Q: I've read in a couple of your columns that you think that a new couple whose relationship started out as an affair is in for a difficult time. I find myself in that situation (newly separated), and needless to say, I agree. Do you have any guidelines on how long I should wait before introducing my 6-year-old daughter to my new partner? I have been thinking somewhere between nine months and a year. My ex would rather they never meet.
A: My advice is always to go slow when introducing kids to a new partner after a breakup, not only for your daughter's sake, but for your ex's sake as well. Your ex, too, will need to get used to the changes.
More than having a duration in mind — you suggest around nine months — my recommendation would be to wait for a while to see if the new relationship becomes a permanent one. I know you probably think you've found the love of your life, but statistics tell us that relationships that start with an affair have less than a 10 percent chance to last for five years, so the odds are definitely against you. The problem is, there is so much more to making a relationship work than being attracted to someone, and the trials of dealing with the hurt associated with a breakup of this sort often overshadows the attraction. This leads to another inevitable breakup.
Your daughter is the most important consideration here. However, because she also will spend time with her mother as you get adjusted, how easy the transition will be for her will greatly depend on how well your ex fairs.
The odds are small that your ex will be open to your daughter having a relationship with the woman who turned her life upside down.
If Mom is as hurt, and humiliated as many are in this situation — raw emotions are difficult to cover up — and if your daughter sees her mother in pain, she may not want to leave her alone. It won't be that she doesn't want to see you, it will be more that she doesn't want to leave her mother in a time of trouble. (This would also be true if you were the wounded party.)
The bottom line, it's doubtful that this transition will be made in nine months to a year.
I have to caution both you and your ex: Consider how much information you want to pass on to your daughter about why her parents are no longer together.
For different reasons, both of you may want to explain things, but don't do it. She's a baby and will not understand, and too much information will undermine her security with both of you.
After a break-up, kids really need to know how it will affect them directly. Some common concerns that children have after a breakup include:
Where will I live?
Will I still have the same bedroom?
Will I go to the same school?
Will my dog be able to come, too?
Will I still be able to play with their friends?
Where will Daddy sleep?
The specifics are not necessary — at least for now.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation and the founder of bonusfamilies.com. You can email her at drjannblackstonegmail.com.