Q: My ex-wife is now living with the man she left me for. Unfortunately, my children were aware of the affair. Our son hasn't spoken to her in over a year. I have tried diligently to make sure that at least our daughter retained a decent relationship with her mother but now that is being threatened by her insistence that she meet and hang out with her boyfriend. My children do not want anything to do with their mother's boyfriend. My ex blames me (wrongly) for turning the kids against her. Each weekend it's the same thing, and the kids do not want to go. What do I do?
A: It's not uncommon for a parent who has moved on quickly to lose sight of the family's grieving and after what seems like a short amount of time, expect everyone to put the indiscretion behind them and forgive and forget. But the truth is, family members don't have a new relationship to distract them from the hurt and pain of betrayal, and the thought of accepting a new partner may be asking too much when they are still in mourning over the loss of their family. Plus, 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 Mom wants to restore her relationship with her children, she needs to start listening more than talking to her kids as well as understand there is no quick fix for this one.
It's also vital that Mom not get defensive when her children express their anger and, most importantly, not blame their father for her 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 after the break-up. Add an affair and that extends the time needed before the introduction. If you introduce the kids too soon, it can sabotage their relationship with the new partner. Best to follow the kids' lead, or even get the help of a therapist to guide you through the process.
It's doubtful that you will settle this quickly. It is our suggestion that mom stop pushing for the introduction and concentrate on repairing her relationship with the kids with some one-on-one time. Once trust has been regained, that's when an introduction is appropriate.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe are authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents."