Initially, I never thought I could date someone with so many kids. But I fell for my boyfriend because he was funny, had a good heart, was a great father, and a loyal son. The problem is that he just might not be that great of boyfriend at his current stage in life.
Right now, I feel like I am doing anywhere between 70-90 percent of the effort in maintaining our relationship. Whenever we make plans, something always comes up with either his kids or work. I still have yet to meet any of the children after 13 months of dating. I ask to see his kids all the time and think of fun things we can do for a “least awkward as possible” meeting. I especially feel that I need to meet his young daughter because she is the reason I get very little time with him on the weekends, and maybe if I met her we could do things together. I have met his brother, his dad, his nephew, and his best friend once briefly for about 5 minutes each, but other than that, I have never been included in anything with other people in his life. How can we plan a future if I cannot see how I interact with his kids, family, and friends? (He has met my entire family and some of my friends and is always invited to holidays with all my family and friends.).
When his kids or ex-wife call him for anything, he drops plans with me and when I balk, he says I’m “being selfish and overreacting.” His ex can just call him and say “you need to come get your kid,” and boom, my whole planned day with him is gone. He still has yet to give me a key to his house so I end up waiting outside his house a lot if he gets stuck in traffic driving his kids some place. It’s now to the point where I get terrible anxiety when I try to make plans with him in advance. Over time, it has really affected me and we have been getting in huge fights because of it (but, of course, I’m “nagging” and being a “drama queen”). I almost always drive to him and especially, lately, I have been paying for all dates and anything we do because he had to pay for a bunch of stuff for his kids. I feel guilty for trying to take time or money away from them, but at the same time I feel like I’m always the one sacrificing.
He always tells me he loves me and can’t live without me but I always come last. For example, when I was really sick he couldn’t be there for me cause he had to pick his daughter up, yet I was there for him when he was sick. He missed my birthday for a doctors appointment (I know he has kidney stones, but come on). This weekend I asked him if I could spend the entire weekend with him with no interruptions (this has never happened) and he said yes, but the next day he told me he forgot about his daughter’s birthday party at his ex-wife’s house. I asked if I could come he said, “Sorry, but NO way.” I even suggested just us taking her out for her birthday separately so he didn’t have to go to her party, but he wouldn’t hear me out. So once again, I was left alone on the weekend with broken plans.
I want to note that our personalities are a great match and that he’s a great father. I feel like a terrible person for being jealous of his kids and ex who uses him as an on-call taxi and babysitter; I feel terrible about all the arguments we have had over this, but he makes continual promises that he just doesn’t keep, and I’m so sick of hearing “We will eventually” and “I’m not dying tomorrow” and “I’m not going anywhere” and “I’m sorry I can’t control the situation — it just came up.”
I really need some unbiased advice. What would you do? What are your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions. I’ve tried to move on several times but he always ends up convincing me to stay or to give it another shot. How do you move on from someone you completely love, whom you have told everything to, who’s a great father, a generally good person? I feel like I’m in limbo. Please help! — Dating a Great Dad, Bad Boyfriend
So, your boyfriend’s a “great dad.” Well, la di, fuckin’ da. So what? I mean, that’s great for his kids and all, of course, but what’s in it for you? Throughout your letter you kept waving that “great dad” flag like it means something, but what does it mean? For you? For your relationship? Jack squat, that’s what. Unless you think his role as a “great dad” is indicative of his role as a boyfriend — and it surely doesn’t seem to be! — or as a husband or as a father to your potential kids together, it doesn’t mean diddly squat except that there’s one role in his life he doesn’t suck at. Too bad for you that role isn’t “boyfriend.”
Honestly, unless you are considering having kids with this man some day, the idea that he’s a great father has pretty little to do with you, especially considering he has yet to even introduce you to any of his four children after 13 months together. And if you ARE thinking of having kids with this man, does he know that? In all your discussions about marriage and your future together, have you broached the topic of future children? Does this 38-year-old man who already has four children, three of whom are practically grown, even have the slightest interest in starting all over again with more babies? Because if he doesn’t, and if you, at 28, want your own children eventually, this relationship is pointless.
But beyond the idea of future kids, it just doesn’t sound like this is the man for you right now. You said yourself, he may be a great dad and a great ex-husband and all that, but he’s a pretty terrible boyfriend. He puts almost zero effort into maintaining your relationship. He cancels plans on you all the time. He doesn’t integrate you in any parts of his life. He keeps you in a box, separate from his family and friends. Does he ever even make you feel special? Why are you with him? Because he has a fun personality that meshes well with yours? That and a dollar won’t buy you a styrofoam cup of coffee.
There has to be more to a relationship than well-matched personalities. There has to be loyalty and commitment and shared values and goals. There has to be genuine support and love. You need to feel important.
You asked what I would do and it’s this: I’d break up with him and tell him exactly WHY I was breaking up with him. I’d tell him that while I greatly admired his commitment to his children and family and work, I was tired of feeling last on his list of priorities. I’d tell him that I felt so unimportant, that I was even jealous when his kids had birthday parties he wanted to attend, which is pretty pathetic. I’d tell him I was tired of feeling pathetic and tired of being jealous of a 7-year-old and that, if he wanted to be with me, he needed to prove it by making me more of a priority and by integrating me in his life and by making plans with me and keeping them. I’d tell him I was going to do my own thing for four months and that we could re-evaluate our relationship in the new year, after the holidays. If, by January, we both felt like we were meant to be together, he would have to prove his commitment to me, and, if he couldn’t do that within a few weeks, we were done forever.
My hope for you is that you break up with your boyfriend and eventually find someone who shows you what a real, loving relationship looks like. I’ll tell you what it doesn’t look like: it doesn’t look like constant broken plans and a box on the shelf labeled “girlfriend” that you’re expected to fit into neatly, no questions asked.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.