I have a bit of a predicament. I’m in love with this wonderful woman, N. We’ve been dating/in a relationship for 10 months and recently broke up. We broke up at six months as well, for one reason: I have kids and she can’t conceive of being part of my family right now (if ever). N has been separated for a year from her family: three teens/young adults she helped raise for 11 years. N is their step-parent and therefore has no rights of custody to them. She is still hurting from this relationship, as it was emotionally abusive and ended with a year-long affair (on her wife’s part).
We have this really great connection—we get along well, amazing love making and can talk at great lengths about lots of different issues. I realize she has not healed—and wish she could have continued therapy. My dilemma is that I love her and want to be with her and fear that I am throwing away something great because I have this vision of a family reformulated. How long should I wait for her to change her mind? Should I just forget about my idea of co-parenting for this great relationship without my kids?—Between A Rock
Anna says: I don’t have kids, BAR, but from what I’ve gathered from those who do and are also in the dating scene—you and your kids are kind of a package deal. You can’t really have one without the other, at least not in the long run. I’m confused about what a “great relationship without my kids” would even look like. Will they just wait in the car for you to finish? How can you build real trust and intimacy and connection while leaving out one of the biggest components of your life? I guess it’s possible your kids might not be with you full-time, but even then.
It seems like you made the right choice, even though that choice was also tremendously difficult for you. You shouldn’t wait for N to change her mind. You should move on. You should be with someone who wants to be with you (all of you) and not settle for bits and pieces of the relationship you need. You’ve broken up twice now, for a perfectly valid, legitimate reason. You can wish for all manners of things—that she’ll change her mind about wanting to be part of your family, that she’ll go back to therapy, that she’ll confront her past relationship and hurt head-on—but at the end of the day, it’s still a wish, and not the reality that you find yourself in currently. You deserve the whole shebang, and a partner who will walk triumphantly into the future with you when words like family and co-parenting are thrown in the mix.
“Should I just forget about my idea of co-parenting for this great relationship without my kids?” you asked. And the answer is no, you only have to reconsider what great relationship you might have with someone else, someone who wants the same thing as you. Your kids are important to you—you wouldn’t have ended a pretty good relationship twice if that wasn’t the case. Your kids should be important to the person you end up with, too. That seems clear to me and I’ve only known you for a few paragraphs. Your kids are your line in the sand, a non-negotiable. And that’s OK. Unraveling yourself from N is how you go about finding someone who shares your truest version of romantic love. You’ve made that crucial first step, now you just have to keep walking.
Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.