Getting a divorce is never a good experience. While many people are glad they are finally divorced from a life sucking spouse, I’ve never heard anybody say that the divorce was a fun process that they’d love to do over again. And after being married for so many years to one person, there’s one thing that is often more daunting that getting a divorce: dating after divorce.

Many divorcees who are back on the dating scene have a lot of questions…and fears. Things like when should I tell the person I am dating about my divorce? When should I introduce them to my kids?, etc. These are serious questions with some serious implications. On the one hand, you don’t want to scare someone away on the first date before they get a chance to really know you. But on the other hand, you also don’t want to hide things from someone who may end up sharing a large portion of your life with you. It’s a fine line. So below are a marriage counsellor’s answers to common questions to help you navigate that fine line.

When should I tell them that I’m divorced?

As soon as it comes up. Being married before is a significant event in your life – bigger than any birthdays or holiday’s you’ve ever taken.  You don’t want to go out of your way to tell them you’re divorced because that’s just weird and looks like you have baggage. But you don’t want to hide it either. It tells a lot about you that the other person might need to know – such as additional financial obligations you may have or that you may have kids. These are important things they need to know in case it’s too much for them. And if they run away just because you’ve been married before or have kids, that’s their issue. Not yours. It’s better to find this out about them sooner than later so you don’t waste time with them and you can move on to greener pastures.

When should I tell them I have kids?

As soon as it comes up. This goes along with the question above. If you’re afraid you’ll be judged or that they’ll run away as soon as they find out you have kids, that’s their issue. Not yours. You can’t keep your kids a secret and you shouldn’t. If they run just because you have kids you’re better off. Bring it up at a casual time and don’t force the topic. Forced topics are awkward and look like you have baggage.

Dating after divorce can be tricky, but there are ways to make it go a little smoother…

When should I introduce my significant other to my kids?

This is a really good question. If you haven’t thought of this one, you should. Children thrive on predictability and consistency. So you shouldn’t introduce your significant other to your kids until you confidently believe that they’ll be a long-term addition to your life – and you’re certain that they’re thinking of you this way, too. Introducing your kids to every Joe or Sally that you’ve recently begun dating creates a lot of instability and unpredictability for your kids which creates a lot of confusion and bad feelings.

I know, I know. You don’t want to start dating them seriously until you know whether they’re good with your kids or not, right? So you can’t start thinking long-term about them until after they’ve met your kids, right? Wrong. Not only is this good advice for your kids but it’s good advice for your relationship.    Introducing them to your family is a big step in a relationship. Introducing them to your kids is a bigger step. It shows you really are serious about them. Introducing them to your kids before you’re really thinking seriously about them sends them (and your kids) mixed messages.  A lose-lose for everyone.

When do I tell them about financial obligations I have or still pending litigation’s from the divorce?

Not right away, but definitely before you start dating them seriously. You don’t want to show your financial statement to every person you’re semi-serious about – that’s just weird. But you also want to make sure the person you’re dating is serious and won’t run away just because you have child support to pay. It’s also a courtesy to them to talk about this so they know exactly what they’re getting into. Again, if someone runs away because you have alimony to pay or because there’s uncertainty about whether you’re going to get the house in the end,  it’s better to find this out sooner than later so you can spend your time with more serious people.

Dating after divorce is more complicated than before you were married. There’s a lot more to think about. But it can also be as fun and care free as before you were married, too. It sounds so cliché but the same advice you received before you were married applies here, too: Just be yourself and enjoy the ride.

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