My Child Safe With My New Lover?

This post is for women who experienced some form of trauma earlier in their lives (emotional, sexual, physical trauma, or some combination) who now have a child and fear bringing a new man into their child’s life. You don’t want anything to happen to your child. You may have avoided dealing with this issue by staying away from men when your child was younger. You now want to get back out there again but you’re feeling paranoid at the thought of trusting a new man with your child. Your greatest fear is that the same thing that happened to you would happen to your child.

First and foremost, your most important concern should be whether or not you’ve found a man who is similar to the man or men that hurt you in the past. Replicating our ‘unhealed’ past interpersonal experience by unconsciously selecting the same kind of people over and over again in our love-lives is unfortunately very common. The heart, injured and broken, wants the traumatic experience to be replicated so that it can be corrected in some way. Unfortunately, when you’re unaware that this is going on, what usually happens is you replicate the painful experience without the correction.

The best possible solution is to come to terms with what happened to you and figure out what the aftereffects are in your particular life. One common aftereffect of unhealed trauma is to be ‘mistrustful’ and ‘paranoid’ about people. Another common aftereffect is to feel bad about yourself and irrationally responsible for what happen to you. When you know what the aftereffects are in your particular traumatic situation, you can counteract them by practicing the art of taking reasonable well thought out risks again to get your life back. An important part of this work is being able to choose good people to bring into your life and the life of your child.

Apart from obtaining a detailed thorough history of a man’s life, or paying some investigation service to follow him around, chances are you’re not going to see anything that looks like abuse or bad behavior at least not at the beginning. Adults with an agenda to harm children are usually quite good at hiding this motivation from other adults, especially the child’s parent. This is usually the case, up until such time as he and you get married and he starts to feel the possible consequences of abuse are less threatening to him.

One way to deal with this problem is to look for the presence of positive attributes that would contradict the likelihood of any motivation other than love. Another is to perfect your ability to gather information by asking questions, and a third is to practice the subtle art of monitoring your ‘gut.’ The best approach is to do all of these as needed. Let’s talk about each of these one at a time.

There are certain characteristics that define a ‘good guy’ that you should expect to find in your new lover. More specifically, is he mature (does the guy act his age), is he responsible for himself and others (if he has kids does he parent them?), does he have a solid job history, how does he treat you (like someone special?), does he have an alcohol or drug problem that causes him to react impulsively or out of control, is he secretive or hard to get to know, have you caught him in a lie.

Of course the answers to these questions could indicate that he misbehaved in a past relationship with another woman. This information would be useful to you. Will it be any different this time around? The more information you are able to collect the better. Remember the whole purpose of getting together with someone is intimacy, right? Well, that requires mutual openness and honesty.

If you are with someone who tends to avoid your questions or offers little in the way of personal information especially when you ask for it directly, be wary. Most men who are in a love relationship for the right reasons will allow a woman to help ‘socialize’ them by practicing the intimate communication of personal thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t have to be fancy or long winded, just sincere. Your new man should realize and accept that you’ve been hurt in the past, so sensitive cooperation and patience is needed to move the relationship to mutual trust. If he can give up some control, be a little vulnerable, and submit to your need out of love for you, that’s a good sign.

Monitoring how you feel in your ‘gut’ where it counts is one of the most important sources of information you can get about somebody. The one complication you have to work with are the left over feelings you might still have inside about the trauma you endured. Left over feelings tend to interfere with the accuracy of this built-in emotional reader. Another name for this kind of interpersonal communication is ‘sympathy.’

Feelings get passed between people with very little or no conscious effort. If you can tease apart the people and circumstances of what happen to you in the past from the person you are dealing with now in the present, you’ll have a chance to accurately use this old and quite reliable form of emotional communication to figure out who you are with. The point is not to confuse him with anyone from your past.

Another related source of information is how your child feels about your new lover. Children tend to read people without all the interference that adults have that surely complicate sympathetic forms of communication. Listen to and observe your child’s reactions when playing with or interacting with your new lover. If you see or hear anything that troubles you don’t ignore it or explain it away. Think about it and ask about it, the sooner the better. Better to be disappointed now than disappointed later. Better to find out it was nothing to worry about now, then to harbor secret worry and fear well into the relationship. Remember, you’re in control. If you don’t like something stop it first, then talk about it.  Dr. T. Jordan










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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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