Dating after divorce: hostility from your children

It was Lisa’s boyfriend who finally said enough to her ex’s harassment. It was him who came and helped her pack up her home and move to D.C.  While he was obviously a tower of strength for Lisa, his presence was greeted by hostility from her children, especially her daughter adding to her parenting after divorce woes. Here’s Lisa:

[contemplate1] It was a little less than a year after I gave my ex separation papers that I started seeing my boyfriend. The kids knew I was having dinner with a gentleman because it was a long-distance relationship and I didn’t see him that often but I didn’t have him meet the kids until almost exactly a year later. I wanted to wait and make sure.  So we kept it really low-key.

Parenting after divorce: hostility from childrenThen it came around to be Christmas, and we had been dating for a little over a year. I said to the kids,

“He’s going to come here this year because his kids are with his ex, and I’m having him here. I just want to let you know and I want you to meet him”

I think the boys had met him already once or twice, actually, but my daughter hadn’t and she just said no. She was really, really angry that whole year, and hardly ever called me when she heard that I was dating someone.

She said,

“He’s not dad, I don’t want to meet him, I think this is ridiculous” and she’d be crying, she’d hang up, she wouldn’t return my phone calls. I didn’t push her, but I asked if she wanted to go shopping or go out to lunch. Maybe twice in that year I saw her, maybe three times total. I found out later, even her boyfriend was like,

“Get over it. Come on. You want your mom to be happy.”

My ex was already dating people, within two weeks he was with someone and to this day he’s had eight relationships in two years. I’ve had one.

They started to see the contrast, and finally she came at Christmas.  I left it up to her. She showed up with her boyfriend a little late that day, wouldn’t look at my boyfriend, just mumbled a quick hello and shook his hand. Then she disappeared about an hour into it and went to the bathroom. She was in there for a while, so I knocked on the door and I could hear she’s crying. Here she is, twenty-three years old at the time. I went in there and she was absolutely hysterical, leaning up against the wall, makeup pouring down her face like Alice Cooper.

I just looked at her thinking, “Oh my God, what have I done?”

Guilt. And I said “What’s wrong?”

She said, “He’s not dad.”

“No, he’s not. He’s not dad, and I know this is hard and it’s going to take some getting used to, but staying away and not getting to know him or not even giving him a chance isn’t going to make it better, because there’s going to be weddings and your brother’s graduating in May. He and I are serious. He’s a really nice man and he’s a great dad. I don’t see him going anywhere.”

So she came out and she was better.

Maybe by the fourth time she started to see things differently.Now she sits next to him on the couch and they look at pictures together on their iphones and laugh. We’ve stayed at her and her now-fiancee’s house and she’ll ask my boyfriend if he wants a beer or something to eat. She hugs him goodbye and hugs him hello and it’s fine.

It’s perfect, but it seemed at the time that I had completely lost my daughter. A friend said to me.

“Just let it go, this always happens with one of the kids. Someone’s upset, just don’t push her, she’ll come around. You haven’t done anything wrong. Just continue to love her and don’t push her.”

I did and that’s exactly what happened, she just came around and now my boyfriend is part of the family, and his kids, too. We’ve had Christmases and Thanksgivings. Well, two Thanksgivings and another Christmas together and everyone bought everyone gifts. It just took time. Now I’m in a much better place and I see it was worth it in the end, but at the time, I don’t know. It’s been a lot of undoing, hurt feelings.

[contemplate2]

One of the biggest influences in how well children of divorce fare, is the degree of conflict in the divorce. While Lisa did what she could to shield her children from the conflict with her ex, they obviously knew about some of it. They didn’t know the reason for the end of the marriage and I’m not sure that knowing that would help children understand and accept. I think in most cases, and certainly in this case, it’s best that the children don’t know the details. TMI. So  I don’t find the reaction from Lisa’s daughter surprising. She’s mourning the loss of her family as she knew it.

I like the parenting after divorce advice Lisa got from her friend and I’m glad that Lisa didn’t end her relationship because of the hostility from her children. Yes, it’s important to listen to their concerns and any red flags they’ve spotted that you’re discounting, but your needs are key. It’s entirely appropriate to make them a priority – read what Susan and Anka had to say about this.

Photo credit: mellyjean

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