Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend is Too Close to His Ex In-Laws”

I am dating a divorced dad with two teenage girls — 16 and 14. They come visit their dad every weekend, which means on weekends we can’t talk on the phone freely during the daytime. He is close to his daughters and values the limited time he has with them. Therefore, if he is going to visit me on weekends, it would be only after he coordinated his daughters’ schedule first, like when his daughters happen to be out of town. I feel I can have the “leftover” time from him when his daughters visit him.

We are in a long-distance relationship. We have long talks on the phone every other night and sometimes he calls me at noontime during week days. I just feel that, when I am more relaxed and could enjoy more time with him on weekends, he is not as available as someone in a normal dating couple would be.

Another thing that bothers me is that he was divorced seven years ago but his cell phone plan is still under his ex’s family plan. I know economically the family plan is always cheaper, but I just can’t understand if it is a sign of not cutting off with his ex completely. He has a very good relationship with his ex in-laws too. His will still designates his ex-mother-in-law to be his power of attorney; he also took invitations from his ex-sister-in-law to bring the girls on a family ski vacation.

Am I making a fuss or is what concerns me and makes me uncomfortable reasonable to worry about?

Except for concerns above, he is a very tender, thoughtful, romantic and emotionally sharing person. He already said he wanted to marry me four months after we met.

I frequently think about that, for the rest of his life, I need to share him with his two daughters, who will have heir own families and children, literally his grandchildren. This is inevitable. I am not sure if I am willing to handle that or if I will handle it well. Is it a reason to reason break up? — Dating a Dad

It sounds like what you’re asking me is whether your boyfriend having kids is a deal-breaker or not, and no one can answer that but you. If you’re asking me whether it’s a reasonable deal-breaker for someone to have — whether someone’s parental status and the affect kids has on his or her life is a legitimate reason to end a relationship, then the answer is: of course! Not everyone can deal with dating a parent. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most non-parents don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who has kids for the same reasons you’ve listed: they don’t want to compete for time and attention; they don’t want to deal with the other parent forever being a part of their significant others’ lives; they don’t want to feel like someone else is always more important to their partner.

Are you wrong for feeling the way you feel? Absolutely not. But it is unfair to expect your boyfriend to shift his priorities to cut contact with his ex in-laws when he is still, and always will be, connected to them through his kids. I mean, no shit you feel like he isn’t “cut off with his ex completely.” They have children together! How could he cut off from her completely and still maintain relationships with his daughters? It’s kind of essential that co-parents, you know, stay in touch with each other.

As for sharing a family cell plan, I’m sure that’s just a matter of convenience and economics, and I certainly wouldn’t take it as some sign that he isn’t over his ex, just as I wouldn’t assume that a woman who keeps her ex-husband’s last name upon getting a divorce is doing so because she can’t move on. Sometimes, there are relics of our past lives that are just easier to hold onto than get rid of and the reasons have absolutely nothing to do with emotional ties we can’t cut. Like, years ago when my (live-in) ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I kept the window unit we bought together not because it reminded me of him and our relationship, but because he was moving into an apartment with central air and I wasn’t.

Everything you’ve described about your relationship with your boyfriend and the way parenthood affects it is normal. Your reaction to it is normal. His relationship to his ex and her family is normal (and healthy, it sounds like). But “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean right for you. If parenthood doesn’t leave your boyfriend with enough space in his life and heart to suit you and make you feel as important as you need to feel in order to be happy in a relationship, it is OK — it’s essential, actually — that you own that, communicate it, and MOA. Life’s too short to stay with someone whose life isn’t compatible with your needs and the path you’re on.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

78 comments… add one
  • avatar

    cdobbs January 17, 2013, 9:12 am

    I think once you have kids they should always come first…if you can’t handle that then leave this man alone…there are so many deadbeat parents out there…i actually think it is really cool that this man makes time for his daughters every weekend and you have the remaining time (5 days a week seems pretty good to me)…its also good that he lets his daughters be close with his ex in laws…i think you might not be the right person for this man if you are jealous of his daughters instead of accepting them as part of the man you love’s life…i could see you easily becoming the evil step mother…

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    • avatar

      Oldie January 17, 2013, 9:30 am

      The problem is she doesn’t have him 5 days a week. That’s when they phone each other. It is a semi-LDR and they can only visit each other on weekends, which are very few, because he spends most weekends with his daughters. This is not to say that it is not a good and responsible thing for her bf to be very close to his daughters, but that the removal of weekend get togethers makes life very difficult for LW. The issue seems to be a twist on the old LDR question. When will it stop being LDR? How does LW fit into the life of this father and his daughters when the relationship is no longer LDR. Strange that she says bf has said he wants to marry her, but she doesn’t mention anything about how they will eliminate the LD part of the LDR. Is she planning to move to where he lives? Will he move? When? Is the talk of marriage just a way of stringing her along, or has bf been somewhat specific about when and how? Has LW met his daughters?

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary January 17, 2013, 9:31 am

      I think they are long distance though, so they aren’t seeing each other during the week. Just talking on the phone every other day. So if he is with his daughters every weekend (which I totally support), she only gets to see him infrequently when his daughters are out of town. So on top of the issue of him being a parent, it seems like they are having issues managing their LDR. I wonder how long they have been dating and if they could ALL spend time together. Also, if I want to be super paranoid I could say that maybe he’s not even divorced and she’s only seeing him when his daughters and his wife are out of town….

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      • avatar

        Desiree January 17, 2013, 9:41 am

        It seems weird to me that he wants to marry her but it sounds like she has never met his kids.

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      • katie

        katie January 17, 2013, 10:03 am

        some people wait a long time to introduce kids to new SOs, so maybe he has decided that this relationship is one for marriage, but he isnt to the point yet of them meeting..

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      • avatar

        Julesoola January 17, 2013, 11:38 am

        You would think that those same people waiting to introduce a SO to their kids would also wait to decide to marry their SO. *shrug*

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark January 17, 2013, 12:21 pm

        Saying you want to marry somebody after four months and actually doing so at four months are two very, very different things… I’ve wanted to marry somebody at two months. By four months, though, into that relationship? No way, no day. Feelings and emotions can and often do change…. If I had kids I would definitely take my time in introducing them to the new partner. Honestly? I think I would wait AT LEAST a year — regardless of my feelings.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 17, 2013, 12:32 pm

        Excellent.

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      • avatar

        Oldie January 17, 2013, 12:22 pm

        Which is why the marriage talk may just be a way for a guy who isn’t really ready for a serious relationship to string LW along. There have been a lot of comments that LW isn’t suited to dating someone with kids. We don’t know enough to say that. She might make the world’s greatest stepmom, but the truth is her bf has provided her no window into that. I agree with Julesoola. There is something a bit off about a guy who tells his girlfriend how he wants to marry her but makes no real effort to integrate himself into her life. It sounds at best that he is not logistically or mentally set up to engage in a semi-LDR at this point in his life. At worst, he is playing games with LW. Throwing out the marriage card should be serious business. From the tone of the letter, it was just a ploy.

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      • avatar

        Desiree January 17, 2013, 12:38 pm

        Yeah, I definitely see your point. It sounds like the LW hasn’t had a chance to build a relationship with the kids, which isn’t necessarily on her. I can’t judge a parent for not introducing their kids to a new love interest, but it sounds like this guy doesn’t really have time for an LDR where he *doesn’t* introduce the SO to his kids. And I feel like a father should not throw out the marriage card even in jest (are there guys who joke about marriage with their SOs?? I haven’t met many!) to a woman who hasn’t developed a relationship with his kids. Doesn’t seem entirely fair to her.

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      • I'm An Earth Rocker!

        Vicious Delicious January 17, 2013, 11:55 pm

        People should not even mention that “m” word for at least TWO years!

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      • avatar

        Kelly L. January 17, 2013, 11:06 am

        Yeah, my answer to this letter largely depends on whether she’s actually met these kids. If she’s met them, then everything sounds pretty normal, though of course possibly incompatible with her personally. If she hasn’t met the kids, I call shenanigans on the whole thing and think he’s still married.

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      • avatar

        Kelly L. January 17, 2013, 11:07 am

        (shenanigans on the man, I mean, not on the LW.)

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      • FireStar

        FireStar January 17, 2013, 11:12 am

        She doesn’t say how long she has been dating him. That to me should determine when you get to meet the kids.

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      • avatar

        Oldie January 17, 2013, 12:26 pm

        I can agree with this, but then you don’t tell your SO that you want to marry them. This guy’s kids seem to be the number one thing in his life, which is good, it shows parental responsibility. It also says that no matter how much he loves or thinks of the LW, if his kids don’t like her, marriage isn’t happening until the kids are out of college. That being the case, it is cruel to use the marriage ploy while holding off from introducing her to the kids. Given this guy’s situation, the word marriage shouldn’t pass his lips until he tests the dynamic between LW and his kids.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 17, 2013, 12:30 pm

        I imagine it was just said in a flirty, not serious way. Could be wrong.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar January 17, 2013, 12:38 pm

        You know how you tell a man wants to marry you? He proposes. Anything up to that point is just talk. It can be sweet and sincere and lovely…but it is just talk. Actions are what count and his actions say he isn’t ready to introduce her to his kids.

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      • avatar

        Oldie January 18, 2013, 1:23 pm

        So discussions about ‘our future together’ should be regarded as meaningless, with anything the guy says to be treated as a legitimate part of the dating/mating game. But engagements count! Not that the not-atypical 18 month engagement, with or without ring, can’t also be used to string a woman along. At least you get to keep the ring, if you got one. Of course, it might be cubic zirconia, but then that’s the woman’s fault for not taking the effort to have it appraised.

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      • avatar

        Sistine January 17, 2013, 1:24 pm

        Completely agree with this.

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      • avatar

        Oldie January 18, 2013, 1:23 pm

        How cynical (and deluded?) of you.

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      • avatar

        Kelly L. January 17, 2013, 3:09 pm

        Sorry, I was in a foul mood earlier. I do think it’s weird if he’s talking marriage but she hasn’t met the kids. But you’re right, it may be for a different reason.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle January 17, 2013, 9:12 am

    WWS. It’s fine if this is a dealbreaker for you, LW. I hope Wendy’s advice helps clarify some things so that you KNOW whether or not this is something you can deal with.

    It’s good that this man still has a relationship with his ex & his ex’s family— after all, she’s not just his “ex”; she’s his daughters’ mother. And her parents are their daughters’ grandparents. He can’t, and shouldn’t, cut these people out of his life. So…if you were expecting that, please stop. And reassess this relationship.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar January 17, 2013, 9:21 am

    Some people can happily date people with kids and some can’t. It sounds like you can’t since instead of being happy the man you are dating has a close relationship with his ex in laws and ex spouse and is involved with his kids and prioritizes them (as he should)…you feel threatened somehow and it is all too much for you. I never personally have understood women who date fathers and then would like to act like his prior family didn’t exist…or if they did -they existed in a very non-intrusive way that didn’t effect the current relationship. Feeling as you do isn’t wrong. What is wrong though is getting involved with a man with kids when you know -for yourself -you don’t particularly want to share and the most you can be is resentfully tolerant. You want a certain type of relationship – totally valid – but you can’t have it with this father so either wholeheartedly come to accept your boyfriend as he is -which includes being a good father – or stop wasting his time and set him free.

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    • avatar

      ktfran January 17, 2013, 9:27 am

      This is a great response!

      I acutally think it speaks volume of his and the ex-wife’s characters that they’re able to remain friendly for the kids sake even though the marriage didn’t work out. I also think it speaks volumes that he’s a good father to his kids.

      But, like FireStar and Wendy and other said, if you can’t handle that this man will always share his life with others, you need to MOA. It’s not fair to you or to him if you stay.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar January 17, 2013, 9:50 am

        Thanks. I think it comes down to the difference between wanting to start a life with someone and understanding that, with parents, you don’t start a life with them, you join the life they already have.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 17, 2013, 10:09 am

        What a lovely way of putting it…joining the life they already have. I really like that. My bf has thanked me for sharing our life with him and giving him a life because of it. I always thought that was a sweet way to look at it, so I love the way you put it.

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    • avatar

      EmJay January 17, 2013, 7:00 pm

      Well said firestar! I was thinking this…. but you put it nicer and more articulate than I would have. 🙂

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  • LadyinPurpleNotRed

    LadyinPurpleNotRed January 17, 2013, 9:22 am

    You don’t sound like the type of person that should date a parent–and that’s okay. But what he is doing is the right thing–prioritizing his time with his daughters, which is only a couple of days and not trying to villainize his ex or their family and that’s awesome! If that’s not something you want in a significant other, fine, but then MOA from this relationship.

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  • avatar

    SGMcG January 17, 2013, 9:34 am

    LW, if his daughters are in the same family cell phone plan as him, then it stands to reason that both Mom (his ex-wife), Dad (your boyfriend) and the grandparents (his ex-in laws) are on the line too. The man divorced his wife, but he didn’t divorce his children. If his daughters are used to the close familial relationship with his in-laws that they had while they were married, it stands to reason that their Dad/your boyfriend will do what he can to maintain that level of normalcy for his children. If you can’t handle his normal (and you have every right to feel that it isn’t normal), then truly consider if you can handle being a stepmother to his daughters.

    Although the LW’s feelings regarding dating a divorced dad are understandable, I also think that some of these emotions are accentuated by the fact that you’re in a long-distance relationship. The infrequency of the non-verbal/tactile element of communication due to the long distance also opens up a well of insecurity that you’ll fall into if you don’t communicate your concerns. I don’t know how long you are in your relationship LW, but it’s understandable to have anxiety about the next step if you don’t have future-talk regarding the long-distance and this guy’s children. If you can’t, then do everyone else a favor and start a relationship with someone who lives closer to you – without the kids.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite January 17, 2013, 9:34 am

    Hm, it’s an LDR and this relationship is moving fast. I’m glad you’re questioning some of these things. WWS, his actions are very healthy for a parent who is no longer in a relationship with the other parent and fairly ideal. I would seriously consider ending this relationship if you can’t bring yourself to “share” your boyfriend with his daughters throughout their lives. That paragraph just sat wrong with me as I think they would be more inclined to think that they are sharing him with you as you have only been on the scene a short time and the relationship is long distance so they do not get the daily integration of you into their lives.

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    • avatar

      Lindsay January 17, 2013, 2:32 pm

      Yeah, that part about the grandkids really weirded me out. Assuming she was still around when his daughters start their own families, they’d be her grandchildren also. Unless she just really wants nothing to do with them…

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  • avatar

    Desiree January 17, 2013, 9:35 am

    Definitely WWS. It sounds like she never gets to see him when he is with his kids, and that the kids may not even know she exists (“They come visit their dad every weekend, which means on weekends we can’t talk on the phone freely during the daytime”). Maybe if she was allowed to become more integrated into his life with his kids, she wouldn’t feel so resentful. I mean, it must be hard to have a long distance relationship where you can rarely do weekend visits. And if he wants to marry her like he said, she is eventually going to have to develop a relationship with his kids. It just sounds like he is really keeping her on the fringes for whatever reason, and I think that might be worsening her resentment. If they have been dating for a long time, it seems reasonable for her to visit him *while* he has the kids.

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    • I'm An Earth Rocker!

      Vicious Delicious January 18, 2013, 12:10 am

      Of course all parents must put their children first, & those getting involved with a parent must accept that & be willing to join them as a family if it gets deeper…that being said, is he sharing the familial aspect of his life WITH her??? I’m not perceiving that from the letter, & also, perhaps some parents need to take the child free SO’s feelings and basic needs into consideration before they start playing yo-yo with others’ emotions,with their mouth writing checks their asses can’t cash??

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  • avatar

    MadMen January 17, 2013, 9:35 am

    I think this is letter is so sad. I cant get over how the LW expects her boyfriend to, uhm, ditch his children so she can have him all for herself. Seriously, LW, do the man some good and leave him.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh January 17, 2013, 9:38 am

    Wonderful response, Wendy!

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    • parton_doll

      parton_doll January 17, 2013, 10:12 am

      Agreed. It was a lot more generous and open-minded than my initial response was.

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  • SweetsAndBeats

    SweetsAndBeats January 17, 2013, 9:46 am

    Definitely WWS. I just want to mention, LW, that right now you are just a girlfriend, a long distance one at that. You do not have children with him, you are not married to him. It sounds like he has a lot of important people in his life who are family, and I think it’s wonderful that he does a lot to keep the family cohesive since divorce can really destroy those relationships. It’s of utmost importance that he does everything he can to maintain his daughters’ family’s peace. If you are this unhappy with the state of your relationship now, I don’t think that your relationship with him will ever work. He seems like a real family man, but that doesn’t mean that you will not hold onto these feelings of resentment even if you also end up being family. These are things that you shouldn’t be having an internal war over in such a preliminary relationship. I believe that you can be happier elsewhere.

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  • avatar

    TheTruth January 17, 2013, 9:49 am

    You should definitly break up with him and spare him the headache of being with an insecure winey woman. Hint,the type of guy who maintains a relationship with the family of his children is probably the sort of guy you should have in your life. The type of women who worries about this stuff is probably the type of woman he shouldn’t have in his life.

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    • avatar

      Desiree January 17, 2013, 9:59 am

      Maybe they should break up, but I don’t think she’s a bad person if she realizes she can’t date someone with kids. I’ve always felt that a guy having kids would probably be a deal breaker for me. I want any kids my husband has to be kids we had or adopted together. Just personal preference.

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      • avatar

        ktfran January 17, 2013, 10:07 am

        Agreed. I think people are being necessarily harsh. And I’m guessing she didn’t realize it was a deal breaker until she actually experienced the situation. Now she knows. Chalk it up to lesson learned, MOA and just realize in the future, LW, that you probably shouldn’t date a man with children.

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      • avatar

        ktfran January 17, 2013, 10:08 am

        * unnecessarily

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest January 17, 2013, 10:08 am

        I agree. I still think my SO is crazy for dating me lol

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    • katie

      katie January 17, 2013, 10:24 am

      i hate to say it, but i so agree with this…

      LW, you are taking this guys greatest strengths about his life and making them issues. what would you rather have? a guy who bitches all the time about the “whore who took him for everything” and complains about court mandated visitation with is own children? seriously. think about that.

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      • avatar

        Desiree January 17, 2013, 10:35 am

        It sounds from the letter that she gets almost no time with him, and definitely no time with him and his kids. I’ve done long distance before, and I can’t imagine long distance with almost no weekend visits. At that point, it’s basically a phone relationship. The LW and most everyone else are homing in on the kids issue, but a lot of this looks like classic LDR problems to me that are complicated by the boyfriend’s family structure.

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      • katie

        katie January 17, 2013, 10:41 am

        well, if that is the case, then this LW is placing blame in the wrong spot, and then its even *worse*, to me, that she is complaining so much about how he is so close with his family. all the things she is complaining about should be positives. they are good traits. if the issue is that the long distance isnt working out, then she needs to see that and not blame her own relationship issues on the guys kids.

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    • iwannatalktosampson

      iwannatalktosampson January 17, 2013, 11:44 am

      I kind of like your tone, and kind of agree. It’s almost like bragplaining. Poor me I’m dating a guy that has a mature relationship with his ex and I am a loving, attentive father. I mean what is he tall dark and handsome too?

      But I get it this isn’t the real issue. The real issue is the long distance. I’m wondering how they met in the first place if they can’t spend any weekends together and they don’t live near each other?

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      • paperheart

        paperheart January 17, 2013, 3:22 pm

        “Bragplaining” is now my new favorite word.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones January 17, 2013, 10:14 am

    Kids always come first. Always Always Always!!!! About them having a family phone plan together, I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill and reading too much into it. It probably saves him some money since he is most likely paying child support, alimony, saving for college, etc. If you cannot understand that kids come first and some things are just easier to let go (he DID divorce the woman when the kids were kind of young! That is a huge change and not easy so don’t sweat the small stuff!), then perhaps this guy isn’t for you. Divorced parents need partners who understand and accept those priorities. And these kids are almost grown! In 4 years they will probably be off to college. But still, if you want the relationship to be all about you right now, then MOA and find someone without kids.

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  • avatar

    camorzilla January 17, 2013, 10:17 am

    It sounds like he’s a pretty awesome dad (something I personally find sexy). His daughters are teenagers which means the relationship he has with them is going through a lot of changes. Only a parents can truly decide when is the right time to meet the kids and with teenagers I could see that being even more difficult.

    Some people can’t date a parent and that’s okay. Everyone has deal breakers. Just know that his children will always come first and if you can’t handle that, then MOA.

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  • the_optimist

    the_optimist January 17, 2013, 10:39 am

    I dated a man who had a daughter, and believe me, it was TOUGH. Tougher than I’d initially imagined it would be. Even when things got serious, I had to remind myself that I would never be his first priority, nor should I expect to be. Since he has full custody of her, I’d often have to deal with dates getting shifted,cut short, cancelled, etc. And I always understood, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely difficult. As much as I admired (and still admire, as we’ve become friends) his commitment as a wonderful father, I couldn’t handle being in a relationship with him. I can’t even imagine what things would be like if we were long distance as well.

    The bottom line is, dating a single parent is difficult (not as difficult as BEING a single parent, I’m sure, but still), and if you can’t do it, it’s completely okay.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. January 17, 2013, 10:40 am

    I do sympathize with the LW here. I prefer to date men without kids, or at least with kids that are old enough to be on their own. It’s just a preference. The bottom line here is that the LW is not getting her needs met in this relationship and that is reason enough to end it. The fact that it’s a LDR contributes to the problem. You can’t even have “make up time” during the week. The man and the kids are a package deal, and if you can’t deal with that, that’s okay. MOA.

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  • avatar

    BeckyGrace January 17, 2013, 10:56 am

    Love Wendy’s response. I married a man with 2 amazing daughters and I love being a step-parent but there are a ton of challenges that it is absolutely ok not to want to deal with. My husband is still close with his ex-father-in-law and I encourage it as it keeps him closer to his daughters. It isn’t easy, and sometimes I do get jealous but my husband understands, we talk it out and just his understanding and me being able to discuss it makes it work for us. It helps that I have step-parents myself and know how I would like or NOT like things to be. LW please do not feel guilty but MOA. My husband openly and freely admits that he would not be able to be with me if I had children with someone else and I respect him for his honestly. I, on the other hand, love that he does have kids.

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  • avatar

    HmC January 17, 2013, 11:24 am

    I wouldn’t want to date a man who a) didn’t prioritize his two teenage daughters over his romantic relationship (especially one that is long distance and sounds relatively new) and/or b) had some crazy dramatic fued with his ex in laws. Whether he’s too close to his ex in laws or whether him having children at all is a deal breaker for you, that’s up to you. But those certainly aren’t objectively horrible things that it’s your place to talk him out of.

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ January 17, 2013, 11:30 am

    To me, it sounds like you aren’t willing to be the low priority in the relationship that you are. That’s fine. But you need to articulate that to HIM, and then break it off and find someone who can make you a higher priority.

    My 2nd ex-husband and I shared a cell phone plan for a few years so he would have an Alaskan phone number in case of emergencies. Unfortunately, after a while (with our limited cell carriers up here), it got to be too damned expensive. Not to mention, he was carrying three cell phones around (his personal NJ phone, his AK phone, and his work phone). He said he felt like some weird pimp/dealer who used the union as a front.

    When dating a father – you DO want someone who is mature enough to get along with his ex and the former in-laws. You don’t want someone who makes enemies of every ex, or has a trail of enemies everywhere.
    I think the issue for you is compounded by the fact that you and he are long distance. If you two were together in the same city, it would be different. I think the contact he had/fosters with his daughters and former in-laws/ex-wife would be okay for you.

    Talk with him and see what happens. Maybe one of you could move to be with the other (more than likely, it’d be you because of his daughters). Unfortunately, I think that breaking up would be the easiest solution.

    Good luck.

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  • avatar

    Essie January 17, 2013, 11:33 am

    LW, just as an exercise, imagine this. Someday far in the future, let’s say that your marriage has come to an unfortunate end, and you’re sharing custody of your 14 and 16 year old kids with your ex-husband. He starts dating a woman, and suddenly begins spending a lot less time with his kids, blowing off scheduled visitation, because he’s in an LDR and can only see the woman on weekends.

    You’d probably be pretty mad at him for doing that, right? And seeing the pain on your kids’ faces when he blew them off again would make you even angrier at him, I think.

    Anytime you date a guy with kids, you will ALWAYS be his second priority, after the kids. The kids will come first. Forever. Even if you marry someday, the kids will be a priority. It’s a package deal. You get the guy, you get the kids, too. And, to some extent, you get the ex-wife. Because he will forever be connected to her, and even her family, though the kids. It’s not a matter of waiting it out, or thinking that marriage will change things. It won’t. And that’s exactly as it should be.

    I say this as the longtime GF of a guy with kids. His devotion to his kids, always putting them first, even before me, was one of the things that made me realize what a good man he is. Yeah, when they were younger, there were a lot of broken dates because something came up with the kids. That goes with the territory when you date a dad.

    And twenty years after the divorce, he’s still in contact with his ex-wife. Not because he wants to get back together with her, or even particularly likes her, but because she’s his kids’ mom. Sometimes he helps her because it helps his kids to do so. I’m not remotely threatened by this, again, I see it as a sign of his good character. He’s still good friends with his former BIL, and sometimes goes to BIL’s parties. Divorce is the end of a marriage, not necessarily the end of relationships between families.

    If this doesn’t sound like anything you want to sign up for, that’s OK. Really, it is. It’s complicated, and it did take some adjustment on my part in the early days. But it’s been more than rewarding, and his closeness with his kids has gotten them through a lot of tough times when their mom wasn’t really there for them. The kids are adults now, wonderful, well-adjusted, good people who have great, close relationships with each other and both of their families. I’m proud of them all, and proud of my BF for raising them so well.

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    Anna January 17, 2013, 11:34 am

    WWS for sure. When a guy already has kids, the kids have to come first. Forever. If you want to be with this man, you have to be prepared to be his #3 priority in life. It sounds like he is a great dad and a good guy so it is probably worth taking a step back and assessing whether you can deal with the situation. If not, there’s no shame in that. But don’t lead him on past the point where you know it’s not going to work out. Be honest and be fair to him. You aren’t his #1 priority but it sounds like you are definitely important to him and isn’t that worth something?

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      Oldie January 17, 2013, 3:20 pm

      No, the kids don’t come first, forever. The kids come first when they are young and need parenting. When the kids become adults, their parents should certainly still love and try to help them, but their first priority should be toward spouse. My mother died when I was 38 and my father remarried within a year. My adult sibs and I realized and accepted that while my father still loved us, his primary relationship was to his new wife. It is not good for either the adult children or the parent for the adult kids to remain the #1 focus of the parent. It makes the children less than adult and the parent locked into the past. One of the more difficult things in the parent/child relationship is accepting that the children reach the point that they are adult, responsible for their own lives, and shifting their primary relationship to their SO. The parent/child love remains, but it is no longer the primary focus of either parent or child. That transition point comes at different times for each parent/child. It may be 16 when the child would choose to run away with a SO of whom the parents disapprove. It may be at 25. Much later than that quickly becomes pathological.

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    lemongrass January 17, 2013, 11:38 am

    Please break up with this man. It sounds like he has a fantastic thing going with co-parenting and his relationship with his children’s family- aunts, uncles and grandparents! That would be such a shame for that to be screwed up. You don’t want to date a man with kids- that’s fine but he is not that man. Don’t try to make him become one.

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    • katie

      katie January 17, 2013, 12:14 pm

      WLS. worst case senario, you get what you want. seriously.

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    MertleJ January 17, 2013, 11:41 am

    Speaking as the child of a man who has always prioritized his relationships over his kids, it fucking sucks. It sucked way more when I was younger (and my sisters were 11 and 14), but even as adults, it still hurts. My relationship with my dad is strained, my relationship with his (on again off again) wife is strained, and its never fun for anyone.

    Be realistic about your boyfriend’s priorities, and your own needs. And even if your boyfriend was willing to drop everything and prioritize you over his children, is that really what you want? Think about all of the repercussions those choices will have, and whether or not that is something you want to deal with in the long-term.

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      MertleJ January 17, 2013, 12:45 pm

      Oh, and, regarding the cell phone- that is not a big deal and is almost always just for convenience’s sake. Fun fact- my mom’s cell is still on my dad’s cell phone plan b/c it is so much cheaper and easier, but my dad’s wife is crazy jealous so he keeps it a secret (and has for years). Don’t be that crazy second (or third or fourth) wife, LW. Don’t do it.

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  • thewriteway

    thewriteway January 17, 2013, 11:42 am

    I had to think of a way to phrase my response, because I have no desire to have kids of my own and have been doubtful if I could date a guy with kids. As I’m getting older, I’ve become more open to the idea, so I would probably date a guy who had kids, but didn’t want to have more. I have a friend like that…too bad he’s in a relationship with a girl he was friends with first. Ahem. Anyway.

    If you decide to stay in this relationship, I hope you two can work out a way for you to meet his kids. I think that might be the only way to know for sure if you can handle it and want to stick around. Now, I’m not sure how big the distance is with the LDR…is it only an hour or two, or is it more than that? Maybe you could see if there’s a way all of you could go eat out together or you can come to his place for a day. I’m also a kid of divorce, so I remember when my now-stepmom was first introduced to us kids. I was like nine at the time, so it thrilled me that she had brought pizza from a favorite pizza place. Maybe something like that would help you build up some rapport? Or maybe you can get to know them on the phone?

    Bottom line: Both of my parents remarried after they divorced, and both of their new spouses knew what they were getting into. There have been bumps along the road with my stepparents, but with all the kids grown up, it has evened out.

    I’m not saying I don’t have sympathy for you or anything, because being that I am not sure I could be in a parenting role, I get it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t write this guy off just yet. I’d imagine if he’s a great dad already, then some of the characteristics of loyalty and compassion probably carry over and make him a great guy. I wish you the best.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 17, 2013, 12:11 pm

    If you don’t want to “share” a man with his kids, if you don’t want to put up with “leftovers” then don’t date a man with kids. It’s really that fucking simple. Your concerns about the cell phone plan strike me as exceptionally silly and vapid and foolish. Many of my friends have been/are in similar situations with their cell phone plans, and none of them still pine for their exes — far from it.

    PS: He can’t and shouldn’t sever all ties with his ex — they have kids together. The fact that they instead interact politely and pleasantly with one another is actually a good thing. I remain aghast at how many people are both too needy and too insecure to recognize this… When did so much of the world at large all become emotionally stunted at a seventh grade level? However did that even happen?

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      EmJay January 17, 2013, 7:27 pm

      I really like your foward, un-sugar coated answer Mark. 🙂

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    Lindsay January 17, 2013, 12:16 pm

    If those are literally the only complaints you have about him, then I do think you’re being unreasonable. That’s not to say that you don’t have a right to not want a divorced man who has two teenagers. You’re allowed to have your dealbreakers, and if that’s one of them, then you should break up with him. But if you’re asking if he’s being inappropriate, then it doesn’t sound like it.

    I assume that you don’t have divorced parents because I think that if you did, you’d understand the dynamics a little more. You talk about being a “normal couple,” but consider the gap between his relationship with his daughters and a “normal family.” If he weren’t divorced, he’d see his daughters every day after school and on the weekends (well, aside from them being teens and being with their friends all day). He’d automatically be with them for every holiday and could sit down to dinner with them at night. Instead, he sees them on the weekends and occasional events like trips and, I assume, certain holidays. As for his relationship with his in-laws, I think it speaks to his character that he is able to get along with them still. I assume that he gave his power of attorney to an in-law because he doesn’t have his own family who could. Well, then, who would he change it to? A neighbor? A co-worker? None of this sounds suspicious.

    Based on your comments on the end about your discomfort with him being connected to his children and their families forever, maybe you shouldn’t date someone with kids. It’s one thing to be slightly disappointed to not be a top priority all the time, but to be resentful about your partner having ties to his children seems a little too much to overcome.

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    • thewriteway

      thewriteway January 17, 2013, 12:57 pm

      What Lindsay said! That’s pretty much how it was with my dad when we were growing up. I almost wish it were that way again because it’s a pain splitting one holiday between two families rather than celebrating Christmas with our dad’s family on a separate day, but that’s another story.

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        temperance January 17, 2013, 1:05 pm

        Ugh. Wait until you have to deal with an SO’s family for that stuff as well, it’s a freaking nightmare.

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        Lindsay January 17, 2013, 1:08 pm

        I terrified I’m going to marry someone else with divorced parents and we’ll have four families to visit at the holidays…

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        temperance January 17, 2013, 7:06 pm

        My fiance’s parents are divorced and mine are still married, but it’s still a nightmare to sort out. His parents have a contentious divorce, so any time with one requires time with the other one, and then my parents get upset because they (rightly, fwiw) feel shafted on time.

        His father opted out of the family Thanksgiving this year and tried to get us to eat a meal with him at a restaurant in his town (lol) instead. Then when my mother found out that we said no to the long drive, and no to his father, took it upon herself to insist we drive 2.5 hours to where she lives to have dinner with my family. UGH.

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    You Go Girl January 17, 2013, 12:58 pm

    Last year I broke up with my LDR boyfriend who had custody of a teenage son. I visited him every few months, and we talked on the phone several times a week. His son and I got along well, we really enjoyed our time together, and we discussed the possibility of marriage when his son graduated from high school. I was a graduate student and having a LDR was fine with me because I needed a lot of time to study. But as I became closer to graduation and needed to formulate a job hunting strategy, and after his son graduated, he became distant by not returning my phone calls and e-mails. Even though he frequently talked about how much his disliked where he was living and his job, I realized that he had no intention of looking for another job and moving because his son was attending college locally. So I broke up with him and never regretted it even though I did love him. I now think he was stringing me along. He liked having a part-time girlfriend so that he could do whatever he wanted the rest of the time.

    The LW’s boyfriend is not moving anytime soon, no matter what he says, because his daughters are still in high school. He is a devoted father like my boyfriend, and will continue to put their welfare first. There is nothing wrong with saying this situation is not what the LW is looking for and breaking up.

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    Vathena January 17, 2013, 1:33 pm

    “…for the rest of his life, I need to share him with his two daughters, who will have heir own families and children, literally his grandchildren. This is inevitable. I am not sure if I am willing to handle that or if I will handle it well. Is it a reason to reason break up?”

    Yes.

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      MMcG January 17, 2013, 4:25 pm

      “I am not sure if I am willing to handle that or if I will handle it well. Is it a reason to break up?”

      NO! Not at all, why wouldn’t you willingly put yourself in a situation where you could be potentially miserable AND taking it out on innocent children at the same time!?! HOW IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION!?! 🙁 LW, it’s ok that you don’t want to share, but it’s kinda mind-boggling that knowing that doesn’t automatically result in the following sequence… dealbreaker = break up = lesson learned = no more dating people with children.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie January 17, 2013, 4:36 pm

    While everybody is entitled to have what they want as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else seeking their own wants. You already understand that his kids will come first to him and if that’s not something you can accept then let him go to benefit of all parties. Your not being selfish but sucking it up, and eventually blowing up, would be a disservice to yourself, him and the kids.

    I let a few women in my life go because they had kids or wanted them badly. They deserved better and I didn’t want the burden of holding them back. Many times I’ve wondered if that was the wisest decision but in the long run it was the best option. Now I wish I had grandchildren or a family of any sort. We have none at all.

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    EmJay January 17, 2013, 7:18 pm

    It may be a lil late to chime in on this one….but it seems that the LW is almost jealous of the time he spends with his daughters. I personally would think this is a wonderful trait in a man….but some people can not handle not being the center of someones world. LW you need to think long and hard about this. If you want kids someday this man has great qualities for a father and if you don’t want kids….do you want to be with a man who has a family? Did you know about his kids going into the relationship? If the answer is yes, and it bothered you then….why did you enter a relationship with this man….. If the answer is no… than you need to decide if thisis a dealbreaker for you. It is ok NOT to be ok with this and let the man find someone who will love him ANDhis children. Because he will NEVER EVER put them on the backburner for you and if you expect him to than YOU ae the problem, not his situation.

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      Oldie January 17, 2013, 7:27 pm

      No, most guys in this fellow’s situation decide they do not want kids with second wife. He is likely early 40s and has had his kids. I would imagine it would be hard to not be a little jealous of time with kids if you’re seeing your bf once every two months on random weekends determined by whether or not the kids have planned something better than spending time with Dad. I think LW likely wrote what she wrote in boiling over mode and probably would not object to sharing Dad with the kids. Problem is, she sees next to nothing of him. Likely she is not cut out for LDR and this is what it is. If it wasn’t kids as an excuse, it would be his work or whatever. Despite his dropping the magic marriage word, she seems to be an infinitesimally small part of his world. I doubt any woman would want that small a piece of her man. Would you? Really?

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    Older and (hopefully) wiser January 17, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Can someone please explain this “long distance relationship” thing to me? I honestly don’t get it. You don’t see each other, you can’t touch each other. No kissing, hugging, sex. Can’t look into each other’s eyes, smell each other’s scents. Yes, you can talk on the phone but…I just don’t get it.

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      Oldie January 18, 2013, 1:27 pm

      I’m guessing that when he feels in need of sex, he drives over to her place on a weekend and bangs her. Otherwise, he phones her most days, except weekends. Could very well still be married.

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    emily January 22, 2013, 3:53 pm

    Why does no body question about this man? If he’s such a good father and not ready to share his time or commit to a relationship, then probably he’s better stayed single and not dating by phone or seeking for sex comfort once in a while in a long distance relationship.
    Women deserve to have more attention and time given that this guy has children. LDR is hard on both, and he’s got children on the weekend to play a good father’s role, but what does she get? Being pursed keenly during week days and time out on weekends when most people share quality of time together?
    It’s right like some said here. The problem of this relationship is not children, the woman is not seeing that clearly yet; rather, the distance and the level of commitment of this guy are the problem!

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