Six Signals That Your New Partner Doesn't Want to Accept Your Children
Do You Want to Continue Your Relationship If Your Partner Doesn't Like Your Children?
In contemporary society, it is not uncommon for couples with children to break up. This means that it's becoming more and more common for people with children to start dating again. This is a very tricky thing indeed.
Sometimes you might have the feeling that your new partner is a very good match for you, but how do you know whether or not your children will get along with him or her? And how do you know that your new partner will accept your children?
Sometimes this just won't happen and you'll have to choose between your partner and your children—that was the situation I was in. I hope that you will protect your children and show your new partner the door if needed. But where do you draw the line?
I want to share my experiences with you. After five years in a relationship with a woman that was very special to me, I had to end it. It broke my heart because I still loved her, but I knew I had to draw the line.
1. Your Partner Doesn't Talk Directly to Your Children
Communication Between Your Partner and Your Children Is Difficult
Starting from the very first moment, the communication between my new girlfriend and my children was very difficult. At first, I didn't think much of it. In my case this was pretty normal since I'm Belgian (my mother tongue is Dutch) and my girlfriend was Croatian.
Since my children don't speak English (yet), and I didn't think much of the fact that she didn't talk directly to them. Apart from that, there was another barrier. My ex was very shy and she told me from the beginning that she had never wanted to have children. I thought she just had to get used to having children in her life.
I began to become more worried when she learned to speak Dutch perfectly after a few months of intense courses (she is a polyglot and has a thing for languages) and still didn't communicate with the children. Moreover, when she wanted to convey a message, it was always something negative and I was always used as a channel. I really felt bad about this.
Although I had the feeling that it was perfectly OK that she wanted to discipline the children (as a divorced dad I was typically a bit too lenient towards them), I also felt that it was not right that there were never any positive messages for the children.
At one point I wanted to break up with her, but she was desperate to keep the relationship going. Since I didn't want to lose her either, I told her that we could continue the relationship under certain conditions. I told her that she was right in insisting on the fact that it was her life too and that it was her apartment to live in as well.
I told her that her messages for my children certainly had value, but that I couldn't put up with so many negative emotions if there was not a real positive bond underneath it all. She promised me she would initiate some communication between her and my children, but she never did. After five years I had to make the terrible decision to break up with the woman I was still very much attracted to. And I just wished I had done it a lot sooner.
2. Your Partner Gives Presents That Are Intended to Keep the Children Away From the Two of You
"I'll buy you a TV so you can watch it in your room!"
I have to be fair: my ex did give some nice clothes to my children, and they were very happy with them. But when she suggested that they should have a TV and a computer in their room, I didn't have to think twice about what the message was: stay in your room.
The sad thing is that I kind of went along with that idea. My ex could be very irritated when the children were watching a program at a moment that she felt like watching something. Or when one of the children was on the computer (never mind they were working for school) when she wanted to be online. Of course, she never told them directly to get lost. Most times she didn't even tell me, but she surely made it felt that she was annoyed.
In the end, my children got used to immediately leaving the computer and the TV when she came home and going to their room. It was not only them evading her. She tried to be home as little as possible when they were around. I know she did a lot of effort to plan stuff to be able to escape them.
In this sense, for a moment I thought it would be a good idea that my children would indeed have Internet and TV in their room to avoid complications. Looking back, this line of thinking was already screwed up. I hoped for so long that my girlfriend, my children, and me would just be able to relax and watch TV together. We tried once or twice, but then it was forced. We never succeeded in having nice evenings together as a family.
3. Your Partner Would Love to Go on a Trip With You . . . but Only Without the Children.
To Become a Family, You Need to Spend Time Together.
We all don't have enough free time, and we all cherish our leisure time, and yes, it's a good idea to spend time with your partner without the children . . . but when he or she never wants to go anywhere with you and your children together, be sure that your partner is not really accepting your children as a part of his or her life!
My ex loved to go places, and when she first came to live in Belgium, we made a trip almost every weekend to somewhere new. (Yes I know you think Belgium is a boring country, but you are mistaken — Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven, and Mechelen are all very nice cities — but that's another story :) ). We only went a few times to places together with the children. And every time it was a disaster.
Once we went to Bruges to meet my brother and his new girlfriend. Since this was a family thing she felt she couldn't refuse having the children with us on a trip. At first this seemed like a good idea. Bruges is really nice and since there was also my brother and his girlfriend, she could ignore the children without finding herself on her own. Things changed when I asked the children if they would like to take a small boat trip on the 'reien' (canals).
My ex thought this was a stupid idea. Something for mindless tourists. Since I felt I already made a promise to the children, I went ahead with the idea anyway. She turned cold and went her own way. The day was spoiled. The point here is that she couldn't have it that we would do things especially for the children.
On another occasion we went to a theme park. This was in the very beginning of our relationship. The children loved it and my girlfriend actually tried to enjoy herself, but when she noticed that I wanted to do some attractions with my kids that she didn't like, she became very upset. The bottom line was, again, that she found it very hard to cope with the fact that sometimes I wanted to give precedence to the wishes of my children. Alas, I was too much in love and too naïve to let go of her then :(
4. Your Partner Is Jealous With Your Children!
You Don't Want to Be the Judge Between Your Children and Your Partner!
I would like to think that the people I love are too grown-up to be competing with children. But sadly, that is exactly what happened between my ex and my children. Often I felt as if I was put in a position to judge on who was being good and who was being bad. Not a good thing! If your partner is not mature enough to put him or herself above situations that he or she doesn't like, and starts to quarrel with the children about stupid little things, and on top of that asks you to take a position on who is right, than maybe he or she is not mature enough to have children!
That is not to say that your partner should just accept all the tricks the children play. But your partner should realize that it is a better strategy to talk through the rules with you and to be sure to be on the same level with you instead of getting caught up in a fight with your child.
If the latter happens, your partner is putting him or herself in the child's position and then you are the only one left in the parent position. As adults, you should form a separate subsystem in the family and be 'above' the children. Also, it is very much advised that you can alternate in being the 'strict' and the 'easygoing' parent. If you always have to give the difficult messages to the children, or if it's always you who has to soften the strictness of your partner, you're making it so much more difficult for yourselves. This is also true for biological parents in the 'normal' family.
It is also a big problem when your partner and your children are competing for your attention. It is normal that there is a tension between the needs of your children and the needs of your partner, but it should not be played out in front of the children. Both your partner and your children should know when they can lay claim on you! Jealous reactions of your partner with your children should be a no-go!
5. Your Partner Expects Your Children to Behave Like Adults
Children Should Be Able to Be Children
As a single parent, it is very easy to let slip the rules that your children should respect.
First of all: if you broke up with the mother or father of your children, there is a good chance that, at least partially, you had different ideas about how to raise children.
When you break up, it's very tempting to throw out all the rules you thought differently about than your partner. Later on, though, you might find out that your ex had a point in what he or she expected from the children.
Second, breaking up is very hard and you might feel like finding emotional support with your children. When you find yourself without the intimacy you had with your ex-partner, it can be tempting to look for closeness with your children. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, as long as it doesn't stop you from being a parent and imposing rules!
Now when a new partner arrives on the scene, it can be quite a shock that he or she thinks that you are being too soft on the children and expects them to shape up. Your new partner probably has a point. But when you and your children try to take into account the needs and sensitivities of your new partner and it is never good enough for him or her, that might be a sign that your partner doesn't really accept the children at all.
At least this is how it turned out in my relationship. There were always new rules and when the children (and me!) learned to attend to those rules, there were new rules on top of the new rules.
My ex also insisted that the children didn't make any effort, which was clearly not the case. In the end, I insisted that the rules should be written down, so we could check if they all had been followed on a certain day. But this also didn't work. She also stressed that her rules were 'natural,' that any normal child would follow those rules without effort, etc.
In short: it was impossible to live up to her expectations. Moreover, she was never very irritated when I broke her rules, but when the children did something wrong, she would become mad or even vile. Many times, I found myself in the position that I had to protect the children from her temper. When the children were just joyful, they would be too loud. When they were playing, she urged me to ask them to go and play outside., etc.
I still feel bad that I didn't intervene earlier. I just hope that by writing this article I can help you see the signs I didn't see. When your partner doesn't let your children be themselves, this is a sure sign your partner is not ready to have a relationship where children are involved.
6. You're Hesitant to Introduce Your Children to Your New Partner
What Is Your Gut Telling You?
Maybe you've been postponing the introduction of your new partner to your children. The question is: do you have good reason to believe you should? In my case, I was forced to introduce my new girlfriend immediately to my children. My new girlfriend was from Croatia and when she came to live in Belgium, she didn't have the financial means to live on her own first.
Looking back, I should never have taken this risk. I think it's far better to take it slowly. You can first talk about how your partner feels about kids before introducing them. And then build it up slowly. After that, you can do some activities as a family. Be attentive to what your new partner likes and dislikes in the children. If it is all happy happy joy joy, you'll probably be safe.
If they get irritated, ask yourself if it's because they don't want or like children. Talk about the difficult moments afterwards, both with your children and your new partner. You probably know all this, so the fact that you're still doubting is probably meaningful.
You also might not be ready for a serious relationship (be honest with yourself!), which is just fine. You don't have to rush things and there is nothing wrong with exploring a new relationship without at once having to get together with your or his or her family.
Or, you think he or she is not ready to accept the fact that you have children. If the latter is the case, please talk it through extensively! If you slow things down by talking about your children: that is just fine. If your new partner shies away because he or she finally realizes the consequences children would have for your life together: that's just for the best!
Believe me, it is better to lose a potential partner than having to admit that you've deprived your children of a happy family afterwards.