Dating is never easy. Relationships are work, sometimes more or less, but they do require investment. When you find the person who cherishes you and you love back, you want to make it work.
For some, it could be challenging to date a partner who already has children and you might feel unprepared for this journey.
We are sharing a few pointers here that can guide and ease your path towards a happy relationship with your partner and his children.
1. His ex is a part of his life, not his partner
When dating a separated man with children, prepare yourself to the fact that your partner and their ex-wife will inevitably be in a certain amount of contact. They will negotiate on the arrangements for food, travels, holidays, parent-teacher meeting, etc.
While it might not always be easy to understand the contact they are having is beneficial for the kids, put in the effort to understand they are ex-partners, not ex-parents.
They are in contact because they are putting kids first, not because they want to get back together. Think of it this way – if their relationship was meant to last, it would have.
There is a reason they are not together, and their communication in the present is not changing that. Even though she is a part of his life, she is not his partner.
2. You are his life partner, not his life coach
Depending on when they have separated and how the process has gone so far, your partner will have bigger or smaller need to rely on you for support, listening and venting about problems with his ex.
Before you start feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself where is the boundary which I want to set?
On one hand, you want to be the supporting and considerate person you are, but on the other, you don’t want to feel like you should start charging per hour. Choose a good moment to talk about this and phrase it in such a way, so he doesn’t feel rejected, but instead can understand your point of view.
Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed, rather act on this feeling before it bursts out of you without warning.
3. Let past be the past
When dating a separated man with children it is highly likely you will at some point run across some items that you will associate to your partner’s old life. There could be family photos on the walls or memories that he has kept.
Before making an assumption that the past is going to creep into the present, talk to your partner about the meaning these items have for him. It might be that his children asked to keep this as memories of a time when they were all together.
Allow for the memories to exist while creating new ones.
4. Act as a role model for the kids
Even though you might not have planned for this, but when dating a separated man with children you need to be aware they are spending time with you too.
How you act in their presence and how you interact with them will affect not just your relationship with the children, but also with your partner.
Hence, you can either earn his respect by showing you can be a good role model for his children or can earn his criticism.
It is wise to talk to your partner about his expectations for you as a step-mom, since understanding what he desires from you can help you direct your efforts better.
Most likely, you will be investing effort into being a good stepmom, and it can save you a lot of misdirected energy if you talk to him about what he expects of you. Perhaps, you will be surprised to learn he is expecting much less than you are from yourself.
5. Speak no ill of the ex
It’s fundamentally important not to insult or speak negatively about your date’s ex-partner, especially in front of his children. Even if he complains about her from time to time, don’t readily take the opportunity to remind him of things he may have said in the heat of the moment. It’s his job to work through any anger he might feel, to do what’s best for his kids and him.
Be a patient listener, not a soldier fighting on his side.
6. One on one time is important
We demonstrate various sides of our personality in different relationships. Therefore, you might be able to better connect with children if you devote time to each of them separately. Additionally, you will be able to plan activities that are age and interest appropriate with more ease. Imagine how hard it would be to find a fun activity to do with a boy teenager and a 6-year-old girl. Ultimately, it is especially important to provide your partner and yourself the opportunity to spend some alone time.
Maintaining a good relationship with his ex can be very useful since she can take care of the children when you want to spend some one on one time.
Not saying you should spend alone time with the ex, but be polite and she will most likely, return the favor. If she doesn’t, you will still be the bigger person.
7. Organize some downtime
Divorce is a stressful period for children, and they experience many emotions that they are potentially unable to explain. Considering all the changes that are happening, boredom in small doses can be good for them.
Allowing monotony in their routine can help them adjust to everything that is changing.
Their parents are preoccupied with the planning the co-parenting and probably in a rush to get everything done. On the other hand, you can organize this time for children, and they will be appreciative of it.
8. Keep calm and arm yourself with patience
They used to be a family and had a certain way of functioning. Regardless of whether it was a good or bad kind of operating, they got used to it and now they need to establish alternative ways of interacting with each other.
Your partner and his kids will require time to make this adjustment, therefore give them that needed time.
Divorce calls for adjustment and revision of many decisions. For all you know, your partner will need time before he can seriously commit to you and this might be hard to handle. However, rushing into something new and unfamiliar might just mask the pain for him and prevent healing. Additionally, this will allow you to go step by step and build the relationship with him and kids while giving them time to regenerate.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.