Today's letter references two recent episodes of the podcast. The summaries, for non-podcast people: Episode 7 is about a friend who always said she wasn't a "boyfriend person" ... until she was, and Episode 6 is about a woman who realizes she might be a bad step-parent, and how it affects her relationship.
I just listened to Season 5, Episodes 6 and 7 of the podcast. I am a divorced dad of teens and have sworn to myself that I will not introduce anyone to my teenage kids until they are off to college. It just seems too selfish of me, when I can just wait a bit and not disrupt their formative years, which were already disrupted enough with the divorce and the circumstances. I hear so many stories like that of you and your sister being deeply effected into adulthood by step-parent/partner situations. So while I do date a bit and have met some wonderful women, when I tell them it has to be on the side away from my kids for now, understandably a woman will think that either I am not that interested or they want to progress in developing a deeper personal relationship in their life now so we part ways. So I have labeled myself "not a girlfriend person."
I have wonderful adventures and personal development either on my own or with friends and family. But then your friend who is not a "boyfriend person" meets someone and something switches. I am just worried that by shielding my kids for a few years I might miss out on that. I guess that's the way it is. I am really hoping to find a women I love, who is also in the same situation and we can just spend time together away from kids and let them grow up. Does that make sense? Or will I regret this some day?
Yes, my sister and I were affected by bad step-parent situations. But let's consider some of the reasons the reasons they were bad. 1) Our parent prioritized the relationship over parenting; b) we never got time alone with said parent, so we found ourselves retreating because of the constant presence of this step-parent; and c) no one ever asked, "Is this OK for you? How do you feel?"
I did have some better experiences, though, with my mom's dating life specifically. When I was busy with high school and my mom met a nice guy at one point, I was thrilled, even though the relationship didn't stay good and eventually ended. She was happy for a while, and I think a lot of us children of divorce want our parents to find love and joy, as long as it's not at our expense. My mom and I always had a ton of alone time, and her dating life never threatened our connection.
My point is, you could wait until the kids are in college to date publicly, but honestly, what is college anymore? A kid could wind up studying remotely from home. Everything is up in the air right now. The better idea might be to drop the rules for yourself. Go into relationships letting people know that you're conservative about introductions, and that you’d rather focus on the relationship yourself than bring your kids into it until everyone is ready.
Then see how you feel. A person might seem worthy in ways you never expected. I wouldn't want you to lose someone with great potential because the person feels like a secret. Also, over time – even over months – your kids might seem different and ready. Honestly, because of this pandemic, a think a lot of kids have realized their parents are human. It was difficult to hide real feelings, especially for people in the same house.
I’m no parenting expert (obviously), but having gone through this a bunch of times, even as a grownup, I’ll just say that based on my experience, there is a middle. You can fall in love with someone worthy and still let your kids know they're the center of your world.
Readers? Can the LW be more open about possibilities? How have you figured this out for yourself?