In part one of this series about new relationships and divorce, we looked at the legal implications of seeing some new during divorce proceedings.
As well as the legal consequences, it is important to think about your emotional wellbeing during your divorce, and in the second part we will consider the impact on your family.
There is no clear definition of a family and it is likely that your family will evolve over time. Obviously your children are at the centre of your family. Regardless of your separation, your spouse will always be a part of your family as you have a connection through the children. It is likely that both you and your spouse will eventually meet new partners and build your own family units, perhaps going on to have more children. It is likely that your children will accept and adapt to the changes in your family, but careful and considered management of the changes can make things easier on them.
When looking at the legal implications of starting a new relationship during divorce proceedings, we considered how your spouse could react emotionally to the news, making it difficult for you to rely on their cooperation. This impact can be most keenly felt when talking about the children. Of course, most parents recognise that it is important for the children to have a good relationship with both of you, but it may be difficult for your spouse to accept that your new partner is going to play a role in your children’s lives, especially early on in the separation.
If you are going to start a new relationship, recognise that this may be difficult for your spouse. Keep the lines of communication open. Let your spouse know if you are thinking about introducing the children to your new partner. It will be a shock if they find out about it from the children after the event. It can also make things easier for the children if you and your spouse talk to them together before they meet the new partner, let them see that your spouse supports (or at least accepts) your new relationship so that they don’t feel disloyal to your spouse for getting along with your new partner.
You should think carefully about the emotional impact on your children before introducing them to a new partner. They may still be struggling with their emotions following your separation in which case introducing a new partner could cause further disruption. They may even blame this new partner for their parents not being together. The concept of you having a partner other than their parent will be alien to them and could leave them feeling confused and vulnerable.
Make sure that the relationship is long term before you introduce your partner to the children. You are likely to be experiencing some degree of emotional turmoil yourself whilst you navigate divorce proceedings which can impact on your ability to make rational long term decisions. If the relationship is not successful, your separation from your new partner can bring back the feelings they experienced when you separated from their other parent, leaving them unsettled and insecure. Children who experience repeated adults arriving then leaving their lives can have difficulty trusting and forming long lasting relationships in the future.
If you decide to introduce a new partner to your children at any time, carefully consider how to approach it. Plan in advance and let your children know what is going to happen. Speak to them about your new partner and the role that they will be playing in their family in the future. Importantly, listen to how they feel about the situation. Don’t rush them, they may need time to adjust to the concept of you having a new partner before they meet them. Introduce the partner into your time with the children gradually; don’t expect to build a new family unit over night. Don’t expect too much too soon, keep things casual initially and let the dynamics build naturally. If this relationship is for the long term, what is the rush? Don’t forget that your child could see a new partner as a rival for your affection and never forget the importance of one to one time which can reassure your child that you have plenty of time and love to go around.