a single mother

Splitsville: How To Talk About New Relationships

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Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

One of the most frightening things about separated parenting is the thought of someone new entering the equation. When you split with your child’s other parent, you don’t normally think about their future relationships. You have other things on your mind. You, your ex and your children get into a routine. And then, months or years later, your ex starts dating again. Or you start dating again. Someone is dating and it messes up everything!

As parents, we guard our children from all kinds of things. We regulate their meals and their schedules, their sleep and their media exposure. We decide who will teach them, care for them and treat their boo-boos. When an ex starts dating, they introduce your child to a new influence that you don’t get to choose. If things progress, this person who you don’t know at all could be living with your child. They could be watching them, putting them to bed and helping with homework. They are a major part of your child’s life and you don’t even know them. It’s a whole new kind of heart-stopping, eye-opening fear that you experience.

Taking all this trepidation into account, it’s imperative that separated parents communicate with each other about their relationships and its effect on your children. Talking to an ex about a new relationship might not be anyone’s idea of a great time, but it’s necessary. Here are some tips to make it easier.

  • Be honest. If you’ve only been dating for three months, don’t pretend its been six. If your child is old enough to talk, they’re old enough to spill all your juicy secrets. Equally, if you aren’t comfortable with the situation, you need to admit it openly. You won’t feel at ease with questions or resentment bottled up.
  • Make time to talk away from the kids. This conversation can’t happen in front of your children. There will be questions and maybe answers that shouldn’t be said in front of your kids. Your kids only need to hear the optimistic, exciting parts. Parents need to talk about about than just the happiness and you need to say whatever is on your mind.
  • Don’t get too detailed. Your ex needs to know any detail that effects their child. They don’t need to know where you want on your first date. And if you’re on the receiving end of the information, only ask what you really need to know. Try not let your curiosity get the best of you.
  • Focus on your children. It’s difficult to ignore the history and personal experiences, but you’re only discussing this because you have a child involved. You don’t need to have this talk before the child gets involved and you don’t need to talk about what happens when the child isn’t there.
  • Stay away from Facebook. Don’t announce your relationship on Facebook. Don’t stalk your ex’s newest partner on Facebook. Don’t discuss any of it on Facebook. Stay the hell away from Facebook.

New relationships can throw a wrench in your normal routine. But you can’t keep them from happening. You and your ex will have to move on with your lives. But you’ll have to be honest and open with each other for your child’s sake, just not on Facebook. Good luck!

(Photo: IMDB)

If you are ready to take that step into the dating world, try out our sister site TheGloss’ dating page, brought to you in partnership with HowAboutWe. Find someone to make the transition fun and unique.