Hi Evan – and thanks for your wonderful book! I’m usually pretty nurturing, and what I struggle with is making sure I don’t get walked all over. I’m dating a guy at the moment who’s a divorced single father with limited access to his young son. He also runs his own business. We’ve been together for four months and he told me very quickly (in month one) that he considered me his girlfriend. The nature of his business is that it ebbs and flows and he’s been very busy since we met, so I’ve accepted that we have limited time together, and that if he has any serious free time, he’s going to spend it with his son if he can.
I particularly like that last part, by the way, as I wouldn’t want to know him if his son wasn’t a priority in his life. But it is hard being third on his list: son, job, and then me. Also, we haven’t been out on a proper ‘date’ since the first one: we usually spend time at each other’s houses, whenever he gets a free moment, but we have lots of communication in between and I really felt that things were starting to build towards something good between us. I know a man in his position needs an understanding girlfriend who’s not going to make big drama if he has to cancel plans at the last minute, and, because my life is relatively stress-free, I can be pretty flexible (I’m pretty easygoing anyway.)
But lately his family have been visiting (they live in another country,) and he’s magically found time to spend first with his parents, and then with his sister. I’d hoped to meet his family while they were over, but now I’ve found out that he hasn’t actually told them about me, apart from the fact that he’s ‘with someone.’ I get that things are complicated, and that he has a very shaky relationship with his ex-wife so he’s going to be cautious about letting her know that he has a new girlfriend, and I also get that I don’t get to meet his son until we’re much more established. But his parents? His sister? I’m starting to feel like his dirty little secret! And I’m wondering if he can possibly be that interested in me. I thought we were working towards something serious, but my confidence has been really shaken. I’ve asked him for time to talk things through and he’s agreed, but I’m really having to push him to make time for our conversation. It’s one thing not having time to go out in public as a couple, but the fact that nobody in his life seems to know we’re a couple kind of puts it in a different light. Is it time to just cut my losses? I do really like him, we have a really great time together and he always seems so attentive whenever we can’t physically be together, but maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see? I’m really confused! Hope you can help, Evan. Thanks.
There are two separate things going on here, so let’s deal with them separately.
You have every right to consider whether you’re getting your emotional needs met right now.
1) Your boyfriend doesn’t have much time or energy to give to your relationship.
2) Your boyfriend hasn’t fully integrated you into his world.
The first issue is a valid one and you have every right to consider whether you’re getting your emotional needs met right now.
The second one is just an ego/insecurity thing and should not derail an otherwise strong relationship.
I’m not fully convinced, however, that your relationship is strong.
First of all, kudos to you for a few reasons: you’re self-aware – you’re trying to be cool, patient, and nurturing – and you’ve internalized the lessons of “Why He Disappeared.”
But one of the key points in “Why He Disappeared” is that you can do everything PERFECTLY, but if the guy is not in the right place to give, there’s nothing you can do.
This may be one of those cases.
Listen, I’m no single father, but I’ve had many clients who are single parents and are torn in a million directions. They desperately want love and stability but feel the pull of parenting responsibility and end up neglecting their love lives. It’s not my place to tell them to reprioritize. It doesn’t sound like you want to, either.
Just don’t get distracted by the secondary issue of being introduced to his family.
So what it really comes down to is this: are you satisfied with what your boyfriend can give to you? Is it okay that you never go out to dinner on proper dates? Are you content coming in third after his kids and career? You’re not wrong if you yearn for more; nor are you wrong for feeling that he’s “worth the wait.” The question is whether there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — or whether you’re just the emotional booty call who serves her purpose in his life but never really has a full-on relationship on her own terms.
The way to figure this out is to tell him — simply and coolly — that while you care about him, you’re not getting your needs met. You don’t blame him. You’re not angry with him. You just want a real-life boyfriend, who calls you every night, who has his weekends open for you, who is making a long-term investment. And right now, he doesn’t seem like that guy.
Then see what he does.
If he lets you go, you saved yourself a lot of time and angst. If he steps up to the plate, you might have yourself a boyfriend.
Just don’t get distracted by the secondary issue of being introduced to his family. As I wrote in this blog post, his failure to incorporate you into his life has far more to do with everyone else (parents, kids, etc.) than it has to do with YOU. Don’t sweat it. Don’t complain. Don’t negotiate. This part doesn’t matter now.
What matters is that you have a happy, healthy, nurturing relationship that’s slowly growing into something more. And if you suspect that it’s not growing, it’s time to walk away and find out how much he has to give to you.
Please come back and let us know how it goes.