About 75% of divorced adults remarry or cohabit with new partners. Despite that statistic, deciding when and how to introduce your new partner is something that can’t be taken lightly. The fear that surrounds this introduction is – I believe – largely fueled by the media in which stepparents are frequent villains or antagonists. This may explain why I was so reluctant to introduce my son and the man I was growing to love.
After several months I was sure that Mr. Nice Guy was in it for the long haul. I also knew he was the type of man I would be proud to have in my son’s life as a role model. These two things made me sure I wanted to introduce my bae to my baby – but how? I thought about it, talked about, and read about it. Then I planned for it.
One: Location is Key
I decided to have Mr. Nice Guy meet us at a local arcade. It’s a place I rarely take my son because I don’t really like video games, so I knew he would see it as a treat. I also knew Mr. Nice Guy was a gamer from way back so they could bond. Additionally, there were lots of distractions in case things started to go wrong.
Make sure there’s an easy exit out of the date – your child’s comfortability is key. Don’t go on a boat ride, for example, unless one of you is fine with swimming home if things don’t work out. Make sure this is also a place that you could stay long enough to get a good sense of the dynamic. The purpose of having your children meet your man is to see if they all will get along. You can’t tell that in just a few minutes (and if you can – it’s probably a no and that’s a whole different conversation).
Two: This Should NOT Be a Surprise
I remember being about ten when I met my future stepmom for the first time. We “bumped” into her on New Year’s Eve. My dad introduced her as an old friend and that night, after the countdown, we slept at her place with her son whom I’d also just met. It was awkward and looking back, I felt duped and scared. I didn’t want this for my son. So, I prepped him by asking the day before if he would be okay with meeting a friend of mine. I explained he was a new but very good friend who I thought would have fun with us. My son agreed and I was relieved because this meeting really has to be on your child’s terms. If they feel forced into or surprised by it, that will also be the first impression of your significant other. No Bueno!
Three: Keep it G Rated
Yes, you’ll probably want to kiss your man when you see him make your child smile, but restrain yourself. The biggest fear in introducing someone new is that there will be a sense of jealousy that will brew (see A Parent Trap or any other Disney film). You can avoid this during the first meeting by making it clear that your child is the only one getting your love. You need to set and communicate those boundaries to your partner too. Brief them before the meeting about no hugging/kissing/hand holding/etc. Then, if things go well, you can talk about when to let your child see physical affection and what forms of affection are okay.
Finally: Trust your Gut
You will know when it’s time to make the introduction and you’ll know if things are going well. This is a stressful time but also an exciting one. Only that feeling – deep down in your gut – will tell you just how exciting. For me, this meeting was illuminating and made me realize that love is transformational.