Paul has four kids, one of whom left before we started seeing each other, one who left afterward, and one who just moved in with his mother, leaving just one living with Paul. The one at home is 17 and Paul doesn’t want to leave him alone. I have been very understanding of the kids and that Paul is a wonderful father, but I haven’t seen him for two months now and would like us to have some one-on-one time together. I have told Paul that this year I have been doing all the travelling to see him and that it needs to more equal. He was understanding about how I felt, and we made plans to meet up halfway between us in two weeks to do some camping. But he is only going to give me three days as he is uncomfortable leaving the son for longer than that.
His kids are great kids and I get on well with them, but the son is 17 and not a young child and I see Paul’s behavior in regards to him and his other kids becoming a problem in the future. We have been making plans for when the kids all leave home to move to a town and live together, but that’s not going to be for a year or two yet. My concerns are that they are great kids but they are very lazy in the house. Paul does everything: cooking, cleaning, washing up, house work — you name it he does it. I come from a home where everyone had chores to do as part of the team. I have raised my concerns about this since the kids will come and stay at times. I have been at their home when Paul still picks up after them and does everything. He says that, when we move in together, it will be different as it will be our home. But my argument is that, if they don’t do it now, they won’t do it then. He seems to think they will. I have told him that, if you don’t start making them be team players now, it’s not going to happen later and that I will be the bad witch in their eyes.
I love him very much and I know he loves me very much too. We ring every day and keep in touch. But I am feeling hesitant about our relationship and the future. Can you please give me your advice on this matter? — Team Player
You’re being unreasonable across the board, really. True, your boyfriend’s son who still lives with him isn’t a young child, but he isn’t an adult either. He’s 17 and, depending on maturity level, most likely still requires daily adult supervision. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving a teenager alone for more than a few days. And talk to me when I actually HAVE a teenager, and it’s quite possible I won’t feel comfortable leaving him alone for more than a few hours. Teenagers, as you might remember from your own adolescence, can get up to a lot of crazy trouble; I don’t blame your boyfriend for wanting to keep a close-ish eye on his own teenager. Not wanting to be away from his son for more than three days is totally reasonable, and, if you want more time with him than that, you SHOULD continue being the one to travel to see him. If you aren’t okay with those arrangements and believe your travel burden should be split 50/50, you probably shouldn’t be in a long-distance relationship with someone who has under-aged kids living at home. You either have to accept that he’s a parent with responsibilities that demand his time and attention away from you, or you MOA. That’s how it goes when you date someone with kids.
In regards to the future and your concern that, when you live together, his kids won’t be “team players” because they haven’t been taught domestic responsibilities thus far: how much of a “team” are you and your boyfriend planning to be with his grown kids who have moved out? Are you expecting his kids to move in with you guys? Because if they’re just visiting here and there, they shouldn’t be expected to do too many domestic chores anyway. Would you expect other house guests to clean or cook or do other housework? If, however, you expect these kids to live with you for extended periods such as two weeks or longer, your concerns are valid and are definitely worth more discussions with Paul. You need to be clear with him about what your expectations are when his kids are with you. And you need to be clear about the boundaries you have in terms of his kids living with you. Will you have space for them? Under what circumstances would you approve of them moving in or staying with you? How often do you expect them to visit and how long do you expect them to stay?
Obviously, when you date someone who has four kids, they are going to be a big part of your partner’s life. But as they grow up and leave the nest, which three of your boyfriend’s four kids have already done, they become less and less present in a day-to-day sense and the responsibility of caring for them decreases exponentially. If you love Paul and he loves you, and he is so close to having an empty nest, I’d just hang in there and accept that, though he has restrictions on the time and attention he can devote to you because of his parenting responsibilities, that won’t always be the case and the end is close in sight. His four kids will always be part of his life, obviously, and there are compromises and sacrifices that, as his partner, you’ll have to make to accommodate them, but, if those sacrifices are minimal in relation to the joy and love your relationship brings you, suck it up. Pick your battles. And let go of your need to have it 100% your way. That won’t fly in any relationship, let alone where kids are involved.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.