6 Things To Look For In A Partner Post-Divorce (If You’re A Parent)

If you date after divorce and you have a kid, your kid is going to be dating that person too. Here's what to look for.

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During or after divorce is a very common time to seek counseling.

People are in a state of transition, and they want to ensure that their post-divorce life doesn’t have as many missteps and false starts as their married life.

They especially want to guard against getting into another unhappy or unfulfilling relationship. For parents, dating can feel particularly fraught, because the relationship between your next partner and your kids is a paramount concern. Here are six key variables that I have found (in my personal life and in my practice) to set up people with kids for a successful post-divorce relationship.


Here are 6 things to look for in a partner post-divorce if you’re a parent:

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1. They're flexible

If you are co-parenting your kids (or single parenting them), the first and foremost trait you need in a potential partner is flexibility.

You will have to cancel dates and change plans, based on your kids’ needs. If your partner takes cancellations personally, or cannot roll with the punches, it will make a relationship virtually impossible. Not to mention, as a parent, it is very hard to be attracted to an adult who acts childish or sulky.


2. They're kind

Actually, this ties for the first and foremost required personality trait. If you are going to introduce your kids to your partner, you want to feel confident in their ability to be kind and caring. There will likely be ups and downs in the relationship between your new partner and your kids.

Your children will have lots of what teachers nowadays call “big emotions” about your new partner, no matter how great they are. If you do not feel confident that your partner has a kind heart, don’t introduce them to your kids.

3. They're honest

I feel strongly that it is not the end of the world if your kids meet a partner of yours and then you two choose to break up. As long as the breakup doesn’t decimate you, your kids can learn that relationships sometimes don’t work out, and you can remain confident and healthy even when ending a relationship.

But do not set yourself up for a very painful breakup in which you feel betrayed.


Meaning, if you have any qualms about your partner’s truthfulness or loyalty, if there’s some slippery stuff regarding their commitment to you or continued emotional involvement with their ex, if they are shady about their job, or money, or substance use, DO NOT introduce them to your kids and while you’re at it, honestly, DO NOT date them at all.

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4. They're attractive (to you)

Your marriage ended, which means it likely went through a period prior to its demise where you felt zero attraction and zero “in love” feelings. Do not now get into some “meh” feeling relationship where you still do not feel butterflies, just for the sake of giving your kids (and yourself) a secure situation.

Give yourself the chance to feel your full range of human emotions, including love and romantic attraction.


Your kids can learn from observing you that they do not need to settle for just anyone, but can and should wait until they find someone that they feel very attracted to and very committed to. (Note: if you have always been someone who doesn’t care about sexual attraction, which some people truly are, then skip this one.)

5. They're low-conflict

Kids of divorce have been through enough without then watching one or both parents get into high-drama or high-conflict relationships, which is why I say that finding a low-conflict partner is key. It is really trendy to say that kids learn conflict resolution skills from watching parents fight. 

This isn’t true, and the cortisol released in their bloodstream during the fight is very bad in the long run. (I am not talking about calm back and forth but the type of loud, angry “fight” that anyone raised in a dysfunctional family recognizes all too well.) It’s also different when kids in intact families see fighting and when kids who already may distrust relationships due to their parents’ divorce see fighting.

If you happen to be a dramatic person that thrives on arguments and/or was raised in a high-drama house, take a step back and recognize that once your kids have experienced a divorce, their primary need is to feel safe and secure and to have a positive view of intimate relationships. If you cannot make this happen in your next relationship, do not introduce this person to your kids.


6. They have a similar parenting approach to yours

Whether you are blending families or you’re the only one with kids, it is essential that you and your partner have similar approaches to parenting. Different parenting approaches kill many blended families. With your ex-spouse, you were likely too young to think about parenting styles, and of course, you never really know how you’ll be as a parent until you have kids.

The second time around, you have no excuse to not consider this variable. If your partner is an extremely laid-back parent and you are much more rules-based unless you can both willingly and thoughtfully come to some sort of compromise approach, you will end up making each other, and your kids, miserable.

Also, be careful when dating someone without kids. To be blunt, life with children is often shocking to someone who is used to their own, adult-focused life. Some people can become excellent step-parents without having their own kids, but others cannot; introspect deeply about the overall maturity of your non-kids partner before introducing them to your children.

Note: It used to be harder to date as a divorced parent.


Meeting people at parties or through friends is much more difficult than weeding through dating apps with your kids asleep upstairs.

The majority of my divorced parent clients end up finding many very nice and attractive people on dating apps, usually after insisting that they will die alone. Most of them get into new relationships within a year. They may remarry these people, or they may break up and date others, but they are not lonely.

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I mention this because dating post-divorce is (today especially) not the time to settle for someone you are not that into, or that has red flags. Dating as a parent is a big responsibility. You are able to teach your children positive things about dating, including how to respect yourself and your time, that it is fun and exciting to meet people but you’re also okay being single in the interim, and that you value yourself highly enough to wait for someone who you really think is great.


I am sure that if you’re a divorced parent, you have spent a whole lot of time thinking about possible ways that you have messed your kids up, as we all do. It is a divorced parent Fun Hobby! But now is the time to see the positives as well.

Your kids have the opportunity to witness a stage of adult relationships that other kids do not usually see, specifically the courtship phase. (My own kids witnessed this phase in my relationship with my fiance and seemed genuinely happy, interested, and curious about it. It opened up a lot of discussions about what is important to me in a partner, what sorts of things I want them to look for, and so forth. My 6-year-old concluded that “girls want tall, funny guys” but I am thinking/hoping there were some deeper takeaways…)

Keep in mind also that if you’re divorced, the comparison point in your mind between a happy intact marriage and your dating life is not real. It is just a trick that your mind plays to make you feel like garbage. The truthful comparison is between whatever strained, distant, difficult, and/or contentious relationship your kids saw (and they see more than we think they do) and your dating life.

Nobody would say, “Hey I’m going to leave my happy, loving, supportive marriage so I can date around and teach my kids some good life lessons about dating apps and valuing myself as a single person!” Despite your best efforts, your marriage ended for real reasons. Now, because we do not have a magic time machine where you can go back and have a different happy marriage that yielded the same kids, let’s look at the positives of you being single and dating.


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Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.