Thank you for all of your clear and concise thoughts over the last few years. I have definitely taken things to heart: look for boyfriend behavior; there is a natural timeline where commitment should come by month three, “I love you” around 6 months, living together at 18, engaged at 2-3 years; men do what they want, and so many other pearls.
Where I am stuck, is that this advice seems to be geared towards men who are childless and never divorced. I can’t help but wonder if any of these things change if a woman is dating a divorced dad.
I have been dating a wonderful man for about four months now. We’ve known each other almost 20 years prior to dating, and the transition to an amorous relationship was easy and natural. He’s a fantastic and committed single dad who has his 5-year-old son 50% of the time; he and his ex-divorced several years ago. She has struggled with addiction, thus making co-parenting a bit of a struggle at times. I can’t help but feel like her loss is my gain. He’s truly wonderful; he’s kind, thoughtful, treats me with so much respect. We talk daily (if he has his son it’s usually by text, otherwise we chat by phone in the evenings), he makes it a point to see me once a week and we always have so much fun together. When we are together things are easy and fun, just as they should be! He is great at communicating his feelings to me, and although we’ve never had the “relationship talk” I’ve never felt the need to have it because he shows all the signs of a great boyfriend.
However, we’re at the four month mark, and I’m starting to get a bit antsy and curious about a few things. First of all, I want more time with him (more than once a week); I understand that he wants to be very cautious about bringing people into his son’s life, and that means there’s less time for he and I to spend together. However, I want a serious relationship that is continuously growing. I want a boyfriend that is able to invest in a serious relationship with me. I think he wants that too, but I don’t know if 4 months is too early to expect that of him because he needs to move slower than a childless man. So, is that timeline trajectory applicable to dating a single father or should it be tweaked?
Overall, he’s wonderful. He shares intimate details of his life, he’s a great communicator and makes me feel really cared for. I feel safe and happy with him; when we’re together it feels like I’ve come home. I have learned so much about what it means to be in a giving relationship in these four months, and he has been such a remarkable teacher of that. But, I want more at this point, and I don’t know if it’s a simple case of needing to be more patient to let things grow organically….or if I just need to see things as they are and say that my needs aren’t being met and re-evaluate. I would love your thoughts on this. You always shoot straight from the hip!
Thanks so much,
Thanks for the kind words, Anne. Glad to hear you’ve found yourself in a relationship with a wonderful man. I think it’s always instructive for women to hear from other women that, despite all the frustrations you’ve had with dating and relationships prior to today, you don’t believe that “men” are the problem, and that, in fact, in this one instance, your boyfriend’s ex-wife was the weak link. This is far more common than we see here — specifically because most of the questions I post are from women complaining about men. On a blog catered towards men, you’d hear a lot more about selfish, volatile, emotionally unstable or unavailable women. But that’s another story for another day.
I’m glad you asked this question, however, because it’s extremely common — and I’ve been dealing with it regularly in my Love U Community, which is filled with fortysomething single moms. And while I may not have written explicitly about this before, and may not have it as a core part of my curriculum, what I’m about to share with you is 100% consistent with other things I’ve said over the years.
While you couldn’t possibly know if you have what it takes to last 40 years as a couple, you should know if he wants more than this.
- 1. Make sure that your boyfriend wants to get married. This isn’t about whether he wants to marry you; that information will take a few years to suss out. But you should both pay attention to his profile (which plainly states his intentions) and pay attention to his words. In short, men who like fantasy football talk about fantasy football. And men (and women) who want to get married generally talk about getting married. You shouldn’t have to worry. You shouldn’t have to pry. The big thing is to know that you’re in a long-term relationship with someone who also sees the end game as marriage. If you do not know this, then ask him. His answer will dictate what happens next. In your particular case, while you couldn’t possibly know if you have what it takes to last 40 years as a couple, you should know if he wants more than this.
- 2. Single parents — with jobs, multiple kids, shared custody and unreliable exes — are often doing the best that they can…but that does not mean that their best is good enough for you. I think these relationships work best when two individuals have supportive exes and can coordinate their weeks/weekends/schedules to see each other frequently. Otherwise, you’re right: all the best communication skills and purest intentions in the world don’t change the fact that you have a once a week guy on your hands.
You’re a couple looking for a solution and a good boyfriend wants to make his girlfriend happy.
- 3. You need to have an adult conversation. It’s not fear-based. It’s not an ultimatum. It’s not anything deeper than “what do you want for dinner?” You have a question. You need an answer. You have two separate questions: First, “do you ever want to get married again?” If he says yes, then go to the follow-up: “I appreciate the demands on your schedule, but I love you and would love to know how to get more quality time with you. I know you make the best effort you can via text, I know you don’t want to integrate me with your child, however it’s hard to feel like our relationship is escalating when we only see each other once a week. What do you think?” It may be a tough question, but you’re not attacking him or making him wrong. You’re a couple looking for a solution and a good boyfriend wants to make his girlfriend happy.
I can’t tell you what will happen, but I can assure you that there are millions of single moms and dads navigating this space with worse relationship partners. I can also assure you that there are millions more who have found a way to make things work in a second marriage, so if this guy can’t give you what you need, don’t be afraid of looking elsewhere for a man who can.
Please come back and let us know what transpires, okay?