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Weekend parents in search of a new relationship

“Children: 1; Children living in your household: 0.” That describes the situation for millions of divorced and separated men and women. But while there are numerous studies and self-help tracts for people whose children live with their ex, finding a new relationship can prove tricky.

Weekend parents in search of a new relationship

Keith wrote to PARSHIP on the subject … “My daughter lives with my ex-wife. The three of us still get on very well, I’m pleased to say. I haven’t had trouble meeting women, either - it’s not as if I wear a badge saying ‘I am a divorced father of one’. Online, though, it’s another matter. I think a lot of women are put off by the fact that I am divorced with a daughter. Do you have any suggestions as to how best to handle things?”

What’s the problem?

There is no catchy terminology for ‘divorced/separated people in search of a relationship whose children live with their ex’. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of them around. And there’s no getting away from the fact that most women would probably say they’d prefer to meet a man who doesn’t have children from a previous relationship, since they would be worried that he would be pulled back and forth by his ex or his kids.

Any single person who has children inevitably needs to retain a closer connection with their ex-partner and has more demands made on them. This can create anxiety for a new partner. As PARSHIP psychologist Judith Veit explains: “Of course no-one wants a partner who is battling for custody of the kids with their ex or who is engaged in some kind of war of attrition with their former partner, but it is a mistake to assume that this applies to every divorced or separated person who has a child or children. Preconceptions of this kind arise from conditioning or bad experiences in the past, but they can give rise to such potential (and possibly irrational) assumptions as: “He/She isn’t going to want any more children,” or “With all that alimony to pay, he’s not going to be able to have much of a lifestyle with me…”

The fatal flaw?

Being a ‘weekend parent’ can possibly put you at a disadvantage online, where people can sometimes apply strict criteria in their search for a potential partner. As Judith Veit explains: “If someone has built up a picture of their dream man or dream woman, they might miss out on someone who’s ideal for them in every respect but one.” And that exception might be a child from a previous relationship

Honesty is the best policy

If you are a weekend parent, then it is worth mentioning this sooner rather than later in an email. To pre-empt any assumptions that the other person may make, you can say something like: “I like to spend the weekends with my 17-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother/father. We all get on very well.” Alternatively, you can mention it in your ‘About me’ page, but don’t overdo things by mentioning it more than once: you want to be seen first and foremost as an individual rather than as a parent. Judith Veit says that, in her experience of advising PARSHIP members, parents rarely prove to be at a major disadvantage when looking for a new relationship. She even feels that “single people who have children often prefer the idea of a new partner who is in the same position”. Even if there isn’t neat way of describing them, all those ‘divorced/separated people in search of a relationship whose children live with their ex’ can have cause for optimism.

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