Good Monday morning to you all! About a week or so ago I started the topic about dating a man with children ( read the last post Does that include baggage ) . Following on from that is today’s post with a few steps and practical ways on how to navigate yourself through this type of relationship. Enjoy !
The most important thing firstly was to establish boundaries between everyone. In my relationship I was dating a man who was still going through the transition period and therefore familiarity and blurred lines were a little too common. I’m talking everything from physical, emotional to financial and social boundaries. In a broken family unit it can be quite difficult to separate emotions from practicality and when there are children involved its important to make sure everyone knows what is expected of each other. Be open and honest with your partner about what you expect and ask him what he expects, clear communication needs to be a fundamental in your relationship, right from the beginning.
This will come in different stages and it’s important not to rush each stage for the sake of the title but rather understand the importance that each stage/ role has . Roles include everything from being the girlfriend and not the other woman, to his ex being exactly that, an ex partner who yes has children to him but does not have the same rights as what a girlfriend has. Try being a friend to the children before trying to be a step mother and not be aware to not take over their actual mother’s role or parenting. There is no specific amount of time in which one role turns into another, it’s different for each relationship and needs to be handled from an emotionally intelligent point of view. Stagnating or confusion is not healthy or productive for the children, so be sure to discuss everything with your partner and make sure you are both on the same page.
In this context I’m talking about being honest and open about what each party involved expects of the other. In essence it’s all about communicating clearly. It might seem like an obvious and repetitive point but it’s going to decide the outcome of your decisions and happiness. It’s a tricky and complicated situation so don’t be afraid to ask questions and make your fears and hopes known, men aren’t mind readers and often they take our words literally, so just say what’s on your mind and heart, preferably when you are in a clear head space.
This of course is essential to any type of relationship however when you are not the only woman in your man’s life it becomes a little more defined. Similar to honesty, it means that you believe that your partner is thinking about the both of you. This isn’t just a matter of “yes I trust him when he’s around her”, this trust goes a little deeper than that. You have already by this stage established boundaries and roles, you now need to be able to openly trust that he will respect them, that his decisions will include you , that his line of thinking will be inclusive of all parties involved, that you are his priority. It may seem stupid to think that he wouldn’t automatically include you in such decisions, but when he has been conditioned to think one way for such a long amount of time, they do need gentle reminding that things are different. Remember this is also a totally new existence for them as well as you; you need to be able to communicate this in order to build your trust.
This is a tricky one and takes a lot of will power and patience, because trust me you won’t always feel like respecting the ex! But then again it’s not about what you feel; it’s about being a mature adult, putting aside all disdain and getting along for the sake of everyone involved. You may not like or agree how the mother raises the child, but it is not your place to overstep her parenting unless the child is at risk. Work on instead what you can contribute as a step mum and friend to the child and what you and your partner can give the children, which is modelling a healthy and happy unified relationship.
Hmm perhaps a controversial subtitle as such but totally necessary for your sanity’s sake. Each relationship is different depending on the children and the amount of involvement your partner has with the children. For me, my partner was still quite involved in his daughter’s life; he is a very attentive father and very attached to his little girl. When you date someone you are used to having unlimited 100 % of their time, no restrictions, no time schedules and basically choosing when you both can come and go. Yes well forget that! You now have to share your time with a little child that holds his heart just as much if not even more so (in a different way) than yours. It’s a hard thing to get your head around and I found struggling with feelings of impatience, frustration, jealously and guilt was all a part of the process. Firstly I was frustrated that I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted to with him and was forever having to juggle my schedule to fit in with him, work and his daughter. I then became impatient naturally and felt neglected because I wasn’t getting the normal amount of time that a ‘normal/ no baggage’ relationship included. After awhile I began to feel jealous of his daughter, not because of who she was, as I adored her, but because of the amount of time and attention he gave her. Then of course I felt guilty about being jealous and another vicious cycle of tangled emotions starts again. I mean seriously someone needs to write a textbook on how all this stuff works, because you honestly feel like you are a blind man, badgering your way through life!
So here’s how I coped. I took the focus off the time I wasn’t getting from him and instead invested that time into myself and something I wanted to do. I remained independent in a healthy emotional, mental and physical way, making my alone time constructive and positive. I didn’t isolate myself or play hard to get in order to try and win his time, I made it clear to him how much time I needed as a woman and partner, we both agreed on what was realistic in our situation , but was also fair to both of us and his daughter. It wasn’t easy re training my mind and it did take us a while and a few fights to find a healthy balance in which no one was neglected. When you date someone who works full time, has a daughter, and a girlfriend, please be patient with him, for starters being male they find it hard to juggle everything as easily as we do. Instead just find something that you love to do to fill in the gaps, this not only keeps you occupied, it’s also vital in keeping you a whole person which breeds a healthy relationship. Be open with how you feel with the amount of time he gives you compared to his daughter, make your feelings known in a calm way , he has to learn as well and the silent treatment just doesn’t work in this case.