Q. My husband died over a year ago, and I’ve just started to date. I find myself wondering how my grown children will react if I actually meet someone and want to marry again. What are the possible snags, and what can I do to smooth the way?
A new man is welcomed in most situations I know of personally. However, change is hard – and financial, emotional, and other issues can arise in even the best of circumstances. Dynamics do shift when another person joins the family circle. At the least (especially if he has children of his own), adjustments may have to be made about where to spend Thanksgiving.
Adult children may also worry about how he will affect your relationship with them. Will you have less time for the grandchildren?
“Adult children may feel very protective of you. They may worry that he’s after your money (if you have it) and/or that he’s taking advantage of you if you have a house he can move into,” says social psychologist Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of “Nobody’s Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship With Your Mother and Father.”
Some children may find it hard to accept the new man if he is very different from your late husband. Perhaps Dad was a quiet, thoughtful homebody. It can be a shock if you’re serious about an exuberant joke teller, who has introduced you to mountain bikes. There may be personality clashes.
In such cases, be prepared for some pushback from adult children, says Newman. She also advises pre-empting the children and saying, “I know this won’t be easy, and I’m thinking about marriage. How do you feel about it?”
In the beginning, you can ease the new man into the situation and see him separately, without your children. You can also talk to them about his strengths – how well he takes care of you and how interesting he is. If children intensely dislike him, they may not be able to accept another man taking their father’s place. You can say, “You may not like certain parts of his personality, but for me, he has all pluses.”
As a parent, you can be torn between wanting to invest in a new partner and have him adore you, yet you also want to please your children. In that case, explain that, “He can’t replace your father. This is someone new and different.” Take a firm stand, says Newman. “You don’t want to harm the relationship between you and your children, but you also want to keep your life moving forward.”
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.
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