Oh. My. God. This topic is a doozy. And not for the reasons you might imagine. It’s not about how you might meet someone or how difficult it is to find the time to actually go on a date. Those things are tricky to negotiate, yes, but that’s not what has compelled me to write about this topic. The trickier thing, in my experience, is establishing with your ex when someone can be brought into your little one’s life. For me it was a no brainer. You don’t introduce your child until you know it’s a thing. And when I say know, I mean know. None of this early oh how we adore each other stuff where you think you’ll be together forever but post honeymoon period phase really know.
I thought everyone thought the same way as me but when my ex met his first love interest post break up he took her on a coffee date with our son on one of their first dates. Granted our son was only about 7 months old at the time but still, I say start how you mean to continue. Needless to say I was furious when I found out. Also, I firmly believe that kids can pick up on your energy about someone when they are around you. So ok, maybe he didn’t realise he was meeting daddy’s new partner but he would have known simply by his dad’s behaviour that this person was important. The way daddy behaved around her would have been different to his behaviour around everyone else in his life and that has an impact on a child.
So we fought about this, A LOT. And we just weren’t getting anywhere. My ex wanted to be able to bring anyone into our son’s life at any time he damn well pleased and that just wasn’t cool with me. I believe it is our responsibility to teach our children about relationships, particularly that they important and to be treated seriously and with respect. Most certainly not that they are transient. We had talked a few times about doing mediation so it was at that point I decided that it was time. Incidentally if you want to go down this path with an ex it is quite easy to do so and it is provided free by the government which I think is amazing. Many people are court ordered to do it but you don’t have to be court ordered to undergo it. I had a few other things to discuss that frustrated me (like at the time I was expected to provide all of my son’s food, clothes and accessories for visits) so it seemed timely to get it underway.
Mediations aren’t legally binding so if you break the agreement you won’t get yourself in trouble however they are taken into consideration in court which I guess would be incredibly helpful if you ended up there. My hope is that never happens for us and to be honest, we have quite a successful co-parenting arrangement these days so it’s unlikely but it’s useful information to know. The way it works (in NSW) is that you go for your own one on one meeting with the mediator, your ex goes one on one, you individually attend a parenting course and then you all attend a mediation session. If you are having particular issues with a partner that doesn’t listen or let you speak then I highly recommend this as they are required to be silent while you are making your points and then respond when it is their turn. Brilliant. My hot tip is to take along a pen and paper as you will have points you want to make and you don’t want to forget them when it is your turn to talk.
Anyway I won’t go into the other stuff we discussed (I’ll do a mediation topic after this if people are interested in what we covered) but the dating thing went round and round in circles. My ex kept going on about what if he met someone and liked them but wasn’t sure about a relationship. His argument was that they were friends at that point. I called that dating and my call was that dating was strictly a no no. I think he was being deliberately facetious as his main objective was to not to succumb to my “demands”. The real crux of the issue for us was that we discovered that we have a completely different moral framework and it is really hard (impossible) to get someone to accept your morals. They are intrinsically yours and something that is bred in you from a very young age so you can talk to someone until you are blue in the face but if it doesn’t strike a chord with them they are unlikely to every agree with you. They just don’t get it.
In the end I got him to agree to an 8 week dating period before introducing new partners. And if at that time there was any uncertainty about the future of the relationship that the introduction would be held back. I wanted 3 months as I believe you usually know in three months if something is going somewhere but as that’s what I went in with my ex wouldn’t have it. So second hot tip – go in higher with your request and maybe you can negotiate to what you really want. Funnily enough since then my ex and I have both had two relationships which didn’t make the 3 month mark. They were all quite good in the beginning and we both felt that they were going to be “something” and yet things didn’t turn out that way. So it has helped him see my point of view on the issue (hooray!).
No doubt, this is a really tricky one and not a fun one to navigate but I really felt I had to stand my ground as it was important to me. I found it hard as there is no hard evidence on when it is the right time to introduce new partners. I looked high and low online and could only find people’s opinions (like this I’m sad to say). What I really wanted was hard data from psychologists. Our mediator (also a trained psych) said there was little data on the topic and views going both ways.
What do you think? Do you think I was going overboard? Or do you think my response was fair? I’d be interested to hear from other single parents about this one.