New partner should not come before kids

Stop comparing yourself to partner’s ex
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The man I am dating told me that he has walked away from relationships because he felt as if he was second to the woman’s children. During discussion he asked, “Why would you ever want to get involved with someone when you knew you were not the priority? Your partner is supposed to be first!” I read your column every week and you always say “Put the children first” is the primary directive once there is a breakup. I really like this guy and I’m so afraid he’s going to leave. My kids are 13, 15, and my oldest lives away at school — but he still comes home. What’s good ex-etiquette?

Duck! There are some major red flags flying your way!

I would guess your guy has never had children and approaches relationships as a first-time relationship — no strings, everything is new. But second or subsequent relationships when one or both partners have children are simply a different dance. The expectations must be different, and you can NEVER compare your feelings for your children to the feelings for your new partner. If you do, you’ve already lost. And if your partner is demanding that you do, that’s a double jinx. They are simply not comparable.

Combining families is a well-orchestrated dance of sometimes leading and sometimes following. When it’s done with kindness and respect, claiming your place will come naturally. You will not take it personally if you can’t go out to a movie together because your partner’s son has a soccer game. Demanding that a parent choose you over their children establishes a competitive atmosphere, and that’s a recipe for disaster.

If your kids no longer live at home or have children of their own, your approach to a new relationship can be different than if they are youngsters. If it’s your daughter’s 24th birthday and she lives 500 miles away, you can send her a card and FaceTime her from Cabo. It’s another story if it is her 14th birthday and she wants her friends to join her by the pool.

So take a good hard look at it if your guy is pulling rank. If he feels it necessary to set a competitive atmosphere between family members, no one will be happy — or healthy. When a new partner subscribes to the philosophy “help, not hinder,” you have a winner. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, This column was provided by Tribune News Service.

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