Involving Your Children in Your New Relationship
When you find someone you care about who seems to have some future potential for you, you are going to want to bring your children into the picture. Of course, you want your significant other to already know that you have children. Otherwise, you may find a situation on your hands. Not every man is capable of accepting children that he perceives as belonging to another man. And some men may be frightened of the responsibilities children represent.
As soon as you are officially dating or can find an appropriate moment to mention it, you should get it out into the open. You don't want to get involved with a man who has negative feelings about children. All men will have some reaction that may seem a bit odd, but that is not the same as having them say they hate rugrats and would never have them in their home.
Preparing for Initial Resistance
Your children are going to figure out that you have a relationship going with someone—probably long before you are ready to bring the parties together for their initial check-each-other-out session. Older children will have the most difficulty assimilating a new person into your familiar life together. They would often prefer to have you all to themselves because they will likely have the most vivid memory of the life you had with their father. Even though they know that relationship is over, they will find it difficult to visualize you with another man. It becomes an issue of loyalty.
Problems of Premature Attachment
The risk you run with younger children is that they will form an immediate attachment. This is why you want to be pretty sure your relationship has some potential before you allow your younger children to bond. Even though you cannot always predict the outcome of a relationship, it is easier on a child not to have to experience too many unnecessary losses.
Managing a Slow Merge
Once you have introduced your new man to your children you do not want to immediately become a surrogate family. You do not want to have overnight visits until the children become comfortable with the prospect that your boyfriend is someone who may be here to stay. You can certainly choose whatever is comfortable for you, but if you take this slowly you lower the risk of emotional backlash from your children as they adjust to your new life. Keep in mind that they may feel threatened, fearful that they could lose you to this new suitor or that the new man will change the rules of the family.
Keep Some Private Family Time at First
You also want to avoid including this new man in too many of your family days at first. You are developing a relationship that has to have at its basis a strong bond between you and your new man. If your time is spent focused on becoming a family unit you are not going to be able to keep things in balance. You may be forced to skip some important stages of your relationship on the course toward greater involvement and commitment.
At the same time, you are also building a whole new family configuration as a single mom with your kids. They, too, deserve your attention and your time while they work through the change in their lives that divorce has brought.
Time Is on Your Side
You don't need to rush anything. You can take your time to allow everyone to get used to each other and for you to decide whether you really want to create a new family. If you have any reservations you should listen to your intuition and wait until either the feelings are resolved or you understand clearly that the relationship is not right for you. This is your chance at a new and happy life. If important aspects are missing, wait for another situation to come along. Do not settle because you are lonely or think you will never have the right opportunity.
Pay attention to your children's reactions to your new love. They often have their own way of sizing up a relationship, and may see something you don't but in fact, should.
Preparing to Take the Plunge
If you are sure you have met the right guy, give your children time to get to know him on their own terms. Give them space and do not insist that they do anything that is not comfortable for them, such as hugging him or giving him goodnight kisses, until they are ready.
Here are a few warning signs that your new man could be wrong for you:
- Your children run screaming to the neighbors whenever he arrives.
- He has no past and vaguely mentions something about witness protection.
- Your dog's hackles rise whenever he is in the room.
- Whenever the doorbell rings he reaches for his gun.
If none of these occur, and you have eliminated the possibility that your new man is the one they featured on “America's Most Wanted” last week, you may be on the road to many new and exciting adventures together.
Remember to constantly reassure your children that you still love them and that no new relationship will change that. Tell them that you are all going to form a family and ask for their input. The more they feel a part of things the less frightened they will feel. You may be surprised. If this is the right man for you your children may be as happy about things as you are.
More on: Dealing With Divorce
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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