Okay, you are a single mom who has been divorced for a few years now, and you’ve reached a truce with your ex and manage to parent your kids together fairly amicably. Then, one day he reports to you that he has been seeing someone and it’s getting serious, and he’d like the kids to meet her. What do you do?
This is a common scenario for single mothers. A recent study found that among those eligible to remarry—adults whose first marriage ended in divorce or widowhood—men are much more likely than women to have taken the plunge again. In 2013, some 64% of eligible men had remarried, compared with 52% of women.
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Be Easy on Yourself
This news will likely upset your hard-won equilibrium, and that is completely natural and understandable. Don’t be hard on yourself if you react in ways you wouldn’t expect – you might be angry at him all over again, or feel hurt, or resentful. If you’ve spoken with a counselor before, now might be a good time to schedule a couple of sessions just to talk this out with a professional – you will feel a whole lot better.
Under no circumstances say anything or take any action while under the influence of your reaction to this news. Take a deep breath, work it out with your counselor or a good friend, and give yourself time to recover from the news before taking the next step.
Get to Know His Girlfriend
You don’t have to be best pals with her or even like her, but if she’s going to be spending time with your kids you have to find out what sort of person she is. Start by asking your ex about her, innocuous things like Where did you meet? How long have you been dating? What does she do for a living? Does she have kids? If you ask this as the co-parent of his children, he should be willing to give you information that convinces you she is suitable company for your children. If he evades the questions… there may be a problem with this person.
Chances are that if you have joint custody of the kids, or you have sole custody and your ex retains the right to parenting time/visitation, he will consider these questions reasonable. As a concerned mother, not his ex, and you will be able to have a civil conversation with him about her.
Take Control of the First Meeting
Ideally, the first meeting would be on your turf and under your terms. If your ex comes to your house to pick the kids up, have him come in for a few minutes with his girlfriend. Serve coffee or drinks and chat for a few minutes. This will put the three of you at ease, and also provide an excellent model of appropriate behavior for the kids.
Kids know when their parents don’t like someone – and let’s face it, it is highly likely you won’t care for the girlfriend. And surely your kids will feel resentful that their father is dating too.
But if they see you putting forth the effort to be civil despite the way you feel, they will be civil as well.
It is in everyone’s best interests that all parties – you, your ex, his girlfriend, and the kids – put some effort in the beginning, and do their best to interact civilly despite the awkwardness of the situation. You can help your kids by coaching them beforehand on what sort of behavior will help get the best result for everyone.
If you can resist the urge to react to this news negatively, overcome your gut feelings about your ex dating, find out more about the girlfriend, and meet the girlfriend in a controlled, pleasant environment with everyone on best behavior, that ultimately is the best result for your children. They’ve had enough upheaval and strife from the divorce – you and your ex owe it to them to work together to incorporate this new relationship into the family.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant working and living in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with busy Philadelphian appeals attorney, Todd Mosser Esq.