Friday, September 18, 2009

Single: Parental Dating Issues: My Child Dislikes My Boyfriend. What Should I Do?

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Question: Parental Dating Issues -- My Child Dislikes My Boyfriend. What Should I Do?
By Jennifer Wolf

Bonny Albo,'s Guide to Dating, sent me this question from a reader named Jane, whose child dislikes her boyfriend: I am 33 years old, I and have two kids, ages 6 and 9. My 6-year-old adores the man I'm dating, but my 9-year-old dislikes my boyfriend and is adamantly against him. This concerns me a great deal. We have been dating for almost three years, and this problem has become a big roadblock in our relationship. In addition, my boyfriend has said to me point blank that I need to change my 9-year-old's behavior before he will consider taking things "to the next level." What should I do?

Answer: What to do when your child dislikes your boyfriend is an excellent question. It speaks to the issue of balancing your needs against your kids' needs in regard to the issue of parental dating. However, from your question, it sounds as though there are several issues going on at once.
  1. You're not happy with the relationship as it is.
  2. Your son dislikes your boyfriend pretty strongly.
  3. Your boyfriend has an issue with your child's behavior.
Where to Start

My first question for you is this: Do you have a problem with your child's behavior? I'm also wondering whether your boyfriend is referring to your son's reluctance to connect and build a relationship with him, or whether there is some other behavioral issue that concerns him.

If you do have a problem with your child's behavior, I would advise you to start there. Deal with that before making any other decisions. You may find, too, that you need to cut back on your time away from the kids while addressing the behavioral concerns that you have.

Determine the Real Issue

A lot of people would tell you that if your child dislikes your boyfriend, you should automatically end the relationship. However, a 9-year-old is savvy enough to know that a parental dating relationship is naturally going to take some time and attention away from him, and the quickest way to rebel against that is to reject the person you're dating. Therefore, it's important to determine whether your son dislikes your boyfriend for a good reason that you don't yet recognize, or whether your son needs to realize that while he and his brother are your top priority, they don't rule every decision you make.

To make sure that your son's reluctance is not based on a good reason not to like your boyfriend, I would recommend asking a couple of close friends or family members whether they have any concerns. If they do, then you need to pay attention closer attention to whether this is really the right relationship for you.

Talk it Over With Your Son

However, if you think your son dislikes your boyfriend in an effort to initiate a power struggle, I would recommend that you carve out some one-on-one time with your son to discuss the relationship. If you envision yourself remarrying at some point, let your son know that is a desire you have. If it's appropriate, you can also let your son know that you, too, are disappointed that your relationship with his father can not be salvaged, and in light of that, you're ready to move on.

Go ahead and share with him some of the criteria you look for in a man, and let him know how your boyfriend meets those criteria. For example, "I'm really looking for someone who treats me with respect and is caring and considerate." Then, share a story or two about a time when your boyfriend revealed those qualities to you.

Conclude the conversation by telling your son that you love him unconditionally and hope that he will support you in your happiness. In addition, ask him whether there is anything you can do to make the transition easier on him.

Once you've had that conversation, I would suggest creating some opportunities for your son and your boyfriend to get to know one another better in a way that is non-threatening. For example, try to get out of the house and do something fun together, and see how the opportunity to be playful together impacts their relationship.

Address Any Concerns You Have With Your Boyfriend, Too

At the same time, if you feel your boyfriend is being too hard on your son, or has unrealistic expectations, you need to talk with him about these feelings. Taking things to the next level without resolving such an important issue would only be an invitation for more discord between your son and your boyfriend.

Finally, make an effort to be extra sensitive to your son while working through these concerns. Coping with parental dating can be extremely difficult for kids. It may be that your son dislikes your boyfriend out of a sense of being displaced or left out. Any effort you can invest toward resolving those feelings will go a long way toward achieving the sense of harmony you're looking for.


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