Are you divorced, separated, single, a lone parent? If so, you may be so busy with work and childcare or eldercare that Valentine’s Day just passes you by. Or maybe this day for lovers makes you yearn to be in a relationship again. If so, it would be good to ask yourself a few questions such as:
How will my children feel if someone new comes on the scene?
How do I make time for dating on top of all my other commitments?
What’s the best way to introduce a new partner to my children, other family members, and work colleagues?
Here are some top tips to help you navigate these questions…
According to the ONS, divorce rates in the UK rose by nearly 10% after the first Covid-19 lockdown. Separation, divorce and relationship breakups are complicated and difficult for all family members to navigate. Whether a separation happens amicably or messily, children can often feel it’s their fault that a marriage didn’t work out. Of course, children are all different and how they handle separation depends a lot on their age, the circumstances, how the breakup was handled, and how long ago it happened. It’s important to consider these things when entertaining the idea of introducing someone new to the equation.
So, before you start looking for a partner, it’s a good idea to think about the possible impact it might have on your family. Maybe you just want a something light-hearted and occasional. Or, maybe you’re seeking a more serious relationship. If the latter is true, consider how you would feel if a potential partner wanted children or already has their own? Could you cope with a ‘blended family’? If you have additional caring responsibilities, such as a child with special needs or an elderly parent, think about the impact on them too.
Ideally, the best way to meet someone is getting to know them as a friend as you go about your daily life. But even post pandemic, there seem to be fewer places where singles can go to mingle, and some organisations discourage relationships at work. Many people now use online dating apps, which can be quite time consuming. They require you to create a profile, scroll through bios and photographs, craft opening messages and engage in chats - with no guarantee of success. This type of dating, though it can be done anywhere from your daily train commute to while you’re watching the telly, requires time and resilience to persevere.
Once you do meet someone suitable, the next step is figuring out how to find time for dating in an already busy life. If possible, take things slowly. Hopefully you have trusted friends or carers who can help with babysitting or eldercare so that you can schedule a night out once you’ve met someone. This may involve even more juggling, so be clear on your priorities. It might also mean explaining why you’d like ‘time off’ and you may or may not want to go into details especially if you’re asking your ‘ex’ to change existing childcare arrangements.
Wait until the relationship feels like it’s somewhat established before introducing anyone to your children. Then keep things light. Perhaps your partner could join in an activity or just pop in and say hello. Take your cue from the children, look out for any changes in behaviour, be ready to answer their questions and don’t expect them to instantly like your new partner just because you do. As the relationship develops, keep reassuring your children that this person doesn’t replace their other parent and that you will be there for them no matter what. Be sensitive to their feelings, as well as other family members’ when talking about your relationship but keep in mind that you have the right to your own life alongside being a parent or carer.
Be cautious about disclosing too much at work. Colleagues may be fascinated, or they may make judgments about your personal life. They may worry that you are taking on too much and be unable to meet your work commitments. You may prefer to confide in just one or two trusted co-workers.
If putting yourself back ‘out there’ seems like an intimidating venture with everything you’ve got going on, remind yourself that you are worthy of love and deserving of happiness – outside of your other roles.
If previous relationships have battered your self-esteem and your new relationship is proving tricky, do find a supportive friend to talk to. Or consider having a coach who can help you rebuild your confidence and work through the issues around juggling work, family and dating.