You’ve been on your own for a while now, since the divorce or your husband’s death. You started dating again some time ago, and you’ve finally found someone you can seriously relate to. He treats you well, you have very warm feelings toward him, and he seems to be good with the kids, too.
So what’s the fly in the ointment? The kids! They refuse to accept your new relationship, refuse to accept the man who is your new love, refuse to relate to him no matter how well he treats them.
What’s causing this problem? And what can you do about it?
What you can do about it is be patient yet persistent, show the kids that while they’re important to you, they’re not going to mess up your happiness, and try to get to the bottom of their objections, so you can counter them successfully.
The root causes are varied
Whether you’re widowed or divorced, the kids may feel that you’re being disloyal to Daddy. Even if Daddy is dead, they may feel you’re being disloyal to his memory to fall in love with, let alone perhaps want to marry, someone else.
If Daddy is still alive, all the more reason that they feel you’re being disloyal.
What’s more, they may feel that they themselves are being disloyal to Daddy (or Daddy’s memory) if they succumb to the warmth and niceness of your new love interest.
There’s yet another component, too: If Daddy is still alive and not yet remarried—perhaps even if he’s serious involved with someone himself—they may be harboring fantasies of the two of you getting back together. Naturally, were you to marry your new Mr. Right, that would become impossible. So…the obvious (to them, at least) answer is to refuse to accept this interloper.
Now, they may not have thought any of this out on a conscious level. They probably don’t actually think it through: “If we accept this man, we’re being disloyal to Daddy,” or even, “If Mom marries this man, she’ll never get back together with Daddy.” So when you talk to them, to try to show them the error of their thinking, be aware that “thinking” is not quite an accurate explanation of what’s going on in their heads. It’s more on a subconscious level. They may not have literally reasoned it out at all.
You may want to emphasize to them the fact that you aren’t ever going to get back together with Dad. You may want to explain to them that it isn’t being disloyal to Dad (or Dad’s memory, if this is the case) for you to love someone else. Dad has no claims on you now. And, if you are divorced, Dad himself is probably dating others as well.
Nor are they being disloyal to accept, grow attached to, and even love your new Mr. Right. If Dad is no longer living, explain that he would surely want them to be happy and to have a father figure in their lives, that (if you have told them he is in Heaven) he wants to know someone is doing all the “Daddy things” he used to do with them and helping you to take care of them, because they are still very important to him and he wants them to be happy.
If Dad is alive but divorced, explain that as long as they continue to love Dad, there is no reason not to love this other man as well. Daddy will always be Daddy and have a special place in their hearts, but love isn’t something that there’s only just so much of. Learning to love someone else doesn’t require loving Daddy any the less. They don’t take away love from Daddy in order to give it to your new Mr. Right.
There is yet another reason that they may resent this new man in your life. If you have been alone for a while, the kids may be used to having you to themselves, and they may resent his “butting into” your life not on Dad’s behalf but for their own interests. If your attention and time are divided, or even just if they see you being affectionate with someone other than the kids themselves, they may resent his presence for their own sakes.
There is still one more reason that they may not accept the new man. If they feel that Daddy “left them,” rather than comprehending that a divorce is between a man and a woman, they may not be willing to accept a new father figure in their lives. They may feel they’re only setting themselves up to be hurt again. What if this daddy-type “leaves them” like their father did? If they block him out, lock him out, shut him from their lives, refuse to accept his love and love him in return, then he will not be in a position to hurt them.
Armed with this understanding of the various reasons that the kids might reject your new love interest, you are in a better position to chip away at their emotional armor and clear a path for your new Mr. Right to win the kids’ love.
Sometimes life really does offer happy endings.
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