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dating post-divorceBy Tara Lynne Groth

Divorce is the end of a relationship, but how soon should divorced dads introduce the next relationship to their children?

While co-parenting with their former spouse, adjusting to a new routine and establishing a separate household, dads may meet someone new whom they want to share their life and family with.

Children are adjusting too, and introducing a significant other too soon — or someone who is not a positive influence — can have damaging psychological and emotional effects.

Every mental health professional underscores the same rule: wait.

"Don’t hurry to introduce someone new to your kids," says Aaron Welch, a licensed therapist with The Lifeworks Group in Winter Park, Fla. "The tendency is to be very excited that you’ve met someone you really like—especially after a tough divorce. Because of that excitement, people believe their kids will share that same feeling."

Welch explains that children become attached to new people in their life. If the relationship doesn’t work out, then the bond the children established is broken. Kids begin to expect instability and will lose focus and attention in school work and their own friendships.

Welch is a firm believer in waiting until fathers and their new partners are committed for a long-term relationship.

Even though it may take patience and time before children are introduced to a new partner, should divorced dads even talk about their dating life?

According to Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka "Dr. Romance"), licensed psychotherapist and author of "The Unofficial Guide to Dating," children should not have any clue that their parents are dating.

With 30 years of counseling experience, Dr. Tessina says, "Until the relationship is a serious one, children shouldn’t know about dad’s new partner."

She stresses to fathers that they need to really think about what they're looking for in a new partner. Fathers are not only looking for a partner for themselves, she explains, but also a stepmother for their children.

Dads need to learn as much as they can about their significant other before inviting them into their lives. And when dating, fathers should make it clear early on that they have children and they need to ask the right questions to learn exactly how their significant other feels about children.

If a father knows he’s found someone he can trust around his kids and is certain they will be present in his life for a long time, most experts recommend waiting at least six months before coordinating a meeting between children and the new partner.

Nancy Fagan, divorce consultant and owner of San Diego’s Divorce Help Clinic, says that six months is essential, but it must be six months of exclusive dating. For some families the time may be longer.

"If any of the children are still in pain over the separation or divorce, dads will need to wait longer," Fagan says. This is to eliminate confusion while kids process their pain and grieve the loss of their former family unit. 

Other situations prompt more time. Fagan stresses new partners who happen to be friends with the ex-wife, have a significant age difference, or are the first partner after a divorce are all very likely to upset children and the father’s former spouse. Relationships that share any of these features, more often than not, do not last.

If a father identifies with one of these situations, but they know their new partner is committed for the long haul and will be a good influence on his children, it’s best to wait much longer than six months to test the relationship on its own.

Read Related Article: "How To Introduce Your New Girlfriend To Your Kids"

 

Tara Lynne Groth is a full-time freelance writer residing in Cary, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in places such as GO (AirTran Airways’ in-flight magazine), the Providence Journal and Chesapeake Family. Learn more about Tara by visiting her website www.taralynnegroth.com.


Comments (5)Add Comment
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New partner living arrangement
written by Xavior, February 10, 2013
It has been almost 2-years since I ended the relationship, my son was 4 at the time. We have joint physical custody and he spends equal time between the two homes. My partner of 5-months is going to move in and when my son comes over he will obviously see her. He has not met her, however he knows about her. Over the holidays he told me that I deserve to be happy and it is ok that I have a girlfriend.

The mother is reluctant to the her meeting our son, even though she has never met her. (not a good idea as the ex is not that friendly). She has threatened to not allow my son to fly up to see me on my scheduled visitation. Flights are bought and paid for.

Can she legally deny my son to fly and see me due to someone living with me?
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written by Scot, November 15, 2013
never met her and she's moving in. OH MY GOD, no wonder your wife is furious. Imagine she did that?
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written by Matt, May 21, 2014
My ex and I have been divorced for over a year and I started dating someone seriously roughly 8 months ago. She is the only woman I have dated since the divorce adn things are going fantastically - I don't want to look anywhere else. I have 2 1/2 year old twins that are obviously the most important things in my life and I think that it is time to introduce them all - my ex seems to disagree. I wouldn't want them in an intimate "just the 4 of us" setting, but at a family function or other social gathering where they aren't getting to know her on a personal attachment level I don't see the issue...any thoughts...
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written by anon, July 23, 2014
I am not even divorced from my husband yet, he is moving a woman here from another state to live with him, we still currently live together, he has found a house to share with her and my kids. I still have not established a new home and we havent made custody arrangments. I am worried about the psycological effects of this new person being introduced so suddenly during this transition.
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written by Anon, August 27, 2014
My ex and I were informally separated for approximately three years before we filed for divorce. During the separation I had primary custody of our two children, ages 7 and 9, and they rarely saw their father (approximately 3-4 times per year). When they did see him, he would never take him to his home, but rather he would travel to them. Under the parenting plan executed as part of the divorce, he began taking the kids more often (6-8 times a year), and they were to stay at his home during the visits. After everything was finalized and our case was closed, but before the kids made their first trip out to see him, I discovered that my ex had been secretly co-habitating with another woman the entire time of our separation. Thus, the first time my kids travelled to his home, they met the new partner who he was already living with. I was reluctant to reopen custody issues at the time, even though I was livid, until I determined whether the kids would actually have a hard time with the situation. Now the kids are beginning to show signs of stress from all of it, and are asking a lot of questions about the nature of the relationship. Any advice is appreciated.

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