I am 35 years old divorced with a teenage daughter. Our relationship with my ex is not good at all, he has not gotten over the fact that I wanted to divorce. However, he has an excellent relationship with our daughter, they spend a lot of time together and in general she has a great sympathy for him. I am in a new relationship and my partner and I are planning to get married. My problem is that my daughter refuses to meet him. Her argument is that I shouldn’t think about bringing another man in the house until she’s eighteen and gone. No matter how much I try to explain the situation to her, that I am still very young and want to move on with my life, that she will leave and I don’t want to be alone, that I have had a very difficult time with her father, my daughter is adamant and she threatens to go live with her father if I bring my partner home. Do you think she will or is she just threatening me? Any chance she’ll accept it? What do you advise me to do?
It is not easy for a teenage girl to accept the existence of an “unknown” man in the house, even if she understands that her mother is young and has the right to rebuild her life. There are many difficulties in this undertaking that the child is aware of and may frighten her.
Things become even more difficult when the child does not have it in her to accept her parents’ divorce. In this case, the child, the invasion of a new person in the family, strengthens even more some difficult feelings such as the fear of abandonment or the anger that the child may feel. The result is that she often reacts aggressively towards both her parent and the partner.
Something similar may be happening in your case. It is very possible that your daughter is afraid that she will lose your attention and interest, since she will have to “share” you with your new partner. On the other hand, she may feel that her relationship with her father is threatened by the new circumstances. Perhaps she feels that if she accepts your partner, it will be like betraying her father, especially since the divorce was not his choice and perhaps he is not over it yet, as you write to me. Therefore, the sympathy you think she has towards her father may be due to this fact, that she feels he is the more “wronged” in the relationship between you and considers you responsible for the difficult position in which he has found himself.
What is important in such cases is that the child is not pressured into the process of getting to know the new partner, nor is the new cohabitation imposed on her. Doing so could create even bigger problems with your daughter acting aggressively and your partner expecting you to take a stand and manage the situation for him, especially if he doesn’t yet have children of his own or contact with children this age.
It is also very important to improve your relationship with your ex-husband. His own attitude and help is decisive in how your daughter will deal with your partner.
You could even seek the help of an expert together on how to handle the situation in the best possible way for your child.
Finally, regarding your question, the problem is not whether or not your daughter will carry out her threat to leave if you remarry, but how she will feel safe and balanced in the new circumstances. The point is not to compromise and accept what will be imposed on her but to understand, accept and feel good about your new beginning.
Perhaps what could really help in your case is to improve your relationship with your daughter. Listen, beyond her anger and denial, to what she has to say. A hurt and scared child can only heal her wounds with love and understanding.