Figuring out an amicable co-parenting arrangement does not necessarily have to be daunting. However, what happens when you decide to begin dating someone else? For some, the idea of getting to know someone else can stir up different emotions within themselves and their former partner. You may worry about the dating scene, the opinion of your former partner, and how your child(ren) may react to you deciding to date someone that isn’t their other parent.
Life is hectic as is, so deciding to date can feel overwhelming. No matter where you are in your decision, understand that you don’t have to rush into anything. You have to make sure you’re comfortable and feel like you have the mental and emotional capacity to date. If you’re ready to meet someone new, here are a few ways to navigate dating while co-parenting.
Starting to Date
If you feel like you are not looking for a long-term commitment, introducing yourself to the dating scene can be a way to meet new people. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean that things have to become serious right away. This is the point where introductions are made, interests are learned about, etc. Whether you are dating for fun or are thinking about a long-term relationship, here are a few things to keep in mind when getting to know someone.
This applies to any dating situation, regardless of if you’re a parent or not. Being honest with whomever we are dating can help set the tone of the relationship if one is formed. In the case of co-parenting, this can look like being honest about your co-parent arrangement. If things begin to get serious and a relationship is formed, this is also the time to let your child’s other parent know who will be around the child(ren) on a regular basis.
If a relationship is not being pursued, you can set a boundary where your date(s) are not allowed to meet your child(ren) and vice versa. At the same time, it’s important to also set a boundary with your child’s other parent. Your love life—aside from the possibility of the child(ren) being introduced to someone else—does not have to be up for discussion. Sometimes, people like to cross this boundary while using the child(ren) as an excuse, but it’s important for both sides to remember not to use your child(ren) as pawn(s).
This is important because a child is involved. Making sure all parties, yourself included, work toward respecting each other can have a positive effect on the child. Examples of this include not allowing your child’s other parent and your new love interest resort to calling each other names. Verbal disagreements should not reach a point where the adults are screaming at each other because the child will pick up on this dynamic.
If/When Things Get Serious
If you and your new love interest have decided to take things to the next level, that’s great! It can be an exciting time for both of you. At the same time, there are still conversations that need to be had. To help make sure everyone is as close to being on the same page as possible, here are some key things to consider.
Talk to Your Child(ren) About The Partner
Again, if things are getting serious, honesty is key for all involved. Explaining to children that you are seeing someone new can have different outcomes based on individual children. Some children may feel as if the new person is going to replace their other parent, but you can explain to them that that’s not the case. Choosing to gloss over a new relationship in your life is not recommended because children are exceptionally perceptive, regardless of if they have the words to describe things or not.
Consider Family Counseling
Even if your child(ren) love your new partner, they may still struggle with your new relationship. If you sense this and aren’t sure how to successfully help your child(ren) navigate their emotions, it’s OK to pursue family counseling. On the other hand, nothing has to be “wrong” in order to go to therapy. Let’s face it, families can be complex and it can be a great way to determine how daily life will look for everyone. An objective third party can help you all navigate the new family dynamic.
Agree on How You’ll Make Decisions for Your Child(ren)
I grew up in a household with my mom and step-dad but later found out all my parents had a discussion about it. It was established early on that my mom and biological dad would determine how to best discipline me. This is something I believe is important and should be taken into consideration when in a new relationship. If you are merely dating to explore your options, your dates should not try to go over your child’s other parent to make decisions about your child.
The decision to begin dating while you are co-parenting is a personal one. Ultimately, you have to decide if you are in a space to open yourself up to dating while maintaining a co-parenting arrangement. It’s quite possible that people will have opinions about what you should or shouldn’t do, but it’s not their choice. No matter if you choose to remain single for a period of time, date for fun, or pursue a serious relationship, it’s your choice.