Divorced dads dating: women aren’t always ‘the devil’

“The important thing I needed to work out was what is it that I wanted from another relationship."
“The important thing I needed to work out was what is it that I wanted from another relationship."

Going back to dating can be daunting, but it isn’t impossible.

Pierre, 37, says his divorce was amicable and they went to court together with mixed feelings, but it was obviously still sad.  

He initially swore off all relationships because women were “the devil” he says jokingly, and then moved from Knysna up to Johannesburg where he had family and friends.

He was all set to never think about relationships again, until he found Tinder.

"But, oh my God, I was not ready to actually sit down and have a conversation with a complete stranger. Swiping left and right and chatting online was one thing, but getting to the crux and meeting for a drink or an evening out just seemed way too daunting."

Must read: Dating after a divorce - Do’s and Don’ts

Pierre deleted and redownloaded Tinder several times.

He chatted to a few women, but things became boring, and there were a few who were turned off by the fact that he has kids, but that didn’t bother him so much.

Eventually he decided to spend some time unpacking his feelings about his marriage and his own identity.

"The important thing I needed to work out was what is it that I wanted from another relationship? Was getting remarried important? How would I deal with someone else's children? What if they wanted to have more children?!" says Pierre.

Pierre only ever met two women from Tinder IRL.

An older career woman who he basically told his entire life story to, "My practical and honest brain kicked in, and I figured might as well air all the laundry upfront instead of letting it out bit by bit. The date went well and surprisingly she didn't fake an emergency phone call or try to climb out the bathroom window," he says. 

But she wanted marriage and kids and he wasn’t quite ready for that yet.

Then, one idle Wednesday in the office, after downloading the app again, he received a match. Jahni sent him a message and they started chatting. They arranged to have drinks that weekend.

"Our stories were very similar and we both had kids which we prioritised throughout our conversations. And importantly, I think we both had very definitely moved on from our exes," he says.

"Our priority was to build our lives again. We obviously faced numerous challenges which many blended relationships face but I think the fact that we treated each other with kindness all the time is what got us through."

Also read: 'My rude awakening to the modern dating scene': A divorcee's advice

The pair have now been together for almost six years and happily married for three.

Pierre introduced his kids to Jahni after six months of dating.

They made the trip down to Knysna together and kept titles and explanations simple. "I think everything is a little easier if your new potential partner has had a similar experience and also has two of their own kids in the same age group," says Pierre, who acknowledges that not having the pressure of having the kids around constantly did make things slightly easier with a new relationship.

They introduced all of the kids to each other after 18 months together. Pierre says it went well and attributes that to not putting any pressure on the kids or themselves and just being there to answer any questions.

"We were both very conscientious about introducing the kids as friends only, we were initially just friends as far as our kids were concerned and that label worked for them," says Pierre.

Pierre’s kids are 8 and 6 years old, while Jahni’s kids are 8 and 10 years old and he says them being in the same age bracket definitely helped.

"It was still an adjustment for us, especially having all four kids together. Once they worked out that they outnumbered us, they tried all kinds of tricks and taught each other a few tricks in testing us and our ability to stay calm with them and each other."

Pierre’s advice for dealing with all four kids at once? Make sure you always have food.

"When four kids simultaneously become hungry it is an epic shit show. All reasoning, logic, negotiation, and patience goes right out the window," he says jokingly.

Also read: Here’s what young people say helped them get through their parents’ divorce

But what about when it comes to discipline? What then?

"You have to talk to your partner all the time about how you deal with discipline and who takes the lead in which situation. The key here is a united front at all times when the kids see the adults working together and not attacking each other it makes everything a lot easier," he says.

Pierre also stresses that both adults know their roles in relation to the kids and don’t try to force labels. "Trying to be someone else’s 'dad' when they still have their biological father around for me is a hard no," says Pierre.

Pierre gives this advice when you’ve decided to blend families: "Be patient, be warm and honest (age appropriately) and always to remember that you have your own kids and your partner’s kids looking to you for safety, love, and guidance," he says. "Your actions and words will always be remembered even when it feels like you are not making any impact. Keep expectations realistic and just keep things simple and consistent, especially in the early days."

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