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  1. #1

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    Freaked Out! Dating a man with kids!

    Hi, All.

    Well, this is definitely new territory for me. I am recently (a year) divorced after being in a 14-year marriage. I started dating a guy in January of this year who has two daughters (12 and 14). Yeah, I know. Tough ages. For months, we kept things quiet, and that suited me just fine. I always told the guy that it was fine not to share his private life with his daughters, but if they asked him a direct question such as, "Are you dating?" -- he shouldn't lie to them. The inevitable finally happened last month. His oldest daughter asked him if he had a girlfriend. I met the girls at a sporting event soon after that because I believe they were extremely curious and wanted to make sure I wasn't a monster.

    The pluses: The guy is great. We live 1 1/2 hours away from each other (yes, this is a plus in my eyes). We have a fantastic time together. We're very compatible. He's very understanding of my work. He knew me before we dated and really knows and likes the real me. The girls are great, at least so far as I know.

    The minuses: He has kids! I don't have children and never wanted children. He has an ex-wife!!!! Yes, I know I have an ex too, but since we don't have children, we don't share children and have no other ties (financial or otherwise), he isn't a factor in my life.

    The kids like me, so I've heard. His oldest chose to spend the day with us last Saturday -- even though it was not her father's weekend. The ex seems ok with my existence, but who really knows.

    I'm freaked out. I think I'm so freaked out because I didn't expect this relationship to get serious. I keep trying to convince myself that it's not serious (I don't even refer to myself as his girlfriend and I don't refer to him as my boyfriend), but all evidence is to the contrary. Now that the kids are involved, I feel like I've taken this impossible step forward and I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with it. I don't want to ruin a perfectly good relationship, but I'm anxious about the possibility of becoming more serious with a man with kids. Sigh.

    So far, I've just taken things one day at a time, one "date" (I don't even use *that* word ) at a time, but that approach has gotten me further and further down this path almost without me even realizing it ...

    Any advice?

    O-

  2. #2
    Tranquillo
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    I'd try to worry less and just see what happens (easy to say ). Kids can certainly complicate a relationship, but I also know a lot of people who have great, positive relationships with their stepkids. Try to respect that they need some time alone with their dad and that you're not always around when they are, but otherwise, take things slow and just see how it develops. Relationships can go wrong (or succeed) for lots of different reasons, so just do your best to be thoughtful and recognize that they may have some feelings that aren't directly related to you or anything you do. Good luck
    "The Devil is joining in, and that's never a good sign." Phil Liggett

  3. #3

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    What Garden Kitty said. Also, although you are probably not at this stage yet, it's really important to respect the parents as the primary caregivers (for lack of a better word). What I mean by this is that e.g. if the kids act up, let their dad deal with it whenever possible, or if you disagree with something their mom lets them do, tell their dad your concerns and let him sort it out rather than telling the kids not to do it. Things can go sideways really fast for everyone if a third party is interfering, or being perceived to be interfering, in how divorced parents raise their kids.
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  4. #4

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    Thanks, Garden Kitty and overedge. All good thoughts. And, yes, I am definitely trying to take things as they come. In my saner moments, I do well. I am having a neurotic kind of day, I guess.

    The thing is, I don't want to be involved in parenting decisions. And I don't want to be around when their father has his time with the kids. I wish I could be a non-entity, actually, but that is now impossible. They ask about me. They email their dad with things to share with me. Simply put, I have no desire to be a parent -- especially to kids who have two perfectly great parents (and, yes, I think both parents are doing a really good job). And the sound of "step mom" is both frightening and anxiety-inducing.

    So, it all comes back to me. Not the kids. Not the guy. And what I want and what I can live with. I've already been in a marriage that turned very badly after 10 years due to substance abuse. I neglected myself and my wants and needs for a very long time to the point of almost losing my life last year due to a health concern that resulted in sudden cardiac death. I am very lucky to be alive. And now I ask myself: "Do I really want to be involved with a whole other family?" And, yet, I'm a loving, nurturing person, and that's part of the problem. When people are in my life, I nurture them at my expense. It's so tough. I'm scared to go back there ...

    O-

  5. #5

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    If you don't want anything to do with his kids, I think you really need to ask yourself if this relationship is worth pursuing. They are part of the package and deserve someone who wants to accept them. I'm not trying to be rude or anything, and I think it's great that you are so up-front and being completely honest with yourself about it. Some people just don't want to be parents in any way, shape, or form, and that's COMPLETELY fine. But he already IS a parent and...and there's no changing that.
    Team Peeps!

  6. #6

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    The kids are 12 and 14 years old and they have - as you say - two great parents. There is no need for an additional parent. I think it is even better that you don't have the wish to fulfil that role (which would probably lead to stress and resentment from the kids, at least at the beginning, i.e. "you are not my mom" )
    If you manage, however, to be a friend to the family, the relationship might be a lot easier for all the people involved.
    The kids don't seem to live with the father, therefore you will not see them very often but they are of course an integral part of his life. Of course you have to be okay with that but it is perfectly all right just to be a friend to them and no mother figure. At this point in time the latter would really be an overkill.

  7. #7

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    The kids have equal time with both parents. 1/2 the time they live with their father. 1/2 the time they live with their mother. But, as I mentioned, we live 1 1/2 hours from each other, so we don't spend a lot of time together to begin with.

    I do ask myself all the time if this relationship's worth pursuing. And my answer is always the same: "If we're both enjoying each other, then why not?" From Day One, I've taken the day to day approach. It's just that now that the kids are involved, I'm beginning to question that approach. I would never want to hurt his children.

    I certainly do accept the kids. They are wonderful. But I don't want to be a parent. And I'm circumspect about my own attitude in that regard. Friend may be do-able. I just don't know right now. I think that's the bottom line. I don't know how much of myself I am ready or willing to give.

    It's amazing how just typing out your thoughts and feelings and reading other's opinions and comments can move your thought process forward.

    Thanks

    O-

  8. #8

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    You're right, badams, that the kids deserve an accepting person in their father's life. But every relationship needs to be negotiated to some extent. I have no idea if the kids even want to spend time with me at the expense of spending alone time with their dad. I'm sure they have conflicting emotions as well. I think, in that regard, we're probably all in synch at this point, which is more reason to take things slowly and cautiously.

    O-

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliviaPug View Post

    Any advice?
    There's a website for stepmothers who do not have their own biological children. Being in this role pretty much means that even if you put this guy first, he will still put you third. Just keepin' it real.

  10. #10

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    Yep, heckles. I know from my mom and her own relationship with my step dad (and my step dad's relationship with his kids) that the kids will always and forever come first. That's pretty much a given.

    It's one thing to realize and quite another to accept and be OK with. I'm OK with it now because it's sort of obvious that he would put his kids first. Just because it's expected and I realize and accept, doesn't mean it feels good all the time.

    O-

  11. #11
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    Yeah, if you're dating the guy, you have to be able to deal with the kids. Unless you can take it really slowly and wait 6 years until both daughters are away at college. I've tried online dating and a lot of the divorced men are upfront about it in their profile: "Love me, love my kids."

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by susan6 View Post
    Yeah, if you're dating the guy, you have to be able to deal with the kids. Unless you can take it really slowly and wait 6 years until both daughters are away at college. I've tried online dating and a lot of the divorced men are upfront about it in their profile: "Love me, love my kids."
    Yep. The guy I've been dating hasn't said anything like that, but I'm sure he feels that way. In fact, he's very closed-mouthed about the whole thing. That's probably a source of my anxiety as well, but I'm not ready to have any kind of "kid" conversation with him. He probably senses that, which is why he's kept his mouth shut.

    O-

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliviaPug View Post
    I'm OK with it now because it's sort of obvious that he would put his kids first. Just because it's expected and I realize and accept, doesn't mean it feels good all the time.
    I suspect that the fact you've already mentioned twice that he lives 1 1/2 hours away is a sign of your valid apprehension.

    As a stepparent, society will expect you to be able to turn on and off your devotion like a faucet, lest you be deemed the Evil Stepmother. When things are going well between you and their parent, you are assumed to consider those kids "family" and maybe even perform some parental tasks. Your beau's not doing that now, but that does not mean he never will.

    When you and the parent break up, you're generally expected to just go away quickly and quietly so that a new stepmother can take your place. Don't expect a solid visitation plan or even appreciation for what you did.

  14. #14
    aspiring tri-national
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    Quote Originally Posted by heckles View Post
    There's a website for stepmothers who do not have their own biological children. Being in this role pretty much means that even if you put this guy first, he will still put you third. Just keepin' it real.
    Second this. I was a stepmother for 11 years, live-in for most of it. And then I was the parent married to the childless step-parent when my child was a teenager. And I'm a step-child myself although my mom didn't remarry until I was 21.

    The children always come first, and if they don't something is wrong. Yes, on a particular day a parent might choose to do something fun with the partner and arrange for the children to do something else, but that's an anomaly. Basically, with a parent, you are having a relationship with more than just your partner.

    I sympathize. I'm long past wanting to parent or step-parent small children, my daughter is 24. And the guy I'm seeing lives 12 hours by plane away, so it's not really an ongoing relationship, which is fortunate since he has two small children and I just don't want to be a part of that. If the relationship were to get more serious and we were in the same country for a while I know I would have to choose. So do take it seriously, you're asking the right questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by heckles View Post

    When you and the parent break up, you're generally expected to just go away quickly and quietly so that a new stepmother can take your place. Don't expect a solid visitation plan or even appreciation for what you did.
    This isn't always true. I've been divorced from my first husband for twenty years and last month my youngest stepdaughter brought her new baby to visit me, a three-hour drive. I see my stepson and his family a few times a year. Only the oldest, who lives in Nevada and is something of a screwup, is out of my life completely.

    I'm always pleased when two of my stepchildren still want to see me!
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

  15. #15
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    I think it's actually good that the daughters are 12 and 14. Difficult ages, sure, but they're also certainly old enough to speak their minds. You don't necessarily have to worry if you're taking away their dad time. You just have to ask them.

    My fiance's parents divorced when he was very young and his stepfather has actually had quite a hand in his parenting when he lived with his mom. You won't have that much responsibility. Certainly not 10 years of it.

    I have a friend who's dating a guy with a 7-year-old son from a previous relationship. The son has health issues and the ex is a bit nutty but...nothing too bad. I haven't asked her the nitty gritty about it, but it's working well for her. I certainly didn't expect her to be the kind of woman who'd date a guy with existing children, but they like each other a lot and they're making it work.

    So yes, what you decide is basically up to you. The daughters are older so you don't have to guess what'd be best for them, and by all accounts, both their parents are supportive so I don't foresee any issues there. But as you said, it's something that you have to figure out for yourself.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by OliviaPug View Post
    The kids have equal time with both parents. 1/2 the time they live with their father. 1/2 the time they live with their mother. But, as I mentioned, we live 1 1/2 hours from each other, so we don't spend a lot of time together to begin with.

    I do ask myself all the time if this relationship's worth pursuing. And my answer is always the same: "If we're both enjoying each other, then why not?" From Day One, I've taken the day to day approach. It's just that now that the kids are involved, I'm beginning to question that approach. I would never want to hurt his children.

    I certainly do accept the kids. They are wonderful. But I don't want to be a parent.
    A couple of thoughts occurred to me. First, if the relationship progresses and you choose to co-habit or mover closer to each other, you'll be closer to the kids as well.

    Can you maintain a relationship with him and them, without assuming the parent role?

    You've said you and he haven't negotiated the kids' issue - sounds like a key priority to me.

    Lastly, given that the kids are 12 and 14, and only with their dad half time, should make the situation easier. They are entering the ages when they are living their lives independently to a certain extent, so you won't have kids underfoot.

    But nonetheless, a relationship of some sort is inevitable.

    From what you say the relationship is going well, so maybe it's worth putting effort into the kids' issue.

    My brother ended a relationship with a woman who was quite perfect for him because of issues involving her kids, aged 11 and 16. I always thought that was really too bad, as it would have been worth working it out.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by PRlady View Post
    This isn't always true. I've been divorced from my first husband for twenty years and last month my youngest stepdaughter brought her new baby to visit me, a three-hour drive.
    Which is why I used the "generally" qualifier. You're indeed fortunate that your ex-stepkids keep you in their lives. It speaks well of you, them and your ex. A lot of ex-stepparents, sometimes by no fault of their own, are relegated to being mentioned in passing by the kids as "Bob" or "Anne". Ouch.

  18. #18
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    From watching my friends' children, almost all have/had become increasingly interested in school activities and friends in high school, and the children who were crushed when they missed a visiting day/weekend with the secondary (for lack of a better word) custody parent when they were 8 or 12 were blowing off visits the older they got. (The advantage is that the younger child[ren] started to get alone time until becoming a teenager[s].)

    I had lunch with a friend yesterday whose only child is headed off to another continent for college in a few weeks, and she told me that you can do just about anything if you have children that you can do if you don't, but that most of the time, it just can't be spontaneous. Since you live so far away from the man with whom you're doing whatever-it-is-you're-doing, spontaneity probably isn't much of a factor. That goes for both sides, including the kids. It's not like you're 15 minutes away, and they can invite you to see soccer practice.
    "The team doesn't get automatic capacity because management is mad" -- Greg Smith, agile guy

  19. #19

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    It's good that you are trying to think all this through, and good that this guy seems to have a good relationship with his kids. A friend of mine who is divorced has an ex-husband who is really a jerk. He would not make time for the kids, except rarely, and then got himself transferred 4 hours away. When my friend also got transferred to the same area, so she could be closer to her parents (who are elderly but can help with the kids when she needs to travel for work) her ex told her not to expect him to see the kids or help in any way. Turns out, he has a new girlfriend who has at least one kid, and who does not want to be a step parent. Very sad that he would throw away his own kids for the sake of a new relationship. And strange that his new girlfriend thinks it's good that he threw them away. Guess she thinks it can't happen to her!

    So I guess what I am trying to say with this story is don't try to make him choose, because either way, it is probably not a good thing.

  20. #20
    I <3 Kozuka
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    I had an only-child college boyfriend whose step-mother would not meet his mother until she had more children with his father than his mother did.

    It would be easy to run if the parents weren't getting along, if the ex was manipulative and impossible, or if the children were awful. Since none of this applies, so it really is about OP and her feelings about the guy and having a relationship with him.
    "The team doesn't get automatic capacity because management is mad" -- Greg Smith, agile guy

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