Divorced mom issues

I don’t know how to put this succinctly, so I apologize in advance. I have been divorced for 5.5 years and have 4 children who are now 12, 14, 17 and 18. They have a great dad with whom I still have a good relationship, though he didn’t want to get divorced and hasn’t moved on at all in terms of dating. I, on the other hand, dated someone for several years right after the divorce, and now have a boyfriend of nearly 2 years who I see as being in my life long term. My kids never met my ex-boyfriend. They didn’t even know I was dating until a couple of years after the divorce, and when they ultimately found out it was kind of a disaster. The younger three all fell apart in different ways, and for about a year I had to work through the fall out with them. My youngest daughter didn’t speak to me except to say horrible things to me for a solid 6 months, and the degree of pain and anger I felt from her is something that I have difficulty forgetting. I have tried very hard to give them a lot of time to process the divorce and the loss of their intact family. I know they still grieve that at times and will probably always wish that their dad and I were still together. They also know, intellectually, that that is never going to happen.

I am ready for them to meet my boyfriend and for him to start to be a part of our lives as a family. The degree of compartmentalization that I currently do between work, my kids, and my boyfriend is exhausting, and I am ready to not have to decide between the people that I love. I have done a lot of work trying to get to a place that I am brave enough to take the plunge, but thoughts like “I finally have my daughter back, I don’t want to risk messing that up” and “It’s going to be awful to make this transition with my kids” are stubbornly persistent. I am seemingly unwilling to go through that nightmare with my kids again, even though I know it might go very differently than I imagine. Realistically we’ve come a long way, and I think my relationships with my kids are stronger for having gone through it. That doesn’t mean I want to go through it again. 😉

In September, I have a whole bunch of extended family in town. It’s a big deal, people who never come to visit plus my brothers and all their kids. My kids love their cousins and everyone is gathering at my brother’s house. It falls on a weekend that my kids are with their dad. He would have no problem with them spending the day with me and seeing their cousins. But I want my boyfriend to be there. We have limited time together, and I don’t want to give that day up. So I need to talk to my kids about this and I guess give them the option of joining us. I am terrified. I suspect they will decline. I am worried that they will feel like an otherwise fun day is ruined by my boyfriend’s presence, that they will feel like I am not putting them first, that they will slide back into anger and anxiety and sadness. I know that I can get through all of it, I’ve done it before, but the level of anxiety and fear that I feel is crippling. I feel nauseated thinking about it. This is truly the only thing in my life that I can’t seem to work through. I can find lots of thoughts that lead to anxiety and fear, but I can’t find anything else that I really believe that leads to different feelings, and I am generally such NOT an anxious person that this frustrates me even more. I can do anything. Except this one thing. :/