Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

when to tell the children about a new relationship

(21 Posts)
bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 09:12:54

Hi, just after some advice really from anyone who has separated/divorced with children. My children are 12 and 10 and I split from their father last April.
It wasn't amicable as he didn't want to split but the relationship had been without love or affection for years. I don't think he is seeing anyone else yet, but he could be.
I don't ask as I don't feel it is any of my business. I do know he has gone on a few dates.
We are getting to the stage where we can communicate OK about the children, but he still likes to keep an element of control (e.g. not letting me know plans til the last minute, being deliberately vague).
I think this is because, after snooping he has found out I am seeing someone else.
This relationship didn't start until a few months after we split, but he is convinced it was going on before and was the catalyst for the break-up. I had developed feelings, but nothing had happened.
Anyway, I realise I am rambling but wanted to give a bit of a back-story.
Things with new relationship are going very well. We are both in love and happy. He also has two children (slightly younger than mine) and his divorce will come through at any time.
We have been seeing each other since last July. Slightly rocky at times to begin with due to guilt and feelings of being deceitful to our exes. The last few months have been amazing though and we try to spend as much time together as we can.
Obviously this has been when we both don't have our children, so it has been a bit difficult to juggle at times.
I really want to move forward. We want to be together. I just don't know how it can work. 4 children, separate living arrangements (he has left the family home and lives in a shared house). My children know who he is, but don't really know him. I really don't know how they will react. They will want to stay loyal to their father (who is a great dad). His children have never seen me and I don't think ex wife knows I exist.
It seems so complicated but I really want it to work. Is it too early to tell the children? Should I let ex know I am thinking of doing it?
Please advise if you have been in a similar situation. I don't want to hurt the children, but I feel that our lives need to start moving forward.
Thank you

Livingforlove Fri 12-Feb-16 09:23:59

How much longer can you go on as you are? You want it to move forward, does he? Have you started talking about the future together? Are there any plans to meet his children?

I think it's ok to maybe have him around a bit more. I would be on the cautious side as I met someone after I divorced and after six months I thought he was great and he spent quite a lot of time at my home with me and the dc. However after a year things changed a lot and he turned out to be very controlling. It ended badly and the dc were upset when the relationship ended.

As for whether or not you tell your ex, some would say do so out of courtesy and he will obviously find out through the children if things move on anyway. Would you want to know if he met anyone?

PeppasNanna Fri 12-Feb-16 09:28:55

My older dc are 26 & 24 now. I spent about 8 years on my own. Dated etc but never introduced the dc to anyone.

When i met exdp they were 9 & 11. I introduced then after about a year.

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 09:29:28

Thanks Livingforlove. I have known him for about 4 years, but only really properly for about a year as before that he was a very closed book! I don't think he would be controlling. I'm not very easily controlled!
He says he wants a future and that he would hate to lose me.

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 09:32:20

Thanks Peppas. Out of interest, did you introduce them as a partner or friend first?

blindsider Fri 12-Feb-16 09:35:31

IMO your relationship has been well enough established to introduce him to your kids and for you to meet his, as frankly you have no idea whether you have a future until you have realised whether it is going to be 'kid torpedoed' or not.

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 09:36:21

I would hate my children to find out before I have told them. I live a few streets away from their father, and although we have been really careful, there have been some close calls whereby my children have turned up unexpectedly and missed him by minutes

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 09:37:53

Thanks blindsider. That is generally where I am coming from, I think.

ConkersDontScareSpiders Fri 12-Feb-16 09:46:38

I think if you are sure of him-which you sound like you are, then it might be time to start at least introducing the idea to the kids-both his and yours. I was lucky in a way as my two DD's (aged 10 and 8) asked me if would start dating again after their dad had moved out, after seeing an advert for match on tv.I hadn't even thought about it at the time as it seemed too soon,but we were able to have a good discussion on what it would mean if I started dating again (and if their dad did).they have a fairly positive view of it I think-or at least it wouldn't be massive shock to them if I were to tell them I had started seeing someone and eventually introduced him (and same for their dad). Perhaps test the water a bit then you can see how receptive they would be to him and decide wether it would be appropriate to move things along a bit?
My split sounds incredibly similar to yours-I would actually be more Nervous is about telling exh than I would be about the kids if I'd started seeing someone, as I wouldn't want him to be hurt by it and I would worry about his reaction.But it would be the right thing to do if you were going to introduce your new person to the kids I think.I would want to know if they were meeting his new girlfriend.Not because I would want any say it control in it but just because it's something that might affect them.

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 09:58:45

Thanks Conkers.
My ex knows I am seeing him as he snooped a lot. I was living in the family home when it started (although split for a few months). Ex was incredibly angry and shouted that this 'new bloke had better not come anywhere near his kids'

I explained that I had no intention of telling the kids yet as it was still very early days, but things have changed since then. He will be angry at the thought of another 'father figure', but we have no intention of taking over that role in our respective children's lives.
Just wish I could wave a magic wand!

PeppasNanna Fri 12-Feb-16 10:02:30

I introduced him just as aomeone i knew & then after a few month the dc asked me if he was my bf.

I didnt have ex's to consider or other dc etc so very straightforward. I think you know whatever you do your ex will be critical of you.

Do what you feel is best for your dc.
Good luck.

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 10:32:13

Thanks PeppasNanna.
Would love to hear any stories of blended families where it all worked out well! Anyone?

TheNaze73 Fri 12-Feb-16 10:38:02

I have girls, exactly the same age, 12 & 10. I made sure that if I was going to introduce them to a new woman, she would be around for a while & not a fly by night. I waited 18 months, which in hindsight was probably too soon but, has worked out ok. I didn't want them to think their Mum was being compared to a conveyer belt of perceived replacements

Joysmum Fri 12-Feb-16 10:58:55

I don't think there's anything wrong in telling them, but drawing from their own experiences to explain it.

Maybe say you have somebody you like a lot and want to see if you can be boyfriend and girlfriend. Say that once you're a little bit more sure of how things are going you'd like for them to meet him but at the moment you are waiting. Remind them of past friendships of theirs that have gone wrong and explain that by waiting you're protecting them as if they him as much as you do then they'd get hurt if it turned out it wasn't right and that their feelings are the most important thing to you as you're their mum and it's you job to protect them.

Then you can start mentioning him more, they can ask you questions, you can say it's going ok and getting closer to the time you think it'd be ok to spend time together.

ConkersDontScareSpiders Fri 12-Feb-16 11:58:51

My ex also thoguht I was seeing someone op, whilst we were seperated but still loving together, and remains convinced even though I'm not seeing anyone in particular.He is very suspcious about one of my male friends and every time I mention him or like a post of his on Facebook or whatever ex starts on about how 'silly' I'm going to look when it all comes out that I've been seeing him all along etc etc.There is no reasoning with that so I just ignore it really to avoid further argument. Other than that we have been very amicable and I don't want to upset the apple cart.He went as far as to say that he 'didn't want X near the kids' etc and that has made me feel awkward about seeing my friend, never mind if I were actually having a romantic relationship with anyone. I guess am just going to have to accept that he isn't going to like it as and when it happens and stop caring so much about what he thinks.
As long as the kids are ok with everything I guess that's the primary concern.
My own family were a blended family, half brother (mums son), half sister (dads daughter) and me between them.my sister was a bit of a handful but largely it worked fine, so there is hope smile

ConkersDontScareSpiders Fri 12-Feb-16 11:59:12

Living together.not loving!!

PoundingTheStreets Fri 12-Feb-16 12:19:03

You should never have to feel that your current relationship is being dictated by your X. However, if your X is likely to have objections, you would be foolish to develop a new relationship unless you have well-thought-through plans in place as to how you are going to handle those objections - both in terms of what you'll verbally to your X, as well as in practical terms about maintaining those boundaries, i.e. do not plan dates or weekends for times when your X has contact unless you have a babysitter on standby.

Failure to eliminate problems caused by your X will lead to a lot of fallout. Not only will your resentment towards your X colour your ability to effectively co-parent with him, but the fallout on your new relationship could easily lead to your new P feeling you don't stand up to your X and you feeling you're caught between a rock and a hard place, the kids not knowing what to feel or who to feel loyalty towards... you get the picture.

I'm slightly worried by the fact that your new relationship was 'slightly rocky' to begin with. In its initial flush should be the time when problems are minimal and certainly seem surmountable. If neither of you were really quite ready for a new relationship when you first started dating, I'd make sure you take things very, very slowly indeed, even though those problems now seem to be resolved.

In terms of introducing the DC. I see no reason not to. If your new P and your DC can't get on, the relationship has no future. Better to find out now how that's going to work. There is nothing wrong with early introductions, contrary to popular belief, it's all about how it's done. DC aren't stupid either. They know the difference between a friend and a 'boyfriend' so you may as well tell them straight up.

I'd get into the habit of allowing your P in for a quick coffee before you go out on dates. And just leave it like that for a good long while. Don't have him stay overnight in your bed (that's very significant for DC), don't have him do anything that's traditionally parent territory (e.g. bathing, putting to bed). Avoid day-to-day close family/parent type actions such as school reading book tasks until your DC have well-and-truly accepted his presence. In essence, just take it slowly and introduce a little bit more at a time. Problems start when it's rushed (usually for adult convenience), the irony being that it is exactly this that causes the most problems for the adults further down the line.

I took well over a year introducing DP to my DC, from the first time he had coffee to the first time he read them a bed-time story. He didn't stay overnight until 6 months after he'd met them,and only then occasionally, not regularly. It was nearly 2 years before he was another member of the household and nearly 3 before he moved in completely. That's probably longer than most people would consider and I'm not saying my way is the only way that works. However, I think it worked because my DC never felt they were losing me to him, rather they felt he was an addition to the adults who cared about them. And we've never had any of the problems that can sometimes rear their heads in step-families.

If he's worth it, he'll go along with whatever you want.

Good luck.

bambilegs Fri 12-Feb-16 14:29:41

Thanks everyone. Poundinthestreets I agree with pretty much everything you say. He isn't about to become a father figure at all. I don't want that, neither does he and my ex certainly wouldn't. There is no way that he would be staying in my bed whilst the kids are here. Not for a very long time. I just want them to accept the fact that there is someone new in my life.

I guess things were slightly rocky at the beginning because we fell for each other hard and sometimes the logistics seem overwhelmingly difficult in the long term.

We do both want it to work though, so I suppose we just need to keep things simple and straightforward for now.

I appreciate everyone's thoughts.

Isetan Fri 12-Feb-16 21:30:57

You say you're not easily controlled but by being vague and switching contact at the last moment, that's exactly what your Ex is doing. If and when you do introduce your children to your new man, I expect your Ex to ratchet up playing silly buggers. Start as you mean to go on and stop letting your Ex control you via contact.

As for your new man, I'd hang fire with telling your kids until you're confident he is ok with telling his kids. What reasons does he give for your relationship still being a secret?

ohforfoxsake Sat 13-Feb-16 19:49:09

Watching with interest. Great post from Poundingthestreets. I pretty much agree.

Have been dating someone for a year, kids have known for about 4 months that I am going out with him. Never met, and not going to for a long while yet. XH also controlling, have gone NC with him unless imperative to children.

It's really hard isn't it? But we have to go at the pace that is right for the children, not at the pace our hearts want us to go.

confusedaboutlostpassword Sat 13-Feb-16 19:59:23

I introduced my teenage kids to my new bf after 6 months of dating, which was 18 months after divorce. Neither were impressed to know that I was out having fun while their dad was still hurt, depressed and miserable. Fast forward another year, and they are quite happy to have a little chat with bf when he comes here before we go out, but we still have yet to do anything all together. I think it is very slow, but that is what is right for my kids right now.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now