QUESTION: My ex-husband has just started dating a much younger woman. He’s got our two kids for the holidays, and I’m nervous that he’s going to introduce them. She seems nice enough from what he’s told me, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that. How do I draw the boundaries?
CHELSEA SAYS: This is a tricky one, because things always get more complicated when there are kids involved. The good thing is it sounds like you and your ex-husband are on pretty good terms if he’s told you all about his new younger woman. And it’s a good sign that he’s opened up to you about his new relationship, assuming he told you about her because he’s genuinely invested in the relationship and not because he’s just trying to rub it in your face or make you jealous.
I think it’s reasonable for you to come out and ask your ex-husband about whether or not he’s planning on introducing his younger woman to the kids—he might not be ready for that, in which case you really have nothing to worry about. If you bring it up with him, then you can openly discuss your concerns, and you’ll be able to get a better sense of where his relationship stands with this younger woman.
If your ex-husband is serious about her, he might be able to calm your nerves. After all, I’m sure he has your kids’ best interests at heart, too. So, give him a little bit of credit. Besides, if this relationship with the younger woman is for real, he’s going to want her to meet his kids at some point, which is understandable on his part. Imagine if the tables were turned and you had moved on from your marriage with a new relationship.
If your ex-husband is planning on having his new younger woman meet your kids over the holidays, then I’d ask him if you can meet her first. You’re perfectly entitled to have a say over who’s around your kids, and hopefully, he understands that.
TRENT SAYS: Is your issue the fact that it’s too soon for your kids to meet her, or is it that she’s a younger woman? Would it make a difference if she was the same age as you and the two of them had been dating for six months? Or are you anxious that it will change the family dynamics?
While I totally sympathize with your concerns, I’m not entirely sure you can control or prevent him from introducing his new girlfriend to your kids. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be boundaries. The challenge is finding ways to make the introduction and transition as healthy and smooth as possible for your kids’ sake. And I think you should certainly have a say in how the introduction goes.
For starters, I think it’s important that she meets your kids. It’s better to have a relationship out in the open than one that’s hidden from the kids. At the same time, your kids don’t need to meet her at every instance; they could form some sort of relationship with her, and if your ex-husband and this younger woman break up, it could leave your kids feeling frustrated or betrayed.
It’s better to take the introduction slowly and gradually. After all, your ex-husband needs to realize your children may not want to meet his new girlfriend, or might even feel confused or awkward spending too much time with her. She’s not their parent, and forcing the issue could create conflicts of loyalty.
And finally, both you and your ex-husband should talk to your kids about any concerns they have and explain your decisions to date again. You may not like the idea of him introducing your kids to his new girlfriend, but it’s important that your children feel comfortable and validated around her. Again, slow and gradual. And you can use the same advice for when you meet your next partner!