More and more, moms are faced with the conundrum of when to introduce their kids to their boyfriend. Here is a family therapist’s take on why it’s important to postpone the big reveal.
Countdown to the big reveal
So you’re over the moon for your new man, right? Great. You’re fabulous and you deserve it. But you need to protect your children from falling for him, too, until you know where the relationship is headed. Marriage and family therapist Dr. Jane Greer provided us with these five compelling reasons not to introduce your boyfriend to your kids just yet.
A painful reminder
Believe it or not, most children long for their parents to get back together following a separation or divorce. According to Dr. Greer, introducing a new boyfriend is a reminder that you and your ex will not reconcile, which is emotionally weighty for kids. Before you start bringing your date around, make sure he is worthy of the emotions your kids will face after introductions.
As a mom, you know your kids are completely irreplaceable. Unfortunately, your kids may not understand their worth in your eyes, and will likely feel threatened by a new love interest. “Kids may feel threatened about losing their mother’s attention and having to share their time with her,” said Dr. Greer. If you start dating immediately following a separation, it’s especially important to restore your kids’ sense of security before introducing a new boyfriend. Kids naturally feel confused, disjointed and insecure following a divorce. Make sure they feel safe and secure in your new family unit prior to introducing a date.
Whether your split was amicable or strained, the father of your children is irreplaceable in your children’ lives. Your kids will never have another biological dad, and it will cause them great anxiety if they sense a new man is around to replace their dad. Dr. Greer added that if you rush into introductions, your children won’t have time to process their anxiety about a “replacement” dad.
“When parents are separated or divorced,” said Dr. Greer, “the focus needs to be on the kids’ maintaining their relationship with each parent. They don’t need the added burden of interacting and relating to a new person.” Reflect on how you feel when a string of dates and relationships churn through your life. You feel pretty crummy after a while, right? Your kids will feel the same way if low-commitment boyfriends start hanging around and then leaving.
If your relationship with your ex was terrible, it makes sense that you want to move on and meet someone new. But kids process their losses differently than adults and will continue to feel the affects of the separation for quite some time. “It’s important for kids to maintain a connection with their father, without sharing any affection with someone who may only be passing through,” said Dr. Greer. “Not only that, if you move on from the new boyfriend, they’ll have to deal with yet another loss in quick succession.”
So with all of these potential consequences, how can you ever feel right about introducing your kids to a boyfriend? “Wait until it’s an exclusive and stable relationship that appears to be ongoing,” said Dr. Greer. You have the green light for introductions if you have a solid reason to believe your man will stick around for the long haul.