My daughter gets upset when my boyfriend stays

I have been separated for two years. I had a difficult time on my own, but, thankfully, I have recently met a wonderful man, who is generous and caring. My six-year-old daughter likes him, but does not like when he stays over. She is angry and irritable in the mornings, after he has stayed. I would like him to move in with us, but I do not really know how to approach this with her. I am very happy, for the first time in a long time, but I do not know how to talk to her and I’m worried she won’t want him to move in. This is causing me stress. What do you suggest I do?
First of all, congratulations on finding happiness with your new partner. It sounds like you had a difficult time after the separation, but that you have rebuilt your life.
That takes great inner strength and you should be very proud of yourself. Your daughter is a lucky girl to have you by her side to model such courage and resilience.
When we meet a romantic partner, after a difficult period in our lives, we should progress slowly. It is very easy to get caught up in the initial romantic feelings, because those feelings can ameliorate all the negative thoughts we experience during a separation. Our self-esteem can take quite a battering when we separate from a partner. We can blame ourselves for the failings in the relationship and we feel guilty when there are children involved. So, very often, we rush into a new relationship. But it is important that you move slowly, at this tentative stage.
Your daughter seems to like your new partner, which is fantastic, but she doesn’t like when he stays over. This is very telling and I think your daughter is communicating something that I think you should heed. Often, it is through indirection that we find direction out. She likes him, but not when he stays over. I always ask myself: what is the behaviour telling me? All behaviour is a form of communication, so what is your daughter’s bad mood telling us about how she feels when your new partner stays over? The fact that your daughter is not directly talking to you about it suggests that she is not comfortable doing so.
Perhaps she is happy that you have found someone and doesn’t want to interfere with that, but she also may feel slightly threatened by what this over-night stay means for your relationship. Your daughter has been through a difficult time, too, and perhaps she perceives that her relationship with you is now under threat. Of course, this is not the case, but her perception is her reality. And I think you need to have a conversation with her to assuage these fears.
You need to build your life again and your daughter will eventually move out and forge her own way in the world. But it is also important that you proceed with caution. I would advice the following:
Talk to your new partner and explain to him how you are feeling. Be as transparent and as open as possible. He might be feeling something that he hasn’t expressed to you, either.
So, tell him how you feel. Try not to make it about taking sides, but rather about what’s best for everyone. Say something like ‘I really want our relationship to move forward, but moving in at this point might not be best for everyone’ or ‘I’m very committed to the relationship, but moving in might not be the right move at this point.’
Talk to your daughter. Reassure her that your relationship with her is not going to change. She has been through a difficult time and your new relationship may be bringing up old feelings for her. So, talk to her about how your relationship with her is separate from your relationship with your new partner. And tell her you will not do anything without her input.
Children love to be involved, so by involving her, you might be removing that powerlessness she is feeling in relation to this new romance.
Avoid her feeling guilty about the fact that your partner is not staying over anymore. Children have an incredible way of internalising everything and blaming themselves. So, if she thinks that he is no longer staying over, because of her, it will cause huge tension in the house. So, say something like ‘John is lovely and he really likes you, but, unfortunately, he won’t be able to stay over for a while, because he has work.’ This way, she does not feel responsible and you have not involved her in an adult theme.
I think, if you do that you might find that she actually asks for him to stay over. And then she has made that decision and things will be different and you can progress from there.
Too much difference too soon for a child can be damaging. You really need to move slowly here. I know that is not what you want to hear right now, after being through such a difficult time, but if you move too fast you will potentially damage your relationship with your daughter. Your partner will understand and if you move with caution, you will all be living happily together soon.

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