A year ago, I took advantage of a quiet moment to talk to my daughter, then 13, about maybe marrying my partner, who I have been with for over 10 years. They are close and affectionate, and I approached the subject pretty delicately, but to my dismay my daughter burst into tears at the idea.
We had a fairly good talk about it, during which I said she would always come first and nothing would ever change that, and of course my partner would respect that but maybe we could talk about it another time. So far as I can tell, it’s all been fine since.
I feel like now is a good moment to revisit the topic, especially since the events of the past year have in some ways brought the three of us closer together. But I feel my daughter is very resistant to change, as many children are; she is also scrupulously fair and must be mindful of the fact that her mother doesn’t have a significant other.
She is considerably more grown-up now, in various ways, but probably won’t be very responsive to such unromantic practicalities as inheritance tax etc. Do you have any advice on how to proceed?
–Tristan, via email
On the positive side, the fact you raised this with your daughter last year means that the ice has at least been broken. It may appear to you that the subject has since been out of sight, out of mind – but it won’t have been. Your daughter will have been reflecting on it a lot, especially since lockdowns and tiers pushed the three of you into even closer contact.
I have three sons and a daughter who had to be shepherded through their adolescences. In my experience, almost the moment kids hit their teens, their psychological development goes into overdrive. Your daughter, now 14 going on 15, will be emotionally very different from the 13-year-old who burst into tears at the mere mention of your remarrying.
You’re obviously a sensitive dad, Tristan. I don’t think there’s any danger of you putting your foot in it. It’s perfectly reasonable for you raise the subject again (after all, you said you would; your daughter’s probably expecting it).
As for your former wife not being in a significant relationship of her own, I think you can gently point out that you and she can hardly synchronise such matters: you’re living your own lives at your own pace.
It does you real credit that you’re putting your daughter’s feelings first in all of this and not simply bulldozing her into fitting in with your plans and wishes. I reckon she’s old enough now to respect that, and it may well go a considerable way to making a difference second time around. Good luck!