New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. Read some of the most popular Dear Wendy posts here. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), do a search in the search bar, or submit a question for advice at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
He has two girls (aged 16 and 11) whom he gets every second week, so we work on a week on-week off schedule. I stay at his place most nights during his week off with girls. I do have my own place and it is about 2 minutes from his place so that works out quite well also. My 20-year-old son still lives with me.
Things are great, I adore him and am I am crazy in love. He tells me he loves me each and every day and we see each other every day, even if just for a late-night coffee.
I do not want to give him an ultimatum but I am sad that his kids do not know about me. I am OK with not meeting kids at first and letting them be involved in deciding when they are ready to meet me, but I really need to be validated in this relationship and at least be a name of someone that they know is important to their father. I have mentioned this to him, he is very aware, but he is so afraid to tell them he is seeing me in fear it will change their relationship with him. Their mom has a boyfriend and started seeing him early on and the girls were not so thrilled, mostly the eldest.
I am getting frustrated. I don’t want to be the dirty little secret anymore. I think two years is long enough. There is no doubt in my mind that he knows how much I love him and that I am committed to him and that I am in for the challenges ahead. I believe he is making a bigger deal out of telling them than necessary and that the longer he waits, the more chances they have to find out from some other source and I think that would be much worse and more painful to the girls. I do not want to force him to tell the girls about me, but I really really want him to want to!! — Ms. Unvalidated
Just yesterday the Huffington Post published an article all about when to introduce your kids to new significant others. The author advised to keep several variables in mind when considering such introductions including: timing (length and seriousness of the relationship); age of the children; goal of the relationship; and the reason for including the kids. While after two years of dating, the length of your relationship certainly justifies meeting his kids, there are a couple of others points that seem a little iffy and demand some clarification before you move forward.
First, Hank isn’t divorced yet. It’s been three years since he’s separated from his wife and he still hasn’t divorced her. That’s a red flag, don’t you think? Even if the reasons they remain married aren’t emotional in the least, surely you can understand how it could be potentially very confusing to, say, an 11-year-old (and a 16-year-old, for that matter) knowing that his or her parents are still legally married but seriously involved with other people.
And maybe the reasons Hank hasn’t gotten a divorce yet are emotional. Is there still a chance he and his wife will reconcile? Are they still in the “trying to figure it out” stage? Is your relationship with him a stepping stone to a reconciliation … or a stepping stone to something else? And what would that “something else” entail? Are you part of the “something else”?
That takes us to the next issue, which is: just what IS the goal of this relationship? You say you love each other and spend tons of time together, but do you ever talk about the future? Do you talk about growing old together? Do you talk about living together and marriage and everything else that comes when you merge two lives together? If you haven’t, you may be in for a rude awakening. It may be that while Hank very much DOES love you and does enjoy his time with you, his intentions with this relationship are very much different from yours. If he sees an end date at some point in the not-too-distant future — and certainly if he’s still considering a reconciliation with his wife — there isn’t much of a point in introducing you to his kids and dealing with the emotional repercussions of that introduction.
I would not recommend issuing Hank an “ultimatum” as you say, but I absolutely would suggest having some serious discussions about the state of your relationship, where you stand with him, and most importantly, where he sees you in his future (and whether he sees you as part of it at all). You also need to find out when he plans to finalize his divorce. After two years together, if Hank can’t give you some solid answers to these questions, it may be time for you to decide whether this is a relationship you want to keep investing time and energy in. And if he CAN answer you and does see a future with you, you need to decide how long you’re willing to wait for the next stage of your relationship to begin.
Pick a point in the future when you know in your heart of hearts if you haven’t met his kids yet and he hasn’t taken some steps to divorcing his wife, then he isn’t in this relationship as whole-heartedly as you need him to be. He doesn’t have to know what that date is. It’s better if he doesn’t. But pick a date to keep in your head and if things haven’t changed by then, you’ll know where you stand and what you need to do.
You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
j2 November 1, 2012, 11:10 am
The only thing I could think to add was that the man appears quite happy and satisfied with the status quo and may well be willing to have it continue indefinitely.
The question for the LW is if she is.
Amber November 1, 2012, 11:23 am
I think Wendy is putting too much weight on the fact that Hank and his wife are not yet divorced. It’s quite common for couples to stay technically married for a lengthy period after separating, often for financial reasons.
It IS a red flag though, that the LW did not mention if she has spoken to Hank about the future. At their age, you think after two years together it would have moved past the “dating” phase, or at least have been talked about.
Sasa November 1, 2012, 11:30 am
I completely agree with the advice Wendy gives in the end (having a “state of the relationship” talk with him).
However, I don’t really see any grounds for thinking the LW’s bf may reconcile with his ex-wife. Wouldn’t the LW have mentioned that if that were a possible concern? The bf not being divorced yet doesn’t seem like a red flag to me. In fact, my own parents divorced only years after they separated. I was a teenager at the time, got to know my mother’s new partner and I was never confused about my parents not being divorced yet (there were legal reasons). I just took my parents’ explanations for this at face value, and I guess most kids/teens would.
Also, it seems that the only people who don’t know about the LW’s relationship with her bf are his kids, so he’s not generally keeping her a “dirty little secret” (which would be an indication of not seeing a long term future). It could very well be that the bf is just particularly hung up about telling his kids because they already reacted badly to the ex’s new bf.
Nevertheless, I think the LW should stand her ground and make it clear to her bf that and why it’s important to her that his daughters hear of her existence. I somewhat disagree with silently setting an “exit date” in your head. I think it’s smarter to just say what you want at the risk of being rejected right now rather than waiting around for a positive development till “X day” and then suddenly taking the exit door. It’s fairer to the guy because he then knows what his options are and it may save the LW a few heartbreaking months.
FireStar November 1, 2012, 2:57 pm
I didn’t get that the only people still in the dark were his kids. I thought everyone on her side knows about him – but the same couldn’t be said for him. For goodness’ sake, the dog made the list of who she has met so far – the dog – I’m thinking if the dog is on the list – it isn’t a long list. LW, just ask what the plan is. I dated someone separated and I asked when he would finalize his divorce…I needed to know what the plan was so I could organize MY life and see if his timing was something I could sign on to. And when the time for finalizing came and left – so did I. I didn’t have set date in my head that only I knew about – HE gave me the date – it was on the table and when I left, he knew why. But the guy doesn’t have to set the schedule by himself – talk about it and both of you agree to what that time should be. In my case his timing matched up with what worked for me. Time is precious – we all only have a limited amount of it – don’t let anyone waste yours.
katie November 1, 2012, 3:03 pm
ha- i noticed the dog made the list too… funny
katie November 1, 2012, 12:07 pm
i think that this has much more to do with the fact that the kids reacted so terribly to the ex-wife when she introduced a new boyfriend then anything… they probably vented to him, too, which makes it worse. he doesnt want them to say/think what they said and thought about their mom about you and his relationship, no matter how stable and nice and gently you two introduce it… he probably knows that it will end up being a disaster. whether it will be or not be, i dunno, but that is probably how he is seeing it- black and white like that.
i agree that this needs to be an overall conversation about the whole status of your relationship and even his- what are his plans for divorcing his wife? why havent they yet? what are the plans for the two of you? at what time and in what manner are you going to introduce your relationship to them? ect…
SarahKat November 1, 2012, 12:09 pm
So I don’t think that him not being separated from his wife yet is a sign of anything, mostly because its really expensive to go through with a divorce. I know people who wait longer than the LW’s boyfriend is to divorce just because they can’t afford it yet. Also seeing as they’ve still got relatively young kids it makes sense that wouldn’t want to spend money on that when they could be spending it on the 16 yr old’s college funds in a year or two.
That being said I do have a sneaky theory about the whole thing. You said that the mom has already introduced her boyfriend to the kids and it didn’t go over well. Maybe the LW’s boyfriend likes being the “good parent” and doesn’t want to spoil the favoritism he gets by also introducing someone to his kids. It sounds petty, but almost everybody gets petty in a divorce. Also, him getting every other week instead of every other weekend (the staple of the divorce kid’s schedule in the 2000’s) means that he is very close with them. Its a good thing, but it also means it’ll probably take a lot to shake up the routine he’s worked so hard with them for.
So being a rebellious teenager in the middle of the two ages of the LW’s boyfriends when her parents separated, I’ll say that I would have freaked out way more if I found out my dad was seeing someone secretly for two years than if he introduced them to us. Yeah, kids don’t want to know and chose to live in denial about that stuff, but the longer this guy waits, the longer its gonna take his kids to get used to him having a girlfriend. Also, he’s going to just have to get over that it sucks for awhile. They wont like it, they’ll be worried he’s going to change or their life will change and that will scare them.
But, if their dad tries his best to always make them his priority and not change his actions and behavior (especially around you) towards them, they’ll get over it in time. If you bring out a happy and content version of him, they will notice and eventually over time, they’ll come to appreciate the addition. However, if he is as close to these kids as he sounds, he might be keeping you from meeting them to protect your relationship as much as he’s trying to protect his with them. Ask yourself knowing him, if his girls told him that they didn’t like me, would he break up with me for that? If you don’t know, ask him.
Another thing and then I’ll stop I swear: are you ready to be a person who deserves to be in these kids’ lives? You talk about him being ready or not ready, but are you? The thing you HAVE to understand, more than anything, is that you will never be a priority above his love for his girls, nor should you be. His kids will always come first in his heart, and you need to be ok with that. Be honest with yourself and really see if you could ever get jealous of the attention he gives them. If you could see yourself getting that way, then you aren’t ready.
GatorGirl November 1, 2012, 12:17 pm
I completely agree with your “good parent” idea. That is exactly what I thought when I read this. But the kids are going to be even more hurt to know the dad has hidden and GF for two years then they would be if he was forth coming with the relationship.
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 12:20 pm
SarahKats in 2012! In the alternative, Obama.
katie November 1, 2012, 12:35 pm
yes- being the “good parent” is exactly what i was trying to say above
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 12:11 pm
Great advice, Wendy. You should be a life coach. I’d hire you. And I’d keep you on speed dial. In this perfect world of mine they’d also serve from the breakfast menu past 10:30 am. What an arbitrary and cruel time to cut me off from egg burritos. The nerve of some establishments.
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 12:16 pm
But getting back to this LW: that they haven’t finalized the divorce in two years isn’t too shockign to me. But now I’m curious about the things Wendy suggested (is he hoping for a reconciliation? etc.). I bet the explanation is money. Divorces are expensive. *But* if they have a custody arrangement that works and have split up finances, with those things out of the way, it should be a fairly straight forward divorce. Are there “do it yourself” divorce kits out there or do you HAVE to have an attorney? Somebody should ask an attorney.
katie November 1, 2012, 12:38 pm
from what Guy Friday told me once, divorces are expensive, complicated, and time consuming when things are contested- when the couple is fighting about terms and things. so, even in a divorce with kids, i think you could do a do-it-yourself kit if everything is agreed upon and simple.
my parents didnt use lawyers, but they werent ever even “legally married”, so i digress.. haha.. but, it does happen.
theattack November 1, 2012, 12:45 pm
There are way too many complications with divorces for a DIY kit to be a good idea. If you have many assets, or children, it can just get way too sticky. Even if the divorce is uncontested (everyone agrees on everything), you have no idea what the procedures and special rules are in your jurisdiction. Judges do things specific ways, and you really need someone to help you navigate all of that. Where I live, you can get a good lawyer for an uncontested divorce for about $750, and you can get a crappy lawyer for about $500.
Michelle.Lea November 1, 2012, 2:18 pm
my DIY kit was super simple and easy. I could NOT afford a lawyer either. A kit explains everything for you, down to what color copies you make, how many etc. or at least mine did. my divorce was done for under $400. it was just a pain to go down to the courthouse to do some of it.
but complicated? not in the slightest.
theattack November 1, 2012, 3:34 pm
There’s no way that a kit can tell you what each specific judge wants though. Some judges require different things than other judges do, which is a huge part of the value of hiring someone who’s familiar with not just state laws, but also local procedures. I’m glad kits exist for people who can’t afford lawyers but desperately need some direction. But they’re not comprehensive, and they can’t cover everything. If they could, we wouldn’t still have divorce attorneys. Everyone’s divorce is different, so even though yours wasn’t complicated, it definitely is for some people. Like if your kit was $400, where I’m from you could have borrowed an extra $100 from a friend (or set up a payment plan) and had an expert do it for you if it was uncontested. There needs to be an option like a kit, but I definitely think it’s smart to exhaust your resources for an attorney before resorting to that. Glad it worked out for you though.
Guy Friday November 1, 2012, 1:21 pm
First off, thanks for the shout-out katie 🙂
Second, I disagree with theattack’s blanket statement that divorces are too complicated to do with a DIY kit. They can be expensive and time-consuming and contentious, but they certainly don’t have to be. Granted, people don’t tend to get divorces if they’re still on good terms with one another, so you’re going in to it with hostility. But every county here in Wisconsin has “self-help” centers at the courthouse to help fill out forms. They won’t give you legal advice, but they’ll give you the packet and get you through the procedure of it. And, frankly, I’ve handled several divorces where there really aren’t any divisive issues: separate homes and finances, no houses or cars to divvy up, reasonable visitation schedules for the kids, etc.
I referenced this sarcastically in one of the update letters a week or so ago, but in truth there is a growing movement in states’ family bars — one I can’t WAIT to join as soon as I get out of this ass-backwards current firm of mine — toward what is known as “collaborative” family law. In Wisconsin, for example, if you join that group you go on a list they keep for referrals. And when a couple who wants a divorce comes to them, they refer them to you, and then you act as more of a guide/mediator through the process. You help them with the paperwork and effectively (though not in a literal sense, for obvious ethical reasons) act as “counsel” for both sides as you hammer out an agreement. And under the terms of the agreement you and these parties enter into, if you get to a point where an issue is in a contest posture, where you can’t resolve it, you are ethically required to withdraw, and the parties then get separate counsels and contest the issue. You would be amazed how many divorces I can effectively settle if I can just tell both parties to shut the hell up and look at it from the other person’s perspective.
So, AP, there are DIY kits for them, and they can be done if both parties can set aside their petty animosities and work together to resolve it equitably, just like a company could terminate an employee and provide them with a fair and equitable severance package that both sides agree upon. But, in every kind of law there are those cases that need our services and those that don’t.
theattack November 1, 2012, 1:33 pm
In Tennessee the clerk’s office is SUPPOSED to help with that stuff, but they really don’t. They’re also supposed to help with Orders of Protection, but more often than not they tell people coming in straight up incorrect facts because, shock! – they’re not lawyers! A substantial portion of my fiance’s business is people who tried to do things on their own like that but got everything miserably screwed up and then finally decided to hire someone who knows what they’re doing. They end up much worse off than they would have if they had just hired someone to begin with. Yesterday he came home with a new client who tried to do their own divorce several years back, and he just found out that he’s not actually divorced when he thought he was. His new “wife” is pissed because their marriage is bigamous and not actually valid, and now they’re having a hard time finding the old wife to divorce her for real. So while theoretically someone might be able to do it themselves, it’s pretty frequently a horrible idea at least where I live.
Michelle.Lea November 1, 2012, 2:19 pm
that doesnt make the kits themselves complicated, but the people doing them not paying enough attention to details etc.
I did my own immigration stuff here as well. i agree you have to be detail oriented to do stuff, but it’s not the processes that are complicated, it’s the people trying to do them.
katie November 1, 2012, 2:05 pm
Speak of the devil!!
Michelle.Lea November 1, 2012, 12:31 pm
I did mine with a do it yourself kit, but no kids were involved. i know when my husband was doing his divorce, there were court ordered classes they had to attend regarding the kids, and how to handle it etc. i dont know how that would work with a kit :/
Guy Friday November 1, 2012, 1:22 pm
The court-ordered classes don’t change even if you have lawyers. Believe me, they can’t pay me enough to sit through those 🙂 The parents go, get their certificate of completion, and bring it to the court to show they did it (though usually the classes contact the court anyway to confirm it).
SarahKat November 1, 2012, 1:13 pm
My dream, DREAM is to open a drive thru only 24 hour breakfast place. But like, make only breakfast burritos and pancake pitas because you don’t want breakfast sh*t all over your car.
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 1:40 pm
Great idea, I want to co-own with you. There’s nothing better than eggs wrapped in a tortilla. Tortilla wraps make everything taste better. Oh oh oh, wanna call our drive thru “Wrap n Go”? We could throw in a condo with each order.
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 1:43 pm
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 1:45 pm
COME ON, W R A P – N – G O
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 1:47 pm
With a free condom.
^^^ Brilliant, no? ^^^
I’m the kind of person who needs IMMEDIATE gratification. And gold stars.
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 1:48 pm
Addie Pray November 1, 2012, 1:51 pm
Sigh. This is what it must have felt like for those brilliant artist not appreciated until after their time. <— I mean, dramatically speaking of course WRAP N GO is no water lillies or whatnot. Speaking of, can I confess? Impressionnism isn't my favorite.
I'm getting back to work. This crowd's a dud.
SarahKat November 1, 2012, 2:28 pm
I am back! YES, the wrap-n-go! Our tagline will be “wrap your breakfast, wrap your genitals, wrap your life”.
But we will have to make sure no one starts going at it in our parking lot once they get their free condom so we should hire a guy with a broom to stand outside and swat away people getting their freak on and raccoons from our lot because come on, no raccoons.
Amanda November 1, 2012, 2:57 pm
Excellent idea AP!
Emily November 2, 2012, 8:10 pm
That sounds like the perfect sober up/hangover cure drive thru. It’s more like the drive of pride than the walk of shame, lol.
dee November 1, 2012, 12:28 pm
In my part of the world, you have to settle the property within a year of the divorce, which entails selling anything you’ve agreed to split. Lots of people sit tight until they can make a profit on the assets instead of taking a loss.
MiMi November 1, 2012, 12:38 pm
The boyfriend sounds like the kind of person who doesn’t like to “deal” with messy real life. It’s a drag to go through all the hoops to get a divorce. It would be challenging to introduce the girls to his new partner and work through the emotions. It would be even more difficult to forge a new family paradigm if he and the LW were to move in together or get married. It would be hard work to do all that – and it doesn’t sound like this guy is up for it.
You do need to talk about this with him, LW, and watch if he follows through on any agreements you come to. At the end of the day, if he chooses the path of least resistance and greatest comfort to himself at your expense, you would be wasting your time.
Michelle.Lea November 1, 2012, 11:57 am
It took me like 3 years to finally get divorced, no kids involved, because i was lazy :p however, during that time, the then bf and I were completely open with our families. there were no secrets. when i had hit my limit for ‘hiding’ and being a secret from his ex-wife that he had kids with, i just said hey, i feel like you’re keeping me a secret, and i dont feel comfortable with it. at that point i had met his kids, but he hadn’t told his ex wife, and i was not comfy with that. if it was me, i’d blow a gasket if someone was letting my kids hang out with a ‘stranger’. my then bf was very understanding, and it was ‘fixed’ within the next week or so. these were younger kids, it should be easier with older ones – though they may be more vocal about it.
you definitely need to stand your ground. he needs to at least tell them about you. there will be upsets all around, but that’s just the way it is with kids involved. hopefully all of the adults can handle it.
Lindsay November 1, 2012, 2:38 pm
I do think that many people don’t know how to handle divorces, so I don’t think that this kind of stuff is always a major red flag. I mean, my dad introduced his girlfriend to me as his “friend” and then shortly after told me that they were “talking about marriage.” Then, a week later, my relatives were asking to see her ring. He’s clearly devoted to her, but he’s really awkward about stuff like that. And no one ever really teaches you growing up how to handle being divorced.
Anyway, Wendy’s right, though. You should talk about your future with him, including meeting his daughters. Let him know your expectations clearly so that he can make a decision on where to go from there. Don’t feel like you’re being demanding or needy. This is an important issue for you, and if he really is in it for the long haul, he’d want to know how to keep you.
Fish-E November 1, 2012, 3:42 pm
Hmmm. Well my husband and I were separated for a year and half. And even though I went out (and he did too) and met other men, I knew in my heart that we would end up together. Never once did I think about filling for divorce.
Have an honest talk with him, don’t set yourself up for a heart ache.
The Validationer November 1, 2012, 10:17 pm
Dear Ms. Unvalidated,
Consider yourself validated.
call-me-hobo November 1, 2012, 11:06 pm
Oh No.. I think I’m in love with you- not only for your name, but the fact that your avatar is PERFECT.
Emily November 2, 2012, 8:14 pm
Best screename ever!
GTR November 2, 2012, 12:12 am
“He has two girls (aged 16 and 11) whom he gets every second week, so we work on a week on-week off schedule. I stay at his place most nights during his week off with girls.”
This struck me as strange. The LW is virtually living at her boyfriend’s place, and yet his 16 year old daughter doesn’t notice any evidence that there’s a woman living in her father’s home when she’s not around? No dresses in the closet, no tampons in the bathroom cabinet, no diet colas or fancy teas in the kitchen? Is all evidence of the LW eradicated in a purge before the children visit?
There’s something odd going on here. The serious relationship talk between the two of them is long overdue.
Sue Jones November 2, 2012, 12:14 am
You know, his kids are teenagers. They aren’t looking for a new mommy. I say why not enjoy what you have? Trying to get everyone to be one big happy family may be too difficult and complicated right now for various reasons. Are you really looking to get married again? If anything ever happened to my husband, I would put my kids first and any relationship would have to work around them. I don’t think I would be looking for a new daddy for the kids… and I think it is smart of him to compartmentalize things for now. True you need to have the talk about where you both see this going, but I also see no need to rush introductions.
MMcG November 2, 2012, 12:29 am
$20 says the kids know… maybe not the younger one, but I don’t see Dad getting this over on the 16 year old for the past 2 years no matter how good he thinks he is 😉
SallyS November 5, 2012, 11:05 pm
There are so many reasons not to get the kids involved “too soon,” from wanting to be the “good parent” to fearing it may traumatize them to shying away from the message it could send the significant other, and a million other things. These reasons all come from a good place, even if two years down the road, they create a muddy situation.
I think Wendy is right about focusing on the larger point, which is – what kind of a relationship is this going to be? If it’s not something that will lead to another marriage, I can see not getting the kids involved. But that needs to be clarified. And if it is a serious relationship in the man’s eyes, then she does deserve the validation that comes from being a legimitate, recognized part of Dad’s life.
My dad was working on his fourth marriage when he died, and I have to say, I met some people I absolutely shouldn’t have met, including his last affair partner. I appreciate parents who keep their private lives to themselves until a decision about seriousness has been made. However, it looks like it’s time to start making that decision.
tbrucemom November 6, 2012, 6:08 pm
I guess I’m old fashioned but I wouldn’t date a man that was still legally married