“I Want to Get Married But My Boyfriend Doesn’t Want to Be My Kids’ Stepdad”

I’m 45 and have been separated for several years. I have two kids from my previous marriage, and they’re 11 and 12 now and live with me every other week. Their dad and I co-parent amicably. I started dating fairly soon after our separation. I dated a lot of jerks, fakes, and assholes for a couple years. I was really looking for a long-term relationship, and last year I met an amazing man, G, on a dating app. He’s 49, super handsome, fit, intelligent, gentlemanly, and caring. G has also been divorced for a few years now and has two university-age kids who live with him. G and I see each other every other weekend and a couple nights in between when my kids aren’t with me.

I’m really happy except for one thing: G has been clear that though he loves me and is devoted to me, he doesn’t want to assume a parenting role for my kids and he’s “done” with parenting; he wants to get his own kids independent and out of the house. We’re committed to each other and he even calls me his wife when we’re out in public, but the problem is I do want to actually be his wife. I miss living with my partner. He thinks it isn’t possible right now with my kids living with me every other week and his kids living with him almost full-time (one goes away to school). He’s not in the financial position to buy a big home where we all can live. He’s putting his kids through university and also pays a lot for spousal support to his ex. And also my kids don’t know him well enough yet. I also don’t know how I’d feel living all together with our four kids.

Right now we have an idyllic dating life because we only see each other when we’re both away from our kids and responsibilities. I know 100% it’s going to completely change if we’re a normal married couple with real life responsibilities, pressure, and a house full of step-kids. I also have my own issues to deal with and he’s brought up that he wants me to pay back debt, and I think we both need to get more comfortable with each others kids, so maybe I’m craving something we’re not even ready for or I am trying to get away from problems I need to solve or work on myself.

But I feel stuck because I want us to get married and he doesn’t see that happening for 5+ years at which time my kids may go off to university (although there is no guarantee they will be out of the house even then). I’m not sure what to do, and I find myself, at the end of our beautiful weekends, having frustrating relationship talks with him or holding myself back from saying or doing something I might regret. He has told me he’d rather break up if I’m going to keep being resentful of this situation because he’s not ready to change it right now. I really don’t want to break up; I think he’s an absolute gem and I really value our relationship.

How can I guide this great connection so that eventually we do get married and live together, without putting so much pressure on him for something he’s not ready to give right now? — Ready to Move Forward

What I’m hearing from you is that you’ve been in some type of relationship or pursuit of a relationship pretty continuously at least since you were married. As soon as you separated, you started dating and you went through “a lot of jerks, fakes, and assholes for a couple years” until you met G. Now, not even a year into your relationship with G, you’re eager to move in together and get married. You give several reasons why this isn’t the best idea: You don’t know each other’s kids well; you can’t afford a house big enough for all the step kids; G doesn’t want to parent school-age kids or live with anyone else’s kids; you have various personal issues you think you should work through; you currently have an idyllic dating life that you are 100% convinced will change if you move in together. You give no reasons for moving in together except that you miss living with a partner and you miss G when you aren’t together.

Look, you know it’s a bad idea to entertain thoughts of marriage and moving in together right now. You know it; you just outlined all the reasons it doesn’t really make sense. Furthermore, there are a lot of steps you still need to cross before you even enter into the stage of discussing moving things forward. You want to know how you can guide this great connection to eventual marriage? Well, how about start with spending time with each other’s kids? You say you only see G when your kids are with their dad and you sound slightly concerned that this sets up a dating life that doesn’t reflect your real life responsibilities. So… invite G over for dinner when you’ve got your kids. Start integrating him into your real life if you have real ambitions about sharing a life with him. If you can’t even start with that, then what you’re doing in fantasizing about a future, and fantasy without a plan or an agenda is just a distraction.

So, what are you using your fantasy of married life with G to distract you from? What are these “issues” that you allude to, and why are you so scared to face them?

You might one day live with G and have a marriage with him. It might wait until your kids are older and out of the house. It might come sooner than that, I don’t know. But I do know that you won’t have the stable, happy long-term relationship with G or anyone else until you face the things you’re trying to avoid. I would advise seeking some therapy to unpack some of your issues before you try moving this relationship forward. And in the meantime, cool it with the deep relationship talks at the end of each visit with G. Focus on simply enjoying the time you have together and getting to know each other. There’s still so much to discover!

You spent all that time dating jerks and assholes and now you’ve found a gem, so revel in that for a bit. Enjoy it! Savor it. This is a special time in your life – to have your kids at home with you half the time while the other half of the time you get to enjoy some extra freedom many moms just dream about. You even co-parent with your kids’ dad well. It all sounds great! This is a wonderful moment in your life. If you aren’t able to relax and enjoy it – if you have to hold yourself back every week from saying or doing something to mess up what you’ve got going with G – it really is time to enlist the help of a therapist to help you figure out why you’re trying to self-sabotage. On the other side of this turmoil is peace, and you deserve to feel it.


  1. LisforLeslie says:

    I don’t think this relationship is meant to be long term. You want a partner. He wants a girlfriend. This man does not want to play parent. He doesn’t want to pick up jackets left on the floor. He doesn’t want to drive to pick the kids up from someone’s house at 11 pm on a Friday. He also doesn’t want to be a provider to your kids. He is not going to fund their education. He’s not going to be a co-signer for an apartment or a car. He knows how to parent teenagers and young adults – he has no interest and if you try to move this guy into your house your kids are going to feel it. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, not at all, but this is a selfish move on your part. You’re asking your boyfriend and your kids to live together only to increase your happiness, not their happiness. I think you are hoping that if he loves you enough, then he’ll agree to be a family; that he’ll fall in love with your kids and treat them like a dad. But from what you said, that’s not the future he envisions.

    My mom was dating a guy who did not want to be a parent, at least not to me. He wasn’t a bad person, he just wasn’t interested. My mom eventually broke up with him and married a guy that was thrilled to become an instant parent. Over time this guy proved himself to be more of a parent than my dad, because he wanted to be, not because he was forced to be a parent.

    Giving him an ultimatum is likely not going to go your way. Determine if your idyllic relationship is enough or let this guy go so you can find someone who wants the same things you do.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Agree with LisforLeslie. And props to this guy G who has been honest about what he wants and doesn’t want from a relationship and is smart enough not to get into a commitment with someone who hasn’t unpacked her own issues yet.

    1. I totally agree – I give him credit for at least being up-front about what he wants/is willing to give (although the “calling [her] his wife” when they’re out is odd). LW, the ball is now in your court.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You can enjoy the relationship for what it is — nice sex and light dates. But you are wasting your time. I would follow Wendy’s advice of a dinner with your boyfriend and your kids. I think it will be revealing for you. He may seem like a gem to you but I see more someone selfish or at least not that invested in your relationship. Or you can acknowledge that he doesn’t want what you want and act accordingly. You are hitting a wall trying to convince him to do what you want. In my opinion, you should enjoy the time you have with your children, instead of trying to hurry their education to send them away so that this guy can marry you – which he might not do anyway. Don’t you see the flaw in his reasoning? You and your kids are a package. He takes the whole or you walk. Try to be a bit more independent and yes, clear those debts. You daydream a bit of a fairy tale. You can do better than a guy who doesn’t want to know your kids’ names.

    1. PammyJean says:

      I don’t see him as selfish because he is setting boundaries in a relationship. He raised his kids and knows he’s not interested in taking care of someone else’s children. Clearly, this relationship is a temporary situation and if the LW can’t accept his terms, she needs to move on. Trying to force him into something he doesn’t want will not result in happiness for either of them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    He’s not going to stay with you he doesn’t want the baggage I say good for him to at least be honest. A lot of men opt out of a relationship because of kids I don’t blame them.

  5. allathian says:

    WWS. G is neither willing nor ready to be a stepparent to your kids. This is entirely normal, and props to G for saying how he actually feels about this rather than leading you on with false promises.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It seems pretty clear that he doesn’t want to marry you, so why bother even entertaining the thought

    1. I think it’s fine he doesn’t want to be a step-parent. The children are almost teens and spend equal time with their mother and father, who have co-parented successfully. Any step-parent is going to be in an impossible situation and the children will likely rebel against it. He can simply be their mother’s second husband.

      Clearly, she wants to move the relationship forward faster than he does. Equally clearly, she isn’t actually ready for that. She and Wendy list many of the reasons she isn’t ready and he reasonably isn’t ready either. Doesn’t mean he won’t marry her. Very different time-lines, but they’re happy now.

  7. Met My Mr Right 2.0 says:

    I’m the letter writer. Thanks everyone for all the feedback. I wanted to clarify a couple things! 1) This isn’t a casual relationship. G goes to all my family events. He definitely knows my kids names and we’ve had a couple dinners together with just me, him and our kids. G is a real partner and when he stays over he helps me with “husband tasks” around my home. He’s even driven me home from medical appointments. He’s an amazing BF on every level. He just doesn’t want to live with my kids and be in a parenting role. 2) The divorce is still fresh for my kids. I’m not in a rush to get remarried. Their dad and I have lived apart just 1.5 yrs. I waited about 3 mos to introduce G. My son is starting to like him and be friendly to him.. even sent him a thank you card for a gift G gave him and thanked him for “making my mom so happy”. My daughter barely says 2 words to G and is a “daddy’s girl”. 3) I’m a marriage person. I don’t like living on my own. I really miss living with a partner. But at the same time I realize that it’s not the same now being able to move in with someone when I have two teenage kids and that person has kids… We’re both in a complicated situation, and I don’t want to rush into some thing that’s gonna make.G and me ultimately unhappy and also my kids aren’t ready for. I really liked Wendy’s advice of slowing down, letting things unfold, enjoying time with G and dealing with my own issues… not rushing into marriage to hide from these. Also having been in the over 40 dating pool, I can attest to you all it is a vile cesspool of broken sad souls with only a handful of normal healthy men… and even when you meet the normal guys you still face issues with schedule, location, kids schedule, whether they want a commitment or the same things as you, sexual and emotional compatibility etc. so that fact that I’ve met a great guy is a small Miracle like winning the lottery and I am not dumb enough to throw that away just because he doesn’t want to live with me and get married right now in our lives. Anyway just wanted to update and also thank Wendy for her perspective!

    1. Hi letter writer, I was in a similar situation with kids the same age. Me and my “G” continued to date and he would come over for dinner most nights and we would all do things together, and spend time together when they were at their dad’s. G told the kid to think of him like an uncle since they already had a dad. Someone who loves them and loves their mom. We kept seperate homes and I enjoyed having time with just the kids. We knew we wanted to be together so there was no rush. This worked out perfectly for us. Fast forward 12 years and we have been married for 4 years now. We didn’t get married or move in together until both of my kids were off at college. I am really glad we waited, he didn’t really want to be a stepdad (nor did they want one) and I actually liked that the kids got my full attention most days. Now we have our own chapter and it is perfect for us! Take your time and enjoy things. If he is the one he will still be around. 🙂

  8. Patience is the key here. At least you have regular time together and he sounds like a good match/guy. I have a friend who was in a similar situation. Her guy lived an hour’s drive away and her kids were older than his. They were slowly getting their kids to meet,be friends etc.,with an eye to the future. They lived apart because of jobs,kids in school etc. They got engaged.
    Then,her guy’s kids were struggling with life/issues. So the dad and my friend discussed it and made the decision that the guy/dad would move to his ex wife’s town,a 4 hour drive away so the boys would see both parent regularly. They valued putting the kids first.
    So, now they are 4 hours apart,and the pandemic hits! Very tough time, but they got through and stayed committed. Now the last kid will graduate school and they will have a chance to move together and et married. They have been engaged for nearly 6 years!
    All this to say,if you two are a good match,stay the course and be patience,enjoy what you have and in time,you can craft a future that works for you both.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *