Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over six months, and we have a very loving and trusting relationship. We both recognize the long-term potential in this and have started the discussion of getting engaged and moving in together. After a long marriage with five wonderful kids, he got divorced a few years ago. I am also divorced with a young son who adores my boyfriend. Although there is a 15-year age difference between the two of us (I’m younger), we have proven compatible so far in all the important areas of our relationship. Our friends and family have all been extremely supportive of us, and we have both fit comfortably in each other’s circles, with one exception: He has not introduced me to his children (except for the eldest).
My boyfriend tells me that the other children know that he has a girlfriend and that the eldest has been supportive of our relationship in front of his siblings. But I would still like the opportunity to meet the
other children in the near future and begin working on having a relationship with them. (They live with their mother.) My boyfriend says he doesn’t want to confuse them. I trust his judgment and know that he wants what is best for all parties involved. But I feel like he has two different lives right now: one with me and one with his children. It makes me sad at times when I’m not included in activities with them.
I am trying to be gentle with broaching this topic again with my boyfriend, because I know he feels pulled in a bunch of different directions. I just wonder whether his reluctance to introduce me to his children is a sign of his insecurity about our future. Are we moving too fast? Shouldn’t I meet the children before we move in together? Do I even have a right to influence this important decision?
I WANT TO BE PART OF THE FAMILY TOO,Newton
A. You should absolutely meet his kids before you move in with him, but it just might be too early for any of your big plans. Sure, you’re talking about long-term goals, but it’s only been six months. Do you really need to do these things right now? Maybe he wants some time to enjoy you and this wonderful, fun phase of your relationship before he begins to deal with a more complicated reality. Once you meet the kids (and the ex-wife), it becomes a different kind of partnership. When you talk about getting engaged, do you mean right now?
My advice is to tell him what you need, as opposed to telling him how you think he should deal with his kids. You can say, “I’m just not comfortable moving in with you until I’ve met the kids.’’ You can say, “I respect that you’re not ready for me to meet your family, but can we come up with some ideas about when and how I should introduce myself?’’
My guess is that, as happy as he is, he’s overwhelmed by the next steps. I don’t blame him. I would talk to him about his timeline and ask questions about how he feels. (As in, “I imagine that this introduction will be scary for you. How do you feel about it?’’) Be clear about your needs and ask him about his. Understand that even after you meet the kids you won’t always be a part of these family activities.
And enjoy all of the great things that happen at six months. It’s fantastic that you’re serious about each other, but six months is six months. You need to have a conversation with this guy about whether your long-term plans should be called just that.
As a divorced dad I can relate. He may have had a girlfriend in the past whom all his kids embraced only to have that relationship fail and result in hurting his children. (Where is she? We liked her! We miss her!) So now dad is taking it slow for the sake of the kids.
It seems like maybe you and your boyfriend are on different timelines right now. Although you both recognize the long-term potential, you seem to think that the moving in and engagement will happen right away. He doesn’t seem to think so. You need to have a discussion so no feelings get hurt.
Six months! He is wise to make sure that the two of you are in this for more than a year before introducing you to his kids. Slow down and enjoy your relationship. Think about minimizing your child’s contact until you are sure, and six months is not a sure deal.
Six months into a relationship and you’re talking about getting engaged? I suppose it happens, but that seems a bit fast to me - especially since you both have kids who are going to factor into it. But if the moving-in-together discussions are serious, you should meet his children well in advance of that. I think it’s fair that you tell him that you expect to meet his children before you move in together. My gut feeling is that you are moving faster than he is on all of this. I don’t think he’s ready to get engaged to you or to move in together.
JIM-IN-LITTLETONEdited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.