People are having children later in life, so if you are considering a new romantic relationship after age 40, you or your potential partner may still have young children or teenagers at home. Most parents worry about bringing a new person into their kids’ lives, and it can be complicated to balance your desire for a fabulous new relationship with your responsibilities and love for your children. Here are a few things to consider:
- If your partner has minor children, don’t assume that they will always live elsewhere and just visit you. That situation can always change.
- Pay attention to how potential partners handle problems and issues with their kids or yours. Is their style loving, distant, or overly involved?
- If your sweetie has young kids or teens, what are their needs and are you prepared to help meet them? When Jennifer was dating, she met a nice man who had custody of his teenage daughter, who had major problems (including self-injury). Had the relationship progressed, this would have been a big consideration.
- Don’t fool yourself that your partner’s kids’ issues won’t affect you, because they certainly will.
- Someone who doesn’t have a loving relationship with his or her own kids is unlikely to have one with your kids.
- Be realistic in what you expect between your partner and your kids. There probably won’t be instant love.
- If your partner has no children but you do, he or she has to step into an unfamiliar world.
- Early in the relationship, talk extensively about your parenting styles and expectations.
- Make sure your partner has individual time with his or her kids – don’t feel threatened by their having some private time together.
- Work out a good balance between making joint decisions about the kids (especially for issues that affect everyone) and deferring to the actual parent’s judgment.
Getting to know and care for your partner’s kids can be a wonderful experience, and your partner can be a great influence in your children’s lives. Unresolved issues about kids can also wreck relationships. It might be worth a few sessions with a family therapist if things are on the wrong the wrong track. Talk with your partner and recognize that you are going to have to adjust to create a happy family. Try to work out as much as you can early in your relationship, preferably before you decide to live together as a family. Set your bottom line expectations before you choose your partner. Everyone’s happiness is at stake.
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."
Previous Magic at Midlife Columns:
Why You Need a Relationship Roadmap
Living with Pets and a New Partner
Exploring New Roles
Rowing Through Life Together
Let’ Talk About Sex
Helping Your Adult Children Accept Your New Partner
In Sickness and In Health
Step-Grandparenting Can Be Grand
Enjoy Life Together
Online Dating for the Older Set
Enjoying the Single Life
Sex in Midlife Relationships: Complicated but Wonderful!
Upgrade Your Communication Skills