With the divorce rate for people 50 and over at its highest level on record, and the loss of partners that comes with aging, there are a lot of midlifers wading into the dating pool. That can bring up some tricky issues with the kids.
Consider this widow's post on the community board of the dating website eHarmony.com:
When I began dating, she wanted to know where and when I was going, and would call me on my cell phone to make sure things were ok.. Really -- I had to laugh at the whole switch-a-roo of this! When I was traveling out of the country last year ... she emailed me daily and worried a lot if I didn't email her back -- even though she knew I might not be in a wired part of the country! She even looked into me renting a cell phone in country while I was there. Along with her oldest brother, the two of them have been researching the men I've dated for more than a couple of casual dates.
What's the best way to break the news to the kids that you're dating again and keep them out of your hair? Dr. Terri Orbuch -- a.k.a. "The Love Doctor -- is a professor, therapist, relationship expert for OurTime.com, and author of “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship (Sourcebooks, June 2012). Check out her top tips below:
Nothing wrong with being cautious and slow. Before you tell your adult children that you are dating again (or make a big deal about someone specific), make sure that the two of you are a couple. Ask yourself whether you feel serious about this person. You don't want to get your adult children involved, attached, or concerned when it's not necessary.
If you want to win over your adult children, just tell them that this new partner makes you happy. How can your children have a problem with that? Remember that your kids want to make sure it's someone who cares about you and is trustworthy, because children of all ages don't want their parents to get hurt. Also, many adult children are concerned that a new partner will "financially" and "emotionally" take advantage of their parent. Keep these two concerns in mind when you talk to your adult children. Flickr photo via: Kunni Kun.
The more information your new partner has before they meet your adult children, the better. Don't fear telling your partner too much. The more information they have about your adult children the easier it will be for them to ask questions, seem interested, and join the conversation. Flickr photo via: Petteri Sulonen.
It is important that your adult children observe the two of you sharing responsibilities and enjoying each other's company. A great idea: getting together for a meal - have the partner and adult children meet over dinner or lunch! At the dinner, if you cook the turkey, have your partner make the mashed potatoes. If he doesn't cook, have him set the table. Work together as a team. Flickr photo by: rhurtubia.
No matter their age, explain why you're dating again, that no one will ever replace their other parent, and now that they are older - you too need companionship. Don't dismiss their concerns - instead, if you validate their concerns, they won't get defensive. If you say instead: "I understand that you are worried about me and you're not sure this is right for me. I hear you. I promise you, I will come and let you know if anything doesn't feel right to me about this person. I won't hesitate to let you know. But, right now - he makes me happy. I enjoy his company and I am being cautious, slow and safe."