" lately.
A dear and lovely friend asked, so imma try. But remember: I don't even own a cat!
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Something's Gotta Give: Children and Relationships
About half of marriages in the US end up in divorce. Of the half that stay married, 80% of those state that they are unhappy in their marriages.
Think about that.
The odds are stacked in that you will more than likely date someone with children from a previous marriage. Personally, I have dated maybe 2-3 women in the past three years who were childless. Children present yet another dynamic in newly forming romantic relationships and it's one that can't be ignored. You have kids, you're still vital and want to date.
When I first started working here, my colleagues would come to my office. I became the unofficial "therapist" for many of my workers until I put a stop to it (it got out of hand). One day, a co-worker came rushing into my office obviously upset.
"Do you think I have baggage, Eddie?" she asked.
I was like, huh?
She explained that another co-worker informed her that because she had two kids, she had "baggage." I found the idea so preposterous that I laughed, which made my co-worker cry. she had taken the observation seriously. After assuring her that any man worth her time would never see her children as "baggage," she walked away feeling a little better, if not firmly convinced.
For those of us that have divorced, you may feel that you will never love another member of the opposite sex again. Or, as my co-worker, you may feel that your "baggage" may preclude you from remarrying. Though many divorced people claim that they never want to get married again, most do remarry. Chances are, at some point you will feel ready to date again and will want to enter into a new relationship. As you explore the territory of new relationships, there are some questions you may find yourself asking and stages you can expect to go through.
The question put to me was thus:
How will children impact my relationships?
First off, your children, no matter what their age, are the first casualties of any failed relationships and it will take time for them to accept new ones. In order for this to happen, you need to communicate honestly and openly with them. Explain that you are beginning to date again because this is what parents do (face it: even the most ardent breeders need nookie). Most importantly, children need to know that a new relationship does not mean that you will love them any less.
At first, you may want to protect your children from confusion or anxiety by dating discretely and occasionally. Some people don't understand that it's not necessary to introduce every new date to your kids; instead, you might wait until your new relationship becomes serious. It will certainly be confusing to your children if there is a parade of new people who come in and out of your life and consequently, theirs as well.
When there is someone special in your life, explain to your children that you care about this person very much and hope they will get to know each other. Don't expect your children to embrace your new partner as a new father or mother figure- this can make them feel guilty or disloyal to their other parent. Finally, give them time to adjust to your new relationship, and make sure that the children feel confident that they will get plenty of your love and attention, regardless of whether or not you are in a relationship.
The other side to this equation is that you will have to accept the fact that biological mother/ father of your lover's children will always be a part of your life. This is an inescapable and sometimes unpleasant fact. Though it may be next to impossible, you're going to have to find a way to deal with that person. I'm always fond of saying that love ain't a feeling, it's an act of will. If you truly love your partner and your children, you will make that commitment work -- somehow. There are so many issues here, it's hard to stay on track, but another impact is being an effective step-parent. If you're in a relationship with a person who has children, somewhere down the line you will have to shape the influence you will have on that child's life. In many cases, you will called upon to act as a parent only to have to step back when the time calls for it. This is not an easy task, to say the least.
One last note: I find it offensive when women (and to a lesser extent, men) allow the men in their lives parent their children. I'm not talking about long-term, committed relationships, but relationships that phizz out after a year or so. When you commit to a relationship as a parent, you're also committing your children to that relationship and it isn't fair that a series of what are essentially strangers parent your children. That's a major impact of having children: they seriously limit how you do relationships.
Ladies: I realize that you need love too, but the children come first and need to be protected. I see too many women, desperate for love, and sometimes unwittingly compromising values that need to be nurtured.
I would love to hear feedback, experiences, insights in this area for any who care to share.