My boyfriend has been a great support and help. We love each other very much, have great relationship chemistry, share the same goals and ideas and have many common interests. The main and only issue in our relationship is my ex-husband. My boyfriend, for the past eight months, has told me that he has been trying to wrap his head around my kids and the role he has in their lives (he’s never been married nor does he have kids. He’s 46 and I’m 38). He’s finally said that even though he loves and adores me he can’t deal with playing a support role in raising my children. He can’t be secondary to their father.
My kids absolutely love this man, as do I. Unfortunately, I have them every other and can’t change that. How can I find a way for my boyfriend to better cope with this? What can I do to get him to stop obsessing about my ex and to remember that he’s in this relationship because of me, because we love each other? Is there a way to work around his issues of not wanting to be secondary? — Newly Single Mom
You’ve got it wrong. The main issue in your relationship with your boyfriend absolutely is not your ex-husband; it’s the fact that you have two kids and your boyfriend isn’t interested in being a stepfather figure. This whole “I can’t be secondary to their father” thing he’s pulling is total bull shit. What does that even MEAN? That he wishes he were their dad? That he wishes their dad didn’t exist? That he wishes THEY didn’t exist?
Oh, honey, this man is NOT being supportive — at least not in the way that you, as a single mother, seem to want him to be. And I can imagine how much that sucks, not just because you love him so much, but because you just came out of a marriage where your husband cheated on you and lied to you and, after all that, you deserve some relationship happiness. I get that. I get wanting something so much you’re willing to overlook glaring incompatibilities. But you being a mother to two young kids and your boyfriend not wanting to be a father IS a huge incompatibility, at least in terms of a serious, long-term commitment.
The good news is that all of this doesn’t mean you have to break up. Not yet, anyway. Your boyfriend said that he can’t wrap his head around what his role is in your kids’ lives and he doesn’t want to play a supporting role in raising your children. Well, he doesn’t HAVE to play a supporting role in raising your children. You have support in raising your children. It’s called their father. Your boyfriend doesn’t have to be a father figure to them. Frankly, at this point, he really doesn’t need to be in their lives at all. Your relationship with him does not need to include your children. With joint custody, it’s easy to separate your life with them and your life with your boyfriend. Keep them separate for as long as that feels appropriate. There’s no need to rush into merging these different relationships. There’s no need to rush into creating a new family with a man who’s a life-long bachelor at 46 and says he can’t wrap his head around raising kids.
You actually CAN have your cake and eat it, too, and I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t. If things continue to progress with your boyfriend and you get to a point where you can’t imagine continuing a relationship without living together or getting married, then you can reassess where things stand between him and your kids. Maybe by then he’ll have a better idea what his role in their lives is or what he’d like his role to be. Or maybe your kids will be old enough that it won’t really matter anymore. Step-parenting young children is much different than step-parenting teenagers, for example.
But if your boyfriend really IS “obsessing about your ex,” as you say and this is less about your children and more about feeling jealous, then that’s another ball of wax. And if, after just a year, you’re finding that you have to keep reminding him that you’re in a relationship because you love each other, then maybe it’s not worth continuing. Maybe you really don’t love each other all that much after all. Maybe it’s just a great rebound relationship with awesome sex and fun companionship. And there’s nothing wrong with that… as long as things remain low-maintenance and drama-free. I just can’t tell from your letter how much of the drama is in your head and how much is coming from him. If it’s the latter, then I’d consider moving on because the last thing you need after finalizing a divorce is dealing with another man who’s weighing you down. And if the drama is just you wanting a new family right away, cool your jets, sister, and enjoy not being tied down for a change!
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.