My kids don’t like the person I’m seeing. What I learned the hard way after dealing with this tricky situation.
He was anxious to meet me after we traded a few emails and our first phone chat that lasted about two hours. At the end of the call he said, “I know this is rushing it a little but I can’t wait to meet you. Can you meet me tomorrow night?”
I paused before I answered him and agreed, since I was free and since we had so much to talk about. Besides it had been a few weeks since I’d had a chance to get out at all, putting all my energy into raising my two teen boys.
My date was 14 years older than me, a well-known local doctor, with grown kids. We clicked on a lot of levels but I was concerned about the age difference. I decided to meet him and although I was mindful of the age difference, I decided to keep an open mind.
I’d been through the ringer for several years, exhausted from dating. I had a marriage that ended after chalking up double digit years and my reentry into the wonderful world of dating hadn’t been so wonderful. I’d dated younger men, men the same age, a little older, but this much of an age difference was new to me.
He suggested we go to an amusement park in our town for a Halloween event. I arrived a few minutes early and dashed into the nearby gas station for water and breath mints. I was a little nervous about meeting him but pretty sure he would be about what I expected. After a quick glance in the mirror and a fresh application of lipgloss I was ready.
He pulled up and presented me with a huge bouquet of flowers and a warm hug. He lavished me with compliments and a kiss on the mouth. We ditched the flowers and headed to the entrance holding hands. He didn’t just pay my way into the amusement park; he bought me a season’s pass for the rest of the current year and through the next season. So he wasn’t trying too hard or anything… nope, not at all.
The date was a lot of fun and we ended it with some really nice kisses and promises to see each other again. After that first date, he quickly infiltrated my life, insisting that he call me every morning at 6:00 to talk, pushing to meet my friends quickly and my kids. Basically, he inserted himself into every area of my life quickly. He brought gifts to my kids and me he was very generous. With my friends, he was a little arrogant yet, affectionate towards me.
He also wanted me to be in every area of his life. He wanted me his “arm candy” to attend a speaking engagement with him, sit next to him at church and meet his children. He suggested I wear my hair differently and gave me so many gifts that it started to feel like manipulation.
When he was at my house, it’s hard to describe but he seemed like he “marked his territory” when my boys were around. He was a little too physically demonstrative in front of them. It wasn’t anything vulgar or anything but it was more affection than my boys had seen me receive, ever. It seemed less like affection and more like an act of dominance. Yuck.
He was the first man I’d dated who I really allowed to be around my kids and to interact as a part of our family. These were unchartered waters for us and at first I attributed my kids’ behavior as jealousy and resisting change. At first, my boys reacted to his presence with subtle protests like eye rolling, deep sighs and the like. Stage two protests were a little less subtle, complaining and whining about him being around. Eventually, they’d avoid him or make other plans when he came over.
My boys and I talked about it a lot and since this was really new to them and well and how do I put this gently… since they are males, this was a difficult conversation to have. In the early stages of the romance, my rose colored glasses were still affixed firmly to my face and I sloughed off their protests. Eventually I started seeing my boys’ reactions objectively and I started to feel like I was losing control in a lot of areas of my life. Fortunately, the relationship abruptly ended we were all relieved. Since this was my first serious relationship after my divorce, there was so much that I had to learn the hard way. I also think this experience taught my kids how important it is for them to share their feelings with me.
Here are some things I’ve learned from this situation and dating in general while single parenting:
1. Don’t introduce your kids to the person you’re seeing too early. Give the relationship time to congeal and also for you to be able to discuss parenting styles.
2. Date people of similar character and personality as you.
3. Talk with your children, have open communication throughout and reassure them that they are still first priority.
4. Listen to your children’s feedback, but also observe their behavior.
5. Make sure to balance time with your mate and children, apart from each other.
6. Establish your parenting style with your children to your mate. It’s ok to ask for input, but if you don’t want them to discipline your children, for example, say that upfront.
I wish you all the best in managing this tricky situation.
~ Single Mom