Advice for Dating a Divorced Man With Kids
Dear Dating Coach: I have been dating a 60 + man for one and a half years. I am mid-50. We are discussing marriage, but we have two problems: (1) his son (mid thirties) disapproves of me. In fact, we were scheduled to marry three times and had to cancel each time because my boyfriend's son "couldn't get the time off." He will not allow me into his home. Second problem is money. I am unemployed and looking for work in the area where I live. My boyfriend tells me to seek employment in the area HE lives. I say that is not reasonable because I do not live in his area, hence a catch-22 situation. I will not move in with him unless we are married. After we marry, he has asked that I sell my home and put the money toward his residence (he had to take out a large amount to pay off his ex). For this, I would receive "proportionate equity" but my name would apparently not be on the title. Please advise.-- Contributed by: Susie T
Dear Susie T.
One possible reason your boyfriend's son does not like you may have nothing to do with you and everything to do with his parent's divorce. His excuse for not attending your wedding may be his non-verbal attempts at letting his father know that he disapproves his dating someone other than his mother. This means that your boyfriend needs to work out his relationship with his son. You can support your boyfriend by encouraging him to spend time with his son and letting his son express the hurt feelings he has over the loss of his parents' relationship. I am afraid that if this conversation does not take place, the son will always have a reason to not attend his father's wedding. As long as your boyfriend is unwilling to marry you without his son in attendance, your plans for a wedding will be out of your reach.
I am not a financial advisor or a lawyer so I cannot advise you on the risks facing you should you remarry. I can tell you that it would be unwise of you to marry until you understand the legal ramifications of selling your home and putting the money in your husband's home without being on the title. I would recommend that you talk to an accountant or financial advisor. Explore the possibility of renting out your home and the benefits and drawbacks that renting provides. You and your boyfriend could talk with a lawyer about a pre-nuptial that would protect both of your assets as well as of drawing up a will prior to marriage.
Dating a Divorced Man
I have been dating a man for about nine months. He had been divorced for a full year at the start of our dating. To give some history, I am 14 years younger and we just got engaged! He has a daughter that is six and I spend a lot of time with him and his daughter. He is supposed to have 50-50 custody but keeps her 90% of the time. Just recently, his wife has found out about me and is drilling his daughter for answers. I told my fiancé that he needs to talk to her and fill her in on what is going on with us and so he did. When he told her we were engaged she told him to get out and then proceeded to throw a glass at him. I just want everything to be ok for his daughter and for her to have a normal life. I need help on how to cope when I do run into her; because with her record I don't know what she will do. I wanted to know if I should be present at his child's functions or is that a big mistake. I thought maybe it would be good so that she can see that I am good to her daughter and don't want to take anyone's place in being a mother. If you have any suggestions on how to handle everything, please let me know.-- Contributed by: Jessica
Divorce implies that two people were who were once married are now living separate lives as two singles. However, when a divorce involves children, especially children who are living at home, divorce is never complete. Children need and want both parents in their lives. For those couples who have had a 'good enough' divorce, working out parenting collaboratively can be a benefit to all involved. For those couples whose divorce is followed by continued conflict, parenting issues only intensifies the hostility of each adult. Dating a single parent means you are dating the children as well. Should this relationship develop into something long term, now you are not only dating the parent and children, but you are dating the ex as well. The better a relationship is between the two exes, the easier it will be on the 'new relationship'. The more animosity between the exes, the harder it is on the new relationship.
Remarriage can pose a completely new set of unexpected challenges for the honeymooners, which is why one of the hardest roles in a remarriage is being a stepparent. This role can have bigger challenges if the biological parents don't get along. Although your fiancé had been divorced for a year before the two of you started dating, based on his ex's reaction to the news of your engagement, I would have to say that their relationship is not over and that they have 'unfinished' business that the divorce is still addressing. This poses a bigger challenge for you and the role you would like to play in the life of your soon-to-be stepdaughter.
The best advice I can give you is to be very patient and take things very slowly with your role as soon-to-be step-mom. You are entering a landmine field and even the best of intentions on your part can set off an explosion. Try to understand the situation from the perspective of all the people involved. First, your fiancé -- he loves and adores you. He would like you to get along with his daughter and he would like his daughter to love you as he does. Then there's the daughter. All she wants is to be a kid and have both parents equally involved in her life. It is also likely that she secretly wishes her parents would get back together. Even if she likes you, you marrying her dad will mean her wish for her parents won't come true. Then there's the loyalty issues she is still figuring out. Life for this lovely child is all about not upsetting the applecart. How easy can it be to change her behaviors constantly in order to be loved by the two most important people in her life?
Lastly, there is the ex-wife. For whatever reasons, she has not had consistent parenting and the guilt has and is taking its toll on her. On top of battling for the affections of her daughter with her ex-husband, here comes a new person. All of her insecurities are on high and she fears that she is on the losing end of the spectrum.
Of course, there's also you to consider; you aren't as emotionally invested as all the other people. Don't get me wrong, this is good; it's the timing that's off. If you look around, you'll see there are a lot of people with open wounds still needing time to heal. They are vulnerable, fearful and still grieving and all are doing this in their own way and on their own timeline. Some things can't and shouldn't be hurried. Grieving is one of those emotional things that takes time. By understanding the challenges all involved are dealing with and being empathic to their pain, you will be demonstrating caring. By being patient, you will help the daughter return to a 'normal' childhood. Moreover, by not attending all functions immediately, especially those in which both parents are present, you demonstrate support of the child, the ex-wife and even your fiancé. As hard as this may sound, not attending functions is one way this child can be like every other kid. Rather than the attention being focused on how well the adults can get along, all the attention can focus on her. As the wounds heal, it will be easier for you to show up to events. Encourage your fiancé to support his daughter in person and let you do so by sending your love, a note or a token of good wishes.