How Much Authority to Give Your Children in Your New Relationship

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Inevitably, once you have established a new relationship you are happy in and are beginning to think seriously about, you will want your children to become a part of the new unity and you will hope they accept your new choice of partner without rebellion.
By this stage of your relationship you will have discussed the existence of your children and he/she may already have met them in a public, non threatening setting like a visit to a bird park where he/she happens to be.
Of course it is orchestrated but in a manner that places no pressure on the children by being faced with dads new girlfriend or moms new boyfriend.
Many experts will advise many various avenues prior to this stage of the relationship.
Some will advocate fervently that your children be present, involved and interact with the new potential partner from very early on, when you first begin dating him/her.
The reasoning here is that when or if the relationship does become serious it does not come as a shock and surprise to the children.
Others will advise that your children are not included until such time as you decide to become more serious in an effort to spare the children from becoming attached to a person who disappears from their lives as quickly as they appeared.
This will save them the confusion of seeing mom or dad with multiple potential partners over time and prevent them from become emotionally detached in an effort to protect themselves from yet another disappearing partner.
These are all valid arguments and hopefully by this stage of the relationship you have ironed out these issues.
The focus now is how much "say" do you give your child or children in your choice in a partner.
To illustrate the implications of this we need to take a more detailed look at the scenario.
Case study: Mandy (12) and Mark (13) are the children of a divorced couple Jenny (39) and Sam (42).
Their divorce happened nine years prior when the children were only 3 and 4 years old.
Jenny has recently remarried a man she met shortly after the divorce and has been living with since the children were very little.
The children have grown up with this situation and accept her new husband willingly.
Sam unfortunately was deeply affected by the divorce and finds it difficult to commit to a new relationship, consequently he has had many short term relationships, all have become intimate in a short time and have ended shortly thereafter as a result of his fear of commitment.
All have been exposed to the children and some had ended as a direct result of the children voicing a negative opinion of the lady in their dad's life.
The time had come for Sam when he was now willing in earnest to try to find a woman with whom he would like to settle with and he had met a possible candidate, Jill.
After six months of dating Jill and Sam had become quite serious about one another and they were happy.
Again the children had been involved from almost their first meeting and had spent much time with the new girlfriend.
They liked her and had even formed a relationship with her.
Mandy had begun to engage in girly activities with her, she had begun to open up to her and discuss issues of relevance like boys, her brother, music and other subjects highly relevant to a girl of her age.
Mark had begun to play games with her, running around the garden, jumping from behind the couch to frighten her and teasing her like only boys can.
On the surface all seemed well and Sam was content.
Suddenly and without warning Mandy became intensely opposed to the relationship 10 months into it and for three months refused to see Jill.
She had thrown some serious temper tantrums and had given her father an ultimatum to choose between them.
Sam had persevered and he and Jill had decided together to give the children space.
They began to only see each other on the weekends the children were with their mother and not at all on dad's weekends.
Sam had attempted to ask Mandy on a few occasions why she was so against the relationship but had not received a satisfactory answer from her.
She had simply refused to entertain the idea of her father spending his life with this new woman and had rebelled.
After a few more months of worrying and stressing himself out over Mandy's confusing behaviour he submitted to his daughters wishes, believing he was being a good father, and ended the relationship.
Now let us try to understand Mandy's reaction and if Sam has done the right thing.
We also need to look at Jill and understand the part she played in changing the little girl's attitude towards her.
There are many dynamics at work here: Sam is ready for a relationship but is still afraid of commitment, his daughters actions have given him the perfect excuse to end the relationship and relinquish responsibility for yet another break up.
Ultimately he was unsure of what he wanted and gave his daughter the final authority in his life.
She had the power to end or condone her father's new relationship, a responsibility as destructive as abuse.
Sam is a good father and truly has his children's best interests at heart but knew Jill had been good to his children and was undeserving of Mandy's hatred.
It also was a worry that she had initially accepted Jill but had changed her mind just as Sam was beginning to feel settled in the relationship.
Why did Mandy have such a change of heart and why had did feel she had the right to dictate to her father? As time went on and Mandy began to understand that this relationship had the potential to become permanent she began to see Jill as a threat to her position as number 1 in her father's life.
She began to rebel against the relationship for purely selfish reasons, wanting to remain daddy's no.
1 and putting herself in a position to feel loved by having her father do as she wished.
The danger here is that, although she sadly wanted the full and uninterrupted attention from her father to help validate her and makes her feel loved, she is to young and immature to fully appreciate the implications of her dictatorial outlook.
She had until then been able to make her father pander to her whims and it had made her feel loved and special, this sentiment can only be exacerbated by Sam's once again pandering and soon Mandy would be in danger of growing up to be a dictator in any subsequent relationship.
The validation she receives comes in the form of dad doing as she says and in future relationships she will attempt to dominate decisions in an effort to validate herself and make her partner help her to feel loved.
She has learned to associate love with getting her way.
Sam is unaware of this and does not realise the dangers on not taking charge of his own life.
He should never be allowing a child to dictate his life decisions; her input should be allowed but not her autonomy.
He should have been aware of the possibility that Mandy may be badly treated by a new love in his life but outside of that, she should not be allowed to dictate.
Mandy will forever try to separate her father from any woman she dates because of her own need to feel like daddy's little princess, the first love in his life.
She is unable to understand that dad may love another woman and not love her any less.
Inadvertently Sam's efforts to make Mandy secure in her dads love has had the opposite effect.
She is secure in it and knows he loves her, but is unable to rest easy in the knowledge of her dad's love for fear of losing it to another woman.
Her father has failed to impart this to her by pandering to her demands.
Mandy has also witnessed her father in multiple relationships and has not been willing to become attached to the woman in dad's life as she is unsure of when the relationship will end as it so often has.
She had adopted an age old strategy, hurt the other person before the other person hurts her.
Being in control of this part of her dad's life has made her feel less vulnerable to being hurt by saying goodbye to another one of her father's lovers.
She has seen so many women move in and out of her dad's life and it has become a source of pain as well as manipulation for Mandy.
Jill and Sam were equally responsible for pandering to the child by submitting to her demands and agreeing to see each other on weekends the children were with their mother.
This was in an effort to keep Mandy happy and had their relationship continued Jill would have been caught up in an ever tightening circle of attempting to keep Mandy happy, for as long as the daughter was happy the father was happy and the relationship safe.
Jill also allowed the child to dictate.
What should they have done: They should have explained carefully to Mandy that dad still loved her and that she was still daddy's little girl, that although dad loved another woman in was not at the expense of his love for his children.
They should also have been sterner with her in her demands, refusing to give in to them and refusing to give her the decision making power that should be that of an adult.
Sam had for so long given adult responsibilities to his daughter that he was unaware of the dangerous position he was putting her in.
He should never have sought the approval of the child once he was satisfied that his children were not in any danger of being hurt by the woman he had chosen, seeking Mandy's consent to his choice was giving her complete authority and totally undermining his as her father and as her disciplinarian.
Mandy's respect for her father had become seriously undermined and for as long as her father did as she felt he should she was secure.
Her security was threatened the moment her father took any charge.
Children need endless love but also boundaries.
Their opinion should be respected and taken into account when parents are making important decisions but the decision making power should never be awarded to a child who is too immature to fully grasp it.
In time Mandy would have grown in confidence of her father's love had she been treated as the 12 year old she was and not the decision maker she should never have been.
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