Blending Families: Dating as a Single Parent

Dear Liz,

For several years I have been madly in love with a wonderful man. When I found him, I was a mess and needed to work on myself, which I did, wholeheartedly. (Antidepressants, therapy, and reading). He stuck by me, the whole time, offering support. I gained a lot of strength and confidence. He’s inspired me in lots of ways to be the best version of myself. We both have children from previous relationships. His children lead a different life then mine do. I won’t get into specifics, but basically, his children need his attention constantly in ways mine don’t need me. I think his commitment to his family is wonderful, and part of the reason I respect and admire him so much. But because he is so focused on them, he has little time for me. (At this time, the idea of blending our families has not come up in conversation). I’m at a point in my life where I don’t “need” anyone. But I do want him very much. I want him to be my life partner. He’s focused on other things though. How can I show him my love and support without sacrificing myself here? He was able to show me love and patience and kindness… I want to do the same….but I also don’t want to pine away for him while he tends to his family.

Dear Friend,

I must be honest…this is one of the “happier” questions I’ve received to date, for while I do understand your longing and your disappointment, it sounds to me you have a lot to work with.  You have restored yourself after struggling with pain and depression, you have been loving a man who appears to be kind, and who takes his role as a father seriously (the clearest indicator of character), and you are ready to deepen your commitment—you are clearly a strong, loving, and grateful woman, so the only direction is up, even if the heart should suffer loss.

Some questions:

  1. After several years together, why hasn’t the idea of blending your families come up in conversation? As single parents, I would think this issue would have naturally arisen in any number of conversations.
  2. How involved are each of you in the lives of the other one’s children? Do you present as a couple at spring concerts, sporting events, pizza night out?  Again, after three years, this would be expected, at least to some degree.
  3. Is the love mutual? Does he express his love for you and his desire to have you as his life partner?

Depending on the age of the children, some folks want to wait until the kids are out of the house before they marry/move in with another.  This seems quite reasonable to me.  However, if you each have children who are under the age of ten, for example, then while blending your family requires great consideration and a solid commitment all around, I would think it’s where the relationship would go, unless both are satisfied living “separate-but-together” lives.

True Happiness

The only way to achieve real happiness is to be honest with yourself, which means allowing your Self to be honest with you. A little quiet and a generous dose of courage (and maybe a talk session with your therapist) will facilitate that Self-intimacy.  Ask yourself:

  1. What do I deeply and genuinely want for my life, right down to the details.
  2. What is the least I can accept from this relationship, without sacrificing my happiness?

Only you can discern what you need in order to be happy—perhaps it lies somewhere between blending families and sacrificing yourself while pining away—and when you determine what it is, then it’s time for that heart to heart with your boyfriend, and time to find strength in dignifying your Self, no matter the outcome.

Love will always look for a reason to stay, and I can hear that you are looking for that reason.  Is he?

Love, Liz

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