When he refuses to introduce his kids

divorced dad will not introduce kids to new girlfriendI’ve said it before; perhaps the most extraordinaire blessing of my divorce was its timing; though in the early days it didn’t feel so miraculous. The explosion of a nuclear family usually occurs farther down the marriage trail, when kids want nothing more than a ride to the mall and their parents to disappear on command. The vacuum left gives time for mom and dad to discover that their marriage, which had been briefly exchanged for little league, bedtime, and PTA, is now completely and permanently extinct.

My marriage never made it out of diapers.

Normally, divorce stories are received with a mournful compassion, as if a close relative has died.  My divorce story was like hearing nails across a chalkboard. Divorced – and male – there was already an inherent suspicion that I was the guilty catalyst that caused our break-up, add to that kids not yet potty trained and I was certifiably criminal. It made my early dating life explanatory in nature – I spent a lot of time clarifying that I, in fact, wasn’t a narcissistic dirt bag.

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Regardless of how clear my conscience may have been, it was hard to disagree with their convictions. How is it possible that a married couple could split so quickly after the birth of a child? Our son was barely sleeping through the night; what parent in their right mind chooses to go at that alone? All of it was enough to leave me occasionally depressed, frequently resentful, and forever seeing myself as an abject failure.

It would take several long years, including therapy and introspection, before my feelings of awkwardness and inadequacy turned to genuine appreciation. That point finally occurred with the realization that the youthful innocence of my children, that tangible reminder of my failure as a man and father, like a weight of shame hanging around my neck, was actually the best thing that could have happened.

It made for the perfect amnesia.

As I remember, I’ve introduced my kids to eight women over the course of my post divorce life– they only remember two of them and that includes the Queen. The remainder are as if they never happened. That fact is the blessing for which I’m so very thankful. My mother often said, ‘ignorance is bliss’; she got that right. It’s perfectly blissful that I’m have been able to hide those six mistakes behind my children’s naivety and naptimes.

This appreciation is further strengthened when I consider that most parents in my situation aren’t so fortunate. The vast majority of divorces occur after the kids are old enough to remember dad’s girlfriend – then complain about what a b***ch she was on Facebook.

The fact is, children suffer most when they witness mom riding a conveyor belt of relationships, one after another. When dad goes from one woman to the next dragging the kids along for the ride, those children will grow to distrust commitment, question marriage, and develop a deep disrespect for either parent. Being divorced or single, we have the perfect opportunity to model for our children what healthy dating relationships should look like, and the starting point is how and when we introduce the kids.

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It’s been my general observation that single parents are far too cheeky when it comes to dating and kids. I’ll consider myself a former Grand Master.  I’m not sure if it’s because we just want to get that clumsy part over with or to hurry up and see if the person will stick around after we do – so we don’t waste much of our time. Whatever the reason, most of us try to climb that mountain too quickly. I do however believe there is a proper way to introduce our kids into a new relationship (you can read about both here and here).

That being said, single parents must also understand that our children are an extension of who we are, they are part of the package, an added bonus. They are not something to be placed on a shelf and remain hidden indefinitely. That isn’t fair to them nor is it respectful to the person we’re with. By keeping those parts of our life separate for too long we are essentially saying to our new partner, ‘you aren’t worthy to be a part of my child’s life, you still haven’t earned the right’.

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Not long ago, I received an email from a woman seeking advice. She has dated a man on and off for over two years, now they live together – and she still hasn’t met his kids. In case your wondering, his weekends with the them are spent at the grandparents. His logic for this, according to her, is the belief that if he doesn’t introduce the kids to her (she has none) his ex will have reason not to introduce the kids to a man she may date; he doesn’t feel he could cope with another man playing ‘daddy’.

There’s a cold hard truth to this story that must conceded – this man has placed his individual peace and comfort over the relationship. He has basically told this woman, ‘I love you, but only to the point it doesn’t piss off my ex-wife’. Their relationship is one of smoke and mirrors. She may live with him but she is only seeing a reflection; she is prevented from truly knowing him, all of him, the vital part that makes up so much of who he is – a father. Because any parent will admit, who they are with their kids isn’t who they are all the time.

This isn’t a problem for her to solve – this is his burden. He has deep-seated pain, guilt, and resentment from his divorce that is making it impossible to become transparent in this relationship. In other words, he isn’t ready to be with someone new. And until he is willing to confess this and then seek help to exorcise those demons, he will be incapable of moving into a loving, honorable, and authentic relationship with a deserving woman – that includes his children.

♦ I frequently receive questions from readers, if you have one about relationships, dating, men, divorce, co-parenting, use the contact form at the left of the page, I always respond and may use yours in a future post  ♦

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6 responses to When he refuses to introduce his kids

  1. Mikey

    Great article! A good reminder about how my sons young age (2.5) is actually a good thing. Hopefully he won’t remember my awkwardness at being a new, single Dad and maybe my Ex will get over her issues and stop hating me in a few years.
    I’m still working out when to introduce my girlfriend to my son. I am thinking after I have been dating her for a year…

  2. Stef

    Hi Kyle,
    Your article is so helpful and certainly brings things into clearer focus for me. I don’t know what I am going to do and you have described exactly how I feel — the unworthy part anyway.

    I am in an exclusive relationship with a very sweet, responsible, caring divorced dad of two children, ages 13 and 11. We “dated” for six months before even considering anything intimate and have now been involved for over one year. However, he still has not decided “how” to introduce his children to me. He has them every weekend. I have my own home as does he and we see each other from Sunday to Thursday…. so I end up basically only seeing him after work during the week.

    It has been quite wonderful and being a mother of two grown sons, I absolutely respect the time we’ve taken and especially the consideration he is giving the children. And, I notice that as time goes on I am beginning to feel a bit concerned and absolutely as if I am not worthy to be in their lives. Sigh. We have discussed this once and I am not one to make ultimatums — and would never want him to feel pressured about his beautiful children. However, I am beginning to think without a bit of gentle nudging — things would stay like this forever. I do not have a need for a marriage again and we both agreed we wanted long term committed relationship. I guess I am more validating what you say in the article about how it feels to keep the significant other hidden or secret. I almost feel like I am having an affair or something (and no, there isn’t a chance he is still with his ex…). Anyway, thank you for the article and it was refreshing to find you out here in the world.
    Stef

  3. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Stef, thanks for the kind words. I hope this gave you some additional context.

    A good place to start might be getting him to read this. Considering it comes from another guy.

  4. edav

    Hi Kyle and thanks so much for such a clear and caring article.
    I’m not native in english, so please excuse my mistakes.
    Five months ago the man I was dating regularly for a year (in exclusivity and really happily for both of us) leaved me in very bad manners (by email… and beleive it or not he is not a bad person nor a kid). We didn’t even have an argue but he got totally blocked, unable even to speak about it, when I suggested him to talk to his 11 years old girl about his divorce (six years ago), as he had never talked about it with the girl, to whom he is really caring and attached and with whom he recognices is extremely protective. I’m sure the girl knows they are “more or less separated” as they make weekends and holidays splited since divorce, but I think the girl might not have a clear idea about the situation (that in my opinion is not very healthy for her) as they all live in the same house: mom and the girl on the top floor and he in the basement, with a locked key door in between and even separated entrances.
    The issue of introducing the girl to me was our only recurent problem. He spends all afternoons with the girl (appart of two weekends/month and half of the holidays), I travel often because of my job and his ex travels also sometimes and then he becomes a fulltime daddy, so in those ocassions got so hard to find time for us. After dating him for 10 months I talked for the first time about the possibility of introducing me to his girl (in a sensitive way… I would have found myself quite irresponsible to spend nights at his place, but introducing me slowly in some parts of their time together to normalice things, as we were really happy together, and avoiding not seeing us even for weeks when those circumstances ocurred). He felt uncomfortable with the idea but didn’t refuse and promised to start working on it just to please me, but no improvements where done, at least as far as I know. The summer came and, with it, his three weeks holidays time with the girl, in which I was totally excluded and made me feel terrible and very little considered, even if he had insisted on how important I was for him.
    It was then when I suggested him to talk with the girl to find out if she was really aware about the divorce, as I thought having that very clear and assumed was a compulsory previous step before telling her one day that he had a girlfriend. That was our last conversation. He sent me days after an email saying he was confused about us, that he needed time and bla bla… not even a proper explanation to make me things a bit easier.
    Of course I’ve had a terrible time, and I still do even if I’m starting to get better, but it would help me so much if I could understand if the guilt that I imagine he feels towards the girl or the responsability of a father can explain such a radical (and in my opinion coward) reaction. I now think he might not had “metaboliced” the failure of his marrige, I’m afraid he didn’t love me as much as I thought but I’m sure I was important for him (he included me in all plans with his friends and joined all mine, had great understanding and fun and sex… ), so if you might have any clue about how can he now be feeling about his behaviour I would appreciate so much if you tell me. Thanks a lot and best regards, E

  5. Kyle Bradford – Author

    I believe he, likely in agreement with his ex wife, wants to give the ‘impression’ to their child that they are still married. First is them living in the same home and second is him not introducing his daughter to you after all this time. Let me say now, it is an unhealthy decision to keep such an important life change held from a child of 11 years of age. I would guess that when the child figures it out, and the child surely will, it will be far more troubling and especially so knowing that the parents lied or at least held the information for so long.

    Based upon what you’ve share with me, I believe you will be spared much more heartache in the future by not having a relationship with this man, if for no other reason than his lack of transparency and truthfulness with you. Additionally, he has already proven that the relationship with his daughter, and to a lesser degree ex wife, will be more important than a relationship with you. When you asked him to meet your daughter or if he had spoken to her about the divorce, that signaled for him a decision…doing either would disrupt his daughter’s impression of her parents and this was something he was unwilling to do, even to help grow a relationship with you.

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