“Do I Have Too Much Baggage For Him?”

I am divorced with two daughters, ages 15 and 12. My partner is divorced, too, but he has no kids. We have been together for two years now but only see each other twice a week. He wants marriage and kids. He speaks a lot about this. The thing that worries me is we can’t sort out when he will move in with me and my girls. He gets on with my youngest but not so much my eldest as she can be quite confident and forthcoming. I’m surprised he still likes me with my baggage. How do you make things work when things are like this? — Comes With Baggage

If your boyfriend wants marriage and kids, so much so that he talks about it a lot, why would you consider your own kids “baggage”? And why on earth would you even continue dating someone, let alone consider marrying someone, who would make you feel like your daughters are baggage? You say your boyfriend “gets on” with your younger daughter but not with the older one because the older one’s “confident” and “forthcoming.” Confidence is a wonderful trait!

You’ve either done something right as a mother and/or gotten very lucky to have a 15-year-old daughter who exhibits something women twice her age struggle to find themselves. A confident daughter is anything but baggage, and I’m sorry you’ve been spending your time with a man who doesn’t appreciate what you bring to the table. And I’m even more sorry if you yourself don’t appreciate it.

If your boyfriend loved and accepted your daughters the way they should be loved and accepted by a potential stepfather, then “making things work” would be pretty easy. You’d have a conversation about expectations if you moved in together and got married — like, does either of you want to try for a baby together, and how would you split costs and divide domestic duties, and what are your parenting styles and what would be your plan for parenting together as well as co-parenting with your ex-husband if he’s in the picture. (Here are a few other items of discussion you should address before you would move in with him or any other potential partner). Once the two of you addressed all these items and made sure you were in agreement on them, you’d have a discussion with your daughters (without your boyfriend present) about the idea of the boyfriend moving in/marrying you, and, basically, get their blessing.

But all of that is a moot point if your boyfriend doesn’t get along with both your daughters. If there’s tension between him and your older daughter, then he’s not a match for you and that’s that. If you want to be a good mother — and I hope you do — you don’t marry someone or move in with someone who hasn’t won the love and acceptance of all your kids. That doesn’t mean you can’t go out to dinner with him or enjoy his company in a casual way, but I sure wouldn’t be calling him your “partner” and talking about marriage and kids together.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. I do not disagree in principle, but a cautionary note may be in order. Remember that “quite confident and forthcoming” is her mother’s characterization of the daughter’s behavior, and may not necessarily an objective one.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      For some reason, I took that as the mother’s way of nicely saying, ‘mouthy’. 🙂 My own kid is about that age, and while she’s very confident and outspoken. I know that sometimes she can be really mouthy, which I imagine many teen-aged girls are.

  2. eelliinnss says:

    This letter made me inexplicably sad. I feel like the LW is labeling her past and her kids as “baggage” for no apparent reason? Like she didn’t give us any examples of why she feels that way or if her boyfriend has ever said anything or done anything to make her feel that way? He says he wants marriage and kids, and I think the LW is holding herself back from moving forward with this guy by assuming she’s too much work/has too much “baggage” to make the relationship work. I don’t know, it just makes me sad.
    I want to disagree with Wendy’s point about how if the boyfriend and older daughter don’t get along then it’s not a match. Tension is normal. They only hang out twice a week, so he probably sees the kids even less… The daughter is at an age where she needs her mother more than she wants to admit, and having this man around at random and sporadic times can’t be easy. I think this couple needs to see more of each other, the mother needs to have a serious discussion with her daughters one on one, and the boyfriend should try to talk to them as well. I think he needs to be a more significant part of the children’s lives (if that’s what he wants), and the couple needs to work as a team to bring the household together.

  3. anonymousse says:

    Oh to be labeled as baggage by their very own mother…FFS.
    Your number one priority should be your kids. Your focus and attention and energy should be spent on making them the most confident, humble, smart and awesome kids you can. You are THE adult in their life. They will model themselves after you. If their mom doesn’t have their back, who will?

    In your letter, you sound like you view them as a detriment to your dating and sex life and future with this boyfriend. That’s shitty. And if he doesn’t get on with them…well, then you need to decide if he’s worth it.

    Nothing is worth alienating your kids. They will not forget it or probably get over it.

    Speaking as a former alienated kid.

    1. eelliinnss says:

      See, I can understand how someone who had been alienated by their mother/parents would read the letter and feel that way.
      I just took it differently. I think she’s being way too hard on herself, like she THINKS she doesn’t deserve more out of her relationship because of her kids, when the boyfriend hasn’t given any real indication that it’s an issue? The only issue she mentions is her 15 year old doesn’t like the guy… That’s hardly fair. Yes, children should be top priority but not at the expense of a mother’s own happiness. If she loves her kids and she loves this man she can find a way to care for her kids while he is also in their lives. She should not just bend over backward to tend to the needs of a 15 year old who may or may not be justified in her dislike of this guy. We need more info in that regard, but my assumption is she’s just being a teenager.

      1. anonymousse says:

        It’s referring to them as “baggage.” And she doesn’t say her daughter doesn’t like him, she said he doesn’t get on with the eldest because she is, “confident and forthcoming.”

        Those are good qualities, I think!

        The thing is, no matter how terrible teenagers can be, they still need their mom (or parents) and need to know they are important. Those are crucial self esteem years, and really when many kids sort of figure out where they fit or not. And the real telling line of ther letter is, “I’m surprised he likes me with my baggage.” If they can’t figure out when he should move in, he doesn’t like the eldest and is using that as an excuse, to the point where she is calling her kids baggage…he sounds like a dick. After two years together, he should be able to deal with a 15 year old, no matter how “forthcoming,” she is.

      2. anonymousse says:

        And I apologize for using “dick” as a negative. I love dicks!

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I also find it sad that the mother is considering her daughters, especially the older one, as baggage. My daughter is 15 and I would never consider her baggage and if someone else did I’d be done with that person, whether they were a friend or a potential partner.

  4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I think we need to know what you mean by confident and forthcoming. I see those as positive traits but you’re mentioning them as negatives. If confident and forthcoming means being rude, as in I don’t like you or having you around then it is bad. If it means not agreeing with everything your boyfriend says or does then it is fine as long as she isn’t rude. If he mentioned a political candidate or a sports team he liked and she said she didn’t like them then she is fine. If she insulted them in some way then not fine.

    I’d wait to get married until everyone gets along. Teens often stress a marriage and having a step-parent relationship that starts in the teen years is often even worse. Your older daughter is at an age when she is looking to gain some autonomy from the adults in her life and this would add another adult. Unless you can work out a relationship that works for everyone I wouldn’t go ahead with marriage. You could have him over at least once a week and see if they can work out at least a happy coexistence. If they can’t then don’t go ahead with anything. If children are important to him he may need to move on because if you wait until your daughter is grown you may be unable to have more children. Discuss the situation with him. Discuss the pros and cons and ways to improve the cons so that they no longer exist. Kids from previous relationships are probably one of the reasons that the divorce rate for second marriages is even higher than the divorce rate for first marriages.

  5. Sunshine Brite says:

    You really see your kids as baggage LW? People can unpack baggage, work through it, but you can’t stop being a mom to 2 girls.
    I think there’s a lot left out here. Like why do you only see each other twice a week, is it work conflicts, general schedules like the girls’ activities, trying to keep him and the girls apart? You don’t say if he includes the girls in the plans he discusses or ways to improve his relationship with them or if you ever bring it up or even if he considers them baggage. Confident girls are in short supply based on the way our society acculturates people. Your letter makes it seem like you could use a dose of confidence yourself – in your choices and decision-making. You don’t have to try and fit a square peg in a round hole. If this relationship’s not working, it might not be the right peg for you.

    1. anonymousse says:

      Yes! You don’t have to settle for a man who isn’t into your “whole package.” Because that’s what you and your girls should be, an entire package deal.

      There are men out there who want to be father figures, and enjoy children. They aren’t unicorns.

      1. Sunshine Brite says:

        The weird part about this one to me is that there isn’t even enough info to see whether or not it’s the wrong relationship or if there’s some steps needed to make it work. It’s like something’s missing and she’s automatically labelling it as her baggage and blaming her daughter and the guy when it may be something else overarching.

      2. Good point, Sunshine.

  6. I feel like “confident and forthcoming” may be code for “obnoxious and rude” I’ve never heard someone described non-euphemistically as “forthcoming”

    “But all of that is a moot point if your boyfriend doesn’t get along with both your daughters. If there’s tension between him and your older daughter, then he’s not a match for you and that’s that. If you want to be a good mother — and I hope you do — you don’t marry someone or move in with someone who hasn’t won the love and acceptance of all your kids. ”

    I think that it’s asking a lot to make getting along with a fifteen year old to be a dealbreaker. Many parents don’t get along well with their fifteen year old kids.

    “The thing that worries me is we can’t sort out when he will move in with me and my girls. He gets on with my youngest but not so much my eldest as she can be quite confident and forthcoming. ”

    I’d like more information about this. Is he saying he won’t move in because he doesn’t like your daughter? Are you having logistical issues? What can’t be sorted out?

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      I think that was a euphemism for “he won’t commit to a date”, which is a real problem. If he’s not comfortable with moving in with her and her daughters, then she definitely shouldn’t be pushing for it to happen. She should be working on why he doesn’t want to, and if they can’t get to the bottom of that, the whole thing is a no-go.

  7. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    Great response, Wendy! Also, I think you meant to imbed a link or whatever in the 2nd paragraph when you said “(Here are a few other items of discussion you should address …,” and there is not a link.
    Here is my 2 cents, LW: When you say that you are surprised he still likes you with your uhh, baggage, you are making every self-respecting woman on this planet cry a little. Buck the f*ck up. You know what? This is “settling” language. Either you feel like you are settling for a guy who will take you or you think he believes he is settling for you and your alleged baggage. Settling sucks. Dont do it. Also, if you think he is settling for you, then you lose all self-confidence, right? So not good all around.

  8. So, I cannot tell if this is all the LW’s thinking or the BF is saying these things. I mean, from the facts, the BF wants to marry her and wants kids and it seems like logistics are getting in the way. Okay. And then the LW goes on to say he doesn’t get along with her 15-year old, which, I mean, 15-year olds are difficult to get along with and what may be “confident and forthcoming” to a parent is often “rude and obnoxious” to others. But, it doesn’t sound like a difficult 15-year old is a deal breaker or anything for the BF, more that the mother is lacking confidence in herself. Perhaps she should channel her 15-year old’s confidence and forthrightness and talk to her BF about a time table for him to move in and for them to get married and discuss any issues that she believes moving a BF in with her teenage daughters may create or exacerbate.

  9. Ele4phant says:

    Does your boyfriend think your kids are baggage though? It sounds like *he’s* the one that is pushing to move the relationship forward. Even despite the fact that he has trouble sometimes with your older daughter. Trust that he knows what he wants and understand what he’s getting into.

    I do disagree with wendy that if a prospective stepparent doesn’t get along with the kids – it’s not a good match. Some kids have a hard time with their parents are dating, and are going to make it difficult for whoever their parent dates. It’s all about how the boyfriend/girlfriend approaches it? Do they try to be loving, understanding, and set boundaries? Or do they just yell at the kid and insist the problem is all on the kid?

  10. for_cutie says:

    I’m confused, he tells you he wants a family and you are concerned because you already have… a family? What does he think, a baby doesn’t grow up to be a teen one day? Or worse, he only wants a kid if it is his bio-kid? The tone of the letter sounds like you are over-thinking it. I cannot imagine he would say these things to you if he didn’t already accept your “baggage.” Also, what @eelliinnss and other commentors said, you need a paradigm shift if you think your children are baggage.

  11. Rather than focusing on the “baggage” comment which I agree, is not the way one speaks about their children if they are a good, caring parent BUT… didn’t anyone else get the feeling that Mr. Wonderful’s constant talking about marriage and family is just him trying to supplant the current daughters with his own offspring? I could just imagine him having his own babies with LW and ignoring the two current children which would be horrid. He seems like he’s in LaLa Land and just putting the two already living breathing children out of his head because they aren’t his.
    I think LW needs to take a close hard look at this situation and figure out where her priorities are. Hopefully, she can focus on her daughters and either Mr. Wonderful falls in line or falls out of the picture, but the kids you already have HAVE to come first.

  12. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    Maybe it’s me but the tone of this letter feels…angst-y? unsure? sad? or something.
    I feel like the BF wants to get married so he can start a family but the LW doesn’t necessarily want that?
    Her kids are already teens, so she may be having doubts of starting over with little kids again. My kids are about the same age, and I can’t. even. imagine going a 4th or 5th round of diapers, formula, or 3 AM feedings. That’s not for me! I imagine the LW is probably in the same boat?
    The impression that I get from this letter is that she likes the BF, and can see a future with him but probably not if he wants to have his own kids. I think she’s hoping that her own kids can/should fill the space of him wanting to have kids. Which it probably won’t be because well…he wants to raise kids from scratch. He doesn’t seem like wants to raise any kids from teen to young adult. And honestly, that’s hard on anyone, especially if they don’t have any prior experience raising kids.
    LW, I don’t really think this issue is really about your kids. I mean, it is but the bigger issue is whether you two should really be together. Fundamentally, y’all are in two different places in life, and that’s often a deal breaker.

  13. Monkeysmommy says:

    I kind of take “confident and forthcoming” as blunt or rude, I think mom is trying to say it nicely. I think one question I would have is this- is your daughter outright disrespectful to your boyfriend, unnecessarily? If so, that could be one reason he is holding back on moving in. Give him some credit for at least waiting if he’s undecided, rather than moving in and making life hell for you all. He could be trying to decide if you are the one he wants the marriage and kids with. He could be waiting on your oldest to age into college or moving out. He could have no plans of really moving on with you at all. It’s really hard to say, you need to have a blunt conversation with your boyfriend on this.

  14. I interpreted the description of the BF as he wants to have “his” kids, but is less excited about being a parent to “her” kids.
    I didn’t interpret the LW’s reference to “baggage” as a disparaging comment of her children. I interpreted it as a distinction from her boyfriend’s situation – he comes into the relationship solo, while she comes into the relationship as a package deal.
    I think that the BF is looking for someone solo, and the LW is concerned that he isn’t excited about the package deal. The LW should be concerned. If the BF’s not excited about the whole package, it’s not a good match for her or her children, and she should MOA and look for someone who wants the package.

  15. dinoceros says:

    Everyone has “baggage.” It’s an odd perception people have that relationships are only for people who have no past. I’m concerned by the fact that you’re seemingly apologetic over the fact that you have kids. Instead of wondering whether this guy is right for you, you’re wondering whether you’re worthy of him because of being a parent. Maybe you didn’t say that exactly, but you’re putting all this focus on who you are and whether that meets his expectations, when you have as much right to wonder if he meets yours by being someone who is open to kids.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you talk about your daughter. It could be that it’s a euphemism for her being rude or something to him. But please don’t use confident and forthcoming as negative words or flaws. Yes, people can go overboard with both, but girls shouldn’t be taught to think that being confident is a bad thing that is going to drive away mom’s boyfriend.

    I think you need to figure out if he wants what you want and if he’s able to treat the girls as his own one day. If not, find someone else.

  16. I moved in with my now husband when his teenage girls were 14 and 16. It took me two years of dating to move in. We did family counselling and everything before hand but it’s still hard moving in full time with two teenage girls. It’s not easy, and anyone who has done it will tell you the same. But if you work hard at it with counselling and patience, everyone can be happy. I also agree with previous posters about her description of her oldest daughter. If she’s actually rude and mean living with someone 24/7 who is doesn’t respect you and you have no power to changet is not fun.

  17. Please do not rush into having more kids with ANYONE! I know it’s s natural urge when you love someone but do you really want to start again when you’ve already got two? Especially as the age gap will effectively mean you will be managing two separate families. Your so-called ‘baggage’ are your kids. They come first. Chase the boyfriend. He sounds like such a narcissist even with the short description you provided. Look on it this way: you’d end up with two grown up kids, a new baby (or two), and a great big sulky man-baby. It sounds like you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Also it’s pretty obvious he would not respect your first two kids and would favour the ones you have with him. Ugh. He’s a stinker.

  18. Just got a cold chill down my back. In seeing this LW refer to her children as baggage, it brought to mind Diane Downs, who killed one of her children and wounded two others to keep her boyfriend.

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