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.