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Monday
Feb082010

Co-Parenting Dad to Girlfriend: "My Kids Will Always Come Before You"



Last spring, Mike's wife and our kids' stepmom, Sherry gave some advice to a reader, Kelly, who felt like "just the sideline girlfriend" in a relationship with a co-parenting dad who was at times rather too close for comfort with his ex.

Recently, Alisha, another reader who is dating a devoted co-parenting dad, responded to what Sherry wrote, and asked for advice as she wonders if there is room in her boyfriend's life, and heart, for her...and for any kids they may have together:

Sherry,

I have really appreciated your willingness to share your story, and provide an alternative to many less-peaceful stories I hear. Because you have shared my situation so closely, I ask for your advice.

I am dating a fabulous man with two little kiddos (son, 5, and daughter, 7) from a marriage that ended three years ago. It was a rough marriage, and a rough divorce, and my man is still smarting from it a little bit. To his ex's credit, she has been supportive of my relationship with her children's father- I'm sure it helps that she is re-married- and there has been no real tension between us other than a little awkwardness.

Personally, I am 29 and have never been married nor had children, and, also coming from a divorced family where dad was absent (and Mom is STILL seething), it is very touching to me that my boyfriend is a devoted dad with 50/50 custody. Admittedly, it is also difficult for me to understand. While I want the best for his kids (after all, I've been in his daughter's shoes) it's hard for me to hear him say, bluntly, "My kids will always come before you." Going into a marriage (which we're talking about) for the first time, I'm sure you held the same hopes I have have, of being cherished as a companion and confidant, and wondering if this desire died for my boyfriend with his first marriage. I fully hope to have children of my own (and so does he, he tells me), but I can't help but worry that when he says his children come before me, that his first two children will come before mine. As I said, I want his kids to have happy, loved lives, but isn't there room for more? Would it be fair for me to bring children into a marriage where they could be getting ... emotional leftovers from their father? How can I bring up these concerns to my boyfriend and help him understand that I want his devotion to his children to continue, but also want to know there's more room for me and my hopes and dreams than just the empty side of his bed?

Read on for Sherry's response:

« When Your Fellow Co-Parent is Openly Hostile Towards You | Main | “Parenting is More Than Just Putting a Roof Over Your Kids’ Heads" »

Reader Comments (34)

What great information. I have to admit that I am that parent. When I first started dating my now husband, I told him that "my kids come first."
I didn't do it to be mean or to ward him off. I did out of respect for him and my children.

My kids do come first and they always will. But, that doesn't mean that he can't be a part of putting the kids first too.

He was so amazing when I told him that my kids come first. His response to me was, "I wouldn't have it any other way." That's when I knew that he was the right one!

Over the next three years of our relationship, he definitely proved that he puts my kids first. And he always puts them first in everything. They may not be his biological children, but, he treats them as if they were.

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErica

[...]  Co-Parenting Dad to Girlfriend: “My Kids Will Always Come Before You” [...]

Thanks for stopping by, Erica! I stopped by your blog, read your post about co-parenting, and left a comment. Kudos to you, your ex, and your new partners for cooperatively co-parenting for your kids' sake!

Best,
~Deesha

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thank you for sharing this. I am a single father and just being candid I have given my whole heart to my daughter. She would always come first if I were to connect again in life. Thanks again.

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Hi, Brian...thanks for stopping by. It's always great to hear from co-parenting dads.

Best,
~Deesha

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeesha

I agree with Erica -- I mean, his understanding that her child is her priority would certainly be a powerful foreshadowing of how he would treat their (joint) children if they decided to have any later. Adults can work our their own issues. It's the kids who are impressionable and can easily misinterpret innocuous messages and benign actions. That beings said....

@ Alisha -- Ask yourself how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot? Not even sure we (or he) should think about a first, second, or third place. The love (and devotion) he has toward his own kids is different for the love and devotion he has toward you. Over the years, I have shared many of the same concerns you have with continuing on with a new relationship, albeit from my perspective as a single dad. I have thought, "Well, if she has her own kids already, would her (more than one) kids get more love than my one? And....If we have kids together, would my child suffer from feeling like the odd wheel? Would she ever love my kid as she loves her own (if applicable) or will my kid just be an unfortunate inconvenience in her eyes?" The answer to these questions are those that I've had to add to my "deal breaker" list I ask myself from the jump.

In the end, I think we can sometimes get ourselves in trouble when we start to think about our relationship with our partner as being similar to that we have with our children, but I know this is easier said than done. Good luck.

February 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSingle dad

Excellent points, Single Dad!

Your comments reminds us that dating dads (and moms, too) put a lot of heart and thought into these issues.

And aren't "deal breaker lists" great? So very important when considering a new partnership.

Best,
~Deesha

February 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Single moms, dads, and kids...oh my!!

The fact is that when a family is blended together the love should multiply not divide...if it divides then no one needs to be in that situation!

There are times when step-mom/dad must realize that the top priority will be for the kids...and that is ALL the kids not his/her/ours. Why the delineation?

There was once an interview with Jada Pinkett-Smith and she mentioned that to love her (famous) husband and his child from a previous relationship, she had to also love the ex. This seems for many a very foreign concept, but the reality is that children are the product of two people and to love and respect them is to love, respect, and accept all the complexities that come with a blended family. We must find that love for all of them and in return we can expect a level of respect and love that is uncommon.

If you feel like you are second fiddle to anyone, the children included, then you may need to look at if you really see that this relationship is worth it for you. Only you can answer if it is indeed worth it for you.

Children will take top billing and priority. The children already accept their parent and love them above all other. The relationship between adults requires a level of devotion that must be worked at day after day. That work can be tiring, but fulfilling as well. The truth is that the previous relationship or marriage didn't work despite the vows taken. It can sting and be a constant nagging fear. Even so, the choice to risk it again and even to produce more children is telling. No one likes to be hurt, rejected, etc. but if you can't feel like you have any priority in your intended's life, then maybe it is best to know that from the outset.

Just as we talk to our partners about finances and such we need to be frank and open of what we need and expect. Perhaps it is something that they cannot give and in that case it is best to know now rather than later.

Good luck to you. It sounds as if there is a conversation that should be had prior to jumping ahead to marriage and children between the two of you. Be gentle, but be clear. Only you two will know if this relationship is right for all of you...

Truth

February 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTruth

[...] Co-Parenting Dad to Girlfriend: “My Kids Will Always Come Before You” [...]

I understand the sentiment "My kids will always come first." However, I have to say, I think this is a skewed way of looking at things. I made this mistake with my younger sister who I raised, saying she would always come first, before any other relationship. It made my relationship with her unbalanced. I didn't have anyone else in my life, so I ended up alone. I was trying to compensate for the fact that my sister didn't have a dad or a mom. I doubt that many people get married and say, "When we have kids, they become number one." Not exactly part of the vows. Why should you accept that just because the person is divorced? There are many important relationships in life; I think that your man or woman needs to be willing to accept that there can be more than one number one relationship. Give the important people in your life dignity and respect. All of them.

July 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosalyn

I have been dating a man who has a 13 year old daughter. I have three adult children, 21, 24, 28. I did tell him that my children come first... meaning no matter how old they get, it they called me because they were hurt, in danger, etc I would drop everything and go to them.
He tells me that his daughter is always first and he is correct. She calls the shots. I ask him if he can attend events with me and he says "Well I have to wait to see which night of the weekend I have my daughter." Every week, I wait to see which night he has his daughter and I plan my weekend accordingly. The night he doesn't have her, we spend together. The night he has her, I am able to make plans with friends. If he has her Saturday, and then she cancels on him because something better has come up, he then calls me to say he is now free. He is somewhat hurt that I don't change my existing plans I've made with friends to be with him. A 13 year old is dictating what happens on my weekends.
If she wants to spend the whole weekend with him, I'm out of luck. I can come over to watch TV with them, and sometimes I do, but he would never consider telling her that he would like to spend some time with me. He "doesn't want her to feel bad" What about me feeling bad???
I invited him for Thanksgiving. He told me his is going to have Thanksgiving with his X-wife, her husband, his daughter and the X-husbands family. Weird. I wish he just would have run that by me but he just accepted the invite and told me later.
A couple of New Year's Eves we spent with his brother, sister-in-law, their son and his daughter. When I told him I spent enough years at home on NYE with my own kids and I wanted to go out for NY he said "but this is our tradition... to stay home with the kids and play games". Um... nope not so much.
It has become crystal clear that his significant other is his daughter... not me. I am just the girlfriend.
I'm trying to hang in there, be understanding but I think it's coming to an end. Insignificant Other

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSue

Hi, Sue,

Yikes...it sounds like this dad hasn't figured out how to balance being a dad and being an intimate partner. In the latter role, he makes some commitment of time that can't be changed willy nilly, he considers your needs and feelings, and he creates new traditions with you. That he is instead hjurt when you won't change your plans at the last minute--and kowtow to his daughter like he does--suggests that he really isn't being objective about this. And the fact that he doesn't want his daughter to feel bad or to know that he wants to spend time with you shows that he and his daughter both have unrealistic expectations. Disappointment is a fact of life, and this child's mother not only spends time with someone else, she's remarried--why can't she be helped to understand that her dad is moving on with his life too, and that that doesn't change his love for her? As long as her father is unwilling to help her with this transition, he's limiting what he can give as a committed partner.

Maybe he's not yet ready to let go of these remnants of his past married life, or divorce/break up guilt might be causing him to be at his daughter's whim. None of that is conducive to being fully present in a new relationship, so this isn't about your being understanding. You want a committed partner; as long as your feelings and needs aren't taken into consideration, and as long as he feels that he has to subjugate everything to his daughter's wishes, he's not going to be the partner that you need and want him to be.

Best,
~Deesha

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Deesha:
Thank you for your reply. I have talked to friends who listen and sympathize with how I feel. I wondered if they were so understanding because they were my friends. It is good to get an objective viewpoint.

You are so correct. I want a committed partner. He seems to be committed to her and her every desire but not so much me and my desires.

I spend such little time with him that I hate to bring this subject up. It usually turns into an argument or, to say the least, a very heated discussion. He tells me she is young and soon she will be too busy to spend much time with him. This is probably very true but it doesn't dispell the hurt and frustration now. I wonder if he ever thinks that I may not wait around for her to get older and busier.

I feel used... When we do get together, he is so good to me and we have a great time. But she is first in the race and I am so far behind I don't think I'm even in the race. It really hurts.

Thanks again for your response. I may be back in touch in the future to let you know how things are going. Sue

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSue

**I wonder if he ever thinks that I may not wait around for her to get older and busier.**

Good point, Sue! And something else you said: "But she is first in the race and I am so far behind I don’t think I’m even in the race. It really hurts." Really, you and his daughter shouldn't even have to be on the same racetrack, you know? With some semblance of balance in his life, there would be dedicated time for you and dedicated time for her--not this lopsided "competition" in which what's hers (time) is hers and what's yours (time) is hers.

And please do let us know how you're doing, going forward.

All the best,
~Deesha

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I have a now exgirlfriend that I share a daughter with. It broke my heart to lose her. The short story is that I have two young sons from a divorce where their mother and I are very active in their lives and also friends. The problem was, My girlfriend and I live apart (30 miles). You see, I have custody of all three of my kids two days of the week. The other week days I get my sons off to school vs. paying to have someone else do it. My ex-wife and I had decided when we got divorced to do what ever we could to make the kids not frrl the stress and know that we would always be there for them.

Now my girlfriend and our daughter we share I imagined them moving up to where my sons are enrolled in school to be all close. My girlriend and ex-wife have meet and been around one another. The problem comes in that my girlfriend hates my relationship with my ex-wife. Says we are to close and that on days that I don't have custody then the kids are her problem, or I need to move away from my sons (30 miles), which makes it hard to go back and forth to school let alone if something happens all because "I need to move on"

I love my exgirlfriend and daughter more than anything but I don't think that she really knows how unsupportive she was being. I do everything for my kids.......I just wished my exgirlfriend knew she also had my heart and the kids I can't push away.

December 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian M

Wow, Brian...I wish your girlfriend could have seen your deep love for your children instead of feeling threatened by your co-parenting partnership with your ex. I hope that your comment will offer some encouragement and wisdom to other women who are dating co-parenting dads. Thanks for stopping by, and all the best to you and your family.

~Deesha

December 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My fiance and I have recently broken up after 2 1/2 years of dating. He has a 6 year old daughter that sees her mother maybe 2 times a year. Out of her six Tera of life, I have been the only consistent mother figure other than her grandmother. She has been so gracious as to be a provider and help in any way needed for my ex-fiance and his daughter but cares for her as a grandmother would- giving her whatever she wants, allowing her to act however she wants without restrictions, manners, or respect. When I came into the picture it was expressed to me that the relationship between my ex's mother and daughter was a bit extreme- his mother spokenpf herself in third person calling herself "mom" and "momma" and still does after he has regularly and numerously asked that she be called "MawMaw" or "Grandma" and never "mom" or "momma". His mother and father also expressed to me that they desired time of their own without worry about their granddaughter and without their son being so dependent and loved that I was in his life to help him become more independent. They later began resenting me for "taking their granddaughter from them" because of her no longer having to be at their house daily.
My ex-fiance is a very strong believer in "my daughter will always come first" and did say when I asked about future children that they'd be treated the same but I will always come in second to them. I, our relationship, and our love. I decided to leave him about a month ago because he once again told me that his children com first before my needs and this was said about his daughters half brother. ( same mom, different dads that lives about 2 hours away). I left because I felt that I will never be loved as a partner and confidant but pretty much as just a friend. Was I wrong to feel this way? I regret leaving now and he resents me for abandoning the two of them. After a month of being gone and not seeing either of them, they are now back in the routine they were before I was in the picture with his parents and says that his daughter doesn't want me to come back and that the only person thy would be happy with me returning would be me.

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSmily

Im sorry. He says that this is the only reason I am unable to return. Because his daughter says she doesn't want me to. She misses me but no longer wants me to live with them.

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Hi, Smily,

Your feelings aren't wrong; you feel how you feel. It sounds like you weren't valued in that family, and you left because of how you were being treated and the fact that your ex-fiance saw you as more of a friend than a partner. That your ex now resents you for leaving confirms the fact that he still expects you to be a martyr. There's nothing healthy in that family for you to return to, so regardless of who would be happy if you went back, why would you want?

Take care of yourself,
~Deesha

January 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

hi!
RE: **I wonder if he ever thinks that I may not wait around for her to get older and busier.**

Good point, Sue! And something else you said: “But she is first in the race and I am so far behind I don’t think I’m even in the race. It really hurts.” Really, you and his daughter shouldn’t even have to be on the same racetrack, you know? With some semblance of balance in his life, there would be dedicated time for you and dedicated time for her–not this lopsided “competition” in which what’s hers (time) is hers and what’s yours (time) is hers.

I just met my boyfriends son for the first time this week. It was planned, where/when/how long! I feel it went very well, quiet and sweet for all three of us.
I do not feel like I am on the same racetrack as his son..... well maybe
We have dated 4 short months, and both acknowledge it is going fast and we are trying to pay attention. He met my grown children (22 &23) and all my friends at Christmas for a whole week away! Where I am from. It went very well, my youngest daughter and him hit it off right away. all is VERY well on my side.
Obviously, because I just met his son.(age 11) and yes I understand there is a big difference to deal with! .. we have not spent any time together as of today.
MY QUESTION IS: How much/often and when/where, is appropriate to INCLUDE me in day to day activities? By boyfriend is afraid and does not know what is appropriate.. I am feeling in some ways this may take a very long time for him... which makes me feel that I am on the back burner, not because he wants me there, but because he does not know how to include me in his other life, which is he and his son. He knows I am sensitive to children. He is friends with his ex, they have a weekly family dinner togeher and I am ok with that, it has been one year since he has been out of his house. yes, I do feel first before his ex.

January 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCammy

How much/often and when/where, is appropriate to INCLUDE me in day to day activities?

Hi, Cammy: I think the answer depends on a lot of factors. You mentioned that your bf moved out a year ago, and began dating you four months ago. There's no magic or "right" number, but I do know co-parents who wait a much longer time before jumping back into dating, and a much longer time before introducing their children to a new partner. Some co-parents don't introduce children to anyone unless they are as certain as they can be that this person is The One. Some shared parenting agreements include stipulations that children won't meet any significant others until after 6 months or more of dating.

How does your bf view your current relationship? Have you already made a commitment to a long-term future together, or are you still taking it one day at a time? Is his divorce final? If not, perhaps that's a milestone that plays a part in his decision about incorporating you into his son's life? How he views your relationship will certainly impact when/if he decides to bring his son around you more often. When you met his son, did he introduce you as a friend or as his girlfriend? You mentioned that your boyfriend is afraid. Does he say what he's afraid of? Is he afraid that the positive dynamic with his ex will change once you're spending time with his son? Or...If he's afraid of introducing his son to his girlfriend "too soon" or before the son is "ready" (however he--your bf--defines that), then he's going to hold off until he's certain that the time is right. Of course, we never know how children will react. All we can do is err on the side of caution and keep the lines of communication open for kids.

Until he makes that decision, I would encourage you to consider what being including in his time with his son means to you. I would caution you that this alone should not be the measure of how serious your relationship is or how committed your boyfriend is. A co-parent can be very committed to their intimate relationship and yet still decide against introducing a partner into their child's day to day life because of what's going on with the child. And even before introducing you on into his child's daily life, he may choose to start with monthly outings, or maybe every other week.

Best,
~Deesha

January 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Deesha,
Thank you!
I could very easily wait for the 6 month rule. Respectfully for his son and everyone included. His wife also just informed him that she too is now dating, and was about to inform her son.

How does my bf view our current relationship? What I think and what I feel could be very different, realistically as I have only known himfor 4 months. My gut feeling is he feels the same as I do. We both discuss that we know it began and went very fast. And I bring up and he agrees, I would like just to do our life day to day in a very positive way, as we have been blessed to have met. Time will tell. We are both in different positions. I have been divorced and dating for 10 years, he is just getting out and on with his. My children are grown and moving on, his is only 11. I feel I need to respect his position and be patient, as I feel he is worth it. We have never discussed a long term committment. I feel that is something that is much easier for me in my position than his position, so It is not an issue for obvious reasons. Once again time will tell. His divorce is not final. He has told me his wife is somewhat and has been controlling and is somewhat controlling of/with their divorce. (I spent 5 yrs in the court with my ex because of controll issues from my ex, so I feel I totally understand his position). When I used the work "aftaid", those were probably strong words and not correct how he feels. I would use he is very cautious, and I respect that. I feel he is causcius for his son before he is ready, and he has brought up 6 months many times. I always asked myself where this number came from, because I did not think there was a rule for time. I just was/am not sure how cautious is too cautious? Assuming you know what I mean. He introduced me to his son as his girlfriend. and before I met his son, he showed his son pictures of us at Christmas time walking hand in hand. He is a VERY open communicator with me and his son and seems to be with his wife also. Actually, his communication is something that attracted me to him.
I appreciate your last paragraph, it gives me some comfort with a little uncertain/unknown anxiety I may have. What I will take with me with this is: Day to Day, certainly be patient with the 6 month "rule" to give everyone involved more time. THANKS AGAIN!

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCammy

You're welcome, Cammy. It sounds like you're demonstrating a lot of sensitivity and understanding where your boyfriend is concerned. Only he can answer how cautious is too cautious where his son is concerned, and you are giving him the time and space to sort things out. I wish you all the best!
~Deesha

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

thank you... NOT an easy task! :) Hard to love someone who is not ready to give the same back yet!

January 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCammy

HI Deesha, I'd like to share my story.
I'm currently in pieces. I have an 8yrs old son to a previous relationship and see him every weeekend. My girlfriend and partner of 4 years has just left me. The reason she gives is that she cannot get over the fact that my son comes 1st. I've never mentioned this to her. My son is a huge part of my life but comes from a PAST relationship I want to build a future with this girl. We have never lived together and as she is a busy teacher I very rarely see her during the week, this means my weekends are shared with my son and my partner unless it's the school holidays.
There are lots of other little incidentals that have not helped the situation recently, but a parents love for a child is different to the love for a partner.
She seems to feel trapped (all of sudden) that all my decisions will take my son into account such as if we do (or is it now had) live(d) together I could not move too far afield. I also understand that as my son grows he will not probably want to be with his dad everyweek when his mates are going out.
There has been no firction with my (ex)gf and son they get on great he is reading the books she recommended and gave him and he loves her deeply. This only happened last week so I am still raw I have not yet mentioned anything to my son as he will be as devestated as I am. I'm holding out for a miracle in that she realises she wants me enought to accept that I am who I am because I'm a father and not in spite of it. And that she can overcome this and we can be together and move forward. I know it will not all be rainbows and butterflies, relationships take work and a lot of it but I feel she has just given up after 4yrs.
Any helping words would be greatly appreciated.
S.

October 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Scott - I have the same situation. I have two small kids and have been seeing an amazing woman for almost two years. She pursued me, knowing full well I had two kids. Now that we have fallen in love and are talking potential future plans, she is struggling the commitment of my two kids. I am not asking her to help me raise them, only to love me and them and be good to them when she is around them, which she does. She has a daugther in college and has decided that she wants to be with me but will never live under the same roof as my kids. What to do? I love her, she loves me, we have had a great relationship up until she started making these comments about the kids. I'm hurt, lost and not sure what to do.

October 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Hi, Brian:

I know it's little comfort, but maybe you dodged a bit of a bullet in that she was up front with your about what she wants, and doesn't want. Hurtful, indeed. But I hear the other side of it--from women who didn't listen to the voices in their minds that said, "I don't want to do this" or "This is too much for me," and they are now secretly (or not-so-secretly) resenting their partners, their stepchildren, or both. Again, I know it doesn't take away the hurt, but it's sadly one of those "love isn't enough" situations. I hope you can heal and have the kind of love relationship you want that doesn't feel like a tug-of-war with your kids.

Best,
~Deesha

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Sometimes is comes down to having two emotional needs being met... a partner and friend. I have been the girl "friend" for 5 years of a man with only one son. (I have two adult children that no longer live with me).
My boyfriend has co-parented with his ex-wife. Although his son is now over 18 (and still lives with him with no plans on moving out) he and his ex-wife talk daily about his son. They have a strong partnership that has not ended. I feel jealous as there is no "partnership" between us... just a very close friendship with no future.
My boyfriend says he like things the way they are. (His son coming first and his partnership with his ex and me as a girlfriend) His son is his number one priorty (as with his ex-wife) and that has been a strong mutual bond that will never break.
I am starting to question... Is a partnership possible or is my only role a friend?
It really puts me at a crossroads and he doesn't see this. He's got two women in his life to fill both these (emotional) roles for him. Only one role is being filled for me....

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGwyn

I have the opposite problem. My Ex has put his new girlfriend and her kids before his kids. Forgetting our kids birthdays, no coming to the school concerts, picking them up on his days hours late, or just forgetting to come at all. As a single woman, this would NOT attract me to a man. Bad fathers are a turn off. Just look at it like this, if/when the two of you have kids, you KNOW he will be an amazing dad who will be there for your kids and teach them how a real man should act.

December 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShara

I appreciate all thagt I have read. I am divorced and was also involved with a woman we shared a daughter with. My kids are my life. Unfortunatily my daughters mother could not stand my co-parenting relationship with my exwife and we split up. Now the games, hurt, and lack of any coparenting with her is destroying me. She had so many issues with me and my ex when it came to the kids. I tried to tell her she had nothing to worry about but it was a mess. Are there any woman out there that ycan a respect a mans relationship with his kids ans the ability to coparent???

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

What an interesting topic. I have been in a long distance relationship with someone for the past 4 years with a man I knew in high school. He is a great friend, lover and confident and we have helped each other through the ending of other relationships (That were toxic) in order to be together. He has children (9 and 12). Mine are older by a few years. We see each other every other week as neither of us want to uproot our children, though we talk to each other daily on the phone. We talk about a future together, but it usiually ends up in a fight about who will move where, so we back down and go on as usual. He feels commited, and likes things how they are. There is no serious talk of marrriage. His girls are the center of his life, and his extreme, minute by minute devotion to them is probably the reason his first marriage did not work out. When I visit him I am told to sleep on the couch (respect for their feelings). His divorce papers have not been filed, despite both of them moving on.. My question is, after my recent return from a visit where we sat at dinner and the conversation was dominated by the children discussing their family tree, ie their mom and dads nationalities etc. I felt very displaced. He is important to me, and he helps me financilly etc, but it may be time to put myself frst..I have a tendency not to do that..Just curious re: other thoughts out there re: my sudden need to have a normal adult centered relationship.

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Hi, Tina:

There are quite a few similarities between your situation and mine when I was dating my now-husband. We were, and still are, long-distance because we are both co-parenting and both choose to remain in proximity to our daughters (we have two each). It may be that your boyfriend needs/needed some time between relationships, or that he's not comfortable having his children know you're sharing a bed when he's still legally married and the two of you are not married--or both. As you suggested, he may not have developed the skills needed to balance the demands on him as an intimate partner and a father. Understandably, he wants his kids to know that they remain a priority even though he's no longer in a relationship with their mother. But the question is, how does he also make room for you in his life? Will he be more willing to include you in conversations with his children once he's divorced, or will the dynamic remain? Only he can answer that question. If you haven't already, the two of you should have a frank discussion about what you both expect going forward in terms of your time together. It may be that you're expecting too much too soon, from his perspective. Or it may be that this is how he intends to balance fatherhood and his romantic life. Find out, and then decide what you can live with.

You didn't mention how long your boyfriend and his ex have been separated, but it could be that he is hesitant to fully introduce you into his children's lives as an intimate partner just yet, despite the fact that you've been involved for 4 years. And it sounds like even when you are there, he spends his parenting time focused on his kids. Is it possible for you to visit when his kids are with their mother, thus giving you all alone, grown-up time? Does he also come and visit you? If so, are your children present? Have you discussed the differences in the dynamics, if any, at your house vs. his house?

It's possible that your boyfriend is simply more child-centered than you are. That doesn't make either of you right or wrong, just possibly not compatible. I know you've invested a lot into this relationship, but it's important to be realistic about what you both want and expect from a relationship. You owe this clarity to yourselves and to your children who would be a part of whatever your relationship develops into in the future if you remain involved.

Best to you,
~Deesha

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I have a similar story to what I have read.
My boyfriend of 6 yrs has co-parented with his ex for going on 11 yrs now. I have a son (same age as their daughter) and also a 7 yr old daughter. He is adedicated father to his daughter, however since the start of our relationship I have felt direspected by his ex. ie, the first year of living ith one another anytime she found out that I was watching his daughter while he was at work she ould immediately come over to get her. (if she isn't with her dad she needs to be with her mother) was the statement made. Though out the years I have had to set back and watch her pick and choose when his daughter comes to see him. He continues to allow this because they agreed many years ago that "they won't do it like all the other idiots in the world" in the mean time his ex will come and go in our home with no acknowlegment of me being there. They speak many time through out the day more so than he and I even to the point that she knows his schedule more than I. We have drifted apart because he refuses to tell me anything about his ex because "I am so negative, and never liked her to begin with" all the while she is the one being disrespectful. I have attempted to point things out that it was not me who as being disrepectful but he refuses to see it. She has recently divorced and depended on him for support he happy to offer "for the sake of his daughter" She just spent a few months in jail in which he was a full time parent but now that she is out he is back to spending hours at her house to see his daughter My issue is that in the 6 yrs we have been together I have had to sit back and continue to be disrespected by his ex, and when I bring up the issue he says he isn't going to argue ith me about it. Myself and my children moved out a few months prior to her going to jail. The few occassions he has been to my home have been inconjunction with him bringing his daughter to visit her in jail. Am I wrong for feeling that their relationship is more than just about his daughter?? He sees nothing wrong with him spending 3 hours at her home 3 or more times a week, but on a rare occasion has only been to my for more than 30 minutes. Am I just being overly jealous or does there seem to be a major issue.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

Being with and devoted single father is like being with a very focused olympic athelete. You have to accept the fact that alot of his time will be focused on the kids. This may leave you feeling like your getting the left over love, but you are not. I struggle with these same issues myself as a single dad, from the opposite side and it is also not pleseant. You are left feeling as if u have no time to do both things and if you please the kids you cant please the gf. I sense alot of jealousy at times. You may laugh and say, "I am not jealous" but alot of what you wrote comes off that way. And I hear things like that from my girlfriend all the time. Just remember he was a devoted father when you met him and you cant change that. You need to deal with it or find a guy with no kids.

March 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdevoted father

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