So… we all remember the fairy tale that starts with “once upon a time”, and ends with “they all lived happily ever after.” What we often forget is what happens in between. Sometimes we simply choose to forget and other times it is easier to let bygones be bygones.
When I met Martin, truth be told I was in a very safe place, I had recently come out of a divorce and had absolutely no intention of dating, let alone marrying again. Martin had come out of a bad relationship and had just returned from a long overseas trip. We shared the same opinions when it came to marriage and our thoughts were not very positive. This meant there was no danger of anything happening between us in terms of romance. We have however realised that plans sometimes go south and in this case, we are very blessed they did.
Today I’m most grateful for the days when we were going to be “just friends”. We built a solid foundation for mutual interests and respect. We laughed a great deal, enjoyed each other’s company, learned about what makes us tick. There was no pressure.
While neither of us was looking for another partner I suppose we all kind of fantasize around meeting Miss Right or Mr. Right sometime in the distant future. We also hope that we will do better second time around if we ever get to be that brave again. This, of course, would mean that our ideal partner would come with no baggage and in our case, we both had our share.
Well, not much happens according to plan. Truth be known, my ideal man would be tall, dark and handsome, so how is it that I married Martin who has blonde hair, blue eyes and came with Gareth his son but strangely meets my every need. He also had to contend with my most precious commodities, Andrew and Claudia, but it’s amazing what happens when love starts to filter through the air.
Question is how did we survive the initial stages of our courtship and how did we make the transition from being just friends to something more serious without causing doubt and confusion for the kids?
Keep your relationship to yourselves in the early days
A mistake many couples make is introducing their new friend to their kids to early. How often do both ladies and men drift between different partners until such time that they meet someone who ticks all the boxes? Having an array of strangers coming into the lives of your kids for a week or two and then disappearing can be very unsettling for even the most grounded child. This does not mean you should not date but meet your new man or lady on the common ground outside of your home and away from the family.
Meeting at a “fun” place alleviates the stress
When the big day comes, don’t announce your relationship, simply organise a fun day out with mommy or daddy’s new friend. Kids almost always respond to the fun. Movies and ice creams work well, ice skating could work, a theme park did the trick for us. Look for something age-appropriate so that everyone gets involved. I’ve learned a very important principle that works almost every time you have a goal and want to get the right results…..speak about W.I.I.F.M “What’s in it for me.” Or I the case of a group W.I.I.F.T “What’s in it for them”. Don’t get technical, don’t explain your new romance, just have fun. It might be a good idea to do this a few times before you choose to make your announcement but don’t be caught by surprise if your kids catch on, they are smarter than we think.
You are not looking for approval
An important thought to keep in mind, you are not looking for approval. One thing we have always understood is that our friendship had to be good for us. Sad but true, kids do grow up, become adults, get married and leave the family nest. The question, where does that leave you. Sad and lonely because you buckled under the pressure of one of the siblings not approving of your new dating habits. You need to be responsible but not obliged to heed the opinions of a child, their ill feelings are normally founded from their divided loyalty to the other parent. I have always understood, hurting people hurt!
A lesson I had to learn the hard way, was that you can’t apply the same set of rules to all the kids all the time. We need to be sensitive to the needs of the individual children and we need to look at age and personalities. One thing I think we managed to do upfront was to make sure each child felt secure in our environment, each enjoying their own space. While Gareth remained living with his mom, he always knew he had his own room at our house.
What worked really well for us, was teaching our kids respect. We had boundaries and none of the kids were ever allowed to disrespect the “invader”. We made a mutual decision early, to always show a unified front. We would never allow the kids to play one up against the other. We had a golden rule and that was to support each other in the area of discipline. Sometimes we agreed to disagree but never in front of the kids. For all intent and purposes, we were always on the same page.
Kids deserve to love both parents
A sentence that literally changed my world. It is so tempting to let your children know exactly how you feel about their “ mom or dad”, our ex. In my case, it was easy to be nasty. My divorce was not pleasant, my ex did not pay maintenance and often used to disappoint the kids by not pitching for visits. He made no contribution to their schooling and only did things at his convenience. However all this said and done, I had to learn to do the best with a bad situation, after all, it was not the kids’ fault.
We need to appreciate that they are not the cause of all the drama and for that reason alone they should not be drawn into our battle. This just helps to maintain kids with balance. Life strangely has a way of leveling out the playing field and at some stage, the kids work out whether the parent deserves their respect or not.
Another golden rule is to never compare our new knight in shining armour with our previous partner. Kids should never be put in a position of having to choose whom they like best. Some marriages end in divorce, simply because the couples have not grown together or work commitments eroded the time the couple spent together, leaving them with very little in common. This does not make the one person bad, it just makes for a bad marriage and two people who have decided to take different paths.
We love our life and the gift you give your family is to show them how much you love one another, it’s their security blanket. Date nights are important, always, a time to regroup, a time to unwind, a time to share. Our value system, a biblical principle has always been God First, Spouse second and kids third and it has really worked for us.
Today we are blessed with three amazing, secure, passionate adults who all love one another, who would all fight for each other. We have not been perfect parents, we have made mistakes but we have always worked on creating a secure environment where everybody feels valued. We are evidence that there is life after divorce and it can be amazing.