Today is Giving Tuesday, and also day two of our fifth annual DW holiday book drive. We’re nearly 90% to our goal of 215 books, but still have a few more left to be purchased. Please consider contributing to this drive and giving a memorable gift to some high-needs kids who might not otherwise feel so acknowledged and remembered this holiday season. Thank you!! And here’s today’s column:
I’ve met his 36-year-old son and his wife, and I just helped welcome the first grandchild at the hospital along with other family members and friends. I’ve spoken to one of his other grown sons (age 24) on FaceTime and we’ve texted. I’ve been to his elderly parents home many times, eaten there, visited, etc. I’ve met Carl’s sister and her family as well as his cousins and the like. But ANYTIME the 17-year-old daughter and her 27-year-old brother are in town for holidays, I am discarded. I end up alone.
This has become a deal-breaker. We hash it out. We split up. He always defends “protecting her young heart.” I’d be really happy if he’d protect my old one and show some respect toward me. He’s very conflicted.
I know he loves me, but, after all this time, I’m concerned with the future. Will I always be the runner-up? Will our lives revolve around creating and perpetuating this illusion for her? I desperately seek your advice. I’m in terrible pain. — The Runner-Up
So, his daughter lives in another town? Why is that? Did Carl move after his divorce or did his daughter move? Was Carl separated from his wife before you started dating or did your relationship begin as an affair? Does Carl’s older son have a different mom?
He still sees his kids as much as possible — he’s at every award ceremony, every achievement, etc. He’s very involved, considering he’s one state away.
Our relationship did start as an affair, but I was already well into my divorce proceedings when we met, and his marriage had been in serious trouble for years. He only stayed as long as he did because he loves his kids and was very into every aspect of their lives.
On holidays they gather at the grandparents’ house. The ex goes to her family, and the children stay with the grandparents. He has four children. The 36-year-old is from an unplanned pregnancy and short marriage. The other three are from the second marriage. His daughter is the apple of his eye, naturally. She’s beautiful and very academic. One of her brothers is okay with me.
Carl and I are house-shopping and planning to get married in July, but I am so hurt. All my friends tell me this is horrible and he needs to talk to his daughter.
I’ve suffered through this for many years, many lonely holidays. And I don’t want it to be this way for the rest of my life. Is that how other poorly-blended families exist?
Since you’re planning to get married in July, does he ever plan to tell his kids this or will it be a secret marriage? Have you discussed where and with whom you’ll spend holidays as a married couple?
He says things will be different, that we will start traditions at our house. But if his daughter resists, it won’t happen. He’ll go to his parents to see her. That is my prediction.
Well, why are planning to marry him when you’ve never been included in his family holiday get-togethers and don’t believe you will be? Wouldn’t it make more sense to be included in at least a few family holidays before you agree to marry him?
Well, yeah, no one said that breaking up with someone, even if the relationship isn’t working, is easy. But, as you know, ending a marriage that doesn’t work isn’t easy either. You know what else isn’t easy? Learning that your husband is having an affair with another woman. You know what’s probably even harder than that? Being 11 or 12 years old, learning that your father is having an affair, and then watching helplessly as he leaves your family and moves to another state, four hours away, to be closer to his mistress.
Look, maybe your boyfriend stayed within a miserable marriage for years because, as you say, “He loves his kids and was very into every aspect of their lives.” Or maybe that’s just a line he fed you. Who knows. But, the truth is, at some point — a point that was exactly or very close to the time he got involved with you — “being into every aspect” of his kids’ lives wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to keep him married to their mom and it wasn’t even enough to keep him in the same state as theirs. He moved to be close to you. You, essentially, were more important than his kids. Or, at least, that’s probably how it looks to them. Can you blame them for not wanting to spend the little time they have with their dad with you, too — the woman who, in their mind, broke up their family and stole their father from them?
I am not completely unsympathetic to you. I can appreciate how frustrating it is to not have the man you love by your side for special occasions. I can appreciate that you must feel lonely when he ditches you to spend Christmas with his kids. I can also appreciate how lonely their mother probably feels to not have her kids with her on Christmas because they’re spending the holiday with their dad–who left her and them, for you. You say she spends the holidays with her family. Is that not something you can do? Do you not have anyone beside Carl to spend special occasions with?
Because Carl has made clear that, for the time-being, you will not be part of his family holiday get-togethers where/when his daughter is present, and you find that is a deal-breaker for you (fair enough), you need to make other plans and MOA. Don’t plan a wedding with a man who won’t invite you to spend Christmas with his family. That’s just stupid. Don’t plan on moving in with someone who can’t share, or at least introduce you to, all the major parts of his life. That’s dumb. Just move on. Or… accept this relationship for what it is — a relationship that began as an extramarital affair that deeply hurt several people and that will remain complicated for the foreseeable future.
Love isn’t always easy. And your love and its challenges have caused pain for more than just you. Accept that (as his ex-wife and kids were forced to) or move on.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.