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When Should I Introduce My New Boyfriend To My Kid?

“I feel like I might be ready but even typing those words gives me anxiety so maybe I’m not.”

At what point is it appropriate to introduce my boyfriend to my teenage son? (I’ve been divorced for just over a year, living on my own for almost two, and dating my new BF for six months.) I feel like I might be ready but even just typing those words gives me anxiety, so maybe I’m not?

I go back and forth on this one because there are so many circumstances, and this is not a one-size-fits-all-answer to a one-size-fits-all-question. (Not that anything ever is!) While I understand why you would want to introduce your person to your children (and I think six months is a significant amount of time) I also wonder how your kid feels?

I ask because while I feel really strongly that we, as women, should always prioritize our pleasure and happiness when it comes to our intimate partnerships, prioritizing our kids’ feelings and safety when it comes to bringing new relationships into our homes is equally important.

I think, culturally, there is pressure to introduce new partners to our families — even when it isn’t in our favor (or necessary) to do so.

But let me back up. I find the pop culture trope of “kid hates parent’s live-in partner and parent doesn’t care” to be super problematic because the parent should care. All kids should feel safe in their homes and while I realize this is a narrative device, it’s also very common in mixed families/domestic partnerships to prioritize partnerships over kids.

I also think, culturally, there is pressure to introduce people — most notably partners — to our families, even when it isn’t in our favor (or necessary) to do so. We tend to default to nuclear family mode, assuming it’s to everyone’s benefit to merge. But often that isn’t the case (I have been very open about the fact that I have no plans to marry again, so that is not the ultimate goal of any of the dating I do now).

Which is why I think this isn’t a question for anyone but your son. Perhaps he’s happy that you’re happy and he wants to meet this lovely new person in your life. Valid. Perhaps he does not want to meet this person who may or may not come between himself and his only mother (you) or who may feel like a replacement of his father. Also valid. Perhaps he doesn’t care either way and thinks you should do whatever-you-want-to-leave-me-alone-and-please-close-the-door-on-your-way-out. Again, also valid.

And yet, it is not only possible but extremely doable for a parent to prioritize her kids’ safety without sacrificing her relationships. It takes compromise and imagination, yes, and a willingness to develop new paradigms that take into consideration everyone’s needs, wants, and protection.

It can be particularly complicated, as you mentioned, to introduce a partner to a teenage son — especially when they are used to being the “man” in the house. I have a teenage son, too, and I can see all the layers of that situation. I also have three daughters, and while I would never bring a man into my house whom I didn’t trust, far too many women I love have suffered at the hands of men who their mothers brought into their homes, who they thought they could trust, and who they shouldn’t have. And while I hesitate to write about this, here, because the majority of men are not predators, the truth is, my children are far safer, statistically speaking, in home without a man who is not their father.

Just because you choose to introduce your son to your boyfriend doesn’t mean they will — or should — form a relationship.

Beyond that, the dynamic shifts when new people are thrown into the mix. And I think it’s understandable not to want that to happen, as a parent or as a child, especially after experiencing a family trauma.

In four years of dating, I have brought one intimate partner into my home to my meet my kids. It happened very early on in my dating tenure and felt right at the time but I learned through experience that I don’t want to do that again. Not in the foreseeable future, anyway. Not that this person did anything wrong. The opposite. He was lovely and gentle and warm to my children. But my kids were different when he was here. And so was I. It made me realize that I am the best version of my mother self when I am doing it alone. (I’m also a better intimate partner when my children aren’t around.)

I needed to figure that out for myself. And you will, too.

Which brings me to a more important point: Just because you choose to introduce your son to your boyfriend doesn’t mean they will or should form a relationship. Perhaps they will become friends. Or maybe they will not. Perhaps an introduction will only be an introduction, and you can leave it at that. Or, at least, start there. So long as you keep all lines of communication healthy and flowing, you can go at whatever pace suits the three of you. Instincts change. Relationships are fluid.

So should our willingness be when it comes to creating new ones.

I want to answer any and all questions you all have about the exhilarating, terrifying, and wonderful experience of dating and having sex with new people after becoming a parent. Send me your questions at rebeccawoolf@gmail.com.

Rebecca Woolf writes Romper’s Sex & the Single Mom series. She has worked as a writer for more than two decades and is the author of two books, Rockabye: From Wild to Child and All of This: A Memoir of Death and Desire. She lives in Los Angeles with her four children.