When a relationship breaks down, its natural to feel that this is it; we will be alone forever. For most people however time passes, wounds heal and new relationships are formed.
But new relationships bring new problems. If you have children the question is always when will the time be right for them to meet your new partner. The issues are the same whether your children live primarily with you or with their other parent. We find that the introduction of a new partner is one of the most contentious issues between divorced and separated parents and indeed their children. If your new partner is someone you knew previously as a couple then don’t expect that to smooth the way with your ex or your children. The fact that they knew them in one context won’t make it any easier for them to accept that person in a very different role.
A recent South West survey asked 1,000 men and women when they thought it would be acceptable to introduce a new partner to their children. For children under 5, 21% of women thought it should be 18 months or more after the breakup. Men however were far more gung-ho, with 51% thinking there’s no need for any sort of delay at all. There are regional variations as well. Here in the South West we’re particularly cautious, with 27% feeling that a delay of a year would be best. In the North East by contrast 17% of those surveyed felt that just three months was enough and in London 13% felt a single month was sufficient.
Although our experienced family law team at Slee Blackwell don’t pretend to be counsellors, we have between us an awful lot of years’ experience of working with separated and divorced parents. There’s no doubt that both adults and children find the idea of a new partner hard to accept and that the more sensitively the issue is handled the less upset it’s likely to cause.
Our recommendation is not to rush into making the introduction. Make sure your new relationship is well established before you think about introducing your partner to your children. There will inevitably be questions; possibly quite difficult questions. And if they meet someone once and a few weeks later they’re introduced to someone else the questions will be even harder (and potentially very embarrassing).