“My Boyfriend Is Going Through a Messy Divorce and Doesn’t Have Enough Time for Me”


I have been seeing my boyfriend “Jim” for almost six months now. Jim is a guy and isn’t perfect at everything, and neither am I perfect. We are both adults with very busy, complicated schedules. I am a full time nurse, and, along with other community groups I participate in, I have an inconsistent schedule.

Jim works for a family business and about a year and half ago separated from his wife. About six months ago, right before we started seeing one another, he filed for divorce. I only know his side of the story, and, from what he has shared, they fought endlessly, she cheated multiple times, she was emotionally abusive, and the list of issues goes on. She did not work during or prior to the marriage. Thus, she has been completely dependent upon him, and still is. Their divorce is not finalized because she is contesting. They have two children, ten and five. He loves them to death, and I really love that he is so devoted to his children. I’m also happy that he is open to having more children in the future, since I would like to have children too. I don’t know all the gory details of Jim’s marriage and divorce, and I am not sure I want to.

Sometimes, Jim will share with me what is happening, and I try to be supportive and listen, but I’ve never gone through a divorce and I don’t have children, so I don’t know what the right answers are. At times I will Google and try to read up, but there is so much going on. And they were only married for six years, so there’s no set anything to go by.

He has his own hobbies, which is great and he loves them, but they affect his availability. Also, his soon-to-be ex frequently changes the times and dates he can see the kids, which also affects things. There are times when I feel like I would completely rearrange my schedule to be more compatible with his constantly fluctuating one, but he still can’t always make time for me. On the Wednesdays or Tuesdays when he doesn’t have his kids I would like to just hang out and relax, but he will often just want to be alone. I am not asking for every free moment, but, on the days we are either off or available to each other, I don’t understand why we can’t have a little more time together.

I haven’t met his kids yet, and I understand they are going through a difficult event. I am not pushing to meet them either. The topic hasn’t come up and I don’t even know if I should bring it up. Should I mention it? Because I would really enjoy meeting them. I just don’t want to be pushy.

Recently, I told Jim that I love him. He didn’t say it back and that’s okay for now. I am not going to browbeat him to say it, but I hope that he will. We have talked about the future, discussing things in terms of “we” instead of just “I.” We do take weekend getaways when we can, or sometimes go out to things on some weekends. But these are all planned almost last minute. It’s like I get him in concentrated doses and then it’s just phone calls. And he does call me almost every night and sometimes during the day when I’m off and he’s on his lunch break.

I just don’t want to be a fool, waiting around for someone who doesn’t see me as important in his life. I don’t need to be number 1. That right is reserved for his kids. But maybe #2 eventually? Am I asking for too much? Am I being a silly, nervous girl? Because I do love him; it’s just the whole situation makes me soo nervous. I feel helpless at times. — In Love with Man Divorcing

It sounds like you want more than Jim is able to give you right now, and you need to decide whether you can be patient and wait for his life to settle down a bit or if you’d rather move on and find someone who is as available to you immediately as you’d like him to be. That’s not currently Jim, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be eventually. He’s in the middle of what sounds like a messy divorce. He has two young kids whose parents have recently separated and who need extra love and support and attention right now. He’s also trying to navigate co-parenting (and probably custody arrangements) with a woman he has a lot of unsettled issues with — a woman he is still legally married to who is contesting his divorce filing. On top of that, he works for a family business that she may or may not have some financial interest in. That’s a lot on his plate. If, despite all that, and after only six months with you, he’s giving you as much time and attention as you say he is — weekend getaways and frequent phone calls — seems like a good sign and a good indicator of his feelings for you. But to push him beyond that when he is dealing with so much seems unreasonable and unrealistic. You risk pushing him away for good.

On the other hand, you are a single woman who’d like to have a family of your own one day. You’ve found a man you think you love. It’s natural that, after six months, you’d want to progress to something more formal and serious. It’s understandable that you’d at least like to have more regular quality time with him — time that is planned in advance. But Jim can’t give you that right now. It doesn’t mean you aren’t important to him or that he doesn’t see a future with you eventually, but your timelines may simply not be a match. It may be a couple years before he can give you the kind of commitment you want now, and even then he’s still going to have kids who come before you and an ex-wife who will always be in the picture. Are those things you can deal with? Can you wait while he deals with the mess that is his life at the moment?

Be honest with yourself and, if this isn’t what you’re prepared to deal with, MOA. If you can’t give Jim the space he needs to handle everything he has on a his plate, MOA. If you need more than he is giving you, MOA. But if you think you can be patient and that your patience could pay off eventually, hang in there. But don’t push him. Accept that the way your relationship is right now is how it will be for a while. If you don’t want to wait, embrace that and let go of this relationship.


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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. tbrucemom says:

    All I have to say is don’t date a man who is actually divorced.

    1. tbrucemom says:

      Darn it, that should say “isn’t actually divorced”!

      1. I actually have to disagree. I know folks whose divorces have dragged on for several years (and whose marriages were over long before that), and it makes no sense for someone to remain off the market that long if it’s not what they want.

      2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Yeah, I’d say this isn’t a great hard and fast rule. There are so many factors and variables in a divorce that can drag it on and on. This doesn’t mean that a person is emotionally unavailable for a relationship in the meantime.

      3. RedRoverRedRover says:

        I know someone who isn’t even divorced and she’s been living with her new partner for 5 years. She and her husband have an amicable relationship and don’t want to bother going through the expense of the divorce process. He lives with his girlfriend too. It would be ridiculous to say neither of them should be in relationships because they haven’t finalized (or even begun) their divorce.

      4. Skyblossom says:

        I’d be wary of being the new significant other in that situation because legally they are husband and wife. They still own joint property, they are each the legal heir of the other, the beneficiary of survivors benefits and if one of them is incapacitated the other is the one who will make medical decisions for them. That is too much baggage for me.

        My grandmother-in-law (GIL) was separated but never divorced. The other woman lived with GIL’s husband for far longer than GIL did, by decades, but when he died she was the widow, not the other woman and she got the widow’s pension, not the other woman. The other woman applied for the benefit first, and then when it was found that she wasn’t actually the widow she got into legal trouble for filing a false claim.
        A couple that I only knew peripherally were separated but not divorced because the husband didn’t want to split assets. He hated the idea of being worth half as much after a divorce. He was living with his girlfriend, they were very happy together. Then, he had a heart attack and his wife was the woman at the hospital making medical decisions for him and she banned his girlfriend from the hospital. As soon as he was out of the hospital he got divorced because he didn’t want his wife, who he thought of as his ex but was in every way his legal wife, to make decisions for him.
        I think if a relationship is finished it should be legally ended.

      5. Completely agree.

      6. Yeah, something similar happened to my mom when her long-term boyfriend died. He hadn’t had any contact with his (ex?) wife in YEARS. He had even updated his will leaving a specific piece of property (his cottage that they renovated together) to my mom. But he used one of those fill-in-the-blank will kits, so there were a lot of legal loopholes. It went to court, and the wife got everything because she was still legally his wife. My mom was heartbroken.

      7. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        It makes me really uncomfortable that there needs to be legalities in situations like this. What kind of person goes after all of the property of someone they haven’t had contact with in years? How does a person justify that in their own head? How did she decide that she deserved that more than your mom? How the hell do people get so greedy?

      8. bittergaymark says:

        Well, they did both renovate it together… Only a fool would use a will from a kit if you have REAL assets…

      9. I meant that he renovated it with my mom, not the ex wife.

      10. Skyblossom says:

        It was a choice he made. They may have not had physical contact in years but they were still financially connected the entire time so any money he spent on the renovations belonged as much to the ex partner as it did to him. So he was spending money that wasn’t actually all his and it is hard to write a will that will take away the share that your legal partner has in a property. The law protects the legal partner so you need to make sure your partner is your legal partner or you have no legal partner who owns half your assets.

      11. I hope everyone has legally-binding and updated wills at least every so often. My grandpa’s last valid will ended up being from before his grandchildren were born (including me) because he hasn’t bothered to go through the whole will process in over 20 years, plus he had two ex-wives and complicated relationships with everyone (so lots of courts and lawyers).

      12. Even then…. my aunt had a legal binding will from her husband who passed a few years ago from cancer, BUT his son from his first marriage still tried to get EVERYTHING and sued. She ended up settling just to be done with it.
        Even if he hadn’t sued and my aunt settled, the son would have inherited millions.
        You really can’t be too careful with this stuff, so I’ve learned.

      13. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Well…. it actually works for her because where we live, she would be common law now with her partner. And her partner’s ex is a horrible money-grubbing person with a crack team of lawyers, who would go after HER money if she was common law married. So the other marriage actually protects them financially. I don’t know why the husband is ok with it though.
        Anyway, my original point is that it doesn’t make someone emotionally unavailable. They’re fine to date. Personally I wouldn’t want to be financially embroiled with someone in that situation, but I guess life happens and you fall in love and then what are you gonna do?

      14. Skyblossom says:

        Just curious, how can you be the common law spouse of someone who is still legally married? I still assume if he died or was incapacitated there would be a huge legal fight over his assets. Especially if he was incapacitated where he couldn’t handle his own finances.

        Also, it seems like you would be financially at risk if their emotionally ex but legally married spouse ran up a large amount of debt. Half of it would belong to the legal spouse and anything you bought together would in part belong to their legal spouse.

      15. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        If we can have common law marriage, why can’t we have common law divorce? Like “Okay, they’re both living with other people, have apparently separated all of their assets, and no longer refer to each other as husband and wife, and also they’ve been filing their taxes as single for like 6 years – divorced!”

      16. Skyblossom says:

        I assume that most couples who have lived together and then separated could be considered common law divorced but if you have legal joint property you must split it legally or it remains joined. Most of what the divorce entails is splitting the marital assets, including the children.

      17. RedRoverRedRover says:

        You can’t, that’s what I was getting at. Her assets are protected from her partner’s ex-wife, because even though they’ve been living together they can’t legally be common-law because she’s already married. If she was divorced, her assets would be available for the ex-wife to try to get her hands on, because she would be common-law-married to her current partner.

      18. Skyblossom says:

        I see. That makes sense.

      19. Only curious, not judging…did your grandmother give the other woman the money or did she feel entitled to it? Again, only curious and interested, not judging. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation if I was the grandmother.

      20. Skyblossom says:

        She was my husband’s grandmother. She kept the money. It was in another country and the equivalent of social security spousal payments. Since the other woman was never his spouse she couldn’t legally collect them. She was committing fraud when she filled out paperwork claiming to be his widow. She wasn’t a widow, she was a live-in girlfriend and there is a huge difference between the two legally. Because of her age the government decided to not prosecute her but if she had been younger she probably would have gotten time in jail. My husband’s grandmother received a check based on her husband’s employment until she died.

      21. tbrucemom says:

        Yep, that’s what I mean. As long as there’s a spouse, no matter their living arrangements, legally there are benefits and responsibilities whether you want them or not. Not to mention that you can’t remarry, What if you get involved with someone who’s still married who for whatever reason doesn’t get divorced for a while and you want to get married? What if they end up getting back together. I guess I’m just traditional but if someone is legally still married to someone else I’m not going to sleep with them.

      22. I get what you’re saying, but none of those situations would have changed if they had lived together unmarried. Maybe common law, but not every state has that.

  2. Sunshine Brite says:

    Please don’t refer to yourself as a silly girl, it demeans your own feelings.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Yes, I wanted to comment on that actually, and didn’t get to it. She also says in the second sentence “Jim is a guy and isn’t perfect at everything,” as if his being a male explains his flaws or something. Look, none of us is perfect, and men and women BOTH have emotions and feelings. Being a “girl” doesn’t have anything to do with being anxious in a relationship where your needs aren’t being met.

      1. Sunshine Brite says:

        That too, I’m like that’s the best you got to say about this person?

      2. I read that part and was like, “Uh, yes, boyfriends tend to be guys.”

  3. Looks like another favorite “Dear Wendy-ism” applies here….
    “Sometimes we meet the right person at the wrong time. Sometimes we fall in love with someone who isn’t emotionally available. Sometimes, the right person falls in love with us before we’re ready to open our hearts to him or her. This is what makes finding a long-term/life partner so difficult. It’s not enough to find someone you click with and really like and are attracted to and share common values and goals and interests with. You have to be ready for that person at the exact same time that that person is ready for you. It’s almost like catching lightning in a bottle, which is why, when it does happen, it’s so very special.”

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Oh, hey, that’s pretty good. 🙂

      1. It is WONDERFUL advice….and applies here perfectly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to my Wendy’isms. I keep them on my wall at work and I swear something applies every. single. day. So, thank you for that!

      2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I love that, thank you.

    2. I just shared this with my good friend, she wants to print it and put it on her fridge. These are definitely words I can use at this moment as well.

  4. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    this is a very stressful time for him, especially with kids involved. my husband went through his separation and divorce while we were together and it was stressful, and his ex and he were being very mature about it all.

    I think Wendy was spot on, you have to decide if this is the right situation for you. can you be a stepmom to these kids? And accept them as your own? you need to plainly discuss all the hard things with him *now*, not later. neither of you may have all the answers yet, but you need to get it all out on the table. and be honest with each other and yourselves, even if it hurts. there are kids involved, and they deserve adults around them who can communicate.

    as for the ex messing with schedules etc, it sucks. one of my husband’s exes was extremely hard to deal with regarding the weekends we had that child. plans would change on her end at the last minute. it didnt matter if we planned months in advance and communicated with her, the day before or even the day of, she would change her mind and we had to adapt. it was pretty upsetting for me, i need schedules and plans. but, i managed to figure out with my husband how to deal with it ‘internally’ i guess you’d say. you will have to learn to adjust and adapt to someone else, as well as children that are not yours.

    sometimes, it can all be very stressful, and it can suck. but i don’t regret for a minute marrying into 3 stepkids, i love them.

  5. Completely agree with Wendy. Neither of you are “wrong” in this situation, this is simply a case of bad timing. You want more, he’s more than likely emotionally and physically exhausted…thus his need for alone time. If you’re not willing to wait this out and be patient with him, and you want more out of this than he can give, it’s time to move on. It’s not fair to him and it’s not fair to you. I will also say, you mention that they were “only” married for 6 years. Yet they have a 10-year-old so they’ve been together for far longer than that. I’m betting you didn’t mean to come off this way, but it sounds like maybe you aren’t fully grasping the emotion behind this divorce because you’re saying they were “only” married for 6 years. 6 years is still a long time, and it will still take him a lot of time to process this and heal from this. I’m not divorced, but I can only imagine that going through one is like the worst breakup ever x 50.

  6. inkyboots says:

    I always have my favorite How I Met Your Mother Quote for situations like the one described above:
    “If you have chemistry, you only need one other thing. Timing.”
    Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time. And sometimes that means they’re the wrong person.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      That’s how I define “the one”. It’s not some perfect person who’s fated in the stars. It’s the person who’s the right fit, who comes along at the right time. And there’s only one of them, usually. Although some people are lucky enough to have lightning strike twice.

  7. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    WWS and WEES. Bottom line, LW- there is always some (often a huge amount of) risk in putting yourself/your heart/whatever out into the ether.
    I truly believe that almost any decision you make is a cost/benefit analysis, and that applies to romantic relationship decisions too. It is your decision if here if this guy is worth it. Only you can answer that question for yourself. If you choose to stay with him, you may not even have your own answer for some time anyway. But, the choice is yours.

  8. bittergaymark says:

    Eh, casually dating somebody going through a messy divorce? Fine. Trying to get serious with them? Really, really never a very smart plan. Why? The person going through the messy divorce is simply NEVER EVER ready for it. And HELLO, rebound!
    And while this may not have been penned by a silly girl — much of this letter is very silly. From sexist remarks, to noting the marriage was only for six years. Um.. It’s not the length of the marriage that matters — but the relationship. At that lasted for at least 11 years or so as they have a ten year old…

    1. I actually agree. My boyfriend’s break-up (they were common law, but shared property and children so aside from formal divorce papers it’s pretty much the same) was and is a difficult thing to work around if you want something serious. When we first started dating, it was right after the separation and very casual. If I had been wanting a serious relationship at that time the upheaval and unavailability would have made me crazy – and sometimes it made me crazy anyway! It’s natural to want to spend time with people you like.

      I was recently separated myself when I met him, so I feel like our needs for a relationship kind of dovetail; both of us are more into letting things happen. LW, since the divorce was just started 6-7 months ago, it’s going to be a while before things die down – especially since it’s a messy one. Messy divorce and serious relationship are not a good mix. Be content with what you have now, and go with the flow, or if you can’t MOA.

  9. Is the nervous feeling you described your gut telling you something? If yes, listen to it! I could’ve avoided a ton of heartbreak over the years if I listened to my gut.

    A couple years ago I dated a guy who was divorcing and it ended disastrously, with me being the one who had her heart broken and holy crap that situation HURT. He wasn’t ready to date again and I was his experiment/rebound; although I know every situation is different, I’d wager many/most people divorcing aren’t quite ready so soon either, particularly after more than a decade and starting a family together. Your situation sounds significantly more complicated than mine was with kids involved and a difficult ex-wife who will be in his life (and possibly yours) forever by virtue of their shared kids. I think it’ll be a long time before you’re a main focus, honestly. Be honest: are you ok with that? Personally, I wouldn’t be. If you are, that’s awesome. I think as long as you are honest with yourself about what you want, what you can handle, and how long you’re willing to wait for something that might never pan out how you hope it will, you will be ok. Good luck!

  10. I really can’t add anything here that hasn’t been stated already. Pretty much a mix of the right person at the right time, and sadly the timing doesn’t seem to be here. You could be patient and wait for your times to align, but you’d be risking waiting your life away. I’m not envious of your situation. Best of luck LW.

  11. oh man…. its PAINFULLY obvious that he is sooo just not into her….

  12. Lisa Hardy says:

    I think you could both really benefit from reading a recent guide to divorce from Henry Gornbein called Divorce Demystified.
    It is such a stressful and complicated time which can impact so many aspects of your daily life and future relationships. I think the key is in understanding the process well and being fully prepared for what to expect next. Divorce Demystified is a better resource than any I have found for getting yourself totally clued up.

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