by: Cynthia MacGregor
When you first got divorced, you may have felt you’d had it up to here with men, but sooner or later, you’re bound to begin dating again. When you do, sooner or later your kids are bound to meet one or more of the fellows you’re dating. What will their reaction be?
While they may be uncommitted or guardedly accepting, at least at first, the chances are good that they’ll go to one extreme or the other. What are the reasons behind these extremes?
Particularly if your ex doesn’t see the kids as often as he might—if he has moved out of area, or you have, or if he simply doesn’t take full advantage of his visitation rights, for whatever reason—the kids may latch on to this new “daddy figure” in their lives even before you do—and even if you never do at all.
This is why it’s best to avoid introducing the kids to men you date till you have a fairly strong idea that you would like to pursue a further and long-term relationship with a particular man. Even then, the kids might get attached to the man only to have the relationship not work out in the end, but you can’t avoid introducing the man to your kids indefinitely.
This is true not only for practical purposes (in terms of the impracticality of never allowing him into your home, or allowing it only when the kids are not home) but also because, once you begin to think seriously about a man, you need to see how he interacts with the kids. If he’s totally clueless (and not willing to learn), that certainly dims the chances of integrating him into your family.
But even a hopelessly clueless candidate may win rave reviews from the kids if they’re desperately yearning for a daddy figure, or particularly a live-in daddy figure, and he’s the only possibility on the horizon at the moment.
On the other hand, however, even the most love-worthy of suitors may get a thumbs-down from the kids despite his having spot-on parenting skills and doing nothing amiss.
Why? There are a number of reasons.
- They may view him as an interloper trying to take Daddy’s place, which they resent. They may feel that nobody else but Daddy has a right to be in love with you, married to you, or living under your family’s roof.
- They may still harbor fantasies of you and your ex getting back together. These hopes may be completely unrealistic, but who ever said that the average child is well grounded in reality? At any age we may be subject to daydreams and wishful thinking, and this is truer of kids than of adults, generally speaking. So if your kids, pining for Daddy’s presence and for things to go back to the way they used to be, fantasize that somehow you and your ex will reconcile, naturally they will resent anyone or anything that stands to interfere with that happening. And certainly your marrying someone else would prevent your remarrying your ex.
- They may be jealous of the time and attention you devote to this man, seeing him as a competitor in that regard. No matter how careful you are not to neglect your kids, if you’re spending less time with them now or paying less attention to them, they may resent the “intruder” who’s encroaching on “their” time.
All or nothing at all.
- Is there a middle ground? Of course. There will naturally be some kids who will judge the man on his own merits and not bring a wealth of emotional baggage to their relationsip with your new boyfriend. This is more likely if the kids are older, and/or if you have been divorced for a while but yet Daddy has remained a constant presence in the kids’ lives, and/or if Daddy has himself remarried. But none of these factors is a guarantee.
- You may even have one child who inappropriately attaches himself or herself to your boyfriend and another who just as inappropriately rejects him totally.
What I don’t have for you is a magic fix to rectify the situation, but if you understand what the problem is, that’s always half the battle. Your kids may resent the man despite his being warm, loving, caring, even-handed and even-tempered, or they may attach themselves to him despite his being the worst example of parenting you can imagine. But now that you know and understand the dynamics behind the problem, you’re more prepared to deal with it.
Good luck and happy dating!
Cynthia MacGregor is a multi-published author. She has over 100 books to her credit, of which roughly half were published conventionally and the remainder as e-books. They include After Your Divorce, Divorce Helpbook for Kids, Divorce Helpbook for Teens, Solo Parenting, "Step" This Way, and others. Forthcoming books include The One-Parent Family, Why Are Mommy and Daddy Getting Divorced, and Daddy Doesn't Live Here Anymore.she hosted and produced the TV show Solo Parenting, which was broadcast in South Florida over WHDT. Cynthia writes for HopeAfterDivorce.org, DivorceSupportCenter.com, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily.com. Contact Cynthia at Cynthia@cynthiamacgregor.com, and see her website at www.cynthiamacgregor.com.