Updated: Mar 12, 2021
So you procreated with someone you’re no longer seeing. It happens.
However, after the break-up, most people don’t swear off dating just because they have a child with someone else. Most have to figure out how to jump back in the dating game without disrupting the parenting aspect of their lives unnecessarily. It can be sticky maneuvering a co-parenting situation-- especially when different levels of emotions are involved. Here are 8 things you need to know about co-parenting and maintaining a healthy dating life.
AGREE ON A GOOD GRACE PERIOD FOR THE CHILD TO MEET YOUR NEW PARTNER
Your child won’t meet everyone you date on your quest to find new love (hopefully). Some people have to date around for a bit before finding someone with which they want to get serious. This is absolutely fine, BUT before embarking on your new dating journey, you have to come to an agreement of how long you should be dating a person before your child meets them. It’s only fair to come to this agreement with the father of your child (if he’s reasonable). If he’s a controlling or unreasonable jerk, it’s up to you to set a reasonable amount of time as a rule of thumb. Set this and stick to it.
SET BOUNDARIES REGARDING THE OTHER PARENT’S INVOLVEMENT IN YOUR LOVE LIFE
Once it’s over, the other parent isn’t allowed to call the shots in your love life just because you share a child. This is the definition of sabotage (if you’re truly looking to move on). By show of hands, who would want to date someone who’s ex has the power to manipulate them at will? No hands up? I didn’t think so. It’s annoying and maybe even a little disrespectful to your new partner amongst other things. He shouldn’t be able to make you break up with your new guy if he doesn’t like him or “feels uncomfortable” with them around your child. This is the golden excuse used, but you must learn to use discretion with this situation because it becomes a slippery slope.
AGREE THAT RULES SET APPLY TO BOTH PARTIES
When setting “rules” about when to engage the child, etc. make sure there’s an agreement that both parties are adhering to the same set of rules. I’ve seen a few instances where one parent thought they were above the rules while enforcing them on the other parent wholeheartedly. This is neither fair nor sensible.
BE CLEAR WITH YOUR NEW LOVE INTEREST UP FRONT
The new boo needs to know your expectations for the relationship AND your active agreements with your child’s father about dating. Of course, this can’t be presented as the rules you have to abide by from your child’s father. Explain the dual agreement, how you would like to proceed in the relationship, and when you will be willing to allow him to engage with your child. Sometimes it can be offensive to a new partner if there’s no communication and it seems like you don’t want them to interact with your child. (Personally, my first thought would be: Am I not wholesome enough?) Be clear up front to avoid awkward conversations later.
BE THE FIRST TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION ABOUT YOUR NEW LOVE INTEREST
So, if your split from your child’s father wasn’t necessarily amicable or you know he’s not necessarily thrilled to see you dating someone new—make sure you beat him and anyone else to the punch telling your child about your new love interest. The last thing you want is for your child to have a tainted perception of a person you want in your life indefinitely. Control the narrative because you never know how the person will be presented if you let someone else tell your child about him.
EXPLAIN TO YOUR CHILD WHO YOUR NEW LOVE INTEREST IS TO YOU
This piggybacks on the previous rule a bit, but takes it a little further. While making sure you’re the first to tell your child about your new love interest, make sure you don’t introduce them in some convoluted way. Your new man is NOT and SHOULD NOT be described as your child’s “uncle” in attempt to soften the blow. What if you guys get serious and eventually get married? Should your child then stop calling him uncle and switch to a more appropriate title? (I may be the only one weirded out by this type of thing so let me know in the comments.)
ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO OFFER THEIR OPINION TO YOU ABOUT THE SITUATION
Kids have opinions, but are rarely asked. Asking your child about their feelings on the matter gives you a chance to open dialogue about the situation and show that you’re interested in what they have to say. So, what if they say they don’t like your new boyfriend? It’s your chance to deal with it head on and figure out why they don’t like him. Hopefully, the conversation is fruitful and you can squash any potential tension.
WHEN SERIOUS, INTRODUCE YOUR CHILD TO YOUR NEW PARTNER
Here’s the big step. I have to emphasize the word “serious”. It not necessary otherwise. When this DOES happen, make it a fun atmosphere or a “group date” where your child can interact with your new guy. You want this introduction to be as fun/entertaining as possible. If your new partner is associated with a fun time, the transition will be easier.
It’s not always easy to move on from your child’s father, but in a lot of cases, it’s needed. There’s no black and white way to do this, but these are 8 rules to apply to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Some of the rules only work with a cooperative ex. If you don’t have that, no worries, things can still progress in your favor. Be perceptive and proactive… and enjoy dating!