The Teen Doctor

Answers to your questions about adolescents

My Ex Has Too Many Girlfriends

My Ex is Exposing My Teens to Too Many Women

Dear Dr. G.,

My husband and I have been divorced for five years. We have three children together.They are 13, 15, and 11. The older two are girls and the little one is a boy. My former husband seems to have a pattern of relationships where he gets seriously involved with a girlfriend for about 9 months and then seems to abruptly break up with them. Yes, he introduces all of these women to my kids.I am worried about the impact that this behavior may have on my children. My ex has no hesitation about involving these women in my kids' lives even though he probably knows that they are only in his life temporarily.

I have three questions:

1. What are my kids learning from this? 

2. Are they going to be traumatized by the constant introductions to women and then their abrupt exit from their lives? 

AND 

3. Should I forbid my ex from having the kids over when his girlfriends are at his house?

Please advise. I don't have a clue about what to do. 

A Confused Mom

 

Dear Mom, 

Good for you that you are looking out for your kids. My first question for you is whether or not the kids have expressed any distress about the arrival and departure of these women in their father's life and in their lives. It would be a good idea for both you AND your ex-husband to discuss this with them. While you may not be able to change your ex-husband's behavior you may be able to help your children deal with their feelings. They may surprise you by telling you that they are used to their father's patterns. On the other hand, at least one of them may be distressed. If so, explain to that child that their primary attachment at this point should be to you and their dad.

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Regarding your specific questions: 

1. You ask what your kids are learning from their dads's dating patterns. Ask them. Answer any questions that they may have about adult relationships to the best of your ability and allow your ex-husband to have a voice here as well.

2. You ask if your kids are going to be traumatized by the departure of their father's girlfriends. I believe that this is unlikely if they have stable and positive attachments to you and their father.

and

3. You asked if you should forbid your kids from seeing their father when his girlfriends are around. My answer to this is an emphatic NO. You will become the bad guy and will likely have both your children and your ex angry at you. The best thing that you can do is to be a present and stable parent in your kids' lives and it sounds like you are. 

Good luck,

Dr. G.

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Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents.

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