“I Just Learned my Long-Lost Love Is Dead and I Can’t Accept It”

Years ago I created a “love child” with a man I completely adored. No need to get into the semantics of it all, but I was on birth control and still ended up pregnant. I did the only thing I could think of at that time when I found out about my pregnancy…I took off halfway across the country and never told him about the pregnancy. I know it was very selfish and stupid, but at 19 years old, I wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. And he had said in previous conversations that he could never handle a child, hence the reason for my abrupt departure from him. Throughout the years, I wanted to tell him, and I tried to find him on the internet, hitting all roadblocks. I found out why when I finally found his old neighbor and then his mother— he had passed away.

His family has since met my daughter and they’re elated that he has a legacy, but I can’t accept his death. I’m kicking myself in the ass. I’m literally still in love with him and wouldn’t have left if there were different circumstances. I don’t know if it’s normal and why I can’t accept the fact that he’s gone. What’s wrong with me? — Mother of a Love Child

Nothing at all is wrong with you! Your reaction to the unexpected and sad news of the death of your old boyfriend and the father of your daughter sounds completely normal and understandable. You don’t say how old your daughter is now or how long you looked for her father — only that it was “years,” but that amount of time, coupled with the intensity of your relationship, and the living legacy you have of him in your daughter, would all be enough to create an incredible bond. I can imagine during the years you’ve spent thinking about him and looking for him, any flaws he had have disappeared into the fantasy you’ve likely created of what life could be like if circumstances had been different. In a sense, you are in love with an idea you’ve spent years cultivating. Yes, the idea of him is based on reality, and it’s based on a history you shared with him, but it does not, in fact, include the challenges of a real-life romantic relationship, let alone a real-life co-parenting relationship and the many challenges that exist within that frame.

What you’re mourning right now isn’t so much an actual person — though, of course, that’s part of it (especially in relation to what the actual person could have been for your daughter); it’s the idea of a perfect mate, constructed over years of weeding memories and fostering your imagination of how he may have evolved over time. The truth is, even had he lived, you may have found it hard to accept the loss of that fantasy in the face of the reality of who he actually was, complete with flaws and potential incompatibilities. So mourn that loss. Give yourself permission to feel sadness and regret. But also celebrate the wonderful gift you’ve been able to give your daughter in finding her extended family and the gift you’ve given them in the legacy that is your daughter.

What I imagine you might feel the most sadness about is a missed opportunity at continuing and growing the love between you and your former boyfriend, but the reality is that the love is still there. It’s right there in your daughter and the relationship you have with her. It exists between her and her father’s family and the relationship that can now develop between them (and you!). It exists in the life you created together — a life that is nurtured with love that your former boyfriend’s memory has and always will be a big part of. He is still with you — maybe more so now than ever. Yes, the opportunity of enjoying his physical presence has passed, and you are right to mourn that loss. But in that absence, there is the opportunity to explore love in the many different forms it already exists in your life, as well as the potential for new love, when your heart is ready.

My boyfriend and I have known each other fourteen months and have been dating for eleven months. Our relationship is so over-the-top. We have the same goals and are ready for our lives to begin. We talk about marriage and kids all the time because we are so excited for that next chapter. My mother, however, doesn’t think we are serious or ready and that we have to be together for three years before we get engaged and then wait another year to be married, just like she and my dad. My sister was engaged after one year. I understand they might be scared but… I’m 30 and he is 34. We can’t wait four years. What do I do? — A lady who’s ready to give up

I don’t know, I think a 30-year-old woman who describes her nearly one-year relationship as “over-the-top” and thinks she needs her mother’s permission to get engaged might not be serious or ready for marriage either. You should ask your mom what advantages she thinks waiting will give you, and I would also urge you to read 17 Things Every Couple MUST Discuss Before Getting Married. An over-the-top relationship is a common trope in rom-coms and romance novels, but over here in reality, a relationship that is going to actually last has to be firmly rooted. If you haven’t navigated some challenges together, and your relationship thus far as been a succession of overwhelming feelings and the expression of those feelings, then giving yourselves a little more time for your feet to touch the ground can only benefit the lasting potential of your relationship. I suspect this is the basis of your mother’s argument to you. And I suspect you might know in your heart if she’s right.

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


  1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    You know what else makes me think you’re not ready to get married, LW2? When you say “we can’t wait four years.” For one, at this point it’s really more like a year and a half-ish before you got engaged, but even beyond that: what exactly is preventing you from moving forward in your life? If you’re going to stay together forever (or at least through your marriage date), then buying property together, moving in together, having babies together, etc. are all things you’re perfectly capable of doing with or without a formal designation of marriage. Hell, people do it all the time!

    At the risk of sounding condescending, the reason you don’t want to do that — and the reason most people would advise you NOT TO do that at this stage in your relationship — isn’t because you aren’t married; it’s because you don’t have the foundation yet to be totally certain you WILL last. I’m as true love-at-first-sight as anyone, I really am, but you’re either:
    (a) looking for excuses to avoid just doing what you want to do anyway and getting married (in which case you should listen to your gut); OR
    (b) you’re financially / housing-wise / etc. dependent on your mother for living right now and worry if you do this she’ll cut the purse strings (in which case you’re just not ready to get married because you can’t stand on your own two feet.)

  2. I don’t understand why LW2 signs off as “A lady who’s ready to give up.” Give up what? Being single? Fatigue at being single is not a good reason to get married. Maybe give up on convincing her mom? Why are you trying to convince mom of decisions that any adult is free to make? You. Are. 30. Many, many people younger than 30 are fighting in wars, running businesses, and even getting married without mom’s permission. What is going on here?

  3. LW1 – Kind of sucks that you never gave the guy a chance to know he had a daughter or get to know his daughter. Even if he said he couldn’t handle a child, he ought to have been told one exists.

  4. dinoceros says:

    LW2: Getting engaged after a year isn’t THAT crazy for two adults. However, the fact that you call the relationship “over the top” is a little concerning. I assume you’re trying to say that you feel like “soulmates” or something. Keep in mind that most people have a good first 11 months. It’s the time after where things are less exciting and more stressors show up that you can tell if it’s the right fit. I also think that your concern over meeting your mom’s exact year requirement raises concerns about your maturity. It’s possible to accept that maybe it’s good to take more time to make sure you’re both ready for marriage without committing to four years. Why not another year or something?

  5. Age doesn’t matter. If you are such a juvenile that you can’t marry without your mother’s approval, then even at age 30, you are too immature to marry. I’m am trying to figure out why you can’t marry, or at least engaged, right now. As you say, your sister was engaged this quickly. Why is your sister more of an independent woman than you are?
    Could it be that you and your bf are not financially independent and require your mother’s support?

    Could it be that you are unwilling to forego the lavish wedding, which you can’t have, unless your mother foots the bill?

    If you don’t love your bf enough to upset your mother by not waiting another 3 years to marry, then you are too much of a coward to marry.

  6. LW1: Beautiful answer by Wendy!
    LW2: “we are ready for our lives to begin”. My advice would be to keep a sense of self, even though you are madly in love. This is the best way to preserve the relationship, not to expect it to be everything for you. Your life started 30 years ago, you are fine, you will also be fine if this relationship doesn’t make it long term. This way, you start your couple’s life in an independent and healthy way.
    Just get engaged if you are so happy, and yes, I would wait 2 years before marrying: 3 years are, in my opinion, a good time to really know the person and experience the relationship beyond the first idealisation. Why would you “have to” do anything that your mother is saying? Don’t let her be a judge of your life. Be yourself, be an adult, be reasonable and self-sufficient.

  7. anonymousse says:

    When it’s right, there is no rush. Especially when you’re 30. If you were say, 75 my opinion would be different. There is no harm in giving it a little more time before you get married or procreate. Get engaged if you want, but give it a year. Do you live together? Slow it down just a little.

  8. mellanthe says:

    LW1 – I’m sorry for your loss, and the loss of the potential that you clung on to. But unfortunately, he won’t be coming back. It sounds like you loved him dearly at 19, and have for your entire life clung onto this image of him. Who knows how he grew to be as a person, and if you’d still have been in love if you’d stayed together, or gotten back together. But you can’t change the past, so those ‘what ifs’ don’t matter. You have a child, and you are still alive.

    Maybe one day you might be able to process that he’s passed on and that you deserve to be happy right now with someone who is still alive. It’s not too late for you to eventually find happiness again, when the pain is not so raw.

    I would say that I can see why LW2 . I disagree with some commenters that you can do everything without marriage – in some circles it;s still stimgatised to have kids before marriage, or sometimes even move in! Now, if you guys can do things like move in or start to share your lives, it could be a good idea to start before marriage – living together is really different from hanging out on the odd date. You don’t have to wait another three years necessarily, but it might be wise to give it a little more time, particularly if your relationship is quite intoxicating. It’s a bit worrying that yuo describe your relationship as OTT – drama doesn’t necessarily make good foundations for a longterm relationship. Marriage isn’t about the strength of your feelings, but about whether you know enough about each other to know you’re compatible as a team.

    So the most relevant question here would be: are you and your partner a team? Have you guys weathered problems together? I mean things like health, finances, job issues etc? Are you able to openly talk about finances, future plans for how you’d raise your kids? Have you been able to have discussions (or fights) and resolve them fairly, and make a plan for the future? Have you seen the uglier side of each other – your stubbornness, short temper etc? Are you really sure you know who this man is when he gets upset, when he gets mad, and can he come to you after both and make up? Do you go to each ther when upset? Because that’s when lovey dovey becomes real intimacy.

    However, that said, it’s still a good idea for couples to really get to know each other before committing – and that depends a lot on what’s been going on between them. Couples who are long distance or have busy jobs might take longer to get to that point for example – that’s how it is for me at least.

    But really, if LW2 and her partner want to get married, who’s stopping them. If you’re mature enough as a 30 something to get married, you’re mature enough to have that conversation with partner and parents and do what you, as a grown up couple feel is best.

    Maturity means also recognising that this isn’t a competition with your sister – maybe her relationship progressed a bit differently. And who knows if she was right or wrong to get engaged after a year? The point is that rather than comparing yourself to others you need to focus on your relationship.

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