Q. i just listened season 5, episodes 6 and 7 from the “Love Letters” podcast. I am a divorced teenage dad and I swore to myself that I will not introduce anyone to my teenage children until they go to college. It just seems too selfish of me when I can just wait a bit and not disrupt their formative years, which have already been disturbed enough with the divorce and the circumstances. I hear so many stories like that of you and your sister deeply affected in adulthood by step-parent / partner situations. So even though I go out a bit and have met some wonderful women, when I tell them it must be to the side – away from my kids – for now, it’s understandable that a woman thinks that either. I’m not that interested either she wants progress in developing a deeper personal relationship in their life right now, so we go our separate ways. So I labeled myself “not a girlfriend”. I have wonderful adventures and personal development, alone or with friends and family.
But then there was the podcast guest who isn’t a “boyfriend” – someone who has met someone and something changed. I’m just worried that by protecting my kids for a few years, I might miss it. I guess that’s how it is. I really hope to find a woman I love who is in the same situation and we can just hang out together away from the kids and let them grow up. Does this make sense? Or will I regret it one day?
A. Yes, as I mentioned in episode 6 of the podcast, my sister and I have been affected by bad in-laws situations.
But consider some of the reasons they were bad. a) Our parent prioritized relationship over parenthood; b) we never had time alone with said parent, so we found ourselves withdrawn because of the constant presence of this step-parent; and c) no one has ever asked, “Are you okay with this?” How are you feeling? ”(At least not in memory of me.)
I have had better experiences, however, with certain people in my parents’ life. When I was busy with high school and my mom met a nice guy at one point, I was elated, even though the relationship eventually ended. She’s been happy for a while, and I think many of us children of divorce want our parents to find love and joy, as long as it isn’t at our expense. My mom and I have always spent a lot of time alone, and her love life has never threatened our relationship.
What I mean is you could wait until the kids are in college to go out publicly, but honestly what the hell is college more? A child might end up studying remotely from home. Everything is in the air right now. The best idea might be to drop the rules for yourself. Build relationships by letting people know that you are careful with introductions and that you would rather enjoy the relationship a bit on your own rather than bringing your kids in before everyone is ready.
Then see how you feel. A person can appear worthy in a way you never imagined. I wouldn’t want you to lose someone with great potential because that person feels like a secret. Plus, over time, or even months, your kids may appear different and ready. Honestly, because of this pandemic, I think a lot of kids have realized that their parents are human. It was hard to hide real feelings, especially for people in the same house.
I’m not an expert in parenting (obviously), but after going through this a few times, even as an adult, I’ll just say that in my experience there is a middle. You can fall in love with someone worthy while letting your children know that they are the center of your world.
My ex’s sister decided not to go out until her kids were grown up. They were young teenagers when she divorced. By the time they were older I think she didn’t have much interest or forgot how to meet men because she never had a boyfriend after that. And she had gone to the trouble of getting a cancellation from the church so that she was free to remarry.
RadDad5000: I suspect you are using your children’s age as a blanket to be scared or just not to be interested in getting serious with anyone. If you like to be single, as long as you’re honest with someone you’re dating, like to be single. The rules for bringing new people into your children’s lives are: only after you’ve been exclusive for at least six months, and sleepovers are when the kids are with the other parent.
I can see having a six to 12 month rule, and only if it’s serious for a serious relationship, but keeping a girlfriend a secret from your kids for years? It’s your life and they’ll both be 18 before you know it, but it’ll narrow your choices for sure. Isn’t being more open with your children a healthier choice?
There is a way forward here. Meet people, when it’s someone special, talk to your kids – ask them what they would like to know etc. – and don’t take big steps until college. I am okay.
USER – 1944153
Send your own questions about relationships and dating to [email protected]. Watch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast on loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.