You’re divorced but you've started dating, because you’ve decided to open yourself up to the possibility of love. You want to inform your ex, since you and he share the responsibility of raising your children together. You are aware that you should tread lightly in bringing up this sensitive subject with your ex and taking your ex's feelings into consideration will go a long way.
Despite your relationship with your ex-spouse, informing him that you are dating is about your children. “Because of the children you must stretch and force yourself beyond your normal comfort zone,” says Michele Germaine, a licensed social worker and marriage family therapist, and cited on ParentRise.com. This conversation probably won’t be easy for either of you. It is better that he hears from you that you are dating, rather than from a mutual friend or your children. “We put off bringing up a tough subject because we are waiting for the perfect opportunity,” says J.D. Schramm, who teaches communication at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, and cited on the Harvard Business Review blog. Prepare what you are going to say and keep to the facts. For example, your ex doesn’t need to hear how you adore the man you are dating or how your new guy has a terrific job. Your fear of having the conversation is probably worse than having the actual conversation, says Schramm.
Initiating the Conversation
How you initiate the conversation with your ex depends on what type of relationship you have. If you have a friendly relationship, call him up and ask that you sit down together to talk. If you have a difficult relationship with your ex, revealing that you are dating may cause issues. “Face to face interaction has the most potential for conflict,” says Ron L. Deal, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Arkansas, and cited on SmartStepfamilies.com. A phone conversation or an email may be the most appropriate mode of communication, instead, depending on your circumstances.
Be Sensitive and Respectful
Set aside any unresolved feelings you have about your ex. Make sure your motives are pure and that you are not trying to seek revenge or hurt him. “Hurt feelings from the past are the number one reason your ex and you overreact with one another,” says Deal. Your ex may have unresolved feelings or a desire to reconnect. Telling him you are dating makes reality set in. He may feel hurt, jealous or angry. Keep this conversation business-like. You are telling him for the sake of the children. After all, when you meet someone with long-term potential, that person will most likely spend a lot of time with the children you and your ex had together. Be respectful, but also let him know that are looking for his approval.
Remind your ex that the children are your number one priority. You will do everything you can to minimize the effect your new guy has on them. If possible, date when your children are with their father. Reassure your ex that you will not introduce your children to any dates unless there is long-term potential. Tell him first if you are going to introduce your children to someone new. Assure him that no one will take his place as the children's father.
Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.