How to pick the best of the bunch
I've met four lovely women through online dating. My job will relocate me back to Scotland in a year, and I think it is time to start an exclusive relationship with one of them. I want to introduce them to my children to see how they get on before I make my choice. What's the best way to do this and what should I watch out for?
In my work with divorced couples, I have seen people go through three psychological stages during the recovery process. But many get stuck in the first stage, the "hummingbird" stage, as writer Abigail Trafford describes it in her book, Crazy Time.
This means that they take a long detour into casual dating after the end of their marriage. Some become obsessed with online dating, as it offers a seemingly unlimited variety of potential partners.
As the word hummingbird suggests, the danger for those who take this approach is that "their wings flutter too fast". They flee at the first sign of any imperfection in their date, or quickly move on to a new prospect for the sake of it; casual dating becomes a routine.
It's nice to hear that you have decided to try to settle on one person. But introducing your girlfriends to your children is fraught with problems.
Why put your children through the stress of meeting different partners when they ultimately don't have much say in your choice? In the end, it will be you who decides, not them, and they may be let down if you don't choose their favourite.
You seem to have a good idea of what you want. You want someone who loves your children and is good with them, and will be a good wife to you. You are probably looking for someone who shares a similar parenting style. But instead of seeing how they act with your children, you could see how they act with those of your friends.
So how about introducing the girlfriends to your friends who have children? Watch how your girlfriends react to challenging moments, and ask your friends and their children their opinion of your girlfriends. They don't have the same emotional investment in your choice as your children do, so they won't feel disappointed if you don't choose the one they like best in the end. But a word of warning: your friends might tire of you introducing different girlfriends to them.
The most important thing is to find a partner who is right for you and will stand by you.
Holidays are a great way to learn about people. As I write, I am in Spain, where a friend is staying with us. After a week together, I have realised that my obsession with history and architecture, my need to go for a run every day and my near-compulsive cleanliness is driving her crazy.
Dinner dates, or a weekend in a five-star hotel won't give you this much-needed information. I am not suggesting playing games, but why not have a probation period like this to see if the two of you match in daily life?
Also, think ahead. You know what living in Scotland is like, so try to imagine how each of them would react if they lived there. How would your family and friends relate to them? Do you need someone who can go to work functions with you there?
Do you have strong political views and, if so, do you expect her to share them? Also, summer holidays in Scotland are lovely, but the long and dark winter is another story. Could she cope with the gloom?
I don't know how long you have been divorced, but I hope you have reflected on the reason your marriage went wrong. You must take ownership of your own part, as you can even learn something from divorce.
It can be an amazing experience to start a new life with someone with whom you are compatible. A new partner could also be the start of a new family. But you and your partner need to have similar values to build on to make it a success.
Take your time to select the girlfriend who is compatible and loves you for who you are. Leave your children out of the equation for now. You must do the legwork and let your children enjoy the benefits.