How do I introduce my new partner?

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Dear Marcie,

I’ve recently separated from my partner with whom I have two children, aged 14 and 16. I am in a new relationship and looking for some advice on how to go about introducing my new partner to my children and whether there is anything you would recommend in terms of involving my ex-partner, who does not know about the new relationship, with that process.

Whilst our separation was generally amicable, and we remain on speaking terms, I suspect that my ex may be particularly sensitive about the children meeting my new partner and what I tell them about that relationship. I do not want to be insensitive, or destabilise the current situation, which everyone is still adjusting to, but equally I am keen to move on with my life and not have to tiptoe around the kids (who are living with my ex during the week and alternating between me and my ex on the weekends).

It is still quite early days - I have only been in my new relationship for a matter of months - but I can see a point on the near horizon where the kids might start asking questions if I do not broach the issue with them first. I would rather that they find out about the new relationship from me than learn about it from someone else, not least their mother!

Any advice you have on what to say to the children / my ex and how to go about making the introduction would be much appreciated. I’m hoping that the children will see it as a positive move, but I understand that they will likely have mixed emotions.

Thanks in advance!

Roger, Woking

Dear Roger

Thanks so much for writing in. There is an ideal approach that we aim for when introducing new partners into the mix, but we also appreciate that this is not always possible.

Ideally as part of your parenting plan you’ll decide between you the best way to introduce new partners way before it ever needs to be addressed. Meeting the new partner of your ex, before the children do, is preferable as that maintains the safe parental loop for them i.e. ‘mum knows that dad has a new partner and that she’s called Steph. That means I don’t have to hide anything from her. Phew.’

Then you would introduce the kids to your new partner after that has happened.

Sometimes though, it’s more difficult than this. Sometimes an ex will feel threatened by the arrival of a new partner. Most likely because on some primal level this is potentially a new ‘parent’ that will be taking their place as mother or father. These are triggers that can cause really strong emotional responses which can lead to conflict.

If you think that is likely, and it sounds from your letter that you may, then you need to find a time to sit down with your ex and remind yourself and each other about how well you’ve done so far. Gently talk about how she is a brilliant mother to your children and that you appreciate everything she does for them.

Then move on to say, and you will always be their mother in my eyes and their eyes (or similar), before going on to say that you’ve met someone and you want to be respectful and let her know first. And then wait. Wait for the response and let your ex say whatever she needs to say. Don’t contribute to any escalation, be calm, be mindful that this is a really big deal and that there will be fear driving her responses.

Explain to her that you want to do the best thing by everyone and that you want to do the same for her when she meets someone. And perhaps for the initial conversation you leave it at that and then circle back around a week or so later to bring it onto a more practical front, like when she can meet your new partner. I usually find that an initial hello and a very very brief conversation is the best way to do this initially, slowly expanding it out over time.

In terms of introducing your new partner to the children, I would wait a little longer than you think you want to. Time is always good. Talk generally to the children about change and how things change and it might feel strange, but it’s often about just adjusting. Find a time in their lives that is non-divorce related, where they have had to adjust.

When the time comes to introduce them, keep it brief and keep it neutral and do it somewhere where there is something to do, like a playground, or a coffee shop with cake, somewhere where there are other things to focus on.

Slow and steady is best. Big shocks are never a good idea.

Good luck and take care.


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