Long Distance Divorced Parents Dating Successfully?
November 15, 2009 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Long distance dating between 2 single parents possible? I'm asking for my sister (who doesn't know I'm asking) because I want her to be happy but don't know if these relationships ever really work.

She recently reconnected with an old friend (she says there was definite dating interest 15 years ago but it never went anywhere) a few months ago and since then they've been emailing and texting almost every day. They each have two kids, mid-teens and have both been divorced for about 5 years. She hasn't dated much since the divorce (busy with the kids, little interest). Neither has he, according to what he tells her. He writes that he enjoys speaking with her and she asked him if he thought it would be a good idea if she came to his town and their kids could hang out (my sister is pretty cagey and scared about rejection, obviously). He responded she should come and they could dump the kids and have their own playdate, which she thought was nice. I don't want her getting hurt; she's my sis. So collective wisdom, can this type of relationship between divorced parents about a 3 hour drive away from each other work out well?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Maybe yes, maybe no, but I think this is her life and she gets to decide that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2009 [8 favorites]

I know a long distance couple who are half a country apart. He's mid-50s with teenager kids, she's mid 40s with school-age kids. They've been together for years and seem really happy together. They manage to spend I think every third weekend together (usually he flies over to visit her) and occasional longer trips. They also co-organize a conference every summer and get to be together for a solid month during that time. I think it can work if both parties are really committed to the relationship- this couple is pretty awesome.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2009

I think it depends on your definition of "work out". If you mean will she have a good time and companionship now and then until it they grow apart or meet someone else, then there is a high probability that will happen.

If you mean, will this turn into a serious committed relationship well maybe, maybe not.

At the very least he sounds like a nice guy who has a lot in common with your sister. Yeah the distance and the kids will limit the time they can spend together, but I don't see any red flags here.
posted by whoaali at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2009

You are only going to get anecdotal answers here. In my experience and observation, long-distance relationships are great if you want that chemistry/spark/infatuation/early stuff to last, because you never really get to the boring workaday stuff. You also never get to the comfortable cozy part where you're integrated into each other's lives. So it can definitely "work" depending on what works for you.

From your brief description it sounds like she's ready for the "families" to get together and he's ready for the "adults" to get together. They may not be looking for the same things. Only one way to find out though, and you can't really protect her from being hurt if it doesn't work out, sorry.
posted by headnsouth at 4:38 PM on November 15, 2009

In theory, being divorced, having children, and dating long-distance, are not things in and of themselves that would prevent a relationship from succeeding. It's like any number of obstacles and special circumstances between two people, depending on the people, it could work spectacularly, it could fail miserably, or it could be a fairly good experience that has a beginning, middle, and end. The determining factors are the actual people involved and the connection between them. You're sweet to be worried about your sister, but there is no way to predict whether this will work out or not. She'll have to leap and see what comes, and since you sound like a good, caring sister, you will be there to share in what happens and help her safely land wherever this relationship may go. Good luck to her!
posted by katemcd at 4:44 PM on November 15, 2009

FWIW: my dad and stepmom dated cross-country for ages, having met on the AOL Jewish Singles chatroom. Of course, of the three kids they had between them, two were in college and one was almost done with high school when they started seeing each other. They've now been married for almost a decade.
posted by HeroZero at 4:44 PM on November 15, 2009

Ack: almost 9 years. 10 next year.
posted by HeroZero at 4:45 PM on November 15, 2009

Instead of coming at this angle from your sister's perspective, the first thing that seemed off to me is that they are hoping that the teenagers are going to get along and that it won't be awkward for them knowing that their parents are.. doing whatever they're going to do.

Depending on the age of these kids, it seems like -- at least at first -- it might be a better idea to make sure each set has plans for an entire weekend with their own friends instead of hoping that everyone will get along (including your sister and her old/new again love interest).

A big collision like that sounds like something out of a romantic comedy.
posted by june made him a gemini at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2009

it sounds like she's ready for the "families" to get together and he's ready for the "adults" to get together. They may not be looking for the same things.

I interpreted that more as the sister was hedging her bets when suggesting to visit him. She suggested a get together for the kids so she wouldn't be rejected if he said not to come.

His response definitely indicates he'd like to see her, though.
posted by dzaz at 4:49 PM on November 15, 2009

I wouldn't worry about this too much.

The parties involved have built so much anticipation into the scenario (based on a long ago in-person connection) it's almost certain to be weird once they meet-up again in-person. They're enjoying a fantasy right now.

I think if it had more "legs," they would've met up again in-person by this point.

Maybe stay out of it and see how it goes? If you need to speak up for some reason in the future, you'll know when the time comes.
posted by jbenben at 4:55 PM on November 15, 2009

You can not and should not try to run your sister's life or relationships or manage her hurt, even if your intentions are good. It's understandable that you want her to be happy, but frankly your interest and willingness to ask a random group of strangers whether this can work when your sister isn't asking for your help seems overbearing and intrusive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:59 PM on November 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Her call. Until she asks for help, this is her situation and for good reason--as the only person actually handling the situation and the only person who is bearing the risk, she has more information and is better positioned to know the facts than strangers on the internet or yourself. If she requests help, then provide it.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:27 PM on November 15, 2009

To actually have a relationship someone is probably going to have to dig up their roots and move. But that's in future.

While it's long distance and they've still not even really met (in recent years). I'm not sure I'd get the kids involved and just say "I'm going to see my friend from X for the weekend, we met years ago. You guys stay with your father/aunt and I'll see you on Monday night." and ask him to do similar.

With the two families (children) meeting up early it adds another level of complexity.
posted by selton at 5:37 PM on November 15, 2009

I'm pretty skeeved by the idea of using her kid as a wingman. She's scared about rejection so she wants to hide behind her teenage daugher?

If she asks for your advice (and that's admittedly a big "if"), I'd focus on helping her to get comfortable and gain confidence as an adult woman thinking about pursuing a dating relationship (long distance or otherwise) on her own, without relying on her kids for emotional support or to hide behind. She deserves a chance to find a happy romantic relationship if she wants one, but it's not fair to ask a teenager to facilitate that.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:57 PM on November 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty skeeved by the idea of using her kid as a wingman I don't know if that's what the sister meant...I'm a single parent of three kids and I have nobody I can leave them with for a weekend.

I can get sitters for a few hours here and there, but if I had interest in someone more than an hour away, this guy would have to be willing to hang out with my kids. Which I know completely limits my dating choices.

I think her sister probably wanted to gauge his interest to see if this guy wanted to move beyond email; he knows she probably travels with her kids, so she was framing it that she was coming his way and her kids would be with her.
posted by dzaz at 6:13 PM on November 15, 2009

I don't see any reason this shouldn't work, if they both want it to. However, I'll give the same advice here that I give in any parent-dating situation. Children should not meet a parent's romantic partner unless and until the parent believes that the relationship is permanent. Having to meet and build relationships with parents' dates is incredibly stressful for a child, no matter what age, and so opportunities for a child to develop feelings about a person who will eventually disappear should be minimized. If she wants to date this guy, she should date him. Her kids should not "date" him unless and until they plan to marry.
posted by decathecting at 6:16 PM on November 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

RE dzaz's comment, I get the logistics concern, and I may have misread the description--does "cagey" and fearing rejection refer to her sending an e-mail to test the waters about visiting, or does it refer to her characterization of the visit as focusing on the kids getting to hang out?

My point was mostly that kids deserve to not have their mom working out her insecurities about a guy/potential boyfriend in ways that involve or use them. I read it as something like "Let's go on a fun vacation Where I may be hooking up with this guy I'm interested in, but if not I'll say it was just a fun visit with the kids..." That may be an incorrect or uncharitable reading.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:23 PM on November 15, 2009

Completely agreed, Meg.

I have a similar situation to the OP's sister as a single mom, so I may be throwing too much of "I would never do that..." into it.

But OP seems more concerned about whether LD relationships work with single parents, not that her sister is using her kids as wingmen. I'd be all over my sister (if I had one) if she did that.
posted by dzaz at 6:29 PM on November 15, 2009

« Older Help me articulate the concept of how...   |   Should've-Asked-This-Question-*Before*-I-Got-The-Dog-But-I-Had-My-Head-Up-My-Ass-Filter... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.