Your BF, His Kids, & His Ex. Is This Normal?
I received this email asking for advice on a situation similar to one I'd written a HUB on a while ago.
Here's the email from the reader, and below that there's my answer.
What do you think?
I just read a posting of yours titled: I'm Friends with my Ex Wife, & my Current Wife HATES It! I'm in a situation similar to this.
I have been seeing someone for several months and it's become pretty serious quickly. He's 47 years old and was married for nearly 17 years, divorced for 3 years, and has 2 kids, a 12 and 9 yr old. I am close to his age and was married for 8 years (divorced for nearly 9 now) and have a son who is 15.
Our kids get along great...they're all very smart, have skipped grades and are quiet and thoughtful and you'd think they are from the same family if you met them. We get along great with each other's kids. Everything is nearly perfect between us. We've both dated a lot of people and for both of us, we have never met anyone who is so in tune with each other. We are both in the medical field and pretty smart, and that's part of our attraction is that we can talk about our research and work together, which he could not do with his ex who is an attorney.
We live in Ohio, and my ex lives in Missouri and is pretty much out of the picture completely. However, his ex lives only 2 minutes from him (I live about 45 minutes from them, and he wants me to move either in with him or close to him) and they are very close. As a matter of fact, until I entered the picture, they still acted like boyfriend and girl friend, doing everything with the kids together, except living together...vacations all together, outings together, holidays together.
When she learned about me, she told him she wants to be friends with me and supports our relationship (so he tells me). I feel like the outsider. I am uncomfortable with all of this, and he cancelled his vacation with her this year and wants me to go instead, which is a step, but he still hangs out with her a lot. They have a large house together and in the divorce, agreed to share the mortgage on it between them so she could remain in the house with the kids and the kids' lives wouldn't be disrupted, and he purchased a condo nearby, but now he refers to the house as theirs and on his weekends with the kids, is often hanging out there at the house rather than having the kids at his place.
How much friendliness and togetherness does there need to be? I love his kids and SO MUCH admire him wanting to make things good for his kids!!, but I want to know that he is done with his ex and feel we can't go on till some changes are made, and I'm not exactly sure what kind of changes or what to ask of him or IF I can ask anything of him. Can I ask him to stop hanging at her place on his weekends with the kids and bring them to his place and not have her to family functions, unless I'm there? Is that asking too much?
Thank you so much for any advice!"
You and your boyfriend are at two very different points in your lives. Let's go over this.
For whatever reason, they decided to divorce. Clearly it wasn't because they hated each other and it wasn't because one of them was trying to escape parenting responsibilities. Maybe they had reached a point where their sexual interests were too different, or one of them got caught having an affair, or they just didn't feel "in-love" anymore. Whatever the reason, they made the legal changes they need to make in order to allow for this reason, and the rest of their lives simply did not change all that much.
Whenever a woman gets involved with a guy with this much history, she has to realize that she will only be one part of his life. She has to accept that he has other responsibilities, desires, and plans.
Nothing that you said sounds as if you want to control his life: you sound accepting and respectful of his relationship with his kids and his ex wife. However, the conflict here is that his children have about 10 more years before college and he has set up his life so that he isn't going to miss any of it, and that includes the dynamic he shares with his ex-wife.
You asked if you can ask him to stop hanging at "her" place on his weekends with the kids. My question is, are you really prepared to be with someone that doesn't make that decision on his own. Whether you ask or not, the point is you are choosing to be with a man that is choosing to spend his weekends with his kids at the house he refers to as "theirs."
You have this very logical idea of what's normal, and what's been enough time to move on. You specifically ask me when is enough togetherness and friendliness. The problem is, you and he have very different ideas of when that is. You think it should be now, and I'm betting he thinks he's got another ten years.
While I do think he sounds like a great father who has set this life up for the benefit of his children, I think it's important to also realize that if the time he spent together with his exwife was less than stellar, he wouldn't be doing it. This is the part that is most likely the cause for your concern.
Some people are just better off not married. Marriage is a very complex and difficult arrangement for some people. Two people can really love each other and value their friendship and their bond, but for whatever reason are unable to find happiness as husband and wife.
Your boyfriend may be one of those people. He and his ex wife may be one of those couples. What they have may be very real and very special, but just can't translate into a healthy marriage.
Their bond may be a forever bond, even without the offspring. While that is a beautiful thing and it is certainly exceptional for their kids, it may not be the kind of thing you would like in a mate.
You're asking me when is it enough, can you ask him to stop. And I'm saying back to you that it may never be enough, and he may never stop. He may not even be congnisant of this himself. 3 years is not a long time to be divorced, especially since he probably spent the majority of that time concentrating on the well being of his children and not on his own development.
His situation is obviously much different from yours, where the father of your kid isn't in the picture so much, and you've decided you're ready to be more one on one with this man than he has decided to be with you.
If he does want you to move closer or move in, then he may be just one of those very gregarious poly kinda people, where he gets to have his cake and eat it too. He has the woman he wanted as a friend and mother to his children, he has his children, and he has his girlfriend.
If you give him enough time, over the next ten years of his kids growing up, he may change his life more to be more focused on you. And other factors may occur, like for example his wife may meet someone and she may completely change the arrangements.
Meanwhile, you're feeling like the outsider because you are the outsider. This is going to be their first "family" vacation that doesn't include both parents: don't think that kids aren't going to feel that, no matter how much they like you.
You should always be honest with your partner about your feelings. You should communicate. But I think you should think more about how you feel about being with a guy that doesn't choose to spend his weekends with his kids with you. You are in a much different place than he is. You need to figure out how much you're willing to wait - not because his choice is right but because his choice is his choice.
Good luck. I hope you'll keep me posted.
After Several Follow-Ups
I received several more emails in tis correspondence. This part bears sharing:
"Do you mind if I ask you this too?...
How old were you and your husband when you met and married? Were either of you divorced?
I'm finding it nearly impossible to meet men in their 40's who even want to commit at all. They've been married already and done it all and now just want to play around. I must have dated over a 100 men in the last 5 years and of them, maybe 2 were willing to commit to anything long-term, or even spoke of wanting to commit.
The others have mostly just come right out and said they are done with committing to any one. There's no way I want to lose Jeff for any stupid reason. What we have together is way too great to lose it over anything significant, but being 2nd to another woman in his life, IS significant to me... But after all my experiences, I may even be willing to put up with that at this point, with how hard it is to find someone my age who actually wants a relationship and marriage...."
My Final Word
Now I'm 42, and my husband is 35. When we married, I was 31 and he was 24.
The age thing is really an interesting factor. I started dating very early, and fell in and out of love a few times. I'd say I was quite the slut when I was in my early to mid twenties. I had a lot of fun, broke a lot of hearts, but I also had my heart broken a couple times. I've made all the mistakes I write about on my HUBS, I lived all that heart break and heart ache and I speak from experience. I know the mistakes, and the rationalizations, and the differences.
One in particular was this man my age that just spun my head apart. I wanted it to be right, and I would convince myself that it was, but it wasn't. I was not at a point where I had to be married, I just wanted to be in love. I also tried to tell myself he just wasn't the "in-love" commitment kinda guy. Then, a year after our last time together, he was engaged to someone else. I was wrong. He was the wrong person for me. He wasn't in love with me. It was clear. And I learned a lot about how we can convince ourselves that something so wrong is so good.
Just before that, when I was 27 I dated a man that was 57. Like you're describing he was very clear that he did not want a commitment. We had a blast. I wasn't ready to settle down. We ran around like monkeys and then wished each other well. It was very mutual and healthy.
The keys here, are not ages. The key is being with someone that wants what you want. I've dated much older and I've dated younger.
I've never cut myself off from getting to know someone by making a judgment concerning their age. And thank god for that, since the man of my dreams turned out to be 7 year younger than I am. Unlike with the guy who it was never right with, or any other heartbreak, he and I just saw eye to eye on the things we wanted. We were both ready for a commitment. We were both completely head-over-heels into the other one. We both disliked kids and never wanted to have any. We both wanted marriage. We both wanted to spend a lot of time together, but we both had our own lives, and friends, and hobbies... There was no having to tell him what I wanted. He knew what I wanted. There was no having to tell him this is how you have to make me feel, because he already wanted to make me feel that way. It was right, for the very first time in my life. It was the right time for both of us, and we wanted each other.
Looking back, I realize the signals from the wrong relationships could not have been clearer. I try to write hubs from that perspective, knowing how easy it is not to see it while it's happening.
If there is any more advice I'd offer you at all, it's that when you talk to your man tonight, talk about you, not about what you need him to do, or what you want him to change. The former is strong. The latter is nagging. No matter how well you do it, that's what it translates to.
Try to listen to the differences:
"I'm finding that this situation just isn't right for me. I am
looking for a different kind of one on one commitment. I want something
more than what I'm getting here."
"You need to stop seeing your ex so much. I want you to put me first. I don't like that you spend so much time at her house. You need to put the past in the past. You said you want a commitment to me."
Smile. Be calm. And clear. And strong. Head held high you can say you are just not getting what you would like from this relationship. You don't even have to talk it to death. You'll maintain your dignity, and your mystery.
Right now, he has no reason to change anything he's doing. You've confirmed with your actions that you're there, no matter what he does. You need to change that without stating it, and without nagging. You need to lay those seeds and maintain your elusiveness. And you need to take back your control. You've surrendered way too much of it.
Even if he's asking direct questions, like - are you leaving, or, what should I do - you're answers should always be only about you and with a smile : "I am just saying I'm not happy with this right now. I'm just open. I don't know what I'm doing yet. And I can't tell you what to do. I don't want to tell you what to do. You should do whatever makes you happy, because that's what I'm going to do."
Now and forever Thea, you should NEVER have to tell a man what you want (ie making you #1.) If he isn't attentive enough or committed to you enough to figure it out, then he isn't your man.
Happy Together - The Turtles
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