Dating is different when you have children. The game is played by new rules and with higher stakes.
At least, that’s the word from many single parents who have faced dating again after losing a spouse through divorce, separation or death.
Sheldon Boyce used to be one of those parents. Eight years ago Boyce, who belongs to St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Honeoye Falls, found himself a newly divorced father of three. When he began dating again, he took steps to ensure that nothing else would disrupt his children’s lives.
Boyce spent every other weekend with his children, and made sure that anyone he dated knew that he would be unavailable during these weekends. He also decided that he wouldn’t introduce anyone he was dating to his children unless the relationship was very serious. He did this not to hide his children and his dates from each other, but for the sake of his kids.
“I didn’t want people in and out of their lives,” Boyce said. “I think the most important thing is to never introduce anyone to the children unless and until it is a very serious relationship and unless it’s someone you’re ready to marry, so that you can maintain that stability in their lives.”
Kathleen Anne, who belongs to St. Rita’s Parish in Webster, also put her children before her love life. She used to date when her two daughters, now 17 and 15, were younger. Dating was easier at that point, because her daughters were more accepting of both the idea of her dating and of her potential suitors, she said.
But as the girls approached their teenage years, she decided to put dating on the back burner for a while so she could provide a good role model for her girls and be there for them, she said.
“I had to ask myself, ‘What’s more important, raising these girls or my love life?'” Anne recalled.
Some may consider Anne’s choice to be a sacrifice, but she doesn’t see it that way. Her daughters tell her that they’re happy with the way things are in their family right now, she said.
“I feel it’s a good decision, and it’s healthier for them. I’m pretty much at peace about it,” Anne said.
Boyce is now at peace with his situation as well. Three years ago he married Wendy, who had a daughter of her own, and the couple recently had a baby together.
Boyce and Anne agreed that being parents made them more selective when looking for potential dates.
“It was kind of like a litmus test,” Boyce said. Any woman interested in him would have to be comfortable with his time constraints and the fact that he already had three children, he said.
Anne said any potential dates must like children. If she felt safe around a suitor and he passed her “test,” she would usually ask him over for dinner or invite him to participate in a family activity.
Patience is the key to successfully integrating a new person into a family or blending two families, Boyce said.
“I think you just have to do it gradually, and be aware of the differences and not try to force things,” he added.
As in any relationship, compromise is important, Boyce added. However, compromise doesn’t have to mean sacrifice, he said, noting that his children enjoy some of the new traditions they’ve picked up from Wendy’s family.