I Promised My Children One Thing After I Created An Online Dating Profile

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single mom with her two kids in field

“You need to be prepared,” I say to my children. “Your Dad might get engaged. You never know.”

“No,” they insist. “Dad won’t be getting married to her.”

I spend several months trying to warn them. 

I don’t want them to be shocked if their Father decides to get remarried. My kids see this as an online dating fling. In their defense, it’s been more than a year and they’ve never even been out to dinner with their Dad’s girlfriend. 

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A few months later everything changes.

It’s Thanksgiving and their phones ping one after the other.

At first, my kids are confused. Why is someone sending them a picture of a finger with a diamond engagement ring on it? They don’t recognize this person's number. They read the caption. It says something like, “It’s official. I said yes.” 

Confusion turns to upset and then to disbelief and ultimately outrage.

They can’t comprehend their Dad has gotten engaged. They are hurt and angry. They can’t believe he wouldn’t speak to them first. They are completely shocked their Dad wouldn’t sit them down and have a conversation or let them know he was thinking about getting engaged. 

Even worse, he would tell them in a large group text after the fact. 

It’s not the best way for kids to warm up to a parent’s new fiance.

My children feel disregarded.

Their father hasn’t made them a priority and doesn’t seem to care what they think.

It doesn’t get any better. My children attempt to express their frustration a few days later. At first, their Dad minimizes their emotions. Next, he tries to pretend his fiance didn’t realize she was texting the picture to them. 

The situation becomes untenable once they discover their Dad’s getting married on my birthday

There are lessons to be learned from this.

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When my ex-husband began dating online, he told our kids things about the woman he was seeing. He thought he was being funny. But the things he was joking about weren’t funny to our children. It gave them a preconceived notion of her. 

It’s not easy for children to see their parents with someone new.

Logic would dictate older kids, more maturity, with an easier ability to process a new significant other in a parent’s life. On the contrary, it can sometimes be harder for them. I understand this myself as the child of divorce. By the time kids are in high school, college, or older they have spent most of their lives seeing their parents together.

It can feel even more unnatural to see their mother or father with someone else.

Of course, that’s not every kid.

Every child, every parent, and every divorce has commonalities and differences.

Some kids are receptive to their parent's dating. 

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I’m finally ready to meet someone. I’m warming up to the idea of online dating. What I initially found scary now feels like a potential adventure. It’s all about timing. It’s about the emotional evolution of divorce and healing. 

It’s about timing for my children too.

It’s about communicating and making sure my kids know they’re my priority.

The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I can be a mother and date. I can respect my children and respect a new man in my life. They do not need to compete with one another. I wouldn’t allow anything to come before my children and I don’t want to date a man who would place me above his.

It’s taken me a while to be willing to impact our family dynamic.

I reach out to my kids.

“I’ve decided I’m going to start dating so I wanted to let you know that,” I tell my children.

“I also want you to know that the three of you will always come first in my life. If you don’t like someone that will be the end of them for me. If anyone ever mistreats you all or upsets you all or says anything negative about you all, that too, will be the end of them. I will never allow someone to not treat you well nor would I ever like anyone who thought they could treat you badly.”

It’s the one thing I promised my children after creating my online dating profile

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes bout love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.