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Dating and not sure I ever want to be a SM - how and when to have that convo?

birdsoffeathers's picture


I am almost 40, CF and currently dating a man with three bio kids under the age of 13. This is my first experience dating someone with children. His divorce was amicable, and the kids are welcoming and warm toward me, as is the BM. He has 50% custody of his children and is a truly loving, generous, warm and kind father to them. (And embodies all of those qualities in his relationship with me.)

I will readily admit: I am someone who generally needs a lot of alone time, I am particular about things like chores, finances, etc., noise and disorder, I like having the freedom to come and go as I see fit, so on and so forth. The older I have become (and less likely to have biological children with a partner), the less interest in or intent I have to ever marry, cohabitate or financially merge with another person. 



Understandably, dating someone to determine if our lives and values aligned was far more simple when my context was  only two, CF humans focused on each other. It has become infinitely more high stakes now that three other humans (four, if you count BM) are involved. The introduction of kids also feels like it has accelerated things and expectations.

While I adore my partner and his children, the longer we date, the more uncertain I become that SM is a role I can see myself being happy in. This is hugely conflicting and confusing, because my feeling for him continue to deepen. But as a dear friend always says, "Listen to your tummy when it talks." My tummy alarm is focused not on the people involved, but on the situation and long-term implications. There are several points on which we don't seem to see eye-to-eye (finances, parenting style, tidiness) that I have concerns could grow into eventual points of conflict. But for now, those seem secondary to the big question about whether a potential SM life is right for me. (And in turn, right for him and his kids.) 

After almost a year of dating, I find myself feeling more confused rather than finding clarity.  My short-term plan is to find a therapist who specialized in blended family and begin working through some of these questions. In the meantime, I am uncertain how to broach any of this with my partner. I don’t want him to think he or the kids have done anything wrong when it really is a current case of "it's not you, it's me." 

I’ve read so many forums and responses (thank you all for generously sharing your thoughts and experiences). The lack of sugar coating and brutal honesty is important food for thought. I’m wondering if anyone has had experience in telling their BP partner they are struggling with the "potential SP dynamic" while dating? How did you broach that discussion? How did your partner respond? What, if any, solutions did you come to? 

sickofstephell's picture

There is really nothing to discuss. His children won't be thrown away just because you don't want to be a step mother. I'm not sure what exactly you think will come out of a discussion with him?

I would just tell him flat out everything that you said in this post. It's honest and real and you aren't a bad person for feeling the way that you do. You should have the conversation sooner rather than later though. No need to waste your time OR his. If he understands, you can continue dating and avoid living together. You can even be around the children at times. You may like them and it may not be as horrible as you think - especially with the lack of drama from their mother that you mentioned. If he does NOT understand, you can go your separate ways and find someone without children. Or just stay alone. Nothing wrong with being alone as long as you're happy.

birdsoffeathers's picture

Oh gosh no. I have no expectation that he change anything about what he's doing or how he's doing it. (As I said, he's a super good dad with priorities in the right place. One of his many great qualities!) I just want to make sure I don't blindside him if I come to the conclusion it's not a right fit for me. As much as I'd like that to be an easy conversation, the more I think about it the more I realize there's no simple solution here other than the honest approach. I appreciate your encouragement to confront that discussion head-on! 

shellpell's picture

You're almost 40, probably set in your ways to some extent, especially regarding your home, your cleanliness level, your quiet time, etc. Marryjng a man with THREE kids would be a big mistake, sorry. You're free and clear. If I were you, I would date a younger guy with no kids. Tons of time and money will be going out of your household for a very long time, maybe forever if you read some of these adult stepkid posts. I wouldn't worry about blindsiding him- I would worry about ruining my happiness and peace by being with a man with three minor children. Sorry if this sounds harsh. I got married at 40 and I have one skid who's long distance and it's still really hard.

birdsoffeathers's picture

Not harsh...truthful. I appreciate the honesty and insights from this community! The theme of how difficult it is (and how that never goes away) has been echoed in everything I have heard from my SP friends. 

strugglingSM's picture

As someone who was happily, independently single before marrying a man with children in my late 30s, I can say that if I knew then what I know now, I might have walked away.

Being a SM stinks for the most part. You will be expected to put your wants and needs aside for the children. People will judge you if you want to do anything with just your DH, without the children. The BM may become territorial and try to control your home.

Society will look to you to seem motherly enough, but not too motherly.

It can be hard to look past all the things you are giving up, oftentimes without any acknowledgement or appreciation. 

If you are having doubts, listen to them. 

NotThatTypical's picture

Don't need to finish reading. You tell him at the very start. If he has children his priority is to them first. They NEED him.

He may decide he’s fine staying with you and not expecting anything from you when it comes to the children. Or he may decide he wants to find someone else and he has every right to do that. Same as you. He may request more from you in relation to the kids and you can decide to move on and find someone without.

Harry's picture

It's only a accident away, a boytoy away.  He has his responsibility, his kids,  If you feel you can't do it now, where you are not living with it 24/7.  What do you think it's going to be if you live there. When the honeymoon time is over.  This is the best it's gets.  
This is not for you.  Nothing to be guilty about . It's only going to get worst. Just read these boards. It all can happen to you 

ESMOD's picture

I think that the time to start talking to him about it is when you are basically at the point where you are having this conversation with yourself.  

Because.. it isn't just as easy as someone saying.. "oh.. it won't be that bad.. you will get used to it".  Being with someone that has kids DOES make a difference in your world.  There are other people.. that he made.. that will have an impact on your household.  He has an obligation to allocate time, money and emotional resources to these children.. and while that nebulous emotion of "love" has the capacity to surround more than one person.. clearly there are going to be compromises and sacrifices from everyone in the household.. some resources are finite.  Not that it can't work.. but if you know that it will make you unhappy.. then perhaps it isn't 100% the lifestyle for you?

Now... what do you think your goal is?  Do you feel like you could be dad's partner or wife.. maybe put off living together/marrying until after the kids are 18 and more out of the home?  

Being his wife doesn't necessarily mean you will need to be a "stepmom" and care for the kids etc.. but they will be in the home and part of the household and your life.  If you can't deal with that?  you need to live separately until they are out of the home.

Of course.. that is just what you want.. you will need to see what HE wants to.

Perhaps you could broach it as this.

I really enjoy our relationship and you are a great father.  But, here is the thing.  I do not see myself as being comfortable living in a stepfamily household with minor kids.  Don't get me wrong, your kids are great.. but I just don't thing I would be happy in a family home environment right now.  I don't think that would be fair to your kids either to be honest..  What do you think about us continuing to see each other as things are going now?  I maintain my home.. and you yours.  your kids will have more of your full attention when you have custody and I won't be a disruptive influence on your home with them.  Then.. once they are older.. maybe out of high school, we can re-evaluate and see whether marriage or living together might make sense at that point?

I'm not trying to rush a committment decision or anything from you... but do want to put my cards on the table so that there isn't a mismatch in expectations on what is likely to be our next steps in our relationship.

birdsoffeathers's picture

This script is more helpful than you can imagine! I have been toiling over how to kindly broach the topic, without crushing his spirit or making him feel like it's some sort of shortcoming on his part. I suppose this is a danger of postponing meeting children until both adults are fully ingrained in the relationship. You've formed feelings and a bond based over a false reality that only represents a small part of the greater whole. Greatly appreciate your suggestion on how to move toward a more honest and open place! 

ESMOD's picture

I think it's important to focus on the fact that it isn't because of HIS kids.. it's just kids.  that you really didn't have any point of reference or experience this close up.. and that you find it stressful... 

It doesn't have to be the end of the relationship.. but if his thoughts were the progression would be that you move in and be a partner in parenting his kids.... that is not what YOU envision.