Ex-etiquette: How long to wait before introducing child to new partner

  • Article by: JANN BLACKSTONE MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 - 1:32 PM

Q: I’ve read in your columns that you feel that a new couple that started out as an affair is in for a difficult time. I find myself in that situation (newly separated), and needless to say, I agree.

Do you have any guidelines on how long I should wait before introducing my daughter, 6, to my new partner? I have been thinking somewhere between nine months and a year. My ex would rather they never meet.

 

A: Always go slow when introducing kids to a new partner after a breakup, not only for your daughter’s sake, but because your ex needs to get used to all this, as well. More than having a set time, as you suggest around nine months, my suggestion would be to wait for a while to see if the relationship becomes permanent.

I know you probably think you have found the love of your life, but stats tell us that relationships that start with an affair have less than a 10 percent chance to make it five years, so the odds are against you. Problem is, there is so much more to making a relationship work than being attracted to someone, and the trials of dealing with the hurt associated with a breakup of this sort often overshadows the attraction. This leads to the inevitable breakup.

Truth is, your daughter is the most important consideration. However, since she will also spend time with her mother as you get adjusted, how easy the transition will be for her will greatly depend on how well your ex fares. Odds are very small that your ex will be open to your daughter having a relationship with the woman who turned her life upside down.

If Mom is as angry, hurt and humiliated as many are in this situation — raw emotions are difficult to cover up — and if your daughter sees her mother in pain, she may not want to leave her alone. It won’t be that she doesn’t want to see you, it will be more that she doesn’t want to leave her mother in a time of trouble. (This would also be true if you were the “wounded party.”) Bottom line, it’s doubtful that this transition will be made in nine months to a year.

I have to caution both you and your ex: Consider how much information you want to pass on to your daughter about why her parents are no longer together. For different reasons, both of you may want to explain things, but don’t do it. She’s a baby and will not understand, and too much information will undermine her security with both of you.

After a breakup, kids really need to know how the breakup will affect them directly. Where will they live? Will they still have the same bedroom? Will they go to the same school? Will their dog be able to come, too? Will they still be able to play with their friends? Where will Daddy sleep? Will he be safe? Will she be safe? The specifics are not necessary — at least for now.

 

Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com.

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