About a month ago I started seeing a guy I used to work with when I was younger. We’ve always been friends, and seeing each other in a romantic way came completely out of the blue. But my ex-fiancé’s family have already been interfering and have been trying to scare him off. It started with them sending him messages saying he shouldn’t be with me. When he didn’t reply and blocked them from social media, they got other people to message him instead on their behalf. In total, about six different people have messaged my new partner. They’ve even gone as far as to invite him to their house to discuss why he’s in a relationship with me and to justify why he wants to be with me. Only two days ago my ex in-laws tracked down my new partner’s parents and have started messaging them telling them that their son shouldn’t be getting involved with me, spreading cruel lies, etc. It’s taking its toll on me and my new partner, and I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared that if it doesn’t work out with this guy, it won’t ever work with anyone else.
I feel completely hopeless and so down about the whole situation. Will they always be there to ruin things for me? Will they ever leave me alone? It’s hard enough dating as a single mom, but to date while I’ve got ex in-laws who hate me just makes everything so much harder. I don’t know what to do. Any advice will be appreciated. — Harassed By Ex In-Laws
I’m sorry for the loss of your fiancé and son’s father, and I’m sorry his family has made what must already be a painful time in your life so much more challenging. Because they will always be your son’s biological family and because they seem committed to making your life harder than it has to be, it would be in your and your son’s best interest to try to reach a place with them where you can be civil with each other. That may not be possible, but I would try. I would try to sit down with them in person, without your son, and express to them how much they are hurting you, how are you are trying to provide a happy life for your son and yourself, and that you would appreciate it if they would give you the peace to do just that.
If they refuse to leave you alone, or if the harassment continues, I would look into getting a restraining order. You could speak to an attorney or someone from your local courthouse to find out more details about whether you have a case for a restraining order and how you would go about filing for one. If they respect your wishes and do give you the peace you request, you may want to consider fostering a relationship between them and your son. (Something tells me it won’t be a smooth transition, though, and that you may not have to worry about this step for a long time, if ever.)
As you move forward with your life, I’d keep a few things in mind, such as: Your life is not for public consumption. Why do people you don’t even speak to know who you’re dating after only a month? Are you making it public on social media? If so, stop doing that. In fact, get off social media altogether. Give harassers one less way to harass you. If you’ve been dating someone one month, maybe don’t be so quick to call him your “partner.” I don’t care how long you’ve known each other, one month is too damn soon to be using that kind of language to define your relationship to each other, especially when you have a young child. You need to slow way down — take time getting to know each other in this new light, feel out the new dynamic between you, establish what sort of connection you have as a twosome before you start broadcasting to everyone that you’re a couple. You’re so young, you’ve suffered an enormous loss, and you have the responsibility of single parenthood resting on your shoulders; these are all reasons why you should spend at least six months dating someone before you make it official and before you even introduce your child to the relationship. Your son has already experienced such loss in his young life; your #1 priority should be protecting him from experiencing more loss, not worrying about whether you’ll ever have another boyfriend.
And on that note, look: this guy is not your only and last shot at love. That you worry about that is a strong indicator that you may not be quite ready to date just yet. You should be standing sturdy on your own two feet and not NEED a partner before you find one. A boyfriend ought to be a bonus to your life, not the glue to hold it all together. If you’re feeling a desperation that it’s now or never, that’s a sign you aren’t holding it all together yourself — that you’re looking for a partner to help you.
Help yourself. Take care of yourself. Take care of your son on your own. Stand strong on your own two feet. Battle your own dragons. No Knight in shining armor comes without strings. If you start a relationship already feeling like the guy you’re dating is your last shot at love, you enter the relationship with an emotional deficit, internalizing a message that you owe him something for being with you (because you think no one else would be). That’s a terrible place to start a relationship. If the guy is a wonderful person, he may grow to resent you or be bored with your neediness. If he’s not a wonderful person, he may prey on your desperation, using it to manipulate you and take advantage of you.
Honestly, if I were you, I’d put this and any potential relationship on the back burner for a little bit. Sort out the tension between you and your former fiancé’s family. Maybe seek some therapy. Focus on yourself and your son and building a great life for the two of you before you start searching for someone to share it with. You’ll know you’re really ready to date when you’re no longer worried you have only one shot to find someone. You’ll know you’re ready when the idea of dating someone for a month and potentially losing him doesn’t scare the shit out of you because you and your son are ok on your own anyway, and because the right person for you won’t leave.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.