Q: My ex-husband is now living with the woman he left me for. Unfortunately, my children (ages 9 and 13) were aware of the affair. Our son hasn't spoken to his dad in over a year. I have tried diligently to make sure that at least our daughter retains a decent relationship with him, but now that is being threatened by his insistence that she meet and hang out with his girlfriend. She does not want anything to do with his girlfriend. He blames me for turning the kids against him. What do I do?
A: It's not uncommon for a parent who has moved on quickly to lose sight of his family's grieving and after what seems to them like a ridiculously short amount of time, expect everyone to forgive and forget. But the truth is, family members don't have a new relationship to distract them from the pain of betrayal and the idea of accepting a new partner may be asking too much when they are still in mourning.
Also, if the parent left behind is openly devastated, the kids often want to protect him or her from additional pain and they openly reject the cheating parent with no extra prompting. If Dad wants to restore his relationship with his children, he needs to start listening more, and he should be prepared to hear their hurt and anger. It's also vital he not get defensive when his children express their anger. And most importantly, he should not blame their mother for his cheating.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when they have moved on is wanting to introduce their kids to their new partner too soon. An affair extends the time needed before the introduction. If you introduce the kids too soon, it actually sabotages their relationship with the new partner.
We suggest that Dad stop pushing for the introduction and concentrate on repairing his relationship with his kids with some one-on-one time. Not until he has regained their trust, is an introduction is appropriate.
Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents."