I’m Dating a Busy Divorced Man and He Hasn’t Introduced Me to His Family. What Gives?

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.

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  1. 31
    Katarina Phang

    I’m dating a divorced single dad right now (son is with him unless every other weekend).  I’m going to spend time with him this weekend and 3 days with his 5 year old son (we only met 2 weeks ago and he lives in a different city).
    I know and make it very clear from the get go that I understand where his priority lies (his son) and don’t expect otherwise.  And he’s busy juggling so much but as for now makes time to text, email and call every few days.  I never really initiated calls though and I don’t feel the need to.
    I got my first “scare” yesterday when my “womanly” curious questions were being somehow interpreted that I was a jealous and possessive type.  Lucky I straightened that out telling him women talk/ask questions to share and bond and show interest (not checking on him) while men talk to convey a point.  We are interested in the process, them in the bottom line.
    I must say, as someone who’s dealing with these differences in men vs. women on a daily basis, I’m rather embarrassed that I wasn’t aware that my feminine chatty curiosity would have been misinterpreted.
    I’m trying to hold myself back as Evan always advises to let him come to you and if he’s interested he will.  So far he has really shown how eager he is to know me better and he’s the first date I feel really invested in.  Problem is women -once they are hooked- tend to overfunction and overanalyze and ruin what that started so great.  I don’t want to be another statistic. 🙂

  2. 32

    Katarina, #31: maybe I am misinterpreting what happened there, but it kinda seems to me that it was the man’s reaction to your questions that was a red flag, and not your questions in and of themselves. Without knowing the details it just seems a little paranoid.

  3. 33
    Katarina Phang

    Juju, we were talking about our sexual fantasy, etc…and the subject of bringing another person came up and I showed some jealousy -I admit- maybe a few times and and on top of that I asked him questions of what will he do that day, with whom, etc.  I happened to have asked that sort of questions routinely, not because I wanted to check in with him but because that’s what we women do (we love chit-chats).
    I made him understand the difference between men and women and he understood for the most part.
    Last night he blurted out, “I love you” for the first time.  Two weeks later, and only after spending one night together.  I was taken by surprise, didn’t see it coming at all.  Not that soon.
    We can’t wait to spend time together tomorrow for a few days.

  4. 34

    Though I know this post is almost a year old, I just can’t help but ask, does the guy you’re talking about happen to be a civil engineer who would be age 39 by now????????? Because I swear, your issue sounds like the same exact issue I’ve been dealing with lately and I just recently broke up with the guy… I couldn’t take it anymore. He fits your exact description, it’s eerie!

  5. 35

    Evan what about this economy? I just started dating a guy who is smitten with me and who really stepped up to make us exclusive and go out a lot. But then work blew up on him – they have a huge deadline and way too much work. One day he even had to take a powernap before our date and the last time we were together he was too tired and went home early. Now I am stuck in a relationship where he sends a text if he can get out early and we go out – once or twice a week – with no other calls – he worked all weekend and never called. I can’t do that if it is going to go on too long. I guess I have to say what you said – I want a relationship that is going to grow where I get calls every night and a date on the weekend and plans. UGH. I did not sign up for this!! My point about the economy is that it is rough – he was laid off and then started a new job that is like a start up. It took me 7 months of online dating to find this one. 

  6. 36

    I feel 4 months is so short to start pushing your expectations buttons. My point is if the guy is showing the interest stick around. At this point in time there are many issues that are goingon in his mind and in his world. Remember he has lost a family i.e his wife by what ever reasons and at this juncture he is working on the trust issues of the opposite sex. That in my case is you. Allow him to revive it and at the same time keep on enjoying your life and let him come to you naturally. Otherwise if you push to get answers you may be working towards a failed relationship of which have you given it time to gain oxygen it would have grown and blossomed. Honestly speaking dating a divorcee is a big big challenge. It takes time for the relationship to unfold. Here, faith and trust is required bigtime. Best of luck my friend..

  7. 37

    AQ: if the shoe were on the other foot, and you were the one being tired and overworked, would you want your boyfriend to kick you to the curb?

  8. 38

    I’m the ex-wife.
    You are dating a responsible man, but you don’t sound too responsible yourself, and if my ex were dating you, I’d be concerned. Because you sound selfish, and a selfish stepmom who wants to come first is not what my kid needs.
    He hasn’t introduced you at 4 months? Good. He shouldn’t, it’s too soon. He doesn’t want to introduce you before he has a pretty good idea that this is going to stick for years and years. Why? Because he’s a responsible father, and he’s not going to expose his son to chronic heartbreak. The son’s already been through a divorce. He doesn’t need to get attached to serial girlfriends who disappear and break his heart again. That destroys a child’s sense of trust.
    Get this, Sally: When you date a single parent, the relationship’s not about you. That person’s priority is — as it should be — raising and supporting a child. You already had your turn: someone else already made your childhood their priority. When you date a parent, your job is to be a grownup, every single day. If you can’t handle that, don’t date parents.
    Instead of pouting, look ahead down the road a little. You know who’s on the other side of that kid? Someone like me. Someone with legal rights in how that child’s treated. If you go ahead and marry this man, not only will you come behind the child and his job, you’ll sometimes come behind me. Part of your household income will go to me. Your schedule will be in part determined by mine. You’ll have to watch your step a bit around my kid, because if untoward things are going on and I find out, I’ll raise holy hell. You’ll have, incidentally, no legal rights in the situation. Read up about stepparenting before you go on another date with this fellow, because if you keep on, that’s what you’re headed for. It’s one of the most trying positions a person can be in, and there are no holidays from it.
    Just yesterday I was on the phone with a good friend, a stepmom, who has no idea who’s going to be living in her house or when or for how long. Her husband’s ex has a drinking problem, and after some incidents they don’t know who’s going to have the kids or when; what school the kids will go to; etc.  And meanwhile the kids area starting to have problems, so now her house will likely be home to two troubled kids who take things out on her and her son sometimes — and she is very, very limited in what she can do in response.
    Think hard. This is not a free man that you’re dating. This is a father. You’re a bright spot in his life. But baby, if you stay with him, prepare to work hard, and prepare to come last over and over again. And if you try to push ahead in line — taking his attention away from the child, trying to pull back support/medical money, wanting to move away — expect significant pushback from the likes of me.

    1. 38.1

      That’s overly harsh. She’s not selfish for expressing anxiety – she’s in a situation where the goalposts have moved and she is trying to interpret what’s going on. I’m a single mother dating a single dad and in a similar situation experiencing similar pain but probably with more insight as I’m a parent myself. It’s not wrong to want the relationship to be a priority – alongside kids and jobs, not after them. Equal priority doesn’t necessarily mean equal time. we all know nothing should take away a parent’s love and duty towards their child… and at the same time, no one wants to be ranked  last.

      “When you date a single parent, the relationship’s not about you.” Well then who is it about? You can only be in a single parent’s life if you’re a total doormat? I do feel in my case that i only want to date single dads rather than child’s ones, because the former are more likely than the latter to understand the juggle and this has proven correct. But your view of what Sally’s relationship should look like seems singularly lacking in generosity, compassion, tolerance, warmth and love. I’m so glad i’m not dating your ex husband. 

    2. 38.2

      You mean YOUR THE BITTER ex that can’t get a life of her own and keeps up on her ex’s schedule and life. If you lived a happy life you wouldn’t even say such things to another woman. Even though “ you feel” you control your ex’s life guess what honey your STILL the bitter EX he isn’t with. No matter how much you try to be involved he still sees you as NAG and not even a slight priority and only deals with you because of children. Knowing those facts can’t make you feel good .. so you lash out ( holy hell) and well I’m sure based on your comment you live in misery.  I’m also an exwife however unlike you I don’t come across like you EVER.  I don’t even have those negative thoughts. Your “advice” isn’t coming from a good place its coming from a scored woman who uses her children as a pawn and isn’t technically over her ex.

  9. 39

    She is not his girlfriend. He only says that because he is c+ck-blocking her. He doesn’t want a relationship with her, but doesn’t want her to date anyone else. He’s a really selfish dud. Move on.

    1. 39.1

      I agree. Selfish key word.

  10. 40

    P.S. This is the perfect situation where the woman really needs to do some Rori-Raye-style circular dating. After she gets some positive experiences with other men who are more attentive, she will be able to see this man in a more objective way, with all his flaws and inability to participate in the relationship.

  11. 41

    People make time for what’s important to them and if he’s at your house, how is that more time efficient than going to the cinema?
    A for amy’s post, that’s enough to put anyone off from dating a single parent, man or woman.  Friend of mine did date a divorced father.  Now they are married with two children of their own.  She’s step mother to the child of his first marriage.  It wasn’t easy but completely do-able.
    My ex had a child and even though he was a complete ****, the child did not adversely affect the relationship, in fact it was the one thing I was sad about when we broke up, that I lost the relationship with his son. 

  12. 42

    I think our society is too quick to assume that kids come first (how can I even say that?  Scandalous!).  While I’m no Bible thumper, there’s an old adage in it that I find telling.  It goes something like this: While the relationship between the parent and child is important, it is not as important as the relationship between the husband and wife.  
    Now, when you throw divorce and step-kids into the mix, things get a little messy, but I’m not positive that that means the second wife (or even just girlfriend) should necessarily take a backseat to the kids.  Our society seems all too quick to believe that “kids come first” in marriages — perhaps it might account for why so many married couples cite a loss of happiness after the kids are born.

    1. 42.1

      I agree. This may seem harsh but if kids did come first well parents would be together or at least if an age where the kids are old enough to understand the circumstances. Of course if there is abuse or anything of the kind in those situations getting out is for the kids. However with the divorce rate being so high with children involved left and right. It’s really about the parents and what feels good to them. It’s only after ppl may feel guilty etc..

  13. 43

    I am a single parent.  The first thing I think about when dating some one is if they can be around my children and are they safe? While romance and love and hot, passionate sex is great, those two little children who I love and care for need to be protected by me. They also demand a lot of time (which I agreed to give them by giving birth to them). When all goes well and I re-marry (which I sincerely hope to do at some point) I need to know that I trust him 1000%  with my kids. I would date a divorced parent (who needs to be emotionally healed from his divorce) because I understand the sacrifice of a parent and the complexity of dealing with an ex-spouse (not looking forward to the man of my dreams dealing with my kids dad….)However, I also know about the realistic compromises that comes with kids and difficult people and marriage and work….when it works, it can really work!!!
    Regarding the post, there are so so many simple cheap date ideas. Watch the sunset at the park. Go for a drink or coffee. Get appetizers and drinks instead of a meal. A picnic. It seems they are in “comfy married mode” and “courting” has ended or rather never started. Also (and this happened to a friend of mine), he was dating someone else so my friend and this guy only did “at home” dates.  Us girls said no dates out? Yup, time to move on.
    He he could make time. And, its not wrong to want more. And, this guy should offer something more than hanging out. We are all busy. However, we all seem to make time for what matters and you matter. Please let him go and find someone who treats your the way you want and deserve to be treated.

  14. 44

    waiting too long to introduce children to a romantic interest puts too much emphasis on expectations for eveybody. If a pleasant interaction isn’t so tense by everyone worrying about what each person is going to do, it takes the joy out of some togetherness. Time slips away. Life circumstances change. If somebody is intimate before meeting other family members then somebody is bound to feel awkward. That’s no way to enter into any kind of relationship. I believe anticipating the acceptance of family members cannot be contingent on the value of the two people who should get to know eachother for the sake of their own value as individuals who ultimately desire to come together understanding they need to be respected with good, sincere reason. Don’t waste precious time. Life is short. Don’t put doubt in the way of happiness and don’t confuse responsibility with sharing life.

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