Here is a fact of life for single moms: it’s hard to be a mom and a girlfriend all in the same breath. When you pay attention to the man, the kids may be jealous and the same is certainly true in reverse. I’ve had two long-term relationships since I returned to single status and in both cases the man and I had this exact conversation on multiple occasions:
Said he, angrily: “Your kids will always come first!”
Said I, equally annoyed: “Yes! You’re right! What don’t you understand? They leapt from my womb, you did not.” I am certain this was not the kindest way to help the man understand the situation, but then again, it gets old apologizing for loving my kids.
On the other hand, it was equally hard to handle that Thanksgiving when I cooked a full feast for my family, and the man in question, after which we left the meal to have a second dessert with his family. Full disclosure here, my kids were in their twenties and thirties and living out of town so being home together was a bigger deal than just eating a holiday meal. Even so, I thought I had figured out a perfect compromise. Ha! Suffice it to say my actions were not well received.
It may surprise some that this is still an issue with adult children, but this kind of love triangle is problematic at any age. According to an article in Psychology Today by Nancy Kalish, PhD., no matter what age the children are when a woman remarries, the issues that plague the new marriage are the same: money and kids. And you don’t have to actually remarry to have these problems. When you enter a serious relationship, you are blending families.
If you do an Amazon search for books about “Blended Families” you’ll come up with scads of titles because this issue morphs with the age of the children. When the kids are little, there are step-parenting issues to deal with. When the kids are nearing middle age themselves, there are estate and inheritance issues instead. Between the two poles is every manner of problem. And of course, the problems are different if it was death or divorce that caused the need for blending.
But here is a key point, all of these books are evidence of the fact that this is a problem. And like most problems, it won’t go away on its own. However, now that you realize you have a problem, you can deal with it. The solutions I offer are for divorced women like me who have adult children. The expert I turn to is not one of these book-writing-experts, but instead, my late father.
Dad was in his mid-eighties when we took a walk together and bumped into his friends, Whitey and Jane. After a pleasant chat with them, Dad and I continued our stroll as he told me about them. Both had been married for decades, both had children from those marriages, both had lost their spouse in recent years, and now they were together as a couple. Dad said each owned a condo in his complex and that they carried on their relationship against the backdrop of separate residences. Dad thought this plan was brilliant! When Whitey died, all his possessions would go to his children and the same would be true for Jane, her stuff, and her kids. With money worries removed, the kids would have the greatest chance of supporting the new relationship.
To combat more minor issues with the kids I advocate open and honest conversation.
Open and honest conversation is needed with the boyfriend-person too. Here is what I would hope to say:
Now if I fall madly in love with someone in the near future we may all laugh at how fast I eat these words. But it is important to have written them down because they represent the relationship I want in a perfect world. It is said that women compromise before they even come to the bargaining table and then they compromise again once there. Well, this is my uncompromised starting point.
I recognize that I would come to a new relationship with a lot of baggage, namely, three adult children, their significant others, and their combined ten children. A new guy in my life might think that he comes in 17th after those 16 others, and to tell the truth, on some days he would be right. It would take a special kind of man to handle the mass of people I already love. But you know what? I’m a special kind of woman and that is what he would get in return.
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