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My pre-teens disapprove of the wonderful man I'm seeing

Oct 2007

So, I have been seeing a wonderful man for about 18 months. I am divorced and had had been separated for about 7 years prior to my relationship with my boyfriend. I had never dated or seen anyone else during this time. My relationship with my friend is loving, close, real, and may lead to marriage. My two sons, ages 12 and 10, tolerate my friend but have a much harder time when we spend time as a ''blended'' family with his three children, who are 5, 10, and 13. We have gone on two or three vacations together en famille, and although during the holiday we have all had fun, after the fact my children complain bitterly about his kids, about not ever having vacations with just ''us'', etc. etc. And last wek they asked if we were going to get married, and made it very clear just how unhappy they would be if that happened. My question: How do I deal with this? I love my children, they are my utmost priority. However, I love my friend too, and do not want that part of my life to end. My children's father does not live in the same state as we do, but I do my best to keep communication open and amicable between our children and him. How do I reconcile continuing a loving, long term relationship with a wonderful man (who is quite fond of my children, as I am of his) with my children's disapproval? anonymous

You must be very happy to have found love again in your life. It's a great feeling. The same happened to me, my husband and I fell in love when my daughter was 9 - I, too, had been divorced and alone for many years.

My experience was that at first, my daughter and husband got along very well. He was the dad she never had. He tried to woo her. When the ''honeymoon'' was over, things went from bad to worse. If I had to do it over again, I would have sought family counseling and I highly recommend it for you and your family. You are going into this with 3 pre-adolescent children - the teens are a tough time even under the best circumstances - your children are already expressing some concerns about your future - a good family therapist can help you to help them. Sometimes just acknowledging their feelings does a lot, but we need help to learn how to do that. Good luck to you. My daughter is 25 and still estranged from my husband. It was a high price to pay for ''love'' and could have been avoided with planning. anon

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult situation. You are obviously very caring and are trying to do the best for your children. I am an adult who's parents were separated when I was 3 and divorced when I was 5. My dad remarried when I was 8. I never stopped hoping that my mother and father would 'get back together'. Regardless of how many blended families there are, children always want their parents together. I suggest doing things alone with your sons, like a fun day on the weekend but also maintain the outings with your boyfriend's children. On a vacation, maybe do something with your boys one afternoon so the whole trip is not spent with the other children. Talk to your boys too. Ask specifically what they don't like Make them be mature about it. Don't accept responses like, 'he smells' or 'she's mean to me'. Ask them to be honest. Also tell them that you understand their fears. Change is frightening and they may want to know where they will live, will they live with those kids and see them all the time, etc. Also make sure they spend time with your boyfriend without his kids too so they can see him for the man he is. THey won't like him initially but he can win them over but not by catering to them. He should be understanding and fun without being a pushover. You should enforce discipline when necessary and not allow the boyfriend to do that (he can wait until you get engaged if you do). Make them show him and his children respect as you expect them to show respect to all people.

Good luck and remember, you can't be good to your children if you are not good to yourself. You need to be happy for them to be happy. Child of divorce

It is not up to your children to ''approve'' of your choices, and you are giving them an inappropriate amount of power if that's what you're seeking. They're kids and they're going through all sorts of growing pangs- that's all there is to it. Anon
As a single, full custody mom of two kids, I can say that I feel for you and your situation. It does feel impossible to join families and have everyone ok with it.

I remarried when my kids were 11 and 13. His kids were 13 and 15. It was a disaster. I did not believe it could be as hard as it was. All 4 of the kids were resentful of the time we spent with the ''other'' partner's children. My kids were resentful of the time I spent with my new husband. This got in the way of my relationship with my new husband and I felt incredibly torn about who got my time and how to dole it out. I was totally stressed. I left the marriage and am now happily single. I cannot imagine trying to establish a new relationship again until my children are out of the house. The interesting thing is that we (my two kids and I) are stronger as a unit than ever before. I think that I put my kids through hell with this remarriage and I am trying to forgive myself for what I now see as a selfish move on my part. I believe that we signed up to be parents when we had our kids, and this is an awesome responsibility. I also believe that if the marriage to their father ends, the priority should be the kids and the family until they are out of the house. You will have plenty of time later and if this man is as great as you say, he will still be there for you. In the meanwhile, I suggest that you skip the group dates and just get a sitter and go out the two of you. The kids are pretty clear they don't like this arrangement. They are protecting you and your relationship with them and they don't want to share their mom. I would feel the same way. good luck.... another single mom

I was once in a similar situation. My situation is a little different because I went from a 16 marriage to a lesbian relationship. I also have male children. They never liked my new partners (I practiced ''serial monogamy'' for the last 20 years with 4 long term relationships, I am still in the last one which I expect to last, and all my childen are adults now)

I suspect that it is the rare child that is ok with seeing mom with another love interest. I dont think there is much you can do about that. However, what you can do is make absolutely sure, as much as humanly possible, that this new partner is going to be good to and for your kids. My only regrets are putting my kids in less that ideal situations because I was so besotted of a particular lover. In my case, unfortunatly for me and the kids, my wusband was a workaholic and a pretty crummy parent, so he never took up my slack.

So my advice is, imagine yourself looking back on your life and see if you can have a clear conscience about your relationship with your kids and meeting their emotional needs. If so, then I would go with the relationship.

Blending families is a huge order. I think that part works better with a bit of therapy or other professional guidance. love makes a family

Unfortunately, you may never be able to get your children's approval. Not saying that that will be the case, but it is out there. I would say to find a really good family therapist. Your kids need to know that it is not a betrayal of them. Most children of divorce hang on to the dream that one day mom and dad will get back stepkids are in their twenties and the divorce is 12 yrs old and they still have it. Counseling may be the key and is definitely worth a shot. Well-wisher

My ex demands I not involve our son in my new relationship

May 2007

I am a 40 year old single mom and I have a 4 year old son. His father and I share time with him and we split the financial costs associated with his school, clothes, etc. We dated for a few months, split up, got pregnant, became parents. We have both been in his life since birth, have never gone to court, just work out a schedule for him to spend time with each of us which is basically 50-50 with each parent. We are not interested in dating eachother or having a physical relationship with eachother.

Things have been great until I started seriously dating a man. I am going on 3+ months with a man who I am very much in love with and am in a committed relationship with. I have dated before this man, but have never gotten my son involved because it just didn't feel right. This time it feels right and my son and I spend some nights at my boyfriend's house.

My son's father is furious and demands that I not have my son involved with my relationship for overnights at his house.

I feel like this new man is really a partner. He is supportive and wonderful to me and my son. I know the relationship is new, but it feels very much like it won't end anytime soon. I do not spend all the nights I have with my son over my boyfriend's house but I feel like I have the right to have a relationship and to involve my son as I see fit and that it's natural for me to have my son and boyfriend get to know eachother. My son enjoys my guy and is not acting out in any way as a result of this ''change'' to his routine.

His father disagrees but won't agree to discuss it with a counselor and I feel like he's just trying to control my life.

I would like to hear what other SINGLE PARENTS think about my situation. Thanks

Even if this turns out to be a lifetime relationship, it has not yet stood the test of time. Surprises do occur. Wait at least a year to involve your child. Divorced mom
I think that having your son spend a lot of time with a man you've only been with for 3 months seems a bit excessive. I realize that it seems like things are going great and the 3 months feels like forever, but from an outside perspective it doesn't seem like much time at all.

I divorced my daughter's father and have since been married twice. During each period of dating I held off introducing my daughter (who was 6 years old the first time and 12 the second) to my dates until they became serious relationships, and then only introduced her to them as friends for months afterwards. They did not spend the night until things had advanced to the nearly engaged stage. I probably wouldn't even have done that, but extenuating circumstances (boy, that's a whole 'nother post!) intervened.

It's just a lot for kids to deal with. You've got plenty of time away from your son; can't you spend time with your new guy during those times? I knew a woman who would never date after divorce because of her kids, which seemed kind of sad--it suggested to them that if things don't work out, you should never try again. I want to model for my daughter that I can pick up and try again to be happy, and so can she. But on the other hand, you don't want your child to have to cope possibly multiple times with you dating and breaking up and dating and breaking up, and 3 months just doesn't seem like much time to establish that this guy is the one. What's the harm in waiting a bit?

I'm a single mom of a 4.5 y.o. girl, and have been dating a wonderful man for almost 2 years. I thought I took it slowly as far as introducing my child to my new boyfriend goes, but he just reminded me that he was actually introduced to her on our first date (well, of course he was: he picked me up at my parent's house, which is where my daughter and I lived at the time).

Honestly, I think then I waited almost 1 month before starting to have outings together.

As far as sleeping arrangements go, I would never have had my boyfriend sleep over in the beginning because the possibility of my kid waking up and finding us in a compromising position would have been too great. So, we would have him come over after bedtime to watch t.v., but he would leave at about 9:30 p.m. This eventually transitioned (as we became more involved) into him coming over directly after work, having dinner with us, watching t.v. as I put my daughter to bed, and then us staying up later, ''talking''. I waited until my daughter was comfortable with my involvement with him before even entertaining the idea of having him sleep over--which, we decided, was rather uncomfortable for HIM because he isn't used to being woken up at 6:30 a.m.

On an aside, my parents helped to give me some occasional adult- only overnight time. That being said, I dated a few men before this wonderful guy, and honestly, I found that the single men without children couldn't understand my devotion and constant prattle about my own kid. That meant that single dads were much more fair--and fun--game. Also, the date could be considered a 'playdate', if the kids were involved (later dates). I think my bottom line is keep the kid out of the picture as long as possible, as they are most certainly aware of the goings on (i.e., mom has a new person in her life), and sometimes that can be overwhelming for them (what if mommy doesn't love me as much), not to mention the inevitable questions if your child is old enough (is he my new daddy?, are you going to marry him?, how come you spend so much time with him?, etc.)

Dating with a child is tough, don't let anyone tell you different. Parent's Without Partners (org?) helped me get my dating game back on, after a long hiatus post-divorce. Again, IMHO, single (men, for me, a hetero) parents of kids are easier to associate with--and develop relationships with--than single, childless men. That being said, there are a few child-less men who are great, and are available. I wish you the best of luck in this shark-infested dating pool, and my main train of thought: keep your kid out of the picture for as long as possible, for everyone's sake, especially the child's. been there, done that

I am a single Mom with 2 children and am siding with your sons father completely. Yes, you have a right to have a life and a real adult relationship. You also have 50% of your time to pursue that relationship. Good grief - 3 or even 6 months is NOTHING in terms of time - no matter how it feels now. I think it is absolutely fine that you have this man meet your son, get to know him during outings, at dinner ect. ect. but taking your son to sleep over with you at your boy friends house, in my view, IS crossing the line. The relationship is just too new and really, as wonderful as it seems now, in 6 months it may be over and how is your son going to feel then? With kids, just please go slow. Spend the night at his house when your son is at his father's. If you don't end up with this man and your child becomes too attached, it will feel like a divorce when you split - and that is really hard for kids. Sleep over on your own time. Kids First!
I basically agree with you, and although this isn't quite what you said, I think that in this time and place people go a bit too far in ''protecting'' their children from the fact that their parents are sexual beings.

But I think that getting counseling help regarding any disagreement you have with your child's father is for the best if the two of you can't resolve it on your own- you may want to initiate counseling yourself sometime in the future if you are concerned about his behaviour in some significant way. The point of good counseling is not at all for one person to gain control over the other, but for the two people to come to understand each other better and discover ways to meet in the middle.

I'd suggest that you deal with your fear of being controlled by taking some of the initiative around finding a counselor. You can each come up with some names, each ''interview'' prospective counselors on the phone, and keep doing that until you find someone you both feel comfortable with.

Don't look for someone who just supports your point of view around this particular issue, look for someone who is experienced with separated couples with children, who you feel safe to open up to, and who has a creative and open-minded approach to interpersonal problem solving. Anon

i am a single mom of a 31/2 year old. i feel your pain around trying to balance your dating life with your role as a parent. i met someone last year, and was convinced that they were 'the one' (and at 35, i had enough dating experience to know, i thought). i brought my son for sleepovers, we all hung out together, my son got attached. and then we broke up. i am exceedlingly lucky that i happened to choose someone who still wanted to be in my son's life, and they still see each other regularly. however, i would never, ever put him in that situation again. how we as adults are in relationships sets the pace for our children's attachments, intimacy and relationship patterns as adults. in my dating since, i have made it very clear that no one i am dating will meet my son unless we are at the point where we are ready to move in/get married. you are lucky that you share custody and have so much free time in which to date. the danger in terms of your son's emotional health is not while you are dating, it is what will happen if you break up. is this person someone who would continue to be in your son's life even if you weren't together? would you want him to be? given all that, it is also hard to separate other issues--like maybe your ex is afraid that this new man will replace him, and you need to have a conversation with him about that, or maybe he has genuine, well-founded fears about your son getting attached to someone who might not be around. hard to say. i wish you all the best. single mama
Been there, single mom, trying to date. I haven't met a (the?) man I'd want to marry or be with long-term, so I've made do with an altered but actually good part-time relationship. I totally understand the need to date and I've looked around and have seen blended families... those are made up of people who felt - I think rightfully - entitled to happiness and who met the right person. It's a good sign that your son seems to be adjusting.

BUT (you knew there'd be a but!) three months is such a short time. He may be everything you think he is, but would it hurt to let a year go by before getting your son accustomed to and maybe loving this father figure? On the wild off-chance it doesn't work out, THAT'S when your son will be hurt. Can you really know everything about him? If he cares about you, he will work with you to maybe make the overnights less frequent for 6-9 months... there could be some middle ground.

Another thought is to browse Barnes & Noble under blended families. my two cents

Dear Single Mom, Three months does seem like a short time to get serious about a guy, but you have to go with your instincts. Maybe the father of your son is jealous. Is he in a relationship himself? He might also feel that he will be replaced? You might assure him that he will always be the father of your son and he will continue to see him, but that it's really good when there are more caring adults in a child's life. Also assure him that you know this is the right thing for you and your son now and that you wouldn't be exposing him to a creep. It sounds like you don't have a parade of men flowing through the house and are really sure about this guy. You have every right to do what you are doing. I know it's hard when the father's are mad, but it's HIS stuff, not yours. This may be the next step in ''splitting up''. There's not really anything he can do to prevent you.

I get along really well with my ex's partner, sometimes better than with him! I like that there is another person in my daughter's life who loves her and is looking out for her. I'm not partnered now and I am careful about who I bring around to meet my daughter. There have been some duds, but we've all gotten over it. Though none have slept over, more like meeting at dinner. It's life afterall! And it's practice for them too, seeing how we are in relationships. If we in a healthy relationship but it doesn't work out, it's okay too. Not trying to jinx your new relationship but just to point out it's not the worst thing in the world if it ends and your son was involved. I wish you the best of luck. I know it's hard to juggle everything as a single mom, especially when there's that third person there! Happy mommies are better mommies!

I am also a single mom, 36 with a 4 yr. old daughter, so I truly understand your predicament. But, that said, I must say I am concerned that you take your son over to your new boyfriend's house for regular sleepovers. That is not appropriate-- in that, I agree with your ex. You can sleep over at your boyfriends when your son is with your ex. Or, your boyfriend perhaps can sleep over at your home. Unless there have been serious discussions as to becoming a family together with this new person (and new relationships ALWAYS feel as if they will last forever!), it is unfair and inappropriate to bring your son for sleepovers for your own enjoyment and convenience. It is not ''his'' space, not at this point, is it ''your'' space. The relationship between you and any new romantic interest should be kept fairly private, and increase in levels. But not to the point of bringing your son over to sleep unless it has been established that that will become his home too. Sorry to be critical, but I was taken aback by your posting. T
oh GIRL! My boyfriend's ex-wife is all up in my grill over the kids being at my house. Now that he's moved in, and it's his house, she's less butty about it, but IMO she can't stand that he's moved on. Keep in mind, she's led a multi-block-long parade of men through their lives since the divorce, but don't even try to question her judgement... I don't have any advice, but a lot of empathy. Some people just can't let go. Glad you didn't marry this guy. Good luck in your new relationship. (Maybe 3 months is a little soon, maybe I would have waited one more month, but you're the best judge of that! And how could you find out if he's a partner if he never meets your kid?!)
Have you thought about mediation? There is a great organization called East Bay Community Mediation that provides volunteer mediators at a very low fee. The mediator can help each of you negotiate a workable arrangement, and can assist in eliciting the feelings underneath each of your positions, which will hopefully help each of you understand the other person better and lead to a lasting, workable plan. I myself am a mediator and would be happy to talk with you further about mediation and/or help you get connected with a mediator suitable for your needs. mary
as a single dad for the past 6 years, daughter is now 8 1/2, who has not had a date those entire 6 years (not that i am not trying, as i am, lots; i am 63, however, and for that and other reasons am a difficult match), my feeling about your situation is that your ex is indeed trying to be too controlling about this, just exactly as you said, and he needs to let it go.

on the other hand, i can certainly understand his feelings, and you would probably do best to attempt to do the same, although this won't be easy (for you). he was used to your previously loveless and mostly dateless arrangement, probably mirroring his own situation, hence is now feeling jealous/insecure, whatever. still i am with you 100% on this and feel he needs come to terms with the new situation and not be a controlling jerk. he definitely does need to agree to counseling (have you tried suggesting he go on his own if he is uncomfortable going w/ you?) to help get through this.

again i can totally understand his helpless and vulnerable feelings here, but still feel he needs to see the broader picture (you and your son and your needs as a family) and lighten up and deal.

best wishes for good luck. doug

Going on vacation with boyfriend + his kids + my kids

April 2007

I am divorced and mother of two wonderful boys, ages 9 and 11. We have not lived with their father for 7 years. They have frequent phone contact with him, and see him three or four times a year, as much as we are able to make work with money and time away from jobs, etc. Last spring I met a wonderful man, also divorced, with three children. We started dating, and spending a lot of time together. I have shared with my children that he and I are friends, good friends, who like to spend time together. We go to movies, or dinner, and spend time together on the weekends with his and my children. We have taken one weekend trip together with all our children (5 all together), and did not share a bedroom. We were and are very careful physically with one another in front of the children, and only spend nights together when the children are at sleepovers with friends or grandparents. We are now planning another combined family trip this summer, for the last two weeks of July. After over a year of dating, and spending time with our families in various settings, is it wildly inappropriate for my friend and I to share a bed while on vacation? His children are ''savvier'' than mine, in that their mother has had a long- term boyfriend living in their house for over a year. My boys have never had that experience, and have lived alone with me for over 7 years. I do not want to make them uncomfortable, nor damage their psyches. On the other hand, sleeping on couches or bunking with the kids while on this holiday seems a little odd, too. How do I handle this? My children are quite fond of my friend, and his children are of me as well. As a group the five kids get along pretty well, not without the usual sorts of conflicts that arise with any group of children. Any advice, thoughts, pearls of wisdom would be great. Many thanks. help!

Oh, gee, you will probably get alot of varied ideas on this. If I were you, I would want to sleep with him and just don't make a big deal of it to the kids. It is a long term relationship, you all know each other, and I think it is important to demonstrate to children what a healthy, caring adult relationship is, rather than sneak around and adhere to some Victorian morality.

After my friend and I had been dating about 3 months very intensely, we did the same thing on a ski weekend. We had intended to each sleep with our kids, but the two boys immediately took over the sofa bed in the living room and the two girls took over the king bed in the master bedroom(!). We wanted them all to enjoy themselves and the only place left was a small double bedded room or the kitchen floor. We made a show of leaving the door open all night and he slept in his sweats and me in my flannel jammies under the covers while he slept on top of the blankets. Word still got home to his ex-wife who threw an absolute hissy-fit about how inappropriate it was (this is the woman he left because she was having affairs with men like their soccer coach and pediatrician WHILE they were married!). So, there is no telling what people will regard as appropriate. I say do what feels most comfortable for you and your friend. You will probably feel happier which your children will pick up on (and yes, someone will probably object, but that is their problem). love my kids AND my guy

I would suggest that you clue your sons in on your relationship. I think that the hardest part is behind them; the fact that you separated from their biological father. The fact that you are moving on and have been so extremely considerate of them, is commendable, though. You don't mention much about how they handled your divorce, but assuming that they are okay with the situation the way it is now, I would allow them to be part of the next phase; a new man in your life. I have found with our children that explanations and honesty are the best solution. I think that if you mention to your sons that he makes you really happy and that you have taken a long time to get to know him really well, that they would only respect you for it. JOJ
Hmm, I think your kids might be a little savvier than you think. For instance, they hang out with at least 3 kids that are savvy enough to fill them in. Nevertheless, it is a little disturbing to have to think about your mother doing that so definitely do not spring this on them when you are already on vacation. Have a nice talk with the boys soon, so they have time to process it long before the vacation.As it regards vacation make sure you play up the fun for them, that it will be all kids in their room! Have the talk with just you and your kids and your boyfriend should do the same with his kids. Don't make it like you are asking their permission, but more like you are acknowledging a fact that they probably already caught on to (but making sure not to make them feel dumb if they didn't know).As it regards vacation make sure you play up the fun for them, that it will be all kids in their room! Kind of like when they found out Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth fairy wasn't real! Maybe you can get some sleepovers before vacation! anon
Look, you're allowed to have a grown-up relationship. Your kids will be okay - it's especially nice that they already know the guy and are comfortable with him.

I personally think it's a good idea if you two think you'd like to be together for awhile, or see the relationship going somewhere. But either way, he's been around long enough - your kids will adjust.

It's probably a good idea to tell your kids at some point soon that this guy is your boyfriend, and depending on what their personalities are like (if they need to be prepared for change), you might casually mention the sleeping arrangements ahead of time, so they can quietly process it and not be shocked. Such as: you and Bobby and Joey will share a room, Mike's daughters will share a room, and Mike and I will share a room. anon

My teen daughters hate my boyfriend

Jan 2007

A couple of years ago, my boyfriend was evicted from the place he'd been living, and since he had nowhere to go, he moved in with my daughters and I. I had thought this would be a temporary situation, but more than two years later, there's no sign of change, and he still has no means of financial support nor other place to live... as my daughters have taken to shutting themselves in their rooms and hardly coming out. All they ever talk to me about is how they hate my boyfriend living with us (he usually stays in my room, away from the rest of the house, but he's been around quite a bit of the time). The reason my daughters dislike my boyfriend so much seem to mostly be due to him not being fun to have around, and his tendency to dwell on subjects they dislike, that sound paranoid or fear-based to my daughters (he grew up in rough neighborhoods, and had some challenging times in his life... and while he's had lots of counseling, he still often brings up topics that are not exactly cheery or bright). I have asked him to spend more time away from the house in the afternoons and evenings when my daughters are home from school, and while this gives my daughters and I a chance to have time together that feels more normal, it's not a complete solution... because my daughters still feel their home is not truly their own as long as my boyfriend's living in it. They would like to walk around in just a T-shirt, to have friends over without feeling there's someone here they don't feel comfortable around, and to be able to talk with me without having my boyfriend always in the house. I love my boyfriend dearly, but I realize that I only have a few years left with my teenage daughters before they move onward and out, and I wish I could enjoy these last precious months and years without so much stress in our home. I'd love to know if anyone has been in a similar situation, or knows of anyone who found a solution to a similar problem. -- T

The boyfriend should have never moved in without you having a serious conversation with your teenage daughters. They aren't children, they are almost adults and considering their age, their feelings about the situation should have had serious weigh in. I can completely empathize. My mom did the same thing and I had serious ulcers for months that did not go away until he was gone. There is no feeling worse than not being able to be comfortable in your own home, especially if you once had that, and now that's gone. He is not helping you, you are not helping him. Your daughters see that. Preserve your relationship with the girls by putting them first. You just said they won't be there long. I personally don't do live in situations because of my children. When we are married, then we can live together. Kids Come First Mom
I felt compelled to respond because I saw similar situation happen in my family. Given what you have said about your boyfriend it sounds to me like he needs to move out. You are a single mother with the responsability for 2 kids, a household and I assume a job, so I am wondering why you are doing this to yourself? I am sure it is hard and the need for companionship great but do you really need a freeloader on your hands? I think your daughters are reacting to the fact he is not a full participating member of this family. To stay in his room is to avoid the problem and not work toward being a family...which then begs the question...why are you together. Your daughters are teenagers and yes they might be a bit difficult but it sounds to me they are trying to tell you something. Plus at this point your exemple means this what you want them to be doing later on in life? good luck anon
What can your daughters say to make this any clearer for you? Are you really willing to tolerate paranoid comments and the fact that your own children are uncomfortable in their home for the sake of keeping a boyfriend around? You have imposed an unhappy and non-contributing person on your family and they've put up with the situation for two years. Do you see how disrespectful that is of them, and of yourself?

I think that just re-reading your post would tell you what you must do. What would it take for you to decide to get your boyfriend out of the apartment? Is it not a problem because he hasn't stolen anything (but two years of your/their life?) or molested your girls...or because he's not violent?

Once your children have grown up and moved on your home and life are all yours, but right now THEY should be your priority, not this man, or even a more appealing one. Your instinct is right, your time with your kids is finite and if you don't remedy this situation now, they will not come back to you, later in life. Get him out, and apologize to your girls. I think all three of you will feel better. Sad for your girls, who deserve their home

Do the Landmark Forum. Then you will know what to do. Then, if the situation is still not resolved, dump the boyfriend; your relationship with your daughters,and their feeling safe in their home is too important.
You're so right that you only have a little more time for your daughters to be adolescents who want alone time with their mother, before your role in their lives and your influence on them diminishes drastically. In addition you are their primary role model for their own romantic relationships, so you may not want them to learn, even subconsciously, that it's okay to put the needs (financial or otherwise) of a boyfriend ahead of their own and their children's emotional stress/privacy needs. I've been in relationships that were draining me that I probably would have stayed in for longer if I didn't have the example of my mother, who gave me a lot of self-worth as a young girl by showing me that I was more important to her than her boyfriends-- and any boyfriend who was any good for her understood and respected this. Obviously now that I don't live with her anymore her love life is her own business: but the way she conducted her relationships when I was most impressionable gave me more respect for her, for myself, and for women than if I had had to wonder if she was putting a boyfriend's needs before what was best for her daughter. -proud of my mom, & trying to be proud of myself
Um... why is this deadbeat living with you? More to the point, why are you putting the wishes of a no-job, no-life boyfriend over the wishes of your precious daughters? They hate him because he's using you. They want better for you. So do I! Don't you? Dear Abby
You have chosen your boyfriend over your daughters. And your daughters know it. Not sure what you are getting out of the relationship with your boyfriend -- he cannot financially support himself, he makes your kids uncomfortable in their own home. Kick him out and step up to putting your kids first. What kind of example is this setting for your teens anyway?! Wake up, sister!
I had to edit my response a few times, you wouldn't have wanted to see my initial reaction. At first I thought this was a joke question...of course you need to get rid of the boyfriend, and asap, like today. You need as much time as possible to regain trust with your daughters and allow healing to take place. If you do it immediately it might happen. By letting him stay, you are telling them they are not important and don't deserve to grow up in a home where they feel safe. Your first loyalty needs to be to your daughters. You are not responsible for his inability to take care of himself. If you must, give him $250 for a cheap motel while he finds a place to live. You must put your foot down and take back control of your home! Be clear about your priorities and don't waver from them. It is so important for your daughters to learn how not to be victims of a helpless-acting man and not to learn the lesson that they don't matter. I urge you to gather your courage and issue a deadline and stick to it no matter what. Your daughters will respect you for it and you can begin to rebuild trust with them. I know these are strong words, but I just couldn't word it any milder. Anon
I admit up front to strong feelings about your post. Your daughters' feelings are totally valid. I've been a single mom for a while and I've dated one guy seriously but not let him move in with me (he wanted to ASAP). I've seen how sensitive our home atmosphere is to this guy she's known for years, who respects her and who she's come to see as caring and funny. She appreciates him after all this time. Because I don't overwhelm her with him, I'm not remorseful to sometimes have him over go out with him just because I want it. I would not have the relationship I have with her now if I'd had him move in.

It's absolutely true that your daughters have ''lost'' the privacy of their own home, even if he stays in his room. Also how can they (or you) respect a guy who made a move that should be an important relationship-family mutual-adult decision, based on his need and inability to support himself, let alone support you on some sort of equal level? What can they learn about what to expect from a man when they see you accept him in a role similar to another child?

Even just based on what they need day-to-day in terms of a home, I agree with them. The negativity (depression?) of his worldview is icing on the cake. Not a reason to end it necessarily, but is it your job to take care of him at their expense? Asking him to spend time in his room or away tells me you value your time alone with your daughters too. If you love him, couldn't you work at your relationship in separate residences, if just for now?

One last thing, my boyfriend situation almost but did not quite work out for marriage. For me, marriage probability was the test for whether I would put my daughter through the upheaval of adding him to our household. I know I'm probably old- fashioned on this, but it seemed to be in my best interest too. been there/different approach

It sounds like you're living a double life, except it's no secret. You have a boyfriend living in your room who you adore and then your teenage daughters who you equally adore living in the rest of the house. I don't think this happened by accident. I think there's a psychological reason for this that you need to explore in therapy. It's normal for kids this age to hang out in their rooms, regardless of whether you have a boyfriend living with you or not. Telling your boyfriend not to hang out around the house in the afternoon and evenings so you can be with your daughters is not. Either you're a family or you're not. Either he lives someplace else, or he lives with you. It sounds like you're the one who is benefiting the most from this arrangement and you need to see a therapist to find out why. Otherwise you're not being fair to your boyfriend or your daughters. Anon

Single mom, boyfriend, and 10-year-old son

Jan 2007

I am a solo mom, who has always been single (which means there is no other parent at all), with an almost 10 y.o. son. After a hiatus of 10 years I am dating someone. Needless to say, working out the logistics for intimacy is very challenging. My particular issue is that my son still comes into my bed in the middle of the night (I never wake up when he does). I would like to now have him stay in his own bed because at some point I would like my boyfriend to be able to stay overnight with me. I am very aware of the preception of ''kicking'' my son out of my bed for someone else. I am looking for some guidance on how to do this. Help! I would also like to hear from other parents in this situation about how they juggled time alone with a paramour as well as time with their child(ren) around. Right now I am proceeding very slowly, but am tuning into my own personal needs for the first time on 10 years. Thanks for any words of wisdom. anonymous

Three points in yr post. 1.Your 10 yr old is too old to be sleeping with his mother. I emphasize both ''his'' and ''mother.'' 2. Do you really want to model for your son that it is ok to have a boyfriend sleeping over with his mom? I want more kids to know that they need to be way, way more selective and knowledgeable about sex, society, stability, and morality. 3. You gave up ''your needs'' when you had a baby. (See pt. 2, above) You can wait until your precious and only boy moves out. Have dates outside his home. Your son needs you to spend time with him. Trust me on this. Why don't you two do community volunteer work together? anon
Good heavens, I had to write after reading the post suggesting you wait until your 10 year old is grown before dating and having overnights with a boyfriend.

If this is someone who seems important and with whom you are having an ongoing relationship (which is how you describe it), then you just need to explain that to your son. Children will react differently to this news -- some overly thrilled, some overly angry. You need to get clear with yourself that this is an appropriate thing you are doing and communicate that clarity to your son. It will settle out in time. You absolutely deserve to have a relationship that includes sleepovers and, in fact, it could lead to a wonderful relationship for your son as well. Best of luck! sabrina

I asked a friend in the same situation and this is what she told me... I took out names, so I am not sure about editing:

Honestly. I talked to my son and told him that it was time for me to be in a relationship and that at some point my boyfriend would spend the night. He was cool with it - at 10 they know a lot about this stuff even if they don't know the details. It was different as my boyfriend and son knew each other before I knew my boyfriend but jealousy is still, after 8 months, an issue. I try to talk to my son openly and I spend time with just him at times as well as with my boyfriend.

Truly, I think it has been good for my son as it has made him more aware that all people have needs and that love comes in many places. It has certainly made my son more aware that I am a woman and adult as well as his Mom.

I am relieved to have my son see a healthy and open relationship - to see us argue and get through it kindly, to ''neck'' (as he calls it) and see healthy love/affection, to see my boyfriend be kind to me and do sweet things and visa versa. He would have had no idea how to treat a woman or how he deserved to be treated by a woman if he had left home with no example. I was always worried about this.

I honor your courage and strength. My friend is one of the best mother's I know, and her son is doing extremely well. The traditional family, is not the only best way to raise children. Wishing you the best

At 10 your son may be old enough for a sleepover at a friends house. that way you can have your sweetie over undiscovered. after a while, when you are sure that the relationship is strong. you can simply tell your son that boyfriend is sleeping with mommy tonight because that is what people who love eachother do. if he comes in in the middle of the night anyway you can take him back to his bed and cuddle him there for a bit before heading back to your man. i hope this helps. hopefully i'll be in the same position myself one day! stacia
The original post expresses a very serious concern, which ideally should be handled with professional assistance. It is not inappropriate to warn of potential trauma for a 10-year old boy who is suddenly prohibited from sleeping in mother's bed because she is dating. This was the original post's real concern. Certainly there are therapists in the Bay Area who have experience with similar situations.

I experienced a similar situation. I was 12 when a teacher, whom I knew, dated and eventually married my mom (single for many years previously, after the death of dad). I thought it was fine, felt it was fine, acted adjusted, but I repressed significant issues. This precipitated inexplicable suicidal thoughts, acts, etc., and led to a loss of three or four years of ordinary childhood. I was not overly dependent on my mother, either, so I assume a boy who sleeps in his mom's bed could be more destabilized.

Good advice cannot be absorbed if it comes with too much opinion. Because single parenting and sexual freedom provoke such strong opinions, several responses to this post seemed painfully opinionated, although only the "conservative" one created a backlash. Concerned

Boyfriend moving in with me and my 3 y.o.?

Jan 2007

My boyfriend is moving to the Bay Area from southern California in the next few months. Although marriage is intended in the future, it is not something we are planning presently. (background: we've been dating long distance for a year, but have been friends for almost ten years)

What we have been discussing is living together. He already spends most weekends at my apartment with me and my three year old daughter. They both adore each other and are wonderful together. What I'm unsure about is 1. how to answer my daughter's questions as to why B sleeps in my bed; 2. if living together would confuse her or not; 3. how to explain living together if B moves in; 4. how to explain marriage if we later get married; 5. if living together is a bad idea or not; and 6. what exactly is B's relationship with my daughter if we're living together -- do i need to talk about that with her or not?

Last bit of info - I was never married to my daughter's father. He sees her about 5 to 15 hours a week, but she has never has overnights with him. So my home is really her only home. Any and all advice, comments, shared experiences that answer my questions or are just tangentially related are very welcome by me. I don't know any other single moms, so I'm on my own for this. Trying to be good mom

No- please don't move this guy in! Be patient and see if you actually get married first. anon
my husband and i first moved in together when my son was 4 years old, with me not having been previously married to my son's father. i think that the most important element is that you and your partner are committed to each other so that your daughter does not get caught in the middle.

we ended up going on and having another child, before we were married. i cannot remember if the discussion of marriage ever came up so you may be worrying about things that never arise, but i have always talked to my son about the many definitions of family and how many different equations can come from that one term. and, my husband has never tried to take the place of his father. my son is actually closer to my husband, though he may not readily admit it, but also has weekly contact with his dad. we have never tried to make the situation something that its not, nor forced anything on him other than his siblings!! i think just be open with your daughter and let things evolve naturally while including her in the process. and talk to her while encouraging her to be open with you about how she's feeling. best of luck in your new life. anon

Hi, I can't believe you haven't met any sinlge moms here in the Bay Area! Well, there are lots of us out here, with and without boyfriends. To comment on your situation, I guess I would be wary about moving in right away if you haven't had the time to be together in the same town. I think it would be harder on your daughter to figure things out if he moved in and for some reason you guys didn't hit it off domestically and then moved out, than if he came over a lot and started to spend the night slowly before he actually moved in. As far as explaining things to her, you just say, adults who love eachother sleep together and it's another kind of love that's different from how you and she love each other and how your boyfriend and she love eachother and how she loves her father. I don't think there's another way to say it. She will figure it out eventually. Marriage and living together, hmm could be the same for a 3 year old, so I wouldn't go into too much detail except for saying that that's what adults do. Maybe you could say adults live together first and then if it works out and everyone is happy then they get married! If you are going to live together try to make sure that she doesn't feel displaced, try to keep her room as is.

As far as her relationship with your boyfriend, it's nice to have another adult caring about a child. He's not her father, but can be a guiding loving person for her. Good luck! anon

You need to put your daughter first and foremost in your life. If you and your boyfriend are really serious about marriage, have you two sat down separately and together with a wise and experienced third person and gone over with a fine tooth comb your views on money, sex, household duties, conflict resolution, parenting, estate planning, activities that involve each of you three individually and in different groupings of your family? Unless you are prepared to do this work at least twice with months between cycles BEFORE your boyfriend has moved north, you are not truly mature enough to get married. Then get married before the dude moves in. As I said above, it is your daughter, not yourself and your love life, who you must put in the forefront. anon
The way I see it, you have two choices. Either get married since that is your intent and then you can then explain that when people get married they love each other and form a family and live together. Or just say that when people love each other they live together (? especially when they are going to get married soon??) Ring those bells if you're gonna ring 'em

How to approach boyfriend sleeping over?

Jan 2007

I am a single mom of two boys ages 8 and 4. I have a boyfriend whom they adore and he loves them. I would like to be able to have my boyfriend sleep over when the boys are in my house, but don't know how to approach this. We lived with another man briefly, so they have experienced my sleeping in bed with a man other than their father. How have others approached this with their children? Thanks for your advice. anon

You indicate by your post that you have already had at least two failed relationships. You are parenting two kids, both sons, which cannot be easy. But you must model for them commitment and stability. That means ''dating'' out of the house, and minimizing contact with boyfriend. They are very impressionable and are just beginning to understand sexuality, morality, commitment, respect for girls and themselves, and a myriad other fundamental lessons. They both need all of your extra time, not some joe-boyfriend. I suggest you and the kids do volunteer work together (like Habitat for Humanity), work on assisting their education and teachers, and do other, deeper activities. They will be out of your life and into their own in less than 10 unbelievably short years. Use these years wisely. Be a strong, proud woman. anon

How to turn a friendship into "something more"?

June 2006

OK, communal parental wisdom, I have a question that is really about adult relationships but touches on how to survive as a parent post-divorce. I am recently divorced and just shy of fifty. Recently I contacted a man I met before I was divorced both to ask a work-related question and to test the waters to see if he might like to get better acquainted. We have had five get-togethers of the strictly lunch and coffee type over the past three months, all except the first instigated by him, and these are always pleasant but limited in time (two hours or so) and scope (we don't talk relationships at all). During that time he said nothing about any kind of ongoing relationship with someone else or even alluded vaguely to the presence of a woman in his life. For my part, I vaguely alluded to shared custody and no longer wear a ring, but didn't discuss my divorce. Come to find out via a mutual acquaintance that he has a girlfriend, I don't know how serious though I do know that they don't live together. Question (particularly for you males out there, I know there are some out there) -- how do I interpret this? I am interested in the proverbial ''something more'' but have proceeded with extreme caution. Ah, it feels just like teenagerhood. Input from all welcome.

If you want a partner who will surrepititiously go on lunch dates with other women and then ''forget'' to ever mention you exist, well then by all means, go for it. I guess as women get older, they don't get any smarter in the ways of love. This is disconcerting. Really, the type of man who fishes around for the next, uh, fish, before ending the relationship he is in is a coward, a liar and has absolutely no integrity. As you have no idea what it would be like to be in an emotionally and physically intimate relationship with him (I mean it could be awful anyway)yet and are not physically or emotionally or finacially attatched, why would you even consider a man like this. It is not like the two of you are together and have problems you need to work out. He's proving to be a problem before step one and you will have only yourself to blame if you go ahead with this. P.S. Why don't you check in w/ the girlfriend. I am sure you will learn a lot. Sorry to sound harsh. I do feel for you Take Care of Yourself
Given the fact that you and he have not discussed personal issues, it would seem to me that he is treating you like a friend since you have not indicated that you are interested in anything more. Since you have discussed work, it is easy enough for him to tell his girlfriend that he is seeing a friend from work for a casual lunch. I would suggest talking about other issues, such as asking if he has plans that weekend, or maybe say when he asks if you are free for lunch the next time, say that you are busy but was wondering if he would like to meet for a drink (or coffee) after work. See what he says. He and his girlfriend might be serious, or they might be both dating others; you won't know until he says something. This is the Bay Area and there's a wide variety of relationships here. Many years ago I dated someone named Tom, who had a boyfriend named Adam. Everyone was on the same page and we had no issues with that (both Adam and I saw Tom separately, and in fact I never met Adam). More recently I had a female friend seriously dating a man who was also seeing another woman; again, all were knowledgable about what was happening. Just some things to consider. L.
glad you posted; i just love this stuff, as a recently (well, 5 years ago now, come to think of it) dumped 62 year old dad of a now 7 year old, after 17 year relationship. you at least have something going, so good for you. but what to make of, or how to interpret what is happening with you? from my perspective, unfortunately there is no obvious read on him for you. clearly he is interested, since he has asked you for 4 of the 5 meetings you have had. but whether or not 1)he is very tight with the non live-in girl-friend but is just enjoying a little extra company with you, or 2)even wanting some kind of extra-relationship fling with you, but will still be committed to her in the end OR 3)things with her are not all that serious and he really IS checking you out for something more serious, i just don't think is all that clear at this moment.

therefore, i think all you can do is just go along with your life and see what, if anything, develops, either here or elsewhere. but keep in mind that ANY of the above 3 alternatives is possible. please however don't mortgage your emotions to any one of them, if you can help it, because it may not be the actual one. good luck and please keep me posted, in case you have time or interest in doing so. i much enjoy hearing how you and others go about these things. d

Hi, Uncharted territory with these new relationships. Putting yourself out there for a deeper connection is tough. A few things came to mind as I read your post as I too am coming out of a 7 year commitment. First is to remember that you know when someone is into you. He would be wanting more than a few hours here or there. Also, any man I have dated will want to go out in the evening to a play or to dance. There is lots of eye contact and any excuse to sit closer than how friends would sit. If you really are attracted to his mind/body put it out there a bit and see if he is interested in going out to dinner. Let's try and get a date that is longer than 3 hours. Don't be shy when you see someone that looks interesting at the store, supermarket or wherever you are say hi. As my grandma says, ''put on your lipstick and go with the attitude that today anything can happen''. Feel free to ignore the lipstick part (; Good luck and have fun! My 2 cents
Don't jump into ANYTHING that you have some doubts about if you're recently divorced. It's way more trouble when you're older and have kids to get into things and to break them off. Given that you have learned he has a girlfriend, I'd suggest you either: stay away COMPLETELY from the possibilty of ''something more'' (my preferred option for you), or ask him about it. To me, the fact that he didn't mention a girlfriend probably means that he's testing the waters with you, in a less than straightforward manner (and I suspect he'd be equally vague and elusive about you). Usually this means he'd be interested in being deceptive about his girlfriend. Honey, you have time! Don't worry! and Don't start into anything virtually guaranteed to cause stress.

Don't push this until you find out from him (and maybe your other source) that his girlfriend is out of the picture completely. And if he indicates that he may be interested in something more, or if your meetings get to be more than casual (e.g., nice dinner or something that feels more like a ''date'' to you), come right out and ask him about the girlfriend. Make him be straightforward w/ you. It's not unusual to start out w/ past acquaintances right after a divorce, but it's probably a good time for you to meet more than just one person, and keep them all at friendship/casual level for a while. You can't replace the good things you lost from your ex just yet

Re-entering the dating world with a 3-year-old

May 2006

My instincts are failing me on this one, so I need some help. I've been divorced for a year now and am re-entering the dating world with a three year old. What are the rules here? Don't introduce boyfriend until when? (I assume some number of months? or are brief at the door intros okay earlier?) Is it ever okay for boyfriend to stay over at night? In separate bed? on sofa? what about when you are no longer dating but in a ''serious'' relationship? What, if any, activities are okay to do together? and when? Or do I just learn to wholly segregate my parent life and my dating life? (which seems hard since I am so intrinsically a parent) Obviously I want to do what is best for my child. Any guidance from those who have been through this before?
Want a social life again

I consider myself instrinsically a parent as well. That's why in dating, I only date men that have children and are actively involved in their children's lives or men that have a strong desire to be fathers and for some reason, have not yet. Further, I have been divorced since my children were 6 months old and 2 years old and they are now 8 and 10 - and I've learned the hard way not to involve my children into my relationships. The right time is when I know the man I'm dating is going to be my husband. Dating is hard enough for us, trust me when I say it's twice as hard when you have kids because when the relationship ends, it's a break up for them too. In dating, I talk about the kids all the time as he does about his daughter but we decided not to merge until we are ready to take it to the next level. Also, I don't date anyone that I don't think is likely to make it to the next level.
SIngle Mom that Dates
Hi. A few years ago, I was in this exact situation and I followed my instincts. I did not think in terms of whether boyfriend should be introduced, stay over, etc. I judged everything by my one principle that a child should not have someone come into their world and become significant to them, only to then lose that person. This might condition a child into the feeling that lovers are temporary. Since a small child forms attachments so quickly, I did not want to make anyone part of our household in any way unless I were certain that person was going to be around for a long time. Therefore, it was 6 months before my child met my boyfriend, and it was almost 2 years before I began occasionally including him in family dinners, or going camping as a threesome, and so forth.

Now of course my child is attached to him, but we have been dating for 5 years. For 3 years my child would only see him every few months; now it's once a week or so. And I have never had him spend the night. I feel that someone who spends the night becomes, in my child's eyes, an essential part of the household, and I don't want my child's household world to be disrupted again the way it was when my husband left, or growing up with the idea that men come, and then they move on. As it happens, I dated a while, and then I ended up with my current boyfriend of five years. I have never regretted having myself be fully guided by what I feel is best for my child. I felt that if a potential boyfriend did not understand my attitude, then we were better off without him. But guys I dated respected my position, and may have been relieved to get to know me without having to also form attachments with my child. I imagine men don't need the burden of potential guilt if, after a couple of months of dating they are no longer interested, they'd be hurting a child as well.

When I read your post, I was inspired to respond right away! I'm a local single mom who dove back into dating when my daughter turned three.

Your questions are excellent. You sound very thoughtful.

Dating as a single mom has been quite a life-changing experience for me! You can read about what I've learned at Literary Mama,, where I write a column called ''Single Mom Seeking.''

I, too, have struggled with issues such as sleeping with a man for the first time. As it turns out, single motherhood has been my first lesson in learning how to date - for real. It sounds like you have really great instincts. Feel free to write to me!

Warmly, Rachel

I would be curious to read the responses you will get for this. I am in the same boat as you. I did start dating while my husband and I were separated. In hindsight,emotionally, I wasn't ready to date even though I was the one that wanted the Divorce. I wasn't ready to share myself emotionally with anyone else. The dating was fun as it got me out of the house. My son has a good relationship with his father so I only went out on dates during the weekends when he was with his father. And no, I did not introduce my son to any of my dates. I broke up with 'Joe' after dating him for about 3 months. A few weeks later, an friend of mine emailed me. We both had a crush on each other for a long time while I was married. (Although he was not the reason for the divorce. My husband and I managed to screw it all up by ourselves). In any event, he is wrong for me on paper for so many reasons, he is 6 years younger than me for one thing. (He's in his late 20s and I am in my early 30s)However, I decided to take the chance and said yes to dating him. I found our dates to be so much fun and he is a wonderful person to be with. (Keeping my fingers crossed!) I know he loves kids (HE babysat for one of his single mom friends) but I would not introduce him to my son and vice-versa until things got more serious or until he asks to spend time with my son. (The last time he saw my son, he was 6 months old)

My best friend went through a divorce with a 2 year old daughter. She met someone right after who not only asked to spend time with her but also planned activities to include her. Needless to say, they are now married and are one big happy family.
Newly single

Finally found a guy I like - but he's younger than me!

April 2006

I am a single mom (separated for three years) and about to turn forty. Although I get lots of attention from men, I have not been interested in anyone (at all) since leaving my husband and so have fallen into a rut of politely saying ''no thank you'' to all men who approach me. I keep telling myself I'm not ready, the divorce isn't final, I'm too busy with my child etc...Recently, a man has shown a great deal of interest in me and I am shocked to find that I am interested in him too. The problem is he is seven years younger than me! Although he is the only man I've looked twice at in years I am tempted to say ''no thank you'' again because he is so young. I know we are all individuals, age is just a number, men do this all the time,etc...but I am not a man. I feel ridiculous bringing this issue here (it makes as much sense as consulting my child's magic eight ball, which invited me to ''ask again later'') but I wonder if anyone, esp. women my age have insights that might help. Is such an age difference a good enough reason to reject the advances of an otherwise desirable guy? Am I just protecting my vanity, reputation, or whatever? I have not dated since I was younger than this guy so I have no idea what's ''normal'' now. Am I making a big deal of nothing? anon.

7 years is nothing in terms of age difference. Go for it, and see what happens! anon
Go for it! While I'm married and have not been in your situation, I have friends who have and are the same age as you. Who cares if he's younger as long as you enjoy his company. Take it one step at a time, and live and enjoy your life. You are entitled to have some romance. At the same time, you have a child so there needs to be some boundaries established with any new relationship you embark on, regardless of age. Go for it!
I've been married to a much younger man for more than ten years, and am very happy that when I asked myself the question you are asking yourself, I decided to give it a go. The only area where our age difference makes any difference at all is that we are of different musical generations. Other than that, the important things -- the things that make or break a marriage, like having well-matched values, for example -- are utterly unaffected by our age difference. Before I met this man, I had generally dated men 2-5 years older than I was; I can tell you that most of them had far less maturity than the guy who eventually became my husband (when he was 28 and I was 40). Age Is Only a Number
Woman, go for it!! You will only know if it works or doesn't work by trying it. And if there is chemistry and you have some connecting points then it could be fun. You don't need to go into it thinking you are going to get married or that he is going to be the child's second father.

Speaking as a single mom (10 years divorced!), it's really nice to have the attention and affection from a nice man when you can. It's a hard job and you need adult initimacy too! You don't need to broadcast it at first, in fact, I don't talk about or bring the new man home to meet my daughter or friends until I'm sure about him and we've been seeing each other for a while. Even then, in 10 years it's only been a few, not exactly a parade.

He must be around 32? Not exactly a spring chicken, it's not like his biggest memories are from college or high school! I think we learn things from all relationships, about ourselves and others. Have fun! anon

Don't worry about it - if you like this guy, just ignore the age difference. I am 11 years older than my husband. We started dating when I was 39 and he was 28. We have been together for over 10 years now and we are very happy. We have many common interests and the age difference really only comes up when we are reminiscing about music we listed to in high school (he listened to crap and I listened to the good stuff - ha ha). Anyway, it is not a big deal. At first, I had a few insecurities about being older, especially since I'm a woman and women worry about their looks a lot more than men do. It's socially acceptable for old geezers like Hugh Hefner but really ''scandalous'' with genders switched! However, I soon realized that no one really noticed the age difference. Even being around his friends, they just don't seem to recognize the difference unless I bring it up. He says that women live on average 10 years longer than men, so we are about even!
Not too scandalous
Am you making a big deal of nothing? YES. anon
I'd say go for it with this guy. A seven year gap in ages is a big deal when you're 24 and he's 17, and still something of a deal when you're 30 and he's 23. But if you're 40 (almost) and he's 33, it's no big deal at all. The older you get, the less this kind of thing matters. My now husband some 15 years ago dated and lived with a woman 7 years his senior and they got along famously. Unfortunately, the poor lady died of cancer after only a few years, but I know they were happy and in love right up until the end. Both families were very happy to have them settled with each other. He and I met a few years ago and are now married. I'm only a year older than him, but I think if I were 7 years older, it wouldn't matter. Good luck. DB
If you have lots in common and chemistry, you go girl! Both my husbands were younger, one by a year, another by 4 years. Most of the time it made no difference at all. My present relationship is with a guy 17 years older. Most of the time, again, the age doesn't matter at all. Just keep the good communication going and have fun. You deserve fun in life and someone nice to share those experiences with. kathryn
Lucky you!! I would not worry about the age difference at all. I am 40 and would definitely consider dating a 33-year-old (although I can't because I'm married!). I think the biggest issue is whether you both feel you are in a similar stage of life. For example, the difference between 22 and 27 can be much greater in terms of ''just out of college'' vs. ''stable job/life and looking to settle down'' even though the age difference is only 5 years. 33 and 40 are not so far apart if family/work/life issues are compatible. anon
Stop worrying sweetie! 7 years is nothing at ages 33 and 40, and will continue to matter even less as you both age. Put it out of your mind right now so you can get to the things that matter :-) I know two couples with women ten years older than the men - they both met in the women's late 30's early 40's.
Currently seeing someone 5 years younger
In a word (or few): dating a younger man is no big deal at all. My husband is 4 years younger than I am. His best friend's wife is 7 years older than her husband. My 65-year-old aunt married her 55-year-old husband when she was 33. My other aunt on that side married a second husband who is six years younger than she is when she was in her late 30s. And so on. It's really no big deal and I wonder if your concerns are really more just about getting back into dating again (which is perfectly understandable!). The only question would be if this man wants children biologically related to him. But I'm jumping the gun and if this is an issue you'll no doubt talk about it in good time anyway.... Good luck! anon
My experience with this is only peripheral. My best friend (48) is married to a man 12 years her junior. They have two children and have been married for over 10 years. My sister is almost 45 and married to a man 7 years her junior. They also have a daughter and have been together over 10 years. I think both have come to view the age difference as a non-issue. I say go for it! Anon
First, congratulations on finding that ''feeling'' again. Isn't it wonderful? I am also nearing 40. I don't think that the age difference should make any difference. I understand your statement ''men do it, but I'm not a man'' but really, I don't think it should make one bit of difference if you are compatible. If you enjoy his company, see him some more. Take it slow and see where it goes. Good luck and enjoy!
I am in the same boat as you-seperated/divorced 3 yrs haven't dated since-41 years old. My rule of thumb for dating at this age is 10 years up and 10 years down(31-51) and there can always be exceptions. The older you get the gap in how people behave becomes smaller (usually). If you are 40 and he is 33, that doesn't sound weird to me at all. Anon
Go for it, girlfriend! It great that you're finally feeling the spark again. Honestly, 33 and 40 doesn't seem that shocking to me; I think the age gaps lessen as we get older. It seems to me like the issues with younger men often revolve around kids (the older woman wants to start a family, the younger man isn't ready yet, or the older woman is leaving her fertile years and the younger man has conscious or unconscious problems with that), but since you're on the BPN I assume you are already a mother so the issue is moot. Congrats on being attractive as your youthful, vital self. anon
You're probably going to get a lot of responses to this, but I thought I'd chime in. I got divorced at 34, and met a man 6 years younger when I was 38. It didn't even occur to me to think of him romantically at first (I was always into older men), and when it did I felt slightly embarrassed at being so much older, but I must say, he's the best man I've ever met. Almost 5 years later, we're married with a 3 year old, and I never thought I could be so happy. The age difference has had virtually no impact except that I beat him to 40... So go for it! What have you got to lose?
younger guys rock
I am 41 and married to a man 8.5 years younger. I was in a similar position as you 4.5 years ago when we met--meeting fewer and fewer men of interest, and most seemed young (as in immature) even if they were my age or older. The only time hubby and I notice the age difference is when discussing certain aspects of pop culture, and even then, I'd say we have ''knowledge overlap'' most of the time. I think what it comes down to is does the man have the same timeline as you (for commitment, marriage, kids, whatever); granted the younger the man, probably the less likely they want those things, but there are some who are open to it.
happy with younger man
Forgot to mention some other salient points...I think it's cool to be able to say I married a (significantly) younger man. It's also very fun to have him find me so desirable and sexy, and appreciate my independence and no-bullbleep attitude.
happy with younger man

When is it appropriate tell kids the relationship is serious?

Feb 2006

When is it an appropriate time to introduce someone as a significant other to your kids? I have a 4 year-old son, never been married, and my son's father & I have not been together for over a year. I had started dating a few different men several months ago, but nothing serious and I have kept all that completely separate from my son (i.e. I never brought any of my dates around my son). However, I have been dating one man pretty much exclusively for the past month and we've been talking lately about moving our relationship to the next level (monogamous, boyfriend/girlfriend, exclusive, or whatever it's called). He is extrememly supportive in any way I want to handle things with my son in regards to including him into our lives, undertstands completely that my son is my first and foremost priority and that everything else falls into a distant second. He is also all for ''the slower, the better''. My son has met him as ''mommy's friend'', so he is familiar with him. But considering the relationship developing into something more, I don't know how to do this so that my son feels comfortable as well, and that I don't give him the impression that I am trying to ''replace'' his daddy with this new man. By the way, my son has a great relationship with his father, which I want to continue to support. Do I talk with my son about it? Or do I just hang back and let things develop without having to say anything? How have some of you handled the experience of dating, finding someone really special, and letting your kids know, too? Because not everyone is just ''mommy's friend'' or ''uncle so&so''.
Dating is Hard

Please don't make the same mistake I made when I first started dating again. You've been dating someone for a whole month and think it's time to merge (bring your son into the relationship). You are dating the guy, not your son. Leave him out of it until you're ready to say ''I do''. It's hard enough when a relationship ends but then to have to nurse your kids through the break-up, well they did that already when you and the father split up. It's easier to leave them out of it.
Been there, but never ever again
There is this great group for singles at the Berkeley Richmond JCC. Actually the facilitator (Rachel Sarah) is a single mom, who wrote a book about being a single mom and the dating challenges that she had to face. You can go to They meet every Thursday at 7pm. Perhaps you can go and she can give good advice about it.
My father died when I was 4, and my mom dated afterward. Based on my experience, I would encourage you to be cautious about letting this man become someone your son counts on until you have a secure commitment with your boyfriend. It can be heartbreaking and bewildering for children to be ''broken up with,'' believe me. It's like a divorce except that the one person simply disappears, and the child has no real claim on him. A kid can experience this as a life lesson in how little he matters in the world and how risky it can be to trust others emotionally. Basically, I just think you and your boyfriend should be mindful of the relationship he is building with your son, and remember that your son is a separate person who may come to love your boyfriend, too. Keep things light and friendly until you know where things are going -- and certainly don't move in together until your future together is clear. My two cents.

My 9-year-old daughter is not accepting my boyfriend

Jan 2006

I've never thought that my daughter (9 years old) will behave in such a terrible way. I am a single parent who devoted the last six years to her. We are very close and spent a lot of time together. She was my first priority and I did not date anyone seriously. My daughter is very sweet and mature for her age. Dad is hardly in the picture.

I met someone recently and our relationship has been progressing very quickly. However, my daughter does not like and does not accept the guy. I understand that she is jealous and wants to keep me for herself. She asks me why I am not happy just having her, and why I need someone else in our relationship. She also afraid that I don't think about her when I am with a boyfriend. She seems to understand my explanations and reassurance of love but once she sees the guy she throws tantrums, screams and hits things around her. When he is not around she always talks how much she hates him. She also concern about physical part of our relationship and does not want to see us kissing or holding hands. It's been like this for a couple of months. I was hoping it will pass but it is getting worse.

Is there any way to make it easier on her and not to give up a boyfriend? Do I need a therapist? Thank you for your advice.

My parents split up when I was three and I lived through both of their dating other people. They both started dating other people when I was much younger than 9, so by then I was used to it since it had always been that way.

This is one of those times when you need to put your own needs first. If you dump the guy for your daughter, you will resent her, she will not respect you, and you will end up being much more emotionally dependent on your daughter which she will resent once she hits the teenage and young adult years. All you can do is explain to her that you are not going to be alone for the rest of your life just so she can have you to herself for a few years. Be firm, do NOT let her push you around.

Now my mom dated several guys while I was growing up (not all at once of course). Some of them I liked better than others. The main thing that determined this was how interested they seemed in me as a person. I didn't mind if they were nervous around me (which I didn't know at the time I only know now in retrospect) as long as they put in some kind of effort to get to know me. Your boyfriend needs to reach out to your daughter. If she blows him off he just needs to try something else.

If he decides that he doesn't want to be in this relationship because of your daughter (unlikely but may happen, I don't know the guy) DO NOT guilt trip your daughter or let her know she had anything to do with it. Just tell her he broke up with you, end of story. anon

Dear Anon, My daughter was about 7 when I met my now husband. She has an older sibling who was 17 at the time so it wasn't an issue. However, she, too, didn't like him, didn't like the way he treated her (he never had kids and didn't know them well). We moved in together 3 years later as he traveled a lot, and although her biological dad was totally out of the picture, she didn't find a bond with him..both of them were at fault.

Several things I think and in listening to Dr. Laura years ago and now Dr. Phil, heed her feelings and be sure that there's nothing strange about their relationship that makes her uncomfortable. Is he nice to her? How does he treat you when you're with her. The physical stuff can be curtailed if this is just her only issue as it may make her uncomfortable

If your certain that it's more of she needs to share you and doesn't like it, it is hard on them..I would then seek therapy.

We went to counseling and then during our move in period, did family counseling. I am not sure it helped a lot, as they still clashed, but she was 10 and I wasn't getting any younger and although he wasn't the warm & fuzzy guy towards her always, I knew he genuinely cared about her and her life.

Mixed feelings about the choice I made. She's in college now, and they get along lots better and I know deep down she will thank him for all he's done for her, for me and I know how proud he will be when she graduates and then, maybe they'll get closer. I do know when she marries, she wants him to walk her down the aisle.

It's hard when you're a single mom...but do pay attention to your daughter's feelings, acknowledge them, discuss and get some professional assitance. Contact me directly, should you need a friend Karen

P.S. Many therapists, including, Dr.Laura, believe we should wait until our kids are grown...we're young and don't want to miss out on what could be a good man. Be sure he is before making him an active part of your lives -- yours and your daughters. It's worse when they get attached and then you break up. Good luck! Karen

Hi! I suspect what you need is a new family dynamic that addresses both your insecurities and hers. There's a great series of CD's called Common Sense Parenting (available through me, or through Pransky and Associates in LaConnor WA)that would help tremendously. I also recommend that you consider where family health comes from and begin to include the whole family in your resolve to be healthy. I'd be glad to talk with you further if this sounds interesting. I coach families and individuals on accessing wisdom and health no matter the circumstances, using Principle-Based Learning. Julie
When I was a little girl, my parents divorced and I watched my mom date and be with her boyfriends. I didn't feel that comfortable but they always take me to my favorite ice-cream place and let me take home 12 scoops. My mom and I parted way when she came to study in the US. Four years later, she married someone and brought me over when I was 13. I recented her and rebelled. I felt that she took her words back that I was her most important person partly because she never reassure me and involve me in the process. Eventually I got over that but it took a long time.

A girlfriend of mine started dating a single father of a 3 year old girl two years ago. They were very very good in introducing the girl into the picture. I realize your child is much older but the little girl is not less vocal at 3-5 years old (trust me). First he made sure that they don't do anything in front of her for a long long time -- holding hands, kissing, etc. Second when he is alone with her or all three hanging out (a long time later), he had to reassure her that she is number 1 priority but now daddy likes a lady friend named ''xxx''. They both complimented her whenever they could and they would do what the little girl likes for the weekend when he has her. For every mild stone, he would take his daughter out on a date and have a little talk.

The first year they visit with the little girl, have dinner, play with her, then say good night and off they go their separate way. I have to say that my gf is very much her friend, read to her, play with her, go to her school performance, go to the mall, whatever they can do together. Once she gains trust she can tell his daughter when she is misbehaving. When it's just the two of them, they can go out as a ''date''. I think a year later they started to stay at each other's houses and being in the same bed in the most discreet way. In short, they never made her feel uncomfortable. Take it slow. The right guy will understand. Good luck. tira

When I was 8 my mother got serious with a boyfriend. I would do things like set the table for just my mom and myself at dinnertime and completely ignore him. I really hated their physical relationship, and while they didn't kiss or hold hands around me, I would see him coming out of her bedroom at night. I'm not sure when things changed but over the years I grew to accept and even love him. We all moved in together at 12 and he basically accepted me as his kid. By highschool he was the calming influence in the house, while my mother and I raged at each other. To this day he is the person I go to if I need to discuss something important with them. He has very slowly earned my trust and now that he and my mom are aging, I am worried about what will happen to our relationship if she were to die first. When I look back, I remember that he tried to aproach me a few times, but it didn't really work. What did work was the space he granted me to go through the painful process of sharing my mom. What also worked subconsciously was the fact that-eventually-he stepped in as my father, accepting the financial/emotional burdens of that role. He paid for private school when things went weird for me in middle school. He helped pay for college, and stood there proudly at my graduation. When I asked my mom to ''walk me down the aisle'' at my wedding, he respectfully sat in his seat and shined with pride. He wrote my most treasured entry in our guestbook. I say all this because I think it's important for you guys to look at this as a long-term thing. If you want it to last, I would just back off your daughter and give her the space to have her feelings. Spend special time, just the two of you. If your boyfriend sticks it out, he will earn her respect and love. She will eventually witness the love he has for you, and that will mean a lot to her. If your boyfriend is still in the picture, when she begins to really question her ''real'' dad's role, she'll see that your boyfriend is right there by your side. She is smart, she has a deep caring (and protective feelings) for you, and already at this age understands a lot. She'll be able to see what's up, and who deserves her affection. Good luck ! and be patient. love my stepdad
You have my sympathy! My daughter was 9 when I re-married after 8 years of being a single mom. In my case, HE had issues and, unfortunately, my daughter suffered a lot. I basically had 2 people competing for my attention and while she, as the child, was the one who needed help and understanding, it was him, as the controlling and abusive man that he was, who ''won''. I deeply regret that I did not seek help at the time. I applaud you for your concern and want to strongly recommend that you seek counsel. My daughter and I have a very good relationship now, but I still can't forgive myself for what I put her through. My husband and I are still together and over the years I became stronger in communicating my needs as well as my daughter's.

Good luck to you. Step-parent relationships are very tricky, as I'm sure others will tell you. I think you're awesome to be thinking ahead and seeking help. Good luck! mom first

I'm also a single mother and can empathize with your situation. I can only tell you what I've read about single parent dating and what worked for me. There are some statements that you made that resonate with me. 1-that you've ''devoted the last 6 yrs'' to your daughter. 2-that you've ''met someone recently and the relationship is progressing very quickly''. Generally from what I've read and found to work, it's important to move SLOWLY when dating so that your kids can have sufficient time to get to know your friend and become comfortable with them. But this takes time- months sometimes years to establish, especially the older the child(ren) is (are). I made the decision to not have my child meet any of the men I was dating until I was sure in my mind that the relationship was going somewhere and was long- term. This period for me was 6 months. The reasoning is this: It acts as a great prescreen. You don't know how long the relationship is really going to last so (IMHO) it's better to experience this without your child having been exposed to the person and having established a relationship with him so that they're none the worse for it. I would also refrain from being affectionate in your daughter's presence until she is comfortable with your boyfriend. It puts more on her than she as a child is capable of processing, especially when she's still processing the notion of you being in a relationship. Is it possible for you to interact with him when she's not around? This may enable you to work with her to assure her that you're not going anywhere and that you'll always be her mother regardless of who you're involved with. Then let your actions demonstrate that. Also, remember that if this guy and you are meant to be together then moving more slowly isn't a bad thing since you'll be together forever. Good luck! single parenting isn't easy
Your daughter ''was'' your first priority? I assume she still is. Can you just put off dating until she is grown? I grew up with a dating mom and it was hell. Wait till 18
I'm sorry you're in this situation, but I'm also sorry your daughter is in this situation. You may feel like you are the victim in this situation, but really, your daughter is as well. If your child had a friend who was a boy whom she liked in the ''puppy love'' sense, and you found that he was totally bratty and terrible, and he was coming over all the time, staying for dinner, and holding hands with her, you would probably tell her you didn't want her to see him and that he couldn't come over anymore, and that would be it. But your daughter has no such power, so this is her way of expressing her unhappiness with disapproval. The bottom line is that if she doesn't like someone at all and he is coming over all of the time, and showing great affection to the one person in her life whom she really has, she is not going to like him any more as he continues doing this and it gets worse. If you really like him, you may need to make a huge effort (probably therapy included) to work out the issues your daughter has with him. If you don't think that it is worth it, then you don't like him enough to cause this kind of rift between you and your child. Mitra
Hi, I was like your daughter with my mother. You mentioned that her father is barely in the picture. If she was anything like me, she will be more threatened by your boyfriends because of her relationship, (or there lack of), with her father than the typical child. It's not your fault. But she may need some therapy to work out her feelings about men, or more precisely, father-figures. Of course, I could merely be projecting and she will grow out of this quickly. You may want to also try letting your boyfriend and she spend some time together, just the two of them, if she is willing! Best of luck, Anon
If you are even considering not dating for the next 10 years (until your daughter grows up) let me share this... My daughters is 25 and is giving me/my boyfriend an incredibly hard time. I am in my late 40s and finally ready to do something for myself, but she won't have it. She still wants me at her beck and call- mostly for her children. There is no guarantee that your daughter will be any more accepting when she's 18. In the meantime you will be lonely, give up any opportunity to have another child (if you want one) and most important, never have modeled the makings of a good relationship for your daughter. Remember, they do what we do, not what we say, not what they see on TV, not what they see at the movies. If you sacrifice your possibility of companionship for her, you are not teaching her that she is #1, you are teaching her that she like you, is not.

I gave everything to my daughter including the food on my plate when she wanted more even if she'd had enough and I hadn't. Is my daughter at 25 a self assured young woman who is out there getting what wants and deserves to have? No. She is busy putting off her life and fullfilment for her children. And, she's re- creating the one relationship she saw me in. A really bad one.

Treat yourself the way you want your daughter to treat herself when she grows up. Treat your daughter, the way you want her to treat your grandchildren.

I am madly in love with my grandchildren, sad that my daughter is not a priority in her own life and very grateful that I have a boyfriend that is forgiving of my often rude 25 year old daughter who doesn't want to share her mother. I am lucky that he has given my daughter time and space to get used to the idea of him in my life. hoping its not too late

Your email really struck a chord with me, having been the only child of a single mom who had a lot of boyfriends. First of all, I want to tell you that I don't think there's any reason to give up on your boyfriend, unless the relationship isn't working for other reasons. But several of your comments really raised red flags for me. 1) You say you ''devoted the last 6 years to her.'' Well, she didn't ask to be born and of course you devoted 6 years to her -- that is your job. I hope you will devote the next 6 years to her, too. She's not 18 and can't take care of herself. 2) You wrote ''she was my first priority.'' Was? Hopefully, she still is. I think that's her proper place. She certainly should be a higher priority than someone you barely know. 3) You wrote that the relationship was ''progressing very quickly.'' Why? Why the rush, especially given how hard it is on your child? Is he going anywhere? My experience was that my mother (whom I adore and with whom I am best friends today) gave me lots of verbal reassurance about her boyfriends, but her actions said something else. I would have preferred her to be less physically demonstrative with men in front of me, certainly in the first few months. I would have preferred her to make ''special'' time for me that was regular and sacred. I would have preferred her to never ever ever let a new boyfriend discipline me. Ultimately, when I was 16, she married my stepfather. It was rough and I tortured him, but gradually I became closer and closer to him until we were actually (he has since died) closer to each other than I was to her. There was a long period of time when he constantly had to assert that he came first, which was hard for the family. But he was very loving to me, had other kids that I adored, and he tried hard to disengage from my provocative behavior. Once he created his own relationship with me (and once I let him do that), things got a lot better. I hope you will continue to make your daughter your first priority, while setting appropriate limits that allow you to continue your relationship with your new boyfriend. Good luck!

Learned to love the Boyfriend

Dating a widower

Sept 2005

I have a friend who was recently widowed. I know the Dear Abby columns say only the grieving can decide when they are ready, especially after there has been a long illness (which there was), but when do you think it is socially acceptable to begin to date? The timing issue will surely come up in polite conversation, and wouldn't many people think anything less than six months is too soon? There are children involved too. I think Dad should sit them down and let them know he is planning to have a private life, but is it better for him to get going without any announcements to them yet? If anyone has experience with this, it would be so helpful to hear it - either from the point of view of the widower, or from the point of view of someone dating a widower. In my single life, I have met a number of widowers, but there had been a signficant time lapse since their wife's death. Any comments welcome.

From the children's perspective, he should wait one year before starting to date, and at least two years before remarrying. I lost my mother when I was 29, and after 31 years together, my father starting dating about one month after her death. My siblings and I were horrified. He started exclusively dating one woman two months later and married her less than 2 years after my mother's death. We can't stand the woman -- partly because we see her as an opportunist taking advantage of a widower, and she is ''all over'' him physically (too much PDA!), which makes us want to puke. So from my point of view, if you want the kids to like you ..... WAIT! With younger kids, it could be different... they could be ready sooner, or their hate for a new woman could be even stronger, I don't know. anonymous
Your msg doesn't say anything about why it matters to you. Are you the one of the dates? If so and you're uncomfortable, wait. If so and you're comfortable, go ahead. If you're not one of the dates, stop worrying because there isn't anything you could do about it anyway, other than lose your friends by placing some notion of etiquette over their happiness.

When and how to involve the children is a separate question, one that has nothing to do with social acceptability. Let it be

I started dating my now-wife about 4-5 months after my first wife died. You don't say anything about the age of your friend, but my experience in meeting a lot of other widows and widowers is that men are often ready a lot sooner than women, as long as they are not elderly and married for several decades.

It doesn't mean that they aren't still grieving, but the company of an understanding woman sometimes helps- it did for me. I think men need women more than they sometimes like to admit. Your friend should know that a new relationship will often bring up grief in ways he didn't expect. But it doesn't mean he shouldn't do it. And it's not every woman who is secure enough to take that on.

As for the kids, you didn't specify the ages of his children so it's hard to say what he should or shouldn't tell them. I didn't have any so it wasn't an issue for me.
Happy Widower

Wonderful new boyfriend - when can he stay over?

Sept 2005

I'm in a wonderfully awkward situation and I need some help from someone who's been there, done that. After being separated almost 5 years from my almost ex husband, I've finally met a man that I love being around. (I've dated off and on before, but my boys have never met my past boyfriends.) He's a great guy (and a parent himself), but my boys are feeling like they are ''losing'' mom, not gaining an adult in their lives. Recently, he has been spending the night a couple of times a week, but my boys have woken up for various reasons in the middle of the night (which they haven't done for years) and have wanted to come and cuddle in my big king bed. I don't want to exclude any male in my life from night time cuddles, but want to do what is best for my sons. So help me out here: do I only have him stay over when the boys are at their Dad's (3-5 weekend nights a month); or, hire a sitter and go to ''his place'' for a few hours; or, try to create some middle ground - i.e., if the bedroom door is locked, they have to wait - if the bedroom door is closed but not locked, they may come in - but can expect that my boyfriend will be there (both of us with pyjamas on by the time we unlock the door) and that we can all cuddle together. Or does someone have another great idea that keeps everyone happy? P.S. this is the best sex I've ever had in my life and my boys are 9 and 10 1/2 years old. Thanks!
Hoping for the best

You don't say how long you've known your new friend, or when your boys first met him, but I wouldn't push them in any way to become buddies with him; they'll get to know him at their own pace. (And I think expecting that you'll all cuddle together right now is premature.) Even after 5 years, your boys may still wish and dream that you and their father will get back together; finding a new man in your bedroom might be proof to them--I mean, upsetting proof--that this will not happen. (Imagine yourself at their age. Would you really be happy to find your mother or father with a new person?)

You might consider just having your friend over when the boys are with their father overnight, and, as you mentioned, hiring a sitter some afternoons and evenings. But I'd be sure to have frequent weekend where it's just you and the boys.

Good luck to you and your sons and your new relationship. Melanie

I was in this situation when my boys were about the same age as your sons. I had a big advantage though - my boys were at their dad's half the week so I had a lot more time to work with! First of all, your boys are old enough to understand the concept of knocking before entering anyone's bedroom, and waiting to be invited in (or not). It's a basic privacy rule at our house, and this rule became really important to my boys when they got to be teens, which yours will be soon. Family members need to always respect each other's privacy. I think a talk is in order explaining this: if mom's door is closed, that means she wants privacy. If your door is closed, I'll knock and wait for you to tell me when I can come in (and then do it, every single time, to set the example.) You don't have to give a reason why you want them to always knock first (and believe me, in a few more years, your sons will not want to explain to you why *their* doors are closed!)

Second, for now, I would try to maximize time at the boyfriend's and minimize times the boyfriend sleeps over. Can you increase the days the boys are at their dad's? 3-5 days/month is not very much. When your boyfriend does stay over I think you should give your boys a heads up. ''John is staying over tomorrow night and I'll want some privacy after we go to bed'' or something like that. Does your boyfriend feel OK about the night-time cuddles? My boyfriend was really uncomfortable about appearing to be the ''other dad''. He said his role was more like benevolent uncle, so he sort of stood in the background, friendly but not really parental. So he didn't do the kinds of things usually reserved for the mom or dad, like cuddling in bed or disciplining. My boys have a good relationship with their now-stepdad. he is a super nice guy, so that's one reason, but also, they were able to see their dad a LOT, and have a good relationship with him, and never felt that their step-dad was trying to be usurp his role. Good luck! a mom

I only have one question, and one suggestion, for you. How would you feel if you found your mother's door locked, because she had a new guy in her bed?

Your boys are permanent, and your responsibility until they are 18. If you can find a way to have the ''best sex of your life'' without it having any repercussions for them, go for it. No man should be in your bed while your children are there. If he's a ''new'' boyfriend they probably shouldn't even spend time with him out of bed -- in case you decide that he's temporary.

Since he's a parent too, I'm a little disappointed that he doesn't seem to feel that way himself.

I'm sure you'll hear other opinions, too. Heather

I was in a similar situation, though I was the new partner and had to get used to my partner's (now husband) 9 year old son being with us overnight. It's hard for kids to accept a new person in their parents life, so we really eased into this. We spent alot time together doing fun stuff, getting to know eachother, before we ever had an overnight. Even so, it was challenging when we moved in together. My partner started by sleeping in his son's room with him -- I'm not sure if this was the right thing, but it was comforting to the child. Then, when we were a little more accustomed to being in the same house, my partner moved into our room and his son got accustomed to it. His son never really felt comfortable crawling into the bed with the two of us, so I would sometimes vacate the bed in the morning so they could have cuddle time together. Good luck with the transition.
Being a newly single mom, I understand your situation. My kids are 11 and 7 and their Dad left us two years ago. I just started dating once I was officially single in January and am having a great time! I only have my lover come to my house to spend the night when the children are at their Dad's. They have enough to deal with, as he is living with the girl he left us for. I have to respect their right to have no interaction with another adult in their living space at their primary home so I keep that part of my life separate. I remember when I was a child, how creepy it was for me when my Mom had her boyfriends stay at the house. Just keep their feelings in mind. Good luck.
Divorced with kids

Relationship with a man who barely likes my 5 year old son?

March 2003

I recently ended a 2 year relationship with a man I was hoping to spend the rest of my life with. We've talked about the future and everything seems beautiful except for one thing...he loves me but barely likes my 5 year old son from a previous relationship. It's very unfortunate that a bond has not been built. The only way they connect is through soccer, but not much time outside of that is spent with him and my son, it's usually the three of us. He can't seem to get past the fact that''he gets on his nerves''. It hurt to hear that. I'd like to know if anyone out there has been through this and what anyone could recommend. Because part of it is that I'm not sure he's ready to handle the full weight of being a parent. We don't want to lose each other but I don't want my son to get hurt in the end if a relationship never transpires out of our union. jj

If your boyfriend is willing, I suggest parenting classes. BOTH of you should attend. He will learn to cope with the issues around parenting, co-parenting and being a new parent addition to your family. You will learn how to support him and your child emotionaly.
coming from experience
I would not consider marrying a guy who says my son ''gets on his nerves''! What kind of a father will he be? I think it would only lead to misery for everyone involved.

My husband has a 5-year-old who lives abroad with his mother. He stayed with us for about a month while we were still dating, and that was definitely a testing point for our relationship. Luckily we had a great time together, and I felt confident to take our relationship to the next step and get married; the last thing in the world I would have wanted to become was a ''wicked step mother.''

I'm sure there are other guys out there that will make a good father to your son.
A ''not so wicked'' step mom

This is a tough one. I was a single parent myself until recently. I married when my son was 12. I dated my husband for three years before we married, and he and my son get along well as buddies, although I know my husband finds that my son gets on his nerves at times. One thing my husband is having a difficult time with, although he has good intentions, is the parenting-role, both nuturing, being authoritative (you just have to, sometimes) and making those occasional sacrifices. It definitely takes a while to figure out how to be a parent. Most of us had the luxury of starting out with a newborn and growing into the job with the growing child.

All I can say is, perhaps you and the guy can remain friends until your son is a bit older and is more interested in adult activities, or maybe you have to give up on this guy and try to find someone who is already a father and has had that crucial on the job training.

Good luck, Dianna

I am a firm believer that once you have children they MUST come before a new partner. You cannot be too cautious getting into a relationship with someone and if they show any sign of not accepting and loving your child then you must let them go. Your child always needs to know that they are the most important thing in your life and when you bring someone else into your life you are distracting from that.

My mother raised me alone after my father died when I was only 1. She was very young and dated off and on through my childhood. I know she loved me but it is very confusing to a child when different men come and go. These are very formative years and the relationships your child experiences will affect them the rest of their life. Your child knows that your boyfriend doesn't care for him/her and that is not someone you want as a father figure. debbie

If he really loves you he should be open to going to couple's counceling with you. Maybe a good therapist could help shed light on what's really bugging him - something tells me it's not really your son (personally). Anon
I'm confused...did you ''recently end'' this relationship or are you still with this person? You say one and then go on to talk about how to deal with the fact that your partner does not like your child. In any case, you are a package deal and I would not be with someone who did not like my child. Just my opinion
I feel for you in this situation where everything seems great except for one thing, and that one thing is sooo important! You say that you already ended the relationship, that's one solution and if you want to stick with that I don't blame you at all. The fact that you wrote, though sounds like you want advice on if you did the right thing by ending it? You are very wise to put your son and his feelings first. I would stick by that bit of truth and see what happens. It's possible you could stay with this man but just not let the relationship develop into 'the rest of your life' kind of union where you live together or get married. I certainly wouldn't want to live with a man, even the biological father of my child, unless they thought my kid was as wonderful and precious as they truly are!! It's possible that if you don't push things, a relationship between them will develop as your son gets older. Hope that helps. been there
Hi- My mother married my stepfather when I was seven years old. He (according to my mother) was not really interested in becoming a parent to me but he 'loved her'. I annoyed him. As a result, my mother pulled away from me and I spent after-school time, weekends and holidays with babysitters and relatives. I became very sad and did not do well socially or academically. It wasn't until I became an adult that I made the connection. If I had been allowed to stay with my parents weekends and holidays I would have felt resented and like a third wheel. I understand that you need to 'live your life' but PLEASE- Don't fool yourself into thinking that your child will not be affected by you choosing to bring someone into the family who isn't interested in him. I still resent my mother for leaving me out of the equation when she chose to remarry. It was an extremely selfish move on her part. anon.
You chose the well-being of your child over your own relationship with a man who wouldn't/couldn't be his ''daddy''. I have a lot of respect for you, for doing this for your child. I am impressed that your friend could admit his reluctance or inability, instead of pretending it would all ''be alright''. Its a tough time for you, but your child will thank you for this later, and you sound like a good mommy. Heather

Just started dating - my 2-year-old is making it really difficult

March 2002

I'm a single mom with a 2 year old. I've just started dating someone and my toddler is really making it difficult. She is very different with him and quite rude and demanding of my attention. How do I know if she's this way because she's jealous or because she really just does not like him? And it does make a difference to me. Unfortunately there is no father involved so I have no choice but to have her around us during this stage of our courtship. Has anyone been in this position or have any advice? Thanks, M

I have been going through the same thing with my daughter, who just turned three. She would be aggressive with him (like kicking him, or pulling his hair!), and would get very cranky with me when we were around him. Things were very difficult for the first five months or so, but have mellowed considerably since the beginning. The one thing I think has helped is that we invite him over to do things that are ''kid-centered,'' like dying Easter Eggs, or going to Habitot or Kindergym. It helps them to form a connection when he shows up to do fun things with us that are just for her. I think this helps her feel less threatened by his presence, and helps her to accept that he is her friend, too, not just mommy's. Also, I sat down with my daughter one day and just talked it through with her. I explained to her that some kids have mommies and daddies that live together, and some parents live apart. And if the parents live apart, they still need friends in their lives to love them...etc. This helped to give her a frame of reference, so when she expresses aggravation at my boyfriend, I can remind her of the conversation we had about how mommies and daddies need other adults to love them too, that we need hugs, etc. This really helped settle a lot of questions and worry for her. If you would like to email me about this, feel free. Good luck. Elizabeth
A few considerations on the matter: You mention that your daughter's father is not in the picture. Does she have any interaction with him at all, or with other positive male role models; grandpa, uncles, friends, neighbors? Have you had any previous boyfriends that she DID like? Or is she just now dealing with a. sharing you for the first time with someone else along with b. having someone of a different gender in the house? If a and or b apply, her behavior seems understandable! Just food for thought. Christine
I was in your shoes about 10 yrs. ago. I was a single parent for 5 yrs. and tried never to have him around while I was ''checking out the market''. His biological father was never involved but we did talk about one day him having a ''daddy''. When I would go out I would leave him with usually grandparents. I did have a couple of good friends that I could leave him with also. I don't think you should involve the child in this relationship unless you know it will be long term. Also remember, children are very good judges of character. Please pay attention to the story in the news about the mother slain right in front of her children, which is something no child should witness. I know this is way out there, but it obviously is the way it is many times. I also did sometimes (because I was young at the time) put my social needs before my sons needs. Not too much, but when I look back I feel bad. There was a time I went to Reno or LA or someplace a bit far and left my son for a weekend. Well when I called he thought I wasn't coming back. Just be careful. Also when I did become engaged, my son was 5. He wasn't demanding of my time, but again there are so many things going on in a childs life at that age. He had a new school, new house, new dad. This was all very hard on him and started him out on the wrong foot in school. He was very good for us at home, but would act out at school, with other authorative figures. Because of these actions and the fact that he had started school with officials who were not understanding, he now has a paper trail that most school officials immediately look at and don't ask why, just put him in the same boat as when he was in kindergarten. Even though his behavior was temporary, it has been very hard to get that away from him. I know this may be futuristic for you, just thought I'd shed some possible light on it. Good Luck, Michelle
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