Q: I am divorced and have started dating. My 12-year-old son isn’t handling it well — he dislikes anyone I go out with. Should I stop dating?
A: Don’t stop dating. Your son’s reaction is a normal one — he is likely feeling threatened by the possibility of a new partner in your life. He may worry he will lose your company and attention. Allow him to express his feelings, but don’t let his feelings rule your love life.
Reassure your son that he is the most important person in your life, and demonstrate this by not allowing dating to infringe on your one-on-one time together. Don’t introduce every person you date to your son. He doesn’t need the burden of having to like or approve all of your dates, particularly as you don’t know which one of them is going to be a long-term partner.
Depending on how long ago you were divorced and how well your son has processed the loss of his nuclear family, he may still harbour a desire that his parents will get back together. He may have complex feelings of loyalty to your ex that prevent him from liking your new partner. Or he may wish to become close to your new partner, yet worry about losing his connection to this person should your relationship end. You and your new partner should be clear about where you want the relationship to go before expecting your son to form an attachment.
Make sure you are supportive of your son’s concerns, rather than expecting him to do that for you. In other words, avoid discussing your romantic worries with him. Look to your friends, not your son, to provide this kind of support to you.