Relationship Connection: Just divorced, my ex introduces my kids to new boyfriend

Question

My wife and I divorced recently and within less than a month after our divorce, she has a new boyfriend who spends substantial time in her house around the kids. My 6-year-old son said to his mom: “Mom, don’t marry him, it will make dad cry.” She got upset at me and accused me of coaching our son to say this to her.

Of course, I would never put my son in the middle of our problems. My kids have told me many things about the new boyfriend and I try to talk about other things. I have told them repeatedly that I don’t want to talk about him.

I have no problem with her dating. I want her to be with a great guy. Why would I want a loser around my kids? I just think it’s too soon to introduce another man into their lives. I don’t think they’ve even adjusted to the fact that their parents are divorced. I can’t even wrap my brain around her thinking or her responses; they make no sense at all. How do I best respond to my kids and my ex-wife?

Answer

It’s so sad to see children get caught in adult drama. I’m sure it’s more than you can stand to see your son worrying about how to protect you. Even though you can’t do anything to influence your wife’s decisions about her love life, there is still much you can do to help your children through this confusing maze of family changes.

It really doesn’t matter what you and I think about how soon she should start dating someone new and introduce him to your children. What matters is how you respond to this unexpected development.

First, check your own responses to your ex-wife’s choices to see if there are any traces of resentment, jealousy, or anger toward your wife for moving on so quickly with another guy. If you’re having a strong personal reaction to her choices and simultaneously trying to suppress these emotions, the fallout will most likely spill over on your children. There is nothing wrong with having a strong personal reaction to her moving on with another guy. Just make sure you’re getting the proper emotional support so you don’t inadvertently lean on your kids for adult emotional support.

This isn’t to suggest that you act like a robot and protect your children from your emotions. I’m simply recommending you do everything you can to keep your children from feeling like they need to take care of you emotionally. Children are constantly scanning their environment for signals that their caregivers are tuned into their needs. If they sense that you’re distracted by what’s happening with your ex-wife, they will feel a need to do something to protect you. It’s your job to make sure they can be kids and not have to worry about taking care of the adults who are supposed to take care of them.

When you redirect your children to stop talking about your ex-wife’s new boyfriend, you’re more than likely sending a message to your children that you are distressed and can’t handle talking about mom’s new life. This is where it’s important to put your own emotional reactions and opinions aside so you can focus on your children’s experiences.

Let them talk about him and the experiences they’re having with him. This may be totally stressful and confusing to them, and they’re coming to you to make sense of it. You can listen to them about what’s on their minds. You don’t need to and certainly shouldn’t open up to them about how you feel about their mom and her choices. Instead, just keep connecting to them and let them share how they feel. You may be the only adult in their life that can help them make sense of what they’re experiencing. Their mom is most likely too preoccupied and biased to help them process the experiencing of meeting a new boyfriend.

There is no need to decide what they can or can’t talk about with you. Let them talk about what’s on their minds. They probably have a lot of conflicting and confusing thoughts to sort out. One of the best ways to help your children navigate this mess is to have a loving adult make room for all of their difficult emotions and thoughts. As you listen to them, you’ll know better what they need from you.

You may worry that you’ll be feeding into the drama with your ex-wife as you let your children talk about this. That will only happen if you’re interjecting your own opinions and being cynical with them as they talk about their experiences. Keep the focus on their experiences and save your reactions for your own adult support system. You might consider picking up a copy of “Between Parent and Child” by Haim Ginott to help you know how to improve your ability to emotionally support your children.

Stay connected!

Related posts

Geoff will be holding a 2-day couples workshop on April 25-26 to help couples deepen their connection and strengthen their marriages in a fun and interactive setting. This workshop is limited to 10 couples.

hold-me-tight-book

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

14 Comments

  • Paula April 2, 2014 at 7:05 am

    My first concern would be the safety of my kids. The statistics of abuse by ” the boyfriends” is pretty high, just saying. If you and your ex can sit down and have a calm, adult conversation, I would express any concern you have in regards to your son and his reactions etc. it would be a good idea to put the child’s best interest first, and even though you’re not together as a couple any more, you’re still his family and if you could agree on what’s best for him, I think that could give you some peace of mind.

  • kalsey April 2, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Some advice don’t get married

    • Bub April 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Started to consider this after my 3rd wife…

  • Baggage Check April 2, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I know divorcees who don’t want to dump the baggage of their exes. They carry this baggage around by inviting the exes to everything and over for every holiday. I know divorcees who even invite the exes to go on vacations with them (along with the new beau). They say it’s for the kids. Are they living in some fantasy Disney World movie life, maybe one where the ex suddenly becomes santa claus and everyone goes to the north pole as one big happy extended family? Weird. You got divorced. Dump the baggage of carrying exes around everywhere. Move on with life. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend my holidays and vacations with one’s exes.

  • Dana April 2, 2014 at 10:45 am

    If you think this boyfriend is in her life within less than a month after your divorce, think again. She probably had her afternoon delight long ago. Spend more time with your children . And pay very special attention to what Paula said, abusive boyfriends seems to be the norm.

    • Warm Body April 2, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Less than one month? Maybe secured some stud muffin long before then before dumpin this dude. Was he paying too much attention to guns, truck, huntin’ and campin’ to not notice? Who he got slavin’ in the kitchen now?

      • Brian April 2, 2014 at 3:04 pm

        Right, because if SHE had an affair its clearly HIS fault, and definitely related to him being a “hick”. Prejudice much?

        • Warm Body April 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm

          Just sayin’ it happens. Wifey flirts with other dudes while hubby is campin’. Hubby like many dudes here only care about themselves. If his property, also known as wife, didn’t want campin’ or huntin’, she supposed to stay home. While he go campin’ she turns cougar and does her own huntin’.

  • Simone April 3, 2014 at 1:07 am

    OMG! They waited a full MONTH? Isn’t that like 4 YEARS in Mormon time? ….I’m surprised they’re not married by now.

  • johnson April 3, 2014 at 7:44 am

    NSA with one of these married church women is the best cause they aren’t expecting a commitment or a daddy to their kids

  • GPM April 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Many moons ago I experienced a similar situation when my daughter was six and my son was almost three. Love you kids, be supportive and see them as much as you can. Insulate them, if possible, from all of the crap they’ll probably be exposed to. Keep a “cool” head.

    My kids hated their step dad, still do, and when they were old enough to make their own decisions they chose to live with me. After my kids came to live with me their Mom said to me, “You won.” I didn’t win, she lost. I raised my kids as a single parent but it was not easy, very difficult at times. Fortunately my kids turned out OK and now have families of their own. Interestingly, they don’t have anything to do with their Mom. Sooner or later we all “reap what we sow.”

  • Emily Jones September 30, 2014 at 5:17 am

    For anyone else going through a divorce whilst their partner is in a new relationship it can actually make a bit difference on the courts outcome. I found this recently which explains penalising parties for being in new relationships during a divorce, makes for interesting reading: http://www.family-law.co.uk/blog/divorce-new-relationships-can-penalised-moving/

  • Dorcas Fraizer December 10, 2017 at 3:55 am

    I and my boyfriend we are back together. with the help of …
    Ed. ellipsis.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.