by: Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC
I’m a 54 year old divorced guy with two college-aged children. I was married for many years and didn’t start dating until I had been divorced for about one year. I’m meeting some very nice women online, but I’m frequently encountering an issue I could really use some help with. It seems that many of the women I am attracted to are a bit younger and have children who are not yet grown. The issue for me is that I have been there and done that and I just don’t want to do any more hands-on parenting.
I know this makes me sound selfish, and I admit that this is probably true. I have looked forward to this time of my life since my children were younger, and I have a great bucket list that I want to get started on. I would like someone to share it with who is that right someone — and this includes being child-free.
I’m not looking for you to offer another perspective in order to change my mind because I don’t see that happening. I just want to know how I should handle this issue with women who approach me after they see my profile or who I meet in the course of my everyday life. I also wonder if it would be OK to start a relationship with someone I am very attracted to and interested in, yet would have no interest in making a commitment to until her kids are older and more independent. Your candid feedback would be greatly appreciated. – Looking forward to my second childhood
Your letter reflects a level of self-awareness and candor that are important when stepping back into dating after divorce — or anytime, really. Too many people don’t give enough thought to what they are really looking for, and what they can’t live with, in any future partnership before they dive into the dating pool. This can then lead to a series of first dates that go nowhere, dysfunctional pairings that cause unnecessary harm and lost time for one or both people, and/or hurt and disappointment when the other person discovers that what they had to offer was not what you really wanted from the beginning. No wonder there are so many negative stories coming from the dating after divorce camp.
I will break down my answer by starting with the importance of how you handle your online profile and overall presence. Most sites have a series of short answers for you to fill out, along with an essay in which you can choose what you want to address and highlight. The short answers are specific questions about everything from religion to physical characteristics to whether you have kids and if you are interested in having any more. This is where you need to begin in order to get the right message across.
Answer these questions honestly and consistently in order to avoid any gray areas or mixed messages. You can say that, yes, you have two college-aged kids, but no, you don’t want any more children. If there are other questions that ask about your interests and passions you can highlight your desire to explore and experience your later years with that right partner but that you in the role of a parent with younger children is not what you see as you look ahead.
Your essay really gives you the opportunity to address your child free goal in detail. Talk about your passion for pursuing a bucket list of new, adult only adventures that you were unable to partake in when you were younger due to your family needs and obligations. Paint a picture of the life ahead that you are envisioning. This can include places you want to travel, details about the experiences you want to have, and/or any other specifics that highlight and emphasize that vision.
If a woman makes the first move after seeing your profile, check hers out carefully before responding. If she says she has children who live at home, but doesn’t specify their ages, this is a question you could ask upfront. By bringing it up immediately, you are communicating that it is an important issue for you and her answer will tell you if this is a deal breaker before either of you invest any more time or energy.
I think you already know the answer to the last part of your question. It’s only OK to start a relationship with a woman who has minor children if you are completely candid upfront about wanting a partner only and not one with children as part of the package. This still leaves you with the potential for problems down the road if your attachment becomes serious because you could end up resenting her children for getting in the way, or if it should lead to you considering compromise, you could end up resenting her if you give up a child-free life to be with her and her children.
She could also choose to enter the relationship assuming she could handle a relationship without commitment. However if her desire for more were to grow, it could lead her to believe that you had been unfair and/or had somehow deceived her. Either way your relationship would most likely implode or leave you in an unpleasant limbo with no easy resolution. The bottom line is that there are no guarantees either way, but complete honesty will give you your best shot at getting it right — the first time.
Toni Coleman is an internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of http://consum-mate.com. Her expertise is sought frequently by local and national publications, top-ranked dating and relationship websites. Toni has been a guest on a number of radio and TV programs. She is the featured relationship coach in The Business And Practice Of Coaching, (Norton, September 2005); and authored the forward of Winning Points With The Woman In Your Life, One Touchdown At A Time (Simon and Schuster, November 2005). Toni's popular relationship articles can be found in several magazines and a number of self-help, personal growth, and dating/relationship websites. From March until December 2005, she was a weekly contributing commentator (love and dating coach) on the KTRS Radio Morning Show, (St. Louis, MO). Toni holds a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work, is a licensed psychotherapist in the state of Virginia, and holds certification in life coaching. She is a member of The International Coach Federation and The National Association of Social Workers. Toni writes bi-weekly for HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Follow her on FB at www.facebook.com/coachtoni.coleman and Twitter @CoachToni.