The thought of introducing new partners into the mix when you’re divorced is never easy. Whether you’re being introduced to one, or you’re the one doing the introducing, it’s certainly going to bring up emotions somewhere. And that’s before we’ve even thought about how to tell the children.
I work with a lot of blended families at various stages, from introductory work, to full on integration with grandparents and step-grandparents. It’s a really difficult area to navigate. Coming at it from the perspective of the children, always, can help us keep it in check, but it does require careful planning and thinking ahead.
I have clients at the moment, let’s call them Bob and Sue. Bob and Sue divorced acrimoniously, but went through the process whilst having co-parent coaching. In their co-parent charter, I had already factored in that it was going to be a really difficult moment when one of them met someone new.
So they came back to coaching for a couple of sessions to figure it out together. The most important thing they did when they split up, was agree that they would always communicate from the best interests of their children. They have never found this easy, but working with a co-parenting expert has been invaluable for them.
Here are our top tips on how to talk to your ex to help make a smooth transition.
1. Ideally (and it’s rarely ideal) at the point of breakup, when you’re sorting out your childcare arrangements you come up with a plan on how you will tell each other when you meet a new partner and how you will approach telling the children.
2. Find a co-parenting expert who can help you see things from each other’s perspectives and help keep the point of view of the children front and centre.
3. Make sure it’s serious with the new person. There is no point in going through all the drama of telling your ex, that there is someone significant in your life if, quite frankly, they are not significant. The less love interests your children come into contact with, the better.
4. Arrange to sit down with your other parent and explain that you have met someone and that you will be introducing them to the children. It’s really important here not to get bogged down into accusations or emotions and to stay in the present and not revisit the past. Keep it as transactional as possible. Write a script beforehand if you need to. Here’s a brief example:
“I’ve met someone who I have strong feelings for and I have decided I am ready to introduce the kids to them. I have been seeing him/her for X months and trust that they are a continuous presence in my life.”
Now here’s another tricky bit. Ideally if you are able, it would be good to introduce new partner and old partner to each other for five minutes so they can meet. For the kids this can be really helpful and take anxiety out of any handovers. Just knowing that dad and mum’s new boyfriend can be civil, can help so much.
Before this happens, brief the new partner to be minimal with their words and be friendly but not effusive.
There’s plenty more to say, but remember that the language you use is everything. Be clear. Be sure. Don’t be apologetic. And most of all make sure that you have your kids in mind.
If you need more advice, don't hesitate in seeking support from a co-parenting expert.