Beginning a new relationship after a divorce can be difficult. It can become even more challenging when children are involved and you are faced with a decision of when and how to introduce them to your new love interest.
Will they get along? Will my ex-spouse be upset? Is it too soon? How will my children get along with my new partner's children? Each question you might be asking is valid and needs to be addressed before the introduction. Keep these important considerations in mind as you move forward:
Timing is key
It is worth waiting before you introduce your new partner to your children. Similar to a death, children need to process and grieve the end of their parent’s marriage. If a child is still in the grieving process, the introduction of your partner could bring about feelings of confusion, jealousy, anger, or sadness, and further delay their process of bereavement. While a child might always have hope for you and your spouse to reunite, they will eventually begin to accept their new family structure, and with it, the addition of your new partner.
Know the difference between a date and someone you’re dating
Your children may already feel a certain loss of security and stability after a divorce. The home and family they know will not exist in the same way as before. Therefore, it is very important to not introduce new partners regularly. This could create attachment issues for your children and further increase their feelings of instability. Wait until you’ve dated someone long enough and feel confident about their continued presence in your life before you introduce them to your children. For younger children, it even might help to introduce your new partner as your friend instead. Some mental health professionals recommend that no introductions should take place for a year or more after the divorce has been finalized.
Inform your co-parent about the situation
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at least 42 Million Americans have been remarried. Therefore, your ex-spouse likely suspects the time might come when you introduce a new partner to your children. It is important to remember that you are not asking their permission, you are letting them know as a courtesy, so they are not blindsided. For the well-being of your children, it is important they are not the ones who inform your co-parent. They should not be put in the position to keep secrets from their other parent, and if they accidentally expose your new relationship to their other parent, they will likely suffer negative feelings as a result.
Don’t forget about yourself
You are the ultimate decision maker for what is best in your life. A new partner is a fresh start for you and possibly the beginning of a healthy and lasting future relationship. It is important to keep your children’s happiness in mind, but don’t forget your own at the same time. If you explain this to your children, they are likely to be more understanding than you think.
Divorce is hard enough on everyone already. Enjoy your new relationship, and make the process of introducing your children to your new partner as low-stress as possible. If you feel like it’s too soon, it probably is. Trust your instincts, because no one knows your children better than you.