I’m in love with a man who has been separated for three years now. He and his ex-wife are good friends: they share custody of their three kids, and talk almost every day. I understand that a friendly relationship is good for the kids, but I think it’s too friendly, and that it’s keeping him from moving on. I want to marry him, but he’s not even divorced. Should I force the issue with him, or move on and leave him to his happy two-house family?
It’s hard to answer your question without knowing more about the nature of your relationship with this man. Did he leave his wife to be with you? Have you been together all three years since he separated from his wife? If he left his wife for you three years ago and still hasn’t gotten divorced, I’d say this isn’t a good sign. If, on the other hand, you have just recently met, it may be too soon for him to make any type of a change in his family set up for a new romance.
Another question: you say you are in love with him, but how does he feel about you? What has he said about his intentions for your relationship? And most important — what about getting divorced? You mentioned that you believe the relationship with his ex keeps this guy from moving on; my question is, moving on to what? Do you mean moving on to divorce? If this is the case, it doesn’t bode well for a relationship between the two of you. If he is hesitant to let go of the marriage because of his feelings for his ex-wife, that’s a strong indication that he is not fully available for you. You might need to explore other options and tell him to check back with you if and when he is legally and emotionally divorced.
On the other hand, this may be a really nice guy who is enjoying having his cake and eating it too. If this is the case, you might want to ask yourself how long you’re able to go on with this particular arrangement and still keep your integrity. If this guy is serious about you, then you should be included more and more in the negotiations with the children. His friendship should be to you first: you should be his best friend, and your relationship should be a priority right up there with the children. If you are a priority to him, he should be able to clearly articulate how he feels about you and give you an honest timetable about the divorce as well as his intentions for the two of you.
After dating for a year, my fiancee and her daughter have moved in with me and my two kids (our kids are all between 8 and 10 years old). We got along so well before, but now we fight like cats and dogs about everything from disciplining kids to doing laundry. Is this normal adjustment to life in a blended family, or is this a warning sign that the relationship is doomed?
Stress and conflict are common when trying to address a lot of important tasks at once. This is why forming a stepfamily has been compared to assembling an airplane in flight! Just look at the many issues you are faced with: a new love relationship, setting ground rules, adjusting to a larger group of people, organizing finances, dividing chores, settling turf battles — I could go on and on. As if this were not enough, cohabitation has a unique set of issues all its own. Research indicates that there is more conflict when two people live together without marriage, especially when children are involved. Much of the stress comes from the uncertainty in roles, rules, and expectations. I don’t know how much time and attention you have given to these issues, but more discussion may be in order. I suggest you get The Complete Idiots Guide to Stepparenting by Erika Lutz. Don’t be offended by the title: it’s a lifesaver of a book. Block off some time alone and go through the chapters together. This will help you set some consistent ground rules you can both get behind, and that the children need in order to feel safe and calm.
Last and most important is to make sure the love relationship between you and your partner is stable. Hopefully, you two are very committed to one another, because this will have the strongest affect on the children and the atmosphere of the family. Even though there are many pressing issues right now, remember to be lovers, best friends, and teammates. The happier you two are together, the more secure the children will feel, which will shorten your adjustment period.
My fiance’s brother “Steve” has always been flirty with me, but recently, it has gotten more serious. For instance, at his birthday party, he caught me alone in the kitchen and asked for a “birthday kiss” — and it was anything but brotherly. I pushed him away and tried to laugh it off, but keeps making passes at me. I’m really uncomfortable about this, but I don’t know what to do. Should I confront Steve, or tell my fiance, or just try to avoid being alone with Steve?
My advice is to do all three. This guy is either clueless, quite full of himself, or has some secret competition going on with his brother. Whatever the case, he is to be taken seriously. The fact that he flirts with you shows that he doesn’t respect personal boundaries or polite rules of etiquette, therefore you will likely have to send him a very strong message. The first thing to do is to expose the secret. Secrets carry power; as long as you keep Steve’s behavior to yourself, it will encourage him and make the game he is playing more titillating. Tell your fiance what has been going on and that you are going to confront Steve strongly the very next time it happens whether anyone is around or not. You don’t have to make a federal case out of it, just let him know what action you plan to take. When you confront Steve, all you have to do is look him in the eyes, lower your voice, and say “Stop!” If he asks, “Stop what?” just act like a broken record and say “Stop” again. Keep a straight face — don’t laugh it off or let him make light of it. Then certainly avoid being alone with him. However — and this is very important — do not let him control your participation in family occasions with your fiance’s family. These are your future in-laws, and no matter what people say, you do marry the whole family. If you handle this guy with firmness as well as politeness, you could make a friend and ally for life.