Do Your Kids Hate Your Boyfriend?

Dear Mamas,

I have been dating Steve for almost six months now. My kids (9 year old daughter and 11 year old son) can’t stand him. They tolerate his being here but don’t want to go anywhere with him and steer clear of him when he’s around. To me, Steve is fun and nice. We get along great although I do worry a little about the fact that he doesn’t really have any interests or do anything except his job ( he’s an electrician).

I’ve been divorced for three years and I have dated a lot but this relationship has lasted the longest. I just don’t want my kids to screw it up for me! But also, I just don’t get it! What should I do?

Jenny

Hi Jenny,

Dating and relationships can be really tricky when you have children. Just talk to anyone you know who’s in the same boat and you’ll get an earful — guaranteed. And it’s not uncommon for children to feel lukewarm or even hostile towards the new man in your life until they feel that he is trustworthy and won’t steal you away from them.

It’s possible that Steve hasn’t gotten there with them yet. You mentioned that you had dated “a lot.” They may see him as just one more guy in a parade of many and may not want to try too hard to form a relationship with him if he’s just going to walk out at some point. It’s too painful for kids to go through that over and over again. They experience the breakup as a loss, too, and any plans or dreams they may have had about a future that involved the boyfriend will have to be given up. That’s hard, especially since they didn’t have any control in the relationship developing or the decision to end it.

On the other hand, they may be seeing things about Steve that you are missing all together. Kids have amazing radar when it comes to picking up on subtle aspects of a person that adults miss. And often they are right on. Maybe there is something “off” about this guy that you don’t see because you are blinded by the romance. It happens, and more often than people realize.

Then again, it’s possible that they just don’t like him. It could be as simple as that. None of us gets along with everyone. Think about how many people you don’t like and then try to imagine how it would be if one of them started hanging out at your house all the time to be with the one person in the world you loved most? AND you were expected to be nice and hang out with him, too? Add to that the part about that person possibly being in a position of power or authority over you? It starts to make sense that your new boyfriend’s presence in your child’s life can be a very big deal!

Have you ever asked them about their reasons for not liking him with a real desire to find out? They may be hesitant about telling you their concerns if they think you will just get mad or not listen. So make it clear that you will listen and then sit them down and have that talk. Make sure that Steve is not there and won’t be showing up anannounced in the middle of what may be a very uncomfortable discussion. Whatever you do, don’t make them sorry that they told you the truth, whatever it is. They need to know that they come first and that their feelings will be respected and kept private.

The most important thing to remember is that your kids and their happiness need to be your priority. Their home should always be a safe place where they can be themselves and feel comfortable and free. If Steve is interfering with that, then it’s important to find out why and make whatever changes are necessary.

You didn’t mention whether Steve is living with you or not. If he is, this may all be even trickier. You may need some counseling to sort it all out. Take a look at a post I wrote about the difficulties that can surround single-parent dating to get a better handle on some of the issues that come up and how you can deal with them.

Best of luck to you all!

We love getting all of your questions and want to give you everything that our combined brains have to offer. So keep sending them in! But if you are looking for a more personal touch with lots more detail and follow up, please visit us at Ask MamaEllen.com and AskDrMama.com and find out how to get the royal treatment. You deserve it, Mamas!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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