I am starting to feel that if I’m in a new relationship with a healthy co-parent that I will always come after him, the kids and his ex. I know I have to establish that I am not coming in to be a step-parent, just a bonus adult figure who may or may not become a friend.
But what is the guy’s perspective? What is the guy experiencing? Is the compartment where he cares for the biological mother of his children, the guilt and responsibility he seems to hold, and the worry over her happiness, separate from his new relationship? Even if he says I am his future, and he doesn’t want to get back together with the ex, is it not because he already has his other needs met like, he has a family already, and I am his fun romance and sexual partner?
We had the exclusivity talk, and all the right steps that would make any dating coach proud, talked big things from day one, e.g. we kept things light but also started sharing what we were looking for and past experiences, and yet all this is coming up like a giant scare bear. I feel like I am losing out on a lot potentially and I am an ultra-resilient woman who has conquered many odds and created a life I love. I feel like a quivering helpless wimp in the face of all this.
Thank you for your Love U Podcast, thank you for your wonderful material. I have seen your name around since I started looking into dating stuff in 2007.
This was edited for clarity. What you’ll notice is that there are so many fears running together that it still sounds more like a stream-of-consciousness transcription of your brain than it does a singular letter. Which is why the only way to handle it is to tease out all of your individual questions and address them, one-by-one.
What is the guy experiencing?
If I were you, I’d enjoy this time because it doesn’t last forever.
If he’s your boyfriend in a new relationship, he is probably experiencing the same emotions that most people experience in the first 18 months: dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and the giddiness of meeting someone he’s attracted to, cares for, thinks about, and wants to be with. If I were you, I’d enjoy this time because it doesn’t last forever.
Is the compartment where he cares for the biological mother of his children, the guilt and responsibility he seems to hold, and the worry over her happiness, separate from his new relationship?
Yes. This is something that I was literally talking about last night – most men I know don’t give a crap about anybody you dated in the past, yet women seem to be obsessed with it in a way that can veer towards the unhealthy. I’ve been with my wife for 12 years. I can’t remember the last time I asked about him. Even in the first year of dating, all I knew was this: he cheated on her, she divorced him, she had since had an 18 month relationship with another guy who pulled away, and it was going to be REALLY easy for me to be better than those guys. So will a man ever erase his history with his ex-wife? Will he ever stop worrying about the well-being of the mother of his children? I should hope not! What kind of man stops caring about the welfare of the person who is co-parenting his kids? But this is completely separate from you. His old life vs. his new life. Like an old job vs. a new job. The old job helped you learn what you could be, and you take that wisdom to move onto a new job, and, for the most part, don’t look back.
Even if he says I am his future, and he doesn’t want to get back together with the ex, is it not because he already has his other needs met like, he has a family already, and I am his fun romance and sexual partner?
You’re asking the question I have gotten multiple times every day for 17 years. How can I tell if a man is going to be my husband or not? How can I tell from his profile? How can I tell from this text? How can I tell from how he acts on the first date? How can I tell now that we’re dating? How can I tell now that we’re sleeping together? How can I tell now that he’s my boyfriend? What’s the answer?! I don’t want to get hurt! I don’t want to waste time!
Deep breath. Truth bomb dropping:
You can’t tell, definitively, if you two are going to end up together for the next forty years. That’s what dating is FOR. To experience what it’s like to be a fully integrated couple and see how you feel down the road, when the guard has been let down and everyone has exposed his/her worst flaws. Before that, it’s all an audition and YOU are in control of it. Instead of wondering if he will pick you to be his wife, how about you reframe that and see how you FEEL about your relationship next week, next month, next year.
Fact is: you may decide that he DOES have an unhealthy relationship with his ex, or that he gets really critical in times of crisis, or that your lovemaking has tapered off dramatically to the point that you’re dissatisfied. Who knows what the future holds?
The thing to pay attention to right now is not whether he’s guaranteed to be your husband, but rather, how you feel with him. In a good relationship, you don’t always know he’s the one. But in a failing relationship, you pretty much always know when he’s not. Pay attention to that feeling – and pay attention to his corresponding words and actions.
You said he’s talking about a future. I’d take that on face value. Marriage oriented men talk about marriage. Men who don’t want to get married DON’T talk about marriage. As long as you’re with the former and he’s treating you right, I can assure you, he’s thinking about marriage with you. All you can do is enjoy the ride and get off when you stop enjoying it.
Especially if the alternative is worrying incessantly and turning a good thing into a bad thing – based on nothing more than your own fears and insecurities.