How to Approach Introducing Significant Others?

As you move through the divorce and seperation process and start dating again, parents discuss how to approach introducing new, significant others to the family dynamic...

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One member asks:  "I am drafting a custody agreement and I am wondering how other parents have agreed on how to approach introducing significant others to their children?  Im not seeing anyone but my ex has already had a girlfriend come and go.  This girlfriend met my 2 year old son without my knowledge.  I don't know how often she saw him or how they were introduced.  I need to be sure that any future serious girlfriend gets introduced to my son in a way which is healthy for him, so I need to write it into the custody agreement.  Does anyone have this written into their custody agreement and wouldn't mind sharing?"

 

RESPONSES:

 

"I have a similar question. In the agreement my ex and his lawyer drafted, it says that 'during the tender aged years of the child, no person other then blood relations may sleep in the house while the child is present'. Not that I'm planning on exposing my 3 yr old to my dating life ( my ex and I agree that 3 months is the minimal amount of time to wait to introduce significant others), but is this something normal in divorce/ custody agreements? It feels quite puritanical!"

 

"Just curious, how are "tender aged years" defined? Yes, I agree that the language sounds puritanical. My divorce agreement did not address any parameters for introducing new romantic partners to our, then, 8 y.o. daughter. Personally, I would not introduce anyone unless I felt it was a serious relationship. But, I'm pretty puritanical : ) It's interesting, to me, that there is so little standardization in the divorce process."

 

"My ex and I have been divorced for a little over two years, and I was SO glad that we had a reasonable written provision in our agreement about new partners (both because I had some concerns about a person she was dating, and because my ex was quite jealous and unreasonable about my new partner -- how's that for objective on my part? :)).  This was by far the biggest source of conflict we faced post-divorce and the written provision really helped diffuse it. It was drafted by our (not puritanical!) mediator at a time when I couldn't even imagine being with someone new, but I'm so relieved we included it.  The text is below.  Basically, it gives each parent the freedom to use your best judgment about introducing people you are dating to your child (which I wanted), but ensures that there won't be sleepovers before the relationship has gone on for some period of time (in our case, six months, which turned out to be just right for us -- I ended up introducing my partner to my daughter after about 3 months (by which time we were really committed and serious), but no sleepovers til month 7). 

I don't think we can or should expect our exes to have veto power over any adult we introduce to our child or vice versa (whether friend or romantic partner), although you could also include a provision that just requires one parent to let the other know in advance if it's a dating situation, so that you can be prepared if your child has questions.  In hindsight I wished I had done that (not really for my child's sake, as she was fine, but because my ex was angry that I only told her about my new girlfriend after they had been introduced - even though that was just as a 'friend')).  But that does involve some invasion of privacy so it really depends on your comfort level and relationship.  Anyhow, here is the provision we had:

New Relationships.   Both Parents agree to a six-month dating period before inviting anyone to sleep over with her while [child] is at that Parent’s residence.  Each Parent is free to introduce [child] to potential partners in a manner that she believes will protect [child] from forming relationships that may not be permanent (e.g., referring to the person as "mommy's friend")."

 

"These are all excellent tips and I just wanted to corroborate the notion that it's good to have "agnostic" rules in place from the get-go (ie, before either of you is involved with someone, ideally.) My now-estranged husband and I had a serious talk several months before I moved out about how we planned to handle dating and came to certain agreements that felt good for both of us at the time. At that time, he was very confident he'd have a new girlfriend within the month, and I was very confident that I needed to be single for awhile to re-discover "me." Well, as luck would have it, I went on a casual lunch date the month I was moving out which turned serious quickly, and remains so still. Meanwhile, in the 10 mos. since our separation, my husband has not been on more than 2 dates with any one person. I'm not saying this to be snipey at my ex, with whom I have an overall solid co-parenting relationship, but to tell you that you can BELIEVE ME that his positive approach to our respective dating lives changed DRAMATICALLY when my new partner entered the picture. My husband was very dogged in making sure I lived up to the rules we set down to the minute, but the thing is, he started doing other things - totally subconsciously, I believe - that burdened my new dating life. Like, I could not have my boyfriend over with our son there before Month 6 (which we'd agreed to), but then he extended an already week-long vacation to two weeks without telling me. So I was 'stuck' with my beloved little boy (a joy) and no chance of even meeting up in the park with my new beau for two whole weeks (not such a joy.) That one incident is hardly the most dramatic thing in the world, but I use it to illustrate the weird emotional inter-connectivity between custody arrangements and new partners (and probably a million other post-separation/divorce issues.) So I guess my "word of caution" is to think about how other issues in your separation/divorce agreement might be affected by any one clause you put in there - especially a clause that can be as emotionally charged as a new partner."

 

"I don't have anything in my agreement and I highly recommend you take that clause out. My ex has done more dating than I have.  And I have had a "live and let live" attitude.  If I thought a particular person was bad for my kids, it wouldn't matter whether they were tender years or not, I would say something.  But that has not happened.  And sometimes another adult around can actually be beneficial for the kids.  It all depends on the circumstances."