The majority of divorced Canadians find relationships again, often remarrying. For anyone dating for the first time after their marriage has ended, the decision on when and how to introduce a new partner to the children is a tough one. And if you have an ex who you are co-parenting with, the waters can be even murkier.
After seeing many clients go through the ‘re-coupling’ stage, this is what I’ve observed:
- Your needs differ from your kids’ needs: You may be lonely and eager to move on but your children are likely in a different place emotionally. They may be uncertain around how this new person fits into their life, often feeling guilty that they are being disloyal to the other parent if they like the new person. Or they may have strong feelings of dislike if they feel the new person is trying to replace the other parent.
- Take your time: While you don’t have to wait for a wedding ring before you introduce your new partner, do ensure that this new person is someone special and is becoming an important part of your life before you take the plunge.
- Introduce your ex: If you’re co-parenting children, it really is a good idea to introduce the new partner to your ex before they meet the kids. Or at least communicate you have a new love interest. This might be awkward for some couples, but if you can make it work, it will go a long way in showing good faith and ease tensions with the children.
- Lower expectations for holidays: Blended families often have to renegotiate what holidays are going to look like. If you and your new partner both have kids, then coordinating holidays and vacations might be really difficult. Lower your expectations and be flexible around family traditions. It’s more important to work out a schedule, be open to compromise, and remain flexible.
- Respect feelings. The kids might show initial enthusiasm for your new love life, but then become jealous of the time and energy you’re devoting to that new person. Your ex might become more difficult if he or she senses someone is trying to take their place. These are all normal feelings that you need to work through. Be sensitive and put yourself in their shoes before you react.
While these are general observations I’ve made around re-coupling, everyone’s circumstances are different. The lifestyle of a single parent who has full custody is different from a person who is co-parenting and has more time away from the children. Determining what is best for your individual situation while being kind to yourself is the best guidance.