Worthy recently conducted an in-depth survey about dating after divorce, the complete results of which we will reveal in the coming weeks. More than 1700 women participated in the study, most of whom hail from across the U.S. and also included a small percentage who live abroad. Although the questions covered a lot of ground, as a single mom of three children who has been single for more than seven years, the one that interested me most was, “When do you introduce your children to someone you’re dating?” The answers varied.
A mere 2% ticked “Right up front, my kids meet everyone I date,” while a whopping 57% indicated “We have to be in an exclusive relationship.” The distribution between those who answered “While we are casually dating,” “When we are thinking about getting engaged,” and “I don’t plan to introduce my kids to anyone I date” was about even and represented approximately 23% of those surveyed. The remainder, around 18% of the women, did not have any children and, therefore, were not included in the findings.
These numbers are meaningful because they offer a glimpse into how cautious women can be when it comes to mixing their present and future with their past. The results suggest the majority of women want to be sure that the men they are dating will be sticking around for a while before welcoming them into their family. They consider a relationship’s depth and the consequences that can come from disrupting it, whether it’s the one they share with their children or a potential partner. It makes sense. But how cautious must we be?
When I first started dating after my divorce, I remember not wanting my children to meet anyone I was dating. I was afraid they wouldn’t be receptive to the idea of me being in a relationship with anyone besides their father. Also, I was fearful of introducing my children to someone who I wasn’t absolutely, positively sure wanted to be in a long-term relationship with me or I with him. I didn’t want my children to grow attached to someone who I couldn’t envision a future with or who couldn’t envision a future with me, even though there are never any guarantees a relationship will stand the test of time. I, too, didn’t want to get attached, breathing life into a relationship that appeared to be more than it was.
But I found over time that it was exceedingly difficult to keep the two parts of my life separate. I found myself wanting to integrate my home life with my dating life, to make dinner for someone I was dating, for example, but seldom had the house to myself. I realized that, on occasion, I wanted my children to meet the person I was dating. My relationship was a significant part of my life, and because of that, I wanted to share that part of my life with my children, and my children, who mean the world to me, with the person I was dating. Plus, separating these two parts of my life was often difficult. I wanted my life to be simpler, and by extension, happier.
Like most of the respondents, my rule of thumb was and still is to wait until I am in an exclusive relationship before introducing the person I am dating to my children. Of the men that I dated in the years since my divorce, I introduced my children to only a few, each of whom was in an exclusive relationship with me. Based on Worthy’s survey, I know I am not alone in my choice and can understand why so many women may feel the way I do.
I can also appreciate why others feel differently. Making decisions like these are never easy. My mother, widowed at 39, took another approach and introduced the men she dated to my younger brother and me within a handful of dates, the last of whom became my stepfather. For women who choose to make an early introduction, it may be because they have no choice in the matter, meaning that, for example, some women have full custody of their children and cannot logistically separate their romantic relationship from their family. Or it may be because they, for whatever reason, feel more comfortable than I did with the idea of combining these two parts of their lives. It’s a personal preference. Or it may be that if someone is important to them, they want to share that part of their lives with their children sooner than later and see if everyone gets along. There’s a logic behind that, too. Kids can make great barometers.
The results of Worthy’s survey are telling because they illustrate how perceptions about when it is the “right” time to introduce your kids to someone you’re dating are not black and white. They may even change over time. While most women in the study wait until they are in an exclusive relationship to make an introduction, some wait even longer, and some don’t wait at all. Those differences allow me to feel more secure because not only do I know there are others who made the decision I did, I also know there are no right or wrong answers.
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