By DR. PHYLLIS GOLDBERG and DR. ROSEMARY LICHTMAN
Your children may feel triangulated between you and your new partner and, if threatened by a shift in your attention, will test your loyalty. A new boyfriend complicates every aspect of your life and that includes the relationship with your children. Perhaps their behavior is not even intentional. They may wonder at a less than conscious level if, by spending more time with your boyfriend, it means that you love him more than them.
During this difficult transition, make sure that you're spending plenty of quality time with your children. Granted you want to be with your partner but, especially early on, make that happen more when the children are with their friends, grandparents or father. It's positive that their dad is involved in their lives for many reasons, especially at this time when they're feeling vulnerable - they need the support of someone else to talk to about the changes they're going through.
Gradually ease your boyfriend into the family environment and don't try to force your children to like him. If he's a good person and enjoys children, then a stronger relationship between them will develop over time. Encourage him to be involved in their specific activities that genuinely interest him and feelings of mutual respect will surely increase.
No matter how overwhelmed you are about parenting alone, don't invite your boyfriend into the discipline arena. It's best for you to enforce the family rules by yourself, while he privately supports you and publicly tries to build rapport with the kids. If your partner is sensitive, he'll recognize that his role does not include parenting quite yet. Rest assured that his involvement will be more appropriate and welcomed as your relationship solidifies and matures.
Of course you and your boyfriend want to be one big, happy family now. But anger, resentment and rejection often accompany unrealistic expectations. The best way to ensure the success of your intimate partnership, as well as the adjustment of your children, is to go slow – nourish these budding relationships and give them a chance to grow. MORE FROM DIVORCE360.COMStories, advice, blogs and discussion about stepfamiles, stepparenting, stepchildren and related topics.Dr. Rosemary Lichtman and Dr. Phyllis Goldberg have guided their clients through reassessing their lives, before, during and after divorce. They created http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, which provides coaching services and a free e-zine, and are are co-authors of the book Family Relationships.