Ask Dr. Gilda-Dating As A Single Parent…

A single dad is ready to get out there again… what should he tell his kids about his love life?

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

ear Dr. Gilda,
I recently divorced and moved into a new house with my two children after 22 years of marriage. This is all outside my comfort zone. I always did what my wife wanted. Now I’m my own man: I take my children to try new foods and spend time at places I would
Children need to feel protected by and safe with both their parents.
normally not have gone. So I am a late 40-something man, who has had his heart broken, but is now bouncing back. I feel ready to date, but where, when, and how? I have my two lovely teenage boys every other week.

I told my sons that I am ready to date and that they don’t have to feel like they’re my caretakers anymore. But one of them said, “Be careful Dad, I won’t have anyone break your heart again.” How do I now date without guilt about how my sons are reacting?
– Mr. Confused and Careful

Dear Mr. Confused and Careful,
Uh-oh, your use of the word “caretakers” tells me a lot! During your painful divorce, you unwittingly threw your two sons into the role of your confidante and caretaker. You shared your heartache with them, as though they were your buddies. This also cast their mother as the source of your pain. You’ve painted yourself into a corner. Children need to feel protected by and safe with both their parents. Towards that end, divorced parents ought not to denigrate their exes. As children grow up, they can make their own assessments regarding whom their parents really are.

Overseeing parents’ emotions puts too much pressure on youngsters; this is the time they need to figure out their own relationships. Your sons now picture their mom, and probably most women, as the gender that “breaks hearts.” How will they formulate healthy unions when they go off on their own? As my Gilda-Gram advises, “Be friendly towards your children, not friends with them.”

You can’t un-ring the bell. So you will have to work overtime now to get your boys on track. This is what I suggest:
  1. Now that they’re teens, honestly admit that involving them in your divorce was wrong and selfish. Tell them you now know that grownups must work out their difficulties without burdening their children.
  2. You say, “I always did what my wife wanted.” Lacking a backbone in your former marriage, it is no wonder the relationship collapsed. Find out why you were so willing to subjugate yourself to your ex’s wishes, perhaps with the help of a therapist. That way, you can be sure not to repeat that pattern in future relationships.
  3. Make it your mission now to continue to discover your personal passions, to pursue them, and to express them to the women you meet.
  4. Don’t get your sons involved in your dating. Because of your kids’ feelings, soft-pedal your dates as “meetings with friends,” without explanation.
  5. Talk well to your sons about women in your family, your circle of friends, and at your job; this will support positive imagery and opinions of females, rather than viewing them all as “heart-breakers.”
The less you share your relationships, the more your children will be free to experiment with their own. This is a time for growth for you and your children. Be sure the boundaries are now well-defined.

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (
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