Relationship expert suggests a few tips that you can keep in mind when dealing with this situation:
I am talking about people in their midlife because that’s what I am working with most. Finding new love when you are older profoundly changes your life, in a good way, I would say. And when you add that person to your family, it can shake up all the other relationships. They have to make room for your new significant other. That is one of the biggest challenges I see people face as a couple to deal with their own and the new partner’s kids. Because I tell you, kids can be very tough on you both.
Most kids struggle to welcome the new relationship, especially if you have been single for a long time. Because they get used to you being always there for them, always be there on demand that they can’t handle your unavailability at times…no matter how old they are. Do not assume just because they are adults; they will accept your new partnership right away.
And in some cases, kids insist you get out there in the dating world. Now, that would make it easy for you, right? Yes, that makes it one challenge less.
Diane’s grown-up son (I have changed the names here) created an online account for his mom on a dating website because he wanted her to have someone in her life. He saw how miserable she was in the previous marriage, and he wanted a happy life for her. But let me tell you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will like the person you choose for yourself.
Whereas, in Nicole’s case, whose husband passed away from illness, has been single for more than five years. Nothing can bring her first husband back, but her children don’t want her to be with anyone else even though they are all busy pursuing their own lives.
It all depends on your relationship with your children, their past history, their traumas, and how secure and insecure they feel.
And let’s not forget about culture. The culture where I come from and that is India, forget about it if it’s a woman. If she is a widow, it will not be appreciated if she remarries. She is supposed to live the rest of her life taking care of the family, that’s it and suppress her desires. Or else people will talk, whisper and some may consider her immoral. Children feel embarrassed that their mother is now with some other man. It is tough for them to stand up for their mother for her personal happiness because of the social structure.
Now, on the other hand, if it is a man whose wife has passed away or gets divorced, his family will find someone for him instantly. Arranged marriages are very much prevalent in India. Or, they will put pressure on him to get married because they can’t see their son being single again. Do you see the contrast here?
Some children welcome their parent’s chance for happiness after so much suffering, whereas others find it painful.
Here are a few things that you can keep in mind when dealing with this situation:
- When you introduce your new love to your children, go slow. Introduce only when you are serious and definite about this new relationship. It’s also easy to get excited when it comes to meeting your new partner’s children but don’t overstep. Be open and show goodwill, but don’t force yourself on them. It will take time for them to digest the fact that there will be another individual joining the family.
- When you introduce them for the first time, introduce them in a casual setting, like when you are having some recreational and fun family get-together. If your children can start having fun with your new partner, then they are more likely to accept them into their lives without feeling threatened that your new partner is here to replace their mom or dad.
- Listen carefully and acknowledge your children’s feelings. Encourage them to share how they feel and be open to hearing their concerns. But don’t allow them to dictate the terms of your love life.
- Give them the assurance that you will spend alone time with them and do not break that promise. It is very common that your children feel competitive or jealous of your time. So, show them that they are still your priority.
- Make sure the children develop a sense of friendship and trust with the new person before staying overnight with you when the children are there.
- Tell them how having a new person in the family will benefit them. They will have lesser responsibility towards their parent in the sense that there is someone else who will take care of things.
- You know at this point of your life you may have built some assets that you want to pass on to your children. Make sure you discuss with your children to avoid problems later about the inheritance. Go for a prenuptial agreement if you think that will help.
- It is highly likely that you will feel torn between your partner’s needs and your children’s. Divided loyalties are universal. You want to please everyone you love who wants different things. Resolve them internally with your children and with your partner separately with constructive dialogue. Remember, it all takes time.
- Create boundaries with your children as well as with your partner. It comes in handy when there is a conflict of interest and responsibility. For example, Nicole is very clear that she doesn’t want to spend her entire life caring about her grandkids. Now the conflict happens when she and her partner have made some special plans, and the child calls her mother to come and babysit the grandkids at the last minute. Boy, you are in trouble then. Here, children need to understand that she has a responsibility towards her partner, and the partner needs to realize that she has a responsibility towards her kids and grandkids. It can get tricky. Some balance is required here on everybody’s part.
- Speak calmly and constructively about your concerns. Explain how the behavior can affect you directly or cause worry.
- Finally, I would say we all long for emotional connection. Request your children to be open to it and cherish the joy when someone new comes into the family structure. The fact that you have someone new to love and love you back is one of life’s gifts; it’s something to be cherished. It will help to see things a little differently for everyone.
- If your child’s struggle and your partner’s distress get worse, I encourage you to seek professional help. Because what I have mentioned here may or may not apply to everyone. Every relationship and family dynamics are unique and different. Let me know if I can assist you and work one-on-one on your specific situation.
So now tell me, WHAT DOES YOUR NEXT CHAPTER LOOK LIKE? Write it down and envision it. Stand up for yourself. And you can make it happen.