Dating After The Death of a Spouse or Partner

Deciding to date again after the loss of a partner can be a positive and exciting experience, but starting out, it can also make you feel guilty and anxious. This is especially true when you have a child or children to consider. You may wonder: How do I tell my children I'm dating again? How do I introduce them to someone new?  What do I tell someone new about my family situation? 

All of these questions can make dating seem like a big hassle, and you may feel it's easier not to date at all. While getting back into the dating scene may require some work, it also has benefits. Taking time for you and enjoying the company of other adults is important for your overall happiness and well-being. This article contains suggestions about how to begin dating again when you are ready. 

Preparing to date

Dating at any age and stage can be scary, but it can be especially difficult to start again after a loss. Here are some things to consider as you think about dating again:

  • If you are still grieving, there is no rush to move on. Deciding to date again is a personal decision, and only you will know when the time is right.
  • Make sure you are deciding to date for the right reasons. If you are lonely and seeking some company, this is a logical reason to give it a try. However, if you are dating because you think that it will fill the void or heal the pain of losing your partner, it probably won't give you the results you are hoping for. Take the time you need to grieve before moving on.

Preparing your children

When you start dating again, you not only have your own emotions to deal with, but you also have to think about what impact dating will have on your children. Your children's feelings and emotions may range from anger and shock to worry and fear. Consider the following suggestions before you begin dating seriously again: 

  • Communicate the importance of dating and what it means to you. Sit down with your children and explain your need for companionship and why it matters. Reassure them that no one will ever take the place of their parent. If they know it's something that is important to you, they may warm up to the idea. 
  • Listen to your children, allow them to share their concerns and reassure them that nothing will change about your relationship or how much you love them.

Dating again

  • Once you make the decision to date again, your thoughts might shift to worrying about what you will do or say. It may have been a long time since you last dated, and remembering how you behaved may not be easy. Consider these factors as you start to date again:
    Feelings of guilt are normal in the beginning. These feelings will likely subside over time. You shared something special with your partner, and beginning an intimate relationship with someone else could feel very strange. If the feelings are overwhelming after you start dating, take a break for a little while and try again at a later time.
  • It's OK to talk about your deceased partner, but you may not want to overdo it. Someone new is naturally going to have questions about your past, and sharing your experiences is how you get to know someone. Share whatever information you are comfortable with.
  • If you have children, feel free to share information about them during a date, but again, you may wish to not let this topic dominate the conversation. Don't overwhelm your date by discussing every cute story, milestone or report card.  Be sure to discuss other subjects and things that interest you, so your date gets to know more about who you are. 
  • It's OK to make mistakes as you begin to date. Remember, this is all new to you again. You may be nervous and feel awkward. You may have dates where you don't connect with the person at all. There may be good ones, and there may be bad ones. Be patient with yourself as you ease into dating again.
  • Feel free to take things slow. You do not have to rush into anything. Take the dating process at a pace that feels appropriate to you.
  • There may be people in your life who do not understand your decision to date again. Some may feel that it's too soon for you or that you should mourn forever. You do not have to justify your decision to anyone. As long as dating feels right to you, that is all that matters.

Introducing your children to someone new

Once you decide that you have found someone really special, it may be time to introduce him or her to your children.  Introducing children to someone new can be awkward.  Everyone will probably be a little nervous. It's important to be sure you are clear on why you're bringing that special someone into your family and then decide on the best timing.  The smoother you can make the introduction, the better off you'll be.

  • Wait until you know this person is worthy to meet your family.  Some experts suggest waiting six months - others suggest even longer. Regardless of how long you decide to wait, make sure this person is someone special before you introduce him or her to your family. 
  • Know yourself and your intentions.  If you know that the person you are dating is nothing serious, you may want to avoid getting him or her too involved with your children.  Think about the qualities you like about the person beforehand.  If you are interested in their looks and fun attitude, he or she may be a great person to date but not the right person to introduce to your family; if you find yourself admiring his or her honesty, kindness and sense or humor, this may be someone you want to bring your children around.
  • Hold a family meeting beforehand.  Tell your children about the new person you want them to meet.  This ensures that they are not blindsided when your date comes to the door or stays for dinner one night.  In addition, communicate your expectations for their behavior beforehand.  If you expect them to do more than say hello, you should talk about it first. 
  • Consider a friendly, comfortable setting for their first meeting.  A formal dinner may not be the easiest or most comfortable way for everyone to meet.  Perhaps a sporting event or an outing to the park may be a more relaxed way for everyone to get to know each other. 
  • Follow up with your children afterwards. Check in after you have introduced your new love interest to your children to gauge how they are feeling. They may need to be reminded that no one is replacing their mom or dad and that you are still there for them.
  • Be present.  If you spend a lot of time out with someone new and miss a lot of opportunities to spend time with your children, they may become resentful and angry.  Make sure your relationship with your children stays strong while you are dating.  It's important to continue to spend time with your children alone as well-without your new love interest always being present.  
  • Be patient.  Children typically need time to readjust to a parent dating again. They may show a range of emotions from sadness to anger and jealousy; some may even exhibit acting-out behavior whenever you mention your new love interest. Reassure them as often as necessary that they are a priority and that your relationship won't change. While you can't demand that your children initially like your decision to date, you can require them to be respectful in communicating their feelings.
  • Additionally, talk to your new love interest about your expectations for his or her involvement in your children's lives.  This becomes more relevant if you start seeing someone on a regular basis, but here are some things to consider:  Can he or she call the house?  At what times?  Can he or she discipline your children? Can he or she spend money on your children?  These are all things to think about as you get close to someone new and begin to incorporate him or her into your children's lives.

For most people, it takes time to get comfortable dating again, especially when there are children involved. Take your time, and when you are ready, go for it!


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