Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a 53-year-old divorced woman. I have three children who are all in their 20s and living on their own. I have been divorced for 10 years now. I recently started dating this guy who I like and can see spending the rest of my life with. I don't think I would ever get remarried, but I see a real future with him. This is the first boyfriend I have had since my ex-husband, and the first man my kids will be introduced to. I need some advice regarding how I should introduce my boyfriend to my children. Where is a good setting? Do I have them meet him all together? We have been dating for three months; is now an appropriate time to have them meet? -- Meeting Mom's New Boyfriend, Cleveland

DEAR MEETING MOM’S NEW BOYFRIEND: Think about your children and how you suspect they will react to your boyfriend. It could be efficient to have everybody come over to your house for a meal where you introduce them at once, or you could schedule individual times for them to meet. If you do the latter, you will have to tell all of them that you have a boyfriend and want to invite them to meet him. It’s best to break the news at the same time so your children don’t think you are playing favorites. If you and your boyfriend both believe this relationship is serious, it’s fine to meet the kids after three months. You don’t have to tell them that you are fully committed though. Just be with them.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years, and our families finally met last week. Despite the similarities my boyfriend and I share with each other, our families did not seem to have much in common. I never thought about this before, considering they had never met, but now I'm getting worried. My boyfriend and I are both family-oriented, and I’m worried that our families’ differences are going to get in the way of our relationship. Do you think that our families could negatively affect our relationship down the line? -- Family Differences, Memphis, Tennessee

DEAR FAMILY DIFFERENCES: You haven’t expressed what the differences are, so it is hard to say whether you can overcome them. I will say that it is important in long-term relationships and marriages for the couple to figure out ways to get along with both families. It is also often important for both families to be able to get together peacefully at least once a year if they live nearby. Many families are much more actively involved in each other’s lives, though. You will have to figure out what works for you.

What’s most important is for you and your boyfriend to determine what your shared values are and what you want in life. Next, evaluate your family differences, and talk about them to see if anything feels like a deal breaker. If you stand united about family dynamics, you create space to be able to navigate whatever comes your way.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)