Dating The Parent Of Your Child’s Friend Is Weird

When your ex starts dating can often bring a flood of emotions especially if his new partner is a friend or former friend of yours and even worse if they were dating before you broke up. What can also be a strange situation is when your ex starts dating the mother of one your child’s friends. That’s what happened to Michelle and I asked her to talk about how that made her feel and how her daughter felt. Here’s Michelle:

I think my daughter has mixed feelings about it. I know that she really loves spending time with this other little girl, they’re good friends, and I think on the one hand it’s nice because they can do things together.

One-on-one parenting is importantOne of the times I blew up at my ex was right after he went public with his relationship. He told me on a Friday that they were together, and then on Saturday, my daughter had plans to go to the movies with this friend, and I was under the understanding that the mother was picking them up and taking them to the movies. Well, my ex pulls up, driving his girlfriend’s car, to collect my daughter, almost like a family and I was livid.

I felt it was putting her in a really uncomfortable position, to be in the back of a car with her Daddy driving with a new Mommy and they’re all going to go off to the movies together, and I blew up at him.

I apologized the next day because I realized it was fear-based on my part, but I said, “I think that’s very confusing for her, she’s barely had time to process this and then all of a sudden it’s like a situation where she needs to feel comfortable with it almost being like a family thing.” He was very apologetic about that. Then he actually started being a lot more discreet.

They’ve been together almost a year now, so they all do things together. They don’t live together and they don’t spend the night together when any of the kids are around.

I think that my daughter is glad to see her dad happy. There are times however when she doesn’t want to be spending time with her friend. Sometimes she wants a little space and distance, and I’ve just always encouraged her to bring that up with him.

There was a time, too, where I think she felt a little displaced by the mom, because when he moved out into his first apartment, my daughter helped him. She helped him decorate, she helped him move. I think it was her way of dealing with it, like, “How can I help take care of Daddy?” When he moved into his second place, his girlfriend helped him. She was pretty upset, and she was struggling with that. I think she felt she’d been displaced.

I just encouraged her to talk to him about it and I said, “Listen, I know that you and your brother are Dad’s top priority and if he doesn’t know how you feel, he can’t change his behavior.”

I didn’t want to get involved unless I absolutely had to, so I just encouraged her to talk to him, which I guess they did and he’s been able to help her feel better about it.

My son doesn’t say much. I’ll ask him how he feels about it and he’ll just go, “It’s fine, it’s cool.” He’s a pretty reserved kid. He’s very social but he doesn’t talk very much about his feelings. He’s actually a lot like his dad, which was again was always one of my issues, he never would open up.

I think with a teenage boy, it’s like I’m always looking for how are his grades, is he getting in trouble, is he hanging out with a different crowd? Are there any behavioral changes that indicate that he’s struggling or having a hard time? Any changes in his habits? And I haven’t really seen anything like that. Pretty much everything about how he handles himself has stayed pretty consistent, which is good. Other than trying to pry stuff out of him, that’s about all I can do.

One of the things I think is really helpful for a boy, too is that he hasn’t lost his dad. Dad’s around all the time, as much as he wants, and if the kids say, “Hey, I want to go hang out with Dad” or “I want to call Dad and have him come over and play basketball,” that’s fine with me. No problem. I always try to stay focused on not wanting them to lose their dad or feel like they’re losing their connection with him.

From my dating coach’s perspective, your kids’ activities would definitely be somewhere to meet other adults who share a common interest and who may also be single so it’s not surprising that new romances evolve.

A few pointers from Michelle’s story would be to remember that you and your kids will need some time to adjust to the new situation. It’s reasonable to expect that and to request it. Your ex and his new partner may have been seeing each other for some time and have gotten used to being a couple. If he’s only just introduced your kids to her, he shouldn’t just assume they’ll have an immediate comfort level even if they did already know her as a friend’s parent. They need time to see her in her new role. If your ex gives you the opportunity, you can be supportive of him and suggest ways to ease the adjustment. He could take a tip from Carlos and have a family game night.

Part of that adjustment (even if the new partner isn’t a friend’s parent) is emphasizing the continued importance of one-on-one time with the children without the new partner being around. That does mean more demands on his time but that is the reality of parenting and dating.

Understanding that your child won’t always want to spend time with this friend is also important, so too is making sure there’s a safe place to air disagreements. And yes, if there’s a falling out things could get very uncomfortable. That’s probably why some people choose to adopt a policy of not dating the parent of one of their kid’s friends or at least until they graduate high school.

Are you dealing with this situation? How did your children react? What has helped your children adapt? If you’re the one dating, how did you handle introducing the dad as your new partner?

Michelle is a life coach specializing in eating disorders. You can read more about her practice at her website and follow her Unlock Your Possibility blog. Follow her on twitter and Facebook.

Photo credit: methyl-lives

  • andrea

    well, since my relationship with my husband was over LONG befor the disso, i can’t really relate to caring personally about what my ex did with another woman.  but looking at it as a mother, HELL NO.  what in the world is this “man” thinking.  and i would be very concerned about what my kids would take away from it, as far as an example of trust and respect in man/woman relationships.  when you have children this age they pick up on what the adults are doing and that is their base line.  so cheating, lying, betrayal, sexual promiscuity, great example dad (and ex friend).  i have some of this w/ my ex.  he met a woman in bar and he took the girls to a sleep over at her house.  i can’t talk to him, pointless, and i have a TRO because he is violent.  but seriously, can the adults in the room not lead w/ their hormones???

    • Mandy Walker

      I think Michelle’s ex has some points in his favor – he didn’t start seeing this woman until after he and Michelle were separated (I don’t know about the timing of their legal divorce) and she doesn’t stay over when the kids are in the house. Given that they’ve been dating now for over a year, it isn’t anywhere close to the same league as your ex. I think as T says, it’s a credit to Michelle that she hasn’t let the weirdness of the situation freak her out and she’s been able to coach her daughter. It’s hard enough for the daughter without mom making more drama.

  • T

    I love how she encourages her children to be responsible for their relationship with their father. I believe this is good for both sides. And thankfully, her ex is a man who respects what his children have to say.

    • Mandy Walker

      Great point T. You’re right because if Michelle had got in the middle to mediate it might only have inflamed the situation. This way she teaching her children how to self-advocate – a very important life skill. And yes, it sounds like she has a good ex – for a number of the women I’ve interviewed, like Andrea, there would be no point in even trying to have a conversation.

  • Nancy Wurtzel

    I can so relate to all of this. My FH (former husband) started dating his girlfriend two weeks after I moved out.  They are still together and my daughter — who is 18 — has really bonded with her and her family. She seems like a great person and so I hope the relationship lasts…however, I certainly have had some feelings about how quickly he moved into a new relationship and how that affected my daughter.  I know initially my daughter was feeling badly for me and guilty that she liked the new girlfriend.  You just have to put your feelings aside and do what is right for your children…not always easy but the best behavior will always win in the long run!

    • Mandy Walker

      All credit to you Nancy for being able to put your feelings aside and to help your daughter know she didn’t have to choose. I know it’s a different situation but after my mum died, I was shocked when my dad called about four months later to tell me he was seeing someone. If he was ready to tell me, then I figure he’d probably been seeing her for maybe two months already. He was in his sixties then – I knew my mum wouldn’t have wanted to be alone for the rest of his life and I wanted him to be happy. So I looked at as his new relationship was not a reflection in any way on his marriage. It simply was. so many men seem to move on more quickly than women. Agree?

  • Guest76

    My ex and I were separated on paper, but still living together with our two children when he started dating my sons classmates mother. After I found them in our living room in the middle of the night one evening, it set things off inthe wrong direction to say the least.

    I moved out a few months later. She and her son moved in the same day I left. This all happened the summer before my son started first and my daughter started kinder.

    Now one year later, we are still having issues. I don’t want to be around either of them and that’s very difficult when our kids are in the same class and she now occupies a mothering role in my children’s lives. My ex hurt me badly throughout our marriage and this falls in suit. I wish I could let it all go, but I hate them both for putting me and my kids through this.

    • Mandy Walker

      You are in a very difficult situation. It’s hard enough co-parenting with an ex, harder when there’s a new partner and even harder when the new partner is the catalyst for your break up.

      The best advice I can give you is to focus on yourself, get to know who you really are, what’s important to you, what makes you laugh, what feeds your soul. This will help you build your confidence and self-esteem, help you find your direction and hopefully get to the point where you can accept your ex’s and his partner’s presence without it upsetting you. I’m thinking of holding an online support group in the new year aimed at this. Please let me know if you would be interested.