There are so many romantic ways to get engaged: on a boat, in a park, at a romantic dinner, on vacation, or my favorite– in the place where you met or fell in love. Getting engaged is such a beautiful occasion, and something that the couple remembers forever.
I think it is also very special when two people get engaged for a second marriage. It is very hopeful and inspiring to me to hear these stories. But, when I heard about a divorced man who got engaged to the woman he cheated with and left his wife for in front of his young children, I felt sort of disgusted. I have several reasons for feeling this way.
First off, why would someone involve their children in the engagement to a woman who is not their mom? An engagement is between a couple. It is two adults deciding to share their lives. While it is very very exciting for the couple, why would a divorced man assume his kids are going to jump up and down for joy and be thrilled that Dad is getting remarried?
From what I know about young kids, I think they are very into themselves (which is to be expected) and these poor kids could have been taken by surprise when their dad proposed to his girlfriend in front of them. Their poor little minds might have been thinking: how is this going to affect us? When is she moving in here? Are we going to get a new house? What’s going to happen with our mom? Is our mom going to be OK? Are we going to be OK? Are things going to change? Are we going to move? Are we going to go to a new school?
There are a million things that are probably going through these kids’ minds, causing them a lot of stress and anxiety. They aren’t thinking about their dad’s happiness, but rather themselves, which is very normal for a kid. The dad seems like he doesn’t really get that, and is assuming that if he is happy, then so are they. Kids often act happy when a divorced parent is dating, because it’s easier. But lots of times, they’re not as happy as you think.
The thing is, I am sure this guy was very excited and happy and probably felt it was a good thing for the kids, but I think he could not be more wrong to get engaged in front of them, putting them on the spot like that. It’s kind of selfish, although I don’t think he meant it to be that way.
In my opinion, here is what he could have done that would have been so much better for everyone. He could have gotten engaged in private with his girlfriend, and then sat his children down without her and said something like:
“I have made a very big decision in our lives and wanted you to know before everyone else does. I am going to marry So and So.” Pause…wait to see kids reactions. “I know this is a big change for you so I want to say a few things to help explain what is going to happen so that you aren’t upset or scared or worried about anything. First of all, we are going to remain living here and nothing in your lives will change that much, except for So and So being around more often. Next, nothing will change between me and your mother or between you and your mother. That’s all good. Also, So and So loves you very much and she is not trying to take your mother’s place. She is here for you to support you and help you in any way you might need. She is your friend, but you are going to have to treat her with respect and kindness. Remember that this is new for her too. I hope you are happy for me because this feels really right for me. And I hope you are happy about this. What do you think?” Then answer as many questions and listen to your kids’ concerns.
Wouldn’t that have been a better way to handle the kids instead of making things about him and his girlfriend? Another great touch would have been to ask the kids if they would like to be part of his wedding party (if applicable.) That makes kids feel special and included.
I realize that when a person finds love again after divorce, that it can be so amazing that they can’t really see straight. But if you can step back and think about the kids, things will be so much better in the long run. They will have such a better attitude going into the new situation if they feel like they were included. Now, make no mistake, kids should not be able to say, “No, we don’t want you getting married to So and So.” In other words, the engagement is not their decision. But, they should feel included.
I know many, many second marriages where kids are involved that are truly wonderful. I also know many second marriages that are not going well. One thing I’ve heard from almost everyone in a second marriage is that is it very difficult—even if the relationship is still great. There are so many obstacles to overcome when it comes to the kids. So, if you get engaged the right way—not springing it on the kids, I think you are setting the stage for a more peaceful co-existence because everyone will have a better attitude. That includes the ex-wife, by the way. If I heard my ex “surprised everyone” with an engagement in front of my kids—with the woman he cheated with nonetheless, I would go nuts. I would not be happy about it. But, if I heard he had that talk with my kids, I would respect it, regardless of any resentment I had towards him.
Falling in love after divorce is heavenly, and when things are so blissful, it’s easy to think your kids are as excited about it as you are. I hate to burst your bubble, but they’re not. So, keep that in mind. If they had it their way, Mom and Dad would be blissful, not you and Mr. or Mrs. So and So. But that doesn’t mean everyone can’t be happy. They can, IF you go about things in the right way.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.