New relationship after divorce, how to deal with children's problems
I somewhat recently finalized my divorce with my wife of 9+ years. We have been separated for over a year at this point. We have 2 children, a daughter who is 10 and a son who just turned 8. I began dating someone 7 and a half months ago without a single thought about it turning into anything long-term, I was just interested in hanging out with new people and getting on with my life. As so often happens, my plans were futile in the face of real life and we have built a relationship that I had previously thought impossible. After about 3 months of dating, when I was pretty sure of the permanency of our relationship, I introduced her to my children and they got along exceptionally well. At the time I was living with two friends, with my space essentially constrained to the living room of a 2 bedroom apartment, so I would have my girlfriend over during the week, and then she would spend the weekends where she had been living before we met. Both her and I had been looking for new living arrangements, as she was taking a new job in the city, and after 5 1/2 months of an exceptional relationship we began to consider the possibility of living together. We ended up finding a great house with 3 bedrooms so that my kids would get their own space, a yard so that they could play, and plenty of other space that would ensure a good environment for everyone. Before we finalized the decision I sat my kids down and discussed the possibility with them and they both agreed that she was a good person and that they both would be ok with us living together.
It is now about 2 months after we've moved in and my daughter is having a horrible time with the transition. At first her reaction was constrained to a little bit of pouting and time in her room, but as the weeks went on she became progressively more distraught. Besides what I would consider a somewhat reasonable list of reactions (at least in the face of a difficult situation for a kid) such as stomping around, slamming doors, and crying; she has also gone as far as scratching herself on the face, and cutting her finger (which she said happened on accident) and writing "I hate stupid Sarah" in her blood on the wall of her room. I have tried talking to her, spending more quality time with her (which is especially hard, as I run my own business and end up working 12-14 hour days) and sitting down with her and my girlfriend to discuss what she thinks we can do better. The general gist of her reaction is that she feels that my girlfriend is taking me away from her and that I don't care about her anymore. Though I have tried my best to convince her otherwise, and to explain that I can love and another person without diminishing my love for her, it is to no avail.
I realize (due to some reading on this site and others) that my decisions may have been a bit hasty for her to reasonably accept, and if I had known then what I know now I might very well have taken more time. Unfortunately, both my increasing love for this woman, and my kids initial excited acceptance for her, led me to move into a new house and sign a one year lease, thinking that the benefits of this place (i.e. having their own room instead of sharing my fold-out futon in somebody else's living room, and having a yard to play in) would outweigh the possible negativity that could come from such a decision.
As you can see, I am now very much tied into this decision, and obviously I can't undo the past, so if anybody else has had similar problems or a similar situation I would appreciate any suggestions that you may have. I am now looking into a counselor for my daughter in hopes that talking to somebody removed from the situation might do some good. I am also planning on trying to create some pre-designated time during the weekends that I can spend with her alone to help her understand that I still care about her.
Thanks to anyone with any suggestions.