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Reality Check: Dating After Divorce

Q  I'm divorced and have started to see someone. When is it okay to have him sleep over with my child in the house?

A You don't want your child to wake up and find a stranger in the house or, worse, in your bed, particularly if you're not even sure you want to get into a serious relationship. You also don't want to give your child false hope or cause confusion. Of course, you're allowed to have a life, even a sex life  -- just not at your child's expense.

That said, you might have your date sleep over when your child is out of the house, presumably visiting his father for the night. I know, life and divorce are often messier than that, and these situations can be much more complicated. If that's the case, preparation and wise choices are key.

If your child's a sound sleeper and you have a sitter, it's okay to bring a date back to your house for a bit, and then have him leave before your child wakes up. But if the idea of your child walking in concerns you, it would be better to borrow a friend's place for a tryst and postpone any introductions until the relationship becomes more serious.

Once it does, you should still tell your child in advance when someone's going to be sleeping over, to help him get used to the idea. Don't call it a "sleepover"  -- just say, "Dave's going to be spending the night in Mommy's room, and in the morning we'll all have breakfast." Otherwise, he might get the idea that this is going to be a fun, communal sleeping-bag kind of thing.

Every so often, though, it might be nice if the three of you watched a movie or played a game together before everyone turned in  -- not so much to make this into a pseudo intact family but to lower your anxiety about getting caught when you come home late with a date.