Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Introductions to a Significant Other?

I love that picture. And I more than identify.

As I've told you, Ex and I continue to see the Child Therapist to lay the ground rules for good co-parenting. Each session is contentious, but so far we've both taken CT's decisions to heart and have agreed to abide by the plan. That has not been easy, let me tell you. Still, we both feel that establishing healthy patterns now is better than trial and error.

That said, one of the most contentious issues that will ever come up in co-parenting is when to introduce your child to a new significant other. It is widely thought that children, especially at a young age, can become attached quickly, so the potential for another "father or mother figure" to appear, then disappear in their lives is cause for concern.

Everything I've read points to erring on the side of conservative on this one. If you're not sure, wait. Being a rules guy, however, I decided to ask CT to lay some guidelines for Ex and me to follow. Have to admit, they are pretty hardcore. CT explained that in an ideal world, this is the way to do things if you have your child's emotional best interest at heart. It means some sacrifice and compromise on your part as well as your new partner, but in the long run, CT claims that children adjust best if the following guidelines are used:

  1. The relationship should be important with the possibility of long term; if so, 6 months of waiting is an appropriate amount of time to date before introductions;

  2. After 6 months of dating, it is then acceptable to ask the other parent to meet your new significant other before this new person is allowed to spend ANY amount of alone time with your child. Keep in mind this meeting is out of courtesy only. You don't get a say in your Ex's dating life unless your child is in harm's way;

  3. The title for these significant others should be as such: Special Friend, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, etc. There is no substitute Mother or Father;

  4. There are to be no sleep overs dates when your child is with you until the significant other has actually moved into the specific parent's apartment. (This one is aimed at us because we have 50/50 custody and have plenty of time to do sleep overs on our off time. Extreme, yes, but again, is what CT thinks is healthiest for the child);

  5. The significant other should be "available" for a committed relationship (i.e. the relationship is monogamous; significant other is not involved with someone else in any way);

  6. In regard to how the significant other treats your child, either parent may offer feedback for the two biological parents to work out any glitches in the relationship to the child's benefit;

  7. It is important to note that many biological parents are jealous of new partners in an Ex's life and particularly jealous of their involvement in their child's life. There are natural emotions to be dealt with and understood (individually and never in front of the child) but not to be catered to.
Tall order, yes? For those of you who have been doing this longer than me, I'd love to hear your feedback. Again, pretty rigid rules, but I trust CT to do the right thing by Miss M, so why not follow the expert's advice. Happy dating!


Momma Sunshine said...

I introduced my daughters to CBG pretty early in the dating process. In hindsight, I would have waited longer, simply for my own comfort level if nothing else (it was all new to me).

I do have "grown up sleepovers" when my girls are at home. I share 50-50 custody with my ex, but my situation is unique in that CBG and I are in a long distance relationship, and usually only see one another every other weekend. 90% of the time the girls are with their dad during these visits, but occasionally they are not. They are 4 and 6 and have accepted this pretty well. Also - he is not someone that I am "casually dating" - if we lived in the same city, we would have moved in together by now I'm sure; but the circumstances of our lives (the physical distance) prevents this from happening right now.

Everyone's situation is unique. I think the most important thing is working out something that both you and your ex are comfortable with and that works for you...and that you then both stick to the agreed upon rules.

Good luck!

Big City Dad said...

Good clarification Sunshine. Neither Ex nor I have been involved with someone long distance. I'm sure we'd either have to adjust the rules or do swaps if that were the case. Like you said, it's what you both agree to and are comfortable with and then sticking to the guidelines that's important. Thanks!

KiddosDad said...

I totally agree with those rules. Unfortunately my ex does not and she introduced Kiddo right away to another man. She eventually ended up living with him and had a child with him, but thats a whole other blog for me, lol. Kiddo has only met one person I dated and that was after 4 months. I ended up breaking up with her, but CT is right, kids get attached very quickly and confused very easily. Stick with the terms even if she doesn't want to! Momma Sunshine, I think what you are doing is aok, it seems you guys are committed and distance plus kiddos is tough.

T said...

I'm with Momma Sunshine. I too am in a long distance relationship. Rascal and I have been seeing each other for 6 months now and plan on staying in this long term. My children met him as a friend about 3 months in. They didn't think much of it because I have loads of male friends.

He also has recently slept over while they were there. But anytime I have a friend over (girl friends), they sleep in my bed with me. So, to my young children, having him sleep in my bed isn't unusual.

I also have a wonderful ex-husband and am not looking for a replacement father. Thankfully, Rascal isn't trying to be their father either.

I do like these rules but I agree with Sunshine as well. Every situation is unique. Only you know what your ex and you can handle. Only you know what your daughter can handle.

And, as I blogged about recently, people do come and go in our lives all the time. Teachers, friends, etc... our children have to deal with this already. If they already have two loving parents, I don't see where introducing a 'friend', even if the relationship doesn't work out, is a problem. It might be painful if the relationship doesn't work out but isn't that a life lesson our children could benefit from?

Travis said...

My Ex introduced my kids to her boyfriend the day I walked out. (She had change the locks on the door). I sic'ed my lawyer on that one, and made it so she looked terrible. Technically, i've got this on the books, if she ever tried to play hardball. But she knows this can be used against her, so she does semi-okay.

The courts make it very clear that this behavior is inappropriate and could of caused child-placement issues with her if I pushed for it.

It still irks me that she did this. My son, whom I have a tight bond with, has visibily struggled to tell me anything about him.

Those rules are a good foundation that can be tweaked as needed and is appropriate for the kids.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of these rules and follow them to a TEE.

You know, the sad thing is I followed all of these rules to the tee and we (not just her) still ended up being hurt. *Sigh*

So I added one more. Single dad's. They get it.

Anonymous said...

I'm absolutely with the rules. I find them appropriate, and certainly not too rigorous. I'm also with qtmama. SINGLE DADS ROCK. They get it. Period.

I have had divorced (women) friends who have done he dating revolving door, moving men in and out of their lives (and homes), sometimes 2, 3, 4 men a year. And with young kids at home. Those kids - years later - are certainly the worse for wear. If that sounds judgmental on my part, it is. Rare that I judge, but when I see parental selfishness (and that's what it was) taking priority over kids, I find it unacceptable.

I will say - my kids are now older. My single status is 8+ years along, my kids with me about 95% of the time. I have also had long distance relationships, and that does change the equation a bit, but the basics are the same - a REAL relationship, and the kids comfortable.

The irony with older kids as they grow independent (especially if one parent remarries quickly), they want to see you happy. While it would've been confusing and in some ways destabilizing had I been involved 5 years ago, they would love to see that now. Not for them. For me.


Travis said...

I'm going to add the flip-side to qtmama's... Single Mom's. They also get it.

Life with Kaishon said...

I waited forever to introduce my son to my boyfriend (now husband). Even though we didn't have any other significant others to deal with, I just wanted to make sure he was in it for the long run before introducing him. I think 6 months is a good idea. Good luck! : )

Anonymous said...

i agree wholeheartedly with your rules. i remember when we split my ex wanted me to swear that i would not introduce another man to our children for at least a year. i found out from the girls two months after separation there was a new girlfriend.

then girlfriend stole my identity, and now she was just arrested on controlled substance charges.

when i see her touch my kids or tell them she loves them i burn inside. i want to say stay away from my kids.

if you can abide by this i say go for it. since my kids have a seldom/rare visitation with their father and the girlfriend has a daughter, they feel a bit like he's abandoned them.

if and when i do start again, there will be a waiting period. period. not just anyone gets the privilege of winning my girl's hearts, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your rules. And if I ever get back into the dating game, this is what I'll do also. I know I wouldn't want my daughter watching men go in and out of her life. Plus I've read too many parenting books that say this is a big no-no.

On the other side of it, if I was dating a single dad and he wanted me to meet his kids early on, it would bother me also. You obviously have your daughter's best interests in mind and that's awesome.

I try not to judge what other single parents choose to do because all situations are different and all children are different. But for me, I wouldn't want my daughter meeting my boyfriend until things were very serious, and until I knew he could be trusted. said...

Thanks for opening up this conversation. I'm frankly curious . . .is there any particular rule/guideline/suggestion that you find more "hardcore" than another?

I hope CT is a psychologist. Psychologists are people experts.

orion said...

I am currently starting to introduce my daughter and my long-term girlfriend and I really want to create an environment where both feel comfortable and are able to be themselves. I have also been in the process of trying to find good books on the important topics that I need to think about from my daughter's perspective and those that my girlfriend and I should be talking about so that we are the best informed about the issues that can arise. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

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