When to introduce a new partner after divorce
Parents entering a new relationship hope that their children will accept their new partner. Separation brings many changes in a child’s life, so the most important suggestion is to wait until the child has adjusted to the big changes – perhaps a move of home and/or school- and is settled into their parenting schedule spending time with both parents.
- Most children are loyal to their family of origin and need time to adjust to the many changes in their life triggered by a separation. Adults are often surprised by the decision of their partner to separate, but children are far more surprised. Adult emotions are usually running high – anger, anxiety, lack of trust and all of these reduce children’s feeling of security, especially if the new relationship started before the marriage ended or within the first six months after – while significant life changes are still happening. In these situations, children hang onto their family ties more strongly for a sense of security.
- Also, most children hold onto the hope that their parents will reconcile for a long time. Even if they think a new partner is a good person, they may see this person as an obstacle to reconciliation – and feel disloyal or worry about how the other parent may feel. If they welcome the new partner. It often makes children feel caught in the middle if done too soon.
If a parent hopes that the children will accept a new partner as part of a newly formed family unit, it is better to wait until the following:
- You are sure that the relationship will be a lasting one. (No need to introduce children to partners who may disappear from their lives. If the new relationship does not last, children, are unlikely to accept a later ‘real’ partner.) Keep in mind that your child will be protective of you if they saw you being harmed in a past relationship and may not necessarily want a new person around. Regardless of your child’s age, you must be aware of this and talk to them about it.
- The major life changes have happened, and the children are settled (ie moves, new school, parenting time, work changes, and emotional adjustment to the separation…).
- You have told the other parent before introducing a new partner to the children – and preferably add some reassurance that you are not looking to replace their parenting role.
- Be honest with the children – say this is someone you care about and who has expressed an interest in meeting them. Allow them to voice any concerns and indicate whether they are ready to meet. Listen without pressure.
Script for toddlers/preschoolers:
“I have a new, wonderful friend who makes me extremely happy. Like us, she enjoys going to the beach and she also like smoothies. I hope you get a chance to meet her soon. It’s excellent for you to meet my friends since I enjoy meeting your friends. Have you got any inquiries?”
Script for school agers:
I’ve been spending a lot of time with a new person, and I’m ready to name him my boyfriend since we make each other happy. Script for school-age students. He enjoys playing the guitar, motorcycling, and being a kind guy. It could be fun for us to get to know one another, so I hope you get to meet him soon. What if we arrange for him to meet us at the park on the weekend?
Script for tweens/teens:
“I’ll still have plenty of time and love for you and your brother—you never have to worry about that. And of course, she’s not going to replace your mother. No one’s going to try to do that!
We’ll just take it one step at a time. But if you do notice anything changing too fast or changing in a way you don’t like, you can tell me how you feel, okay? Do you have any other questions? If you think of any later, you can ask anytime.”