It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Scared of the Unknown” whose new boyfriend was expecting a baby with a friend he got pregnant shortly before they met. She really liked the guy and wondered whether this was a situation they could work through. It’s been a few months now and the baby has been born. Keep reading to see whether the LW is still with the boyfriend and how they’re doing now.
Mike’s baby girl was born three weeks ago, and he was there to witness the birth and support the mother. I have to admit that it shook me knowing he was experiencing that with another woman. I had no idea it would be as hard and painful as it was, and I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been in that situation would be able to fully understand the multitude of feelings and emotions. It was very hard because I wanted to support him and be there for him. He was so understanding, communicative, comforting, and just plain sweet. We talked a lot and worked through those feelings and his feelings in the days that followed. All is back to normal (better and stronger even), and we are working through logistics and what we need from each other.
My update also comes with yet another question. There have already been a couple of relatively minor issues with the baby’s mother thus far (e.g. they had agreed the baby would have his last name, and she changed her mind at the last minute), and I’m not sure how I should handle those and inevitable future difficulties. He has agreed to and wants to pay 50% for everything (including daycare costs, her hospital costs, her additional health care costs for the baby, clothing, formula, diapers, etc.). He is even 100% supporting her financially
for some of the time she will not be receiving pay during maternity leave. I should note that he is not rich by any means – this will be a financial hardship for him. She is beginning to demand more (and more than he can afford), and he is extremely reluctant to go to court because he doesn’t want to cause trouble between them. He is really trying to let this stuff go and appease her for the baby’s sake.
My problem is that I don’t know what to do when this comes up. Up to this point, I have just listened and not offered my opinion or advice unless asked for it, and even then I proceed cautiously, rationally, and calmly. I realize this is not about me, the primary focus is and should be the baby’s best interest. I don’t want to do anything to stress my
boyfriend out or cause any tension between him and the mother. I want to support Mike, but I don’t want to put my nose where it doesn’t belong or cause trouble.
Don’t get me wrong; I have my opinions. I actually think going to court would be to Mike’s (and the baby’s) benefit and would provide structure and eliminate all ambiguity (especially as it pertains to child support and his visitation rights). But I’m petrified of saying it because I don’t want to cause trouble between him and the mother. Just in case this comes across the wrong way, I’m not worried that I can’t talk to him about it. I know I could tell him anything. I just don’t want to say anything when this is none of my business or when it will make him any more upset or irritated with her.
I should say that the mother and I never had a chance to meet prior to the baby being born (she lives a couple of hours away right now), but we are planning to meet in a couple months with the baby when she returns to the area. What I would like is for us to get along and have a good relationship (being friends would be great but I can’t expect that). No matter what feelings I’ve had about her in the past — I have thought her to be, at times, selfish, unreasonable and immature — it is really important for everyone involved to get along and respect each other for the baby’s sake. She knows about me, realizes we are serious, and knows that I’m going to be here for the long haul.
Like I said, I’m just looking for advice on how to handle (or not handle) issues that come up that affect the man I love and plan to spend my life with. I want him and his baby’s mother to have a good relationship with a fair division of responsibility and for the baby to know nothing but love from everyone. I only want any role I have to be positive. I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciated the advice everyone gave last time, and I will take whatever advice you have for me this time with an open heart and mind.
First of all, good for you for being open to a loving relationship despite it not being packaged the way you’d always imagined. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy navigating these changing roles in your and your boyfriend’s lives as he welcomes his baby girl into the world and embraces fatherhood. And I’m sure, as you are too, that there will be more uneasy moments ahead. But it sounds like you are handling everything with maturity and that you and your boyfriend have wonderful, open communication. So, going forward, I would keep those lines of communication open and not be shy about expressing your feelings about the situation as it affects or pertains to you. And that’s the crucial part — as a still relatively new girlfriend (of ten months), you need to focus on how things affect YOU and not your feelings about how the situation affects your boyfriend — unless he asks, of course.
For example, if you’re starting to have discussions about a possible future together and potentially marrying and having a family of your own, it would make sense that the custody and child support arrangement your boyfriend makes with his daughter’s mother be of some concern to you. And you can begin framing discussions that way. You can say that if he plans to have a wife (like you, maybe) and additional children in the next few years, he needs to think carefully right now about his financial future. Let’s imagine for a minute that your boyfriend didn’t have a kid, but instead was considering some other huge financial commitment, like buying a house or applying for medical school. Wouldn’t you, as someone who is beginning to think about a future with this person, want to be part of the discussion around these things? Like, wouldn’t you want to know if he imagines having a family in that house and, if so, would he want your input in choosing one? And if he were considering several years of schooling and potentially going into tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, wouldn’t you want to know how he thinks this will affect the timeline of getting married and having kids? If you’d just met or only been together a couple of months, those sorts of conversations would probably be premature, but after ten months together — and in your case, some intense, emotional bonding through unique life circumstances — I think it’s okay to broach conversations around the topic of one’s financial future and how it plays into a marriage-family timeline.
Obviously, your specific scenario is more complicated than just buying a house or applying for school because there’s a child and another woman involved — a family, essentially, that isn’t yours but could be by extension one day. But that shouldn’t mean you can’t express some of your fears about how the situation may affect you and your goals. And if your boyfriend specifically asks what your opinion is about how he should navigate terms of child support and custody, don’t be shy about expressing them, but do so delicately, and reiterate that these decisions are ultimately between him and the baby’s mother.
That said, it would be naive to think that those decisions don’t affect you, especially in terms of building a future with this man. If he’s unable or unwilling to make fair agreements with the mother of his child and he ends up living in financial hardship for the foreseeable future, that’s definitely something you need to weigh in the decision to continue moving forward in this relationship.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.