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 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?
Photo credit: methyl-lives