Every relationship will have its ups and downs as relationships need nurturing but I think it’s helpful and to ask yourself these questions if you think you’re ready for another relationship after becoming divorced or separated.
- Am I coping and content with my life at the moment?
- Am I living in the present or in the past?
- Have I learned to be alone without experiencing loneliness?
- Can I be content on my own?
- Do I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses?
- Do I want companionship or a long-term relationship?
- What am I looking for in a relationship?
- How would I like it to be in a perfect world?
- What’s the best part of being alone?
- What’s the best part of being involved with someone?
- What sort of partner and relationship do I want to role model for my children?
Later on in the relationship you might need to ask yourself:
- At what point does someone become part of the family?
- At what point will I allow someone to make decisions with me that will affect the whole family?
There are no rules and there is no right or wrong. It is just your way. But be honest with yourself. Remember, you are your children's role models, as well as their source of stability, and it's very important that you think about your relationships and how they affect them. Your children are the permanent part of your lives - and you are theirs. They need security and it can be very hard on children if they have to keep adapting to new partners. By asking yourself some good questions you gain clarity, direction and confidence in your decisions and feel back in the driving seat of your life and relationships again.
Positive Parent Top Tip
Try to keep stability in your family unit when you introduce a new partner.
Remember, the relationships between parents, children and potential new partners and their children, can be extremely complicated! You can't possibly work these things out overnight-it takes time. The whole “getting to know you” process can take much longer than you expect, because, after all, there is much more to know about them. We are all tips of icebergs. So just relax and take your time and let the relationships develop slowly - like cooking on a slow burner not in a blender!
Positive Parent Top Tip
Be patient-it may take much longer for your new partner to build a relationship with an older child than with a younger one.
Many children have a secret hope that their natural parents will be united, no matter how unrealistic this might be. Children want to see their parents live happily ever after. And so taking this into consideration, it's obvious why a child won’t immediately bond with a new step-parent or new partner. The new partner is a barrier to their own parents getting back together. That's the reality and the tough part for your child to accept.
But the good news is you can have a successful step-family. It's not always an easy undertaking but it can work with patience, love and compromise.
Positive Parent Top Tip
If you think your new relationship is becoming serious, discuss your relationship with your children at the earliest opportunity. Here is some advice I’ve compiled by working with lots of single parents, who now have new partners:
The normal grieving period for bereavement and divorce or splitting up is said to be about two years. So take your time.
Prepare your children gradually. Let them know there's someone special in your life, but reassure them that your love for them hasn't changed. Be honest. Don't try to hide your relationship. Answer their questions. Introduce your new partner. Allow them time to get used to their new feelings. Blending two families together involves great physical and emotional upheaval.
Some important questions to ask yourself are and to really get clear about are:
- How will you prepare your children?
- How will you introduce your new partner?
- When will you think it's a good time?
- Am I marrying or living together for security, shared interests or for love?
- Am I sure my partner really gets on with my children?
- Is my new partner prepared to work hard at building a relationship with my children?
Be prepared for your children to constantly test you and your new partner. They will probably think it is fair game to test the boundaries. How will you handle this?
Be prepared for your partner's children to initially dislike you. Again, give them time, don't rush them, be patient. How can you gently build a relationship with them - do something active together regularly, listen to them without interrupting, recognise and acknowledge the new situation you all find yourselves in and be forgiving as you learn and discover new things about each other?
Try to see things from your children's point of view. Are they feeling overwhelmed, frightened, unsure, and insecure? How can you help them with this?
Expect to spend a lot more time and energy on your children and stepchildren. Don't despair if there are tantrums, sulking, slamming doors, anger, jealousy, game playing.
- How will you prepare yourself for the settling down process, you have to go through?
- What will you do to replenish your own energy and keep your spirits up, and that of your partners?
- Where can you find good advice or support along the way?
Don't make decisions in isolation from your children, particularly if it involves a change in their living environment. It is vital you take on board their feelings, and that they know that you have taken time to listen to their thoughts and opinions. Then they appreciate that you have made your decision based on everyone's point of view.
Some families bond quicker than others-through shared interests. What shared interests, can you find that your partner and your children can share- music, football, art, motor racing, snooker? Be genuinely positive in the new dimension that your new partner can add to your children's lives - don’t focus on the negative changes - celebrate the new opportunities to grow, explore, discover and enhance all your lives together.
Be kind to yourself, be flexible, be honest, show commitment, forgiveness, and perseverance and most of all a large dose of humour! Life is all about handling change and so by having a positive and upbeat attitude to new beginnings you teach your children to do the same.
To find out more about Sue's work and to receive her free monthly newsletter bursting with practical tips and helpful advice for bringing up happy, confident, well-balanced children from toddler to teen go to http://www.positive-parents.com