Something has occurred to me four years after my divorce that is going to seem really obvious, but I have just started to figure it out. None of the men I date are going to love my kids the way I do, or the way my ex-husband does.
You know how one minute you’re in a happy and fulfilling marriage and the next you find out that your husband of 20 years has been cheating on you with someone 10 years younger? Well, I do. I went from country club wife and mother of high school students to a single, 39-year-old “cougar.” In this weekly feature, I will share with you all the mind-boggling, head-scratching, is-this-someone’s-idea-of-a-joke moments from my so-called single life. Consider this your private invitation to my tremendous learning curve…
What’s not to love?
My “kids” are 19 and 21-year-old college kids who live with me. They’re super funny, hardworking, good people. I know that sounds like something a mom would say, but my daughter and son would be two of my favorite people even if I wasn’t related to them. So how is it that my new love interests weren’t seeing in my kids all the amazing things I see? How come he didn’t want to be around them and bask in their awesomeness the way I do?
Integrating someone new
After my ex-husband pulled the rug out from underneath me and the kids (when they were in high school), we made an active choice to rebuild our once close family with three members instead of four. And that’s what we did. Through our shared pain, we built an even stronger bond than the one we had before.
I get that the new men in my life feel like outsiders. My kids and I laugh and make jokes about everything, and much of our bond is rooted in memories a new person hasn’t been a part of. I’m aware of this and try to include the new guy, but often the guy I’m dating is making an effort with my kids out of a perceived obligation to me, rather than in a genuine interest in getting to know my kids.
I asked Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again for advice about integrating grown kids into a new relationship. “Date your guy, just the two of you. He doesn’t need to get to know your kids to date you. If you were to move in together, or get married, then it’s important that he know your kids. Don’t try to ‘bring everyone together.’ Instead, just make friends with men on your own until you find someone you like enough to bring him around your kids and the rest of your family.”
I have a feeling when I’ve met “the one,” I’ll know because he’ll relate well to my kids. He’ll still feel like an outsider, and he probably won’t fully understand our dynamic and bond, but he will at least be able to jump in on the humor and contribute to the fun, instead of sitting in the audience with a bland look on his face, smiling and nodding in all the appropriate places.