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Dating when children are a factor

By Tom P Blake

Dating when children are involved is a complex issue for couples of any age.

A divorced woman e-mailed: "I have six children, ages 6 to 19. Do I even get to consider myself available to date? I'm incredibly lonely."

With six children, how can she find time to date? Having a relationship while raising children is difficult for a single parent. The kids need to be the top priority, and it's the exceptional person who can make both the children and the mate feel loved.

Dating someone with children can be as challenging for the mate. Can you imagine a guy calling on the woman with the six children at her house? He'd have to wear full-body armor to avoid the scrutiny, traps and tricks of the kids.

A man said: "Several women I dated had children who were resentful. Take a guess with whom those women sided? The relationships were doomed from the start."

A single mom with two teenage children explained why she ended a two-year relationship: "I don't love anyone enough to displace the lives of my children. My boyfriend felt that the partner comes before children; I couldn't accept his premise."

Even adult children can interfere with a parent's relationship. Sometimes kids need to return home to live with Mom or Dad. That's understandable. But if the parent has a live-in lover and the child stays too long, it can affect the adults' relationship.

Betty, 61, married a man 16-years-older. Now a widow, Betty wrote: "He had a daughter two years younger than I. That was the only problem we had. The children were jealous, but it worked anyway (for 25 years) because we were devoted. The children never cared that their father had a life."

Jackie, who lives in Detroit, has a relationship with an Orange County man.

She e-mailed: "While visiting him, his 40-year-old children snubbed me. They think I'm going to whisk their father away. I have my own money, and we've always shared expenses. If our relationship cools and I decide to share my life with someone else, no kids will be in the picture."

A mother of four and grandmother of eight, said: "Once the kids have moved out, a parent must make a conscious choice whether or not to let them interfere with a relationship. Some parents help their children so much they don't let them be adults."

Here are suggestions from readers about dating when children are a concern:

When people move in together, family dynamics change. A couple needs to discuss and agree on expectations regarding the children beforehand.

For the person moving in, don't think living with your sweetheart's children is going to be easy. Keep a low profile until you're accepted. Prove yourself by your actions. Avoid taking sides in arguments. Bite your tongue - a lot.

For the person with children, remember, they're your responsibility. Don't expect miracles or think it's your mate's job to make your life better.

Don't let adult children interfere. Some are selfish and fear losing their inheritance or think the parent is dating too soon or has forgotten the departed parent. Adults deserve a chance to live and dance again.

Adult children should be supportive of parents who are dating. It's about wanting your parents to be happy.

Whether a dating couple can function happily with children living at home depends on several factors, with each person's patience and understanding being the biggest.

The payoff for the nonparent may not come until years later, when the child you helped raise visits and says: "Thanks for being there. I didn't appreciate what you did then, but I do now."

It takes mature people to deal with children and dating at the same time and to have a happy relationship. But it can be done.

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