How long should he wait to introduce you to his kids? As you get to know each other better, more answers to these questions will be revealed, allowing him to be more open to your meeting his kids.
In the five years since my ex and I launched our site, co-parenting101.org, one of the most common queries we receive is from women regarding their boyfriend’s kids. Typically, they want to meet and spend time with the kids, but their boyfriend–or the children’s mother–isn’t open to the idea. That this is a common concern isn’t surprising because for those who are dating with kids in the mix, introducing the kids to a new partner is a big step in a relationship, more significant than “meeting the parents.” Certainly, more is at stake and more has to be considered before introductions involving children take place.
The women who write to us about this situation inevitably, and understandably, want to know, “How long should I wait?” There are no one-size-fits-all answer to that questions, but below are some insights as to what a dad–or any parent, really–might be contemplating when he decides to hold off on this big step, even if you’re ready to meet his kids and have him meet yours:
He’s just not that into you…yet:
Perhaps the two of you haven’t known each other long enough, in his estimation, or he doesn’t know you well enough for you to meet his kids. When I was dating, my kids were aware that I went on dates, but they didn’t meet everyone I dated. I explained to them that they were so special to me, that only very, very special people would get to meet them.
So maybe your guy believes you just might be that special person, but he has a specific timetable in mind (i.e., a certain number of months, a year, etc.), or maybe it’s more of a milestone thing before kids are introduced. He may be considering: How far along are you in the relationship? How much does he know about you, your values? What is your lifestyle? Can he trust you? Are you reliable? What are your kids like? Is your parenting style compatible with his? Are you willing to accept his kids’ well-being as his priority? Do his children have any special needs or concerns that must be taken into consideration?
How long should you wait to meet the kids? As you get to know each other better, more answers to these questions will be revealed, allowing him to be more open to your meeting his kids.
He’s just not that into you:
It’s an uncomfortable truth, but it happens. Maybe enough time has passed that he knows you well enough, but he doesn’t think he’s in it for the long-haul with you. He’s not convinced that you’re The One. Or maybe he’s not sure, for whatever reason, that you and his kids will hit it off. Or maybe thought he was ready to settle down, meet someone, and gradually introduce them into his children’s lives–but now he realizes that he’s not willing to take that step with you. Maybe he needs more time to date casually, or not date at all, to figure out what he what he wants and needs in a mate.
How long should you wait to meet the kids? If this is the case with your guy, try to respect that fact that he doesn’t feel that this is a good match. Don’t force it, and most importantly, don’t make “meeting the kids” a litmus test as a measure of the progress of your relationship, i.e., “If you’re serious about me, you’ll let me meet your kids.” Most people don’t respond well to ultimatums involving their kids, so if you feel that he’s not interested in the kind of relationship that you want, bow out gracefully.
It’s not you, it’s him:
As part of your guy’s divorce or breakup healing process, he may simply feel the need for more time before he’s emotionally ready to take the big step of kid introductions. Maybe he thought he was ready to jump back into dating, but it turns out, he’s still emotionally raw. Even if he was the one to initiate the break-up with his ex, he may still be mourning the loss of that relationship and may feel grief and sadness over how the break up has affected his children. His ex’s post-break-up behavior and attitude toward him may exacerbate this grief.
How long should you wait to meet the kids? Despite all of the above concerns, he may still be looking to date, for fun, for companionship. You’ll need to decide if this is enough for you and for how long. There’s no right or wrong answer here; just each of you deciding what’s right for you.
He’s ready, you’re ready…but it’s still not the right time:
Even if you two are truly, madly, deeply in love, and he has no doubts about your relationship, he may have a formal or informal agreement with his ex-spouse that mandates a particular wait time or circumstances under which children will be introduced to a significant other. Maybe they’ve agreed, as my ex and I did upon separation, to keep the children out of the potential revolving door of their dating lives. Or perhaps he doesn’t feel his kids are ready for the introduction.
Also, I know two co-parents who resolved not to introduce their children (now in grade school) to anyone until they graduated high school. Your guy may have made a similar resolution.
How long should you wait to meet the kids? It depends. Is he giving you some indication as to when he thinks will be a good time to make the introduction? Can you wait without resentment or constant arguing or pressuring him about it? Are there other ways that he demonstrates his interest and commitment such that you feel your relationship with him is worth the wait? If so, wait it out. If not, move on.
His ex won’t go for it (with a possible variation on the, “He’s not that into you” theme). It may be that your guy would love for you to meet his kids, yesterday, but he dreads having to approach his ex about it. Your guy hates confrontation, has a high-conflict co-parenting situation, and is putting off introductions as long as possible.
Or, he does a cost-benefit analysis and reasons that when he does get around to pulling the meet-my-kids trigger (and rattling his ex’s cage), it had better be for someone about whom he’s super-serious. He may be asking himself if his relationship with you is worth his incurring the wrath of his ex. (This feels harsh, but most cost-benefit analyses are.)
How long should you wait to meet the kids? If you’re waiting and waiting just so he can placate his ex, that’s a red flag. After a break- up, some parents have a hard time distinguishing their feelings from their kids’. His ex may be telling him that the kids aren’t ready for the introduction when it’s actually that’s she’s not ready for this new development. It’s one thing to be sensitive and respectful when one’s fellow co-parent isn’t thrilled about Someone New entering the picture; it’s quite another to let a jealous, distraught, or angry ex dictate the progress of your relationship. If the latter is happening and there appears to be no end in sight, it’s time to move on.
It’s not uncommon for parents–particularly, but not exclusively, non-custodial parents–to feel guilt after a divorce. They feel that they have upset their children’s lives enough with the breakup, and so they try to avoid any further disruption. Some have such limited time with their kids, they want every moment of it to be happy, kid-focused, and uncomplicated.
Some parents become “Disneyland Dads” (or Moms) indulging their children in an attempt to make up for the breakup. Others intend to keep their dating lives private indefinitely because they worry that their kids won’t respond well to the new person, or because they want to minimize the amount of change their children face in the wake of the breakup. They want life to stay as “normal” as possible for their kids. Not all of these responses are born of guilt exclusively, but guilt can cause a parent to view the introduction to a new partner as something to be avoided.
How long should you wait to meet the kids? Maybe over time your guy’s guilt will subside. Maybe his fellow co-parent will be the first to introduce the kids to a significant other, and then he will feel more comfortable following suit. Again, only you know how long you are willing to wait. If you can wait peacefully, go for it.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to be thoughtful as to whom they bring around their children, when, and in what context. This doesn’t always feel fair to the new person, and certainly, no one wants to feel “hidden” and like a second-class citizen forever. But sometimes dating someone with kids is a waiting game, an endurance test that’s simply not for everyone. This can be especially hard if you feel ready to introduce your kids to your mate, or you’ve already introduced them. Waiting requires lots of maturity and patience and honest communication, sometimes with no guarantee of a relationship at the end to make it all worth it. It also requires maturity and honest communication to know when to stop waiting and move on.
As someone who waited a year, and then introduced a combined total of four kids into the mix of my relationship, I will leave you with this comfort: Remember that once you do meet his kids, you’re not only taking a major step forward, you’re also adding new levels of interaction and complexity–the dynamic among you and his kids, among your kids and him, and among your respective kids with each other. And don’t forget, the reaction of your respective exes, if they are in the picture. So enjoy the wait and make the most of this comparatively simpler time to have each other all to yourselves!