Divorced Dad: Child Doesn’t Like New Girlfriend

How can I overcome my child's aversion to my girlfriend? I'm the father of a wonderful six-year-old boy. His mother divorced me when he was about three, and has since remarried. At present, she has primary custody and I have visitation rights. My son doesn't like to "share" me with anyone else and this has created a serious problem for me in my own social life. I even had to end an earlier relationship because he disliked the woman I was dating so intensely. Now I'm getting serious about another woman and am not exactly sure what I should do. Can you give me any advice?

Your son’s reaction isn’t that uncommon or surprising. From his perspective, no one can or should replace his mother. To his thinking, though, that’s exactly what you’re trying to do. Given his feelings, it’s only natural for him to not want you to get involved with another woman.

An opposite, but equally difficult scenario is often seen when a child becomes attached to his parent’s dating partner. Unfortunately, if that relationship ends, the child experiences another significant loss in his life.

As you’ve discovered, then, dating is a complicated proposition for single parents. It’s for this reason we strongly suggest that they don’t involve their children in the dating process until the relationship is well-established and a couple is seriously considering marriage. You mentioned that you’re serious about your new girlfriend, but you didn’t say how long you’ve been dating or describe the level of your commitment. Don’t push your son to develop a relationship with your girlfriend until the two of you are absolutely certain that you’re moving forward into a lasting commitment that is likely to result in engagement and marriage.

At that point, you’ll need to have a heart-to-heart talk with your son. Assure him of your love and commitment to him. Tell him that you realize no one could ever replace his mom. Explain that you don’t expect your girlfriend to be his mommy, but that because you love her very much, you want him to get to know her as well.

Whatever you do, make up your mind to take it slow. Introduce your son into this relationship gradually. Don’t expect instant bonding, and don’t pressure your son and your girlfriend to become instant buddies. You might start by including your girlfriend in some activities that your son enjoys, such as hiking, bike-riding, or going to a ball game.

You should also give some serious thought to the question of whether the woman you’re dating will be a positive influence in your son’s life. He is your primary responsibility and it’s imperative that she have the depth of character required to become an effective and understanding step-parent. You mentioned that your son didn’t care for your former girlfriend. See if you can learn anything from that experience. Ask yourself why he disliked her so much. Was it jealousy over sharing you with someone else? Fear of someone replacing his mother? Or was it simply that your former girlfriend treated him badly or had negative character qualities?

Focus on the Family offers an excellent book that addresses your situation. It’s called The Smart Stepfamily and it’s written by Ron Deal, a marriage and family therapist. This resource is available through our ministry and can be ordered by way of Focus’s Online Store.

If you’d like to discuss your situation with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family

Helping Children Survive Divorce

In Their Shoes

It’s OK to Cry

Divorce Care


Reentering the Dating Scene After Divorce

Children and Divorce

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