Question: I’m an attractive, well-educated, debt-free 50 year-old widow who’s childless (by choice), that’s been seeing a man for 3.5 years. Nearly all of this time he was legally separated–4 months ago he finally divorced, amicably. He has two children, a 13 year old and a freshman in college. I’m not over-joyed about having kids in my life, but I enjoy their company and have spent many pleasant weekends with them. We’ve recently begun discussing if he should give-up his apartment now that he’s divorced, but as the possibility looms, my concerns over his financial situation deepen.
I know divorce is expensive, but he left the marriage with a lot of old, shared debt ($50K). He makes enough to pay for his modest apartment, considerable child support & alimony, and his son’s tuition at a private college. Yet when it comes to contributing to our home, there isn’t much left to go around! I use “our” because he has, essentially, been living with me for the last two years, returning to his apartment only when his kids visit. While it’s true that I’d have to pay all the bills if I lived alone (he does split the groceries and pay for most of our entertainment) I worry that his kid’s wants–they’re getting what they need–will always come first (an iPhone for a 13-year-old? Really?). In all other respects he’s a loving, smart, thoughtful man who seems very committed to me. Am I being taken for a ride? Or is this par for the course when dating a divorced dad? By the way, we have put together a budget; by time he pays all his obligations to his children and ex-wife and actually begins to pay his debt down, there’s not enough to pay half his share.
Are you be taken for a ride? Why? Because he’s taking care of his children and not dressing you and furs and diamonds? You’re a grown woman. If you want your apartment to look a certain way, pay for it. It’s not his responsibility. He has responsibilities. Ones he’s legally required to prioritize.Without getting too personal….if you’re a widow…I’d think that your late husband did what he good to make sure you were taken care of, yes? So then..what’s the problem here? I mean..the real one. Because I’m not buying that this is about his financial situation. This goes deeper.
Yes, this is part of dating a divorced Dad. If you want to live together, then you can do what men have been doing for years…pay his way. Cover what he can’t pay in rent. If it’s that important that he makes some move that makes you feel as though you’re a priority, then you’re going to have to pay for it. You rarely if ever hear men complain about having to do this. It’s expected that men do it. Are you paying your mortgage? Or is that coming from money that was left to you? What is your financial situation? You conveniently failed to mention that.
As for his kids and being a priority, I hate to tell you, but this is how it will always be. If he’s not investing in them financially, he’s going to be investing in the emotionally. Will it get better? Sure, a little bit, when they’re out of college. But the times that you’re in the top spot will be few and far between. That’s just how it is. I don’t know how my step-mother handled it with the grace that she did.
In all other respects he’s a loving, smart, thoughtful man who seems very committed to me. Am I being taken for a ride?
I want you to re-read this sentence and ask yourself how you are able to say, in one breath, that this man is loving and thoughtful and then in the next question his motives. There’s something not right about that. I don’t mean that in a “Molly, you in danger, girl” type of way. That is a comment about quickly you can go from one thought about this man to the polar opposite. That should really give you pause. You don’t want to come out and say how you resent his kids because you fear that makes you sound awful. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s pretty typical. I’m sure many people in your position feel the same. You didn’t want children. So you either need to learn how to co-exist with his kids and accept your place in this relationship or you need to move it along.
What you’re looking for now is a statement of his commitment to you. You could always just keep doing things the way you’ve been doing them. It sounds like that has been working for you. If he’s already staying at your place so often, then what’s the difference? That’s why I don’t think this is about wanting to build a home together. This is about you wanting confirmation that you are a priority. You want a gesture from him that reveals that he is just as committed to you as he is to his kids.
He’s not. He can love you and commit to you as a partner but you will never, ever, ever mean to him what his children mean, because those are his children. That doesn’t mean he won’t do everything he can to show you how much he loves you and what you do mean to him. But you can’t continue on in this imaginary race with his kids for his affection. You will lose.