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Dating during divorce is disastrous!

You may have wanted to leave your relationship for months…. or even years, but you weren’t quite ready to give up your old life just yet. It is such a big change, to give up a relationship, financial instability to have to start over again or feeling guilty that you won’t be there every day for your kids. All of a sudden, your procrastination and hesitance shifts as you meet someone that makes you feel desired, important or appreciated. All of a sudden you gain the clarity, confirmation and confidence that there is life on the other side of separation. You may play it safe and see how things turn out, creating a parallel life filling you with excitement and anticipation as you see each other or text in secret. The desire to leave your old life accelerates and you make the decision you are going to leave. You may have the confidence and the courage to tell your partner you are leaving or you may wait for the next argument or create one to make your exit have a reason to go.

Alternatively, you may have already left the relationship, set yourself up in your new place, seeing the kids often or taken the kids with you to start afresh. You feel free, liberated and you are your own boss able to do whatever you want without approval or argument. It feels exhilarating.

You may feel life without a partner feels lonely, empty or after many months or years without feeling loved you have a strong desire to find a new partner so you are happy in love again. You start going out more with friends, taking care of how you look, even joining a dating app to start chatting with prospective partners. You go on a few dates and finally meet someone that makes you feel alive, you have so much in common and enjoy being with each other as much as you can.

In your haste to start a new exciting life, you have forgotten that you haven’t quite closed out the loose ends of your old life. There are still the parenting and financials to negotiate with your ex!

Decoupling your old life with your ex takes time and if you were married, divorce can’t happen until after 12months of separation…… so, you are still technically married! You are so enthralled with your new fling, that you hadn’t even thought it would be a problem. You are separated now so you can do what you like right?

Well, you can, but it can have devastating effects on the ability for your ex to create a successful coparenting relationship, negotiate the financial settlement and have new people around the kids who may be hoping mum and dad will get back together. Your ex is already trying to get over the shock, denial and anger that the separation invoked. They may seem uncooperative, inflexible and resistant to the separation as they may have hoped for reconciliation or at least time to come to terms with the impact of separation and the extent of loss they are feeling before trying to deal with the bombshell there is someone new ‘already’ on the scene.

There is also the stress of the separation chaos on your new relationship. Your new partner may become very uneasy that you even talk with your ex or not really want your kids around as the kids don’t like them because they don’t want them to try to take the place of their biological parent.

Your ex is livid that you are not grieving the end of the relationship like they are and perceive that you are cold, distant and heartless. Any negotiations for parenting or financials is fraught with conflict as your ex is still grappling with the hurt, pain, fear of uncertainty and loss of relationship, financial instability and lost opportunity for reconciliation.

Wow, what a mess!

So many people impacted due to the old life not been finalised before embarking on a new life.

So, what can you do to improve the situation?

It is important to have empathy for your ex who is hurting as they may not have wanted the separation and are struggling to come to terms with it. Give them time and space to heal. Be respectful and mindful of how your actions might impact your ex and your kids. Picking the kids up or dropping them off at your ex’s house with the new partner in the car can backfire big time. Try to spend time with the kids on your own without your new partner present as you have a lot of work to do to help your kids transition and adjust to the new family structure without the confusion of a new relationship to contend with. Use this quality time with the kids to maintain your bond with them.

Never bad mouth your ex in front of the kids, as they will be in protective mode seeing you as the tyrant who made the other parent sad. Focus on healing your family and not mentioning the new relationship in their presence. If you had started a parallel life before separation, this won’t be hard for you as you did it before. Negotiations may take longer as your ex may want to punish you for leaving as they want you to feel some pain too. Don’t give up, give it time. Both parents doing a parenting after separation course can help separate how you both feel about the breakup, be good role models and focus on the best interests of the children.

For those thinking about separation……. think whether it is worth dating before you have finalised your old life as it could be the difference between having a good coparenting relationship and a fair and equitable financial settlement versus an adversarial battle costing you emotionally and financially via the legal route.

Author – Cheryl Duffy – Divorce Coach, Meditator & Author

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