She wishes I wasn’t divorced with a kid

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I am a divorced man with a 5-year-old. I met my girlfriend shortly after my divorce. The divorce was protracted, acrimonious, and expensive – which took a toll on my new relationship. My girlfriend loves my child and vice versa. People we know and even strangers we come across will remark on how wonderfully they get along.

My girlfriend and I also share great chemistry and we enjoy one another's company immensely. We've been together four years now and have talked about a future together. The problem is that she isn't elated about my past: that I'm divorced, that I'm older than her prior boyfriends, and that I have a child. She dreams of having a "conventional" relationship without having to become a stepmom, and she fears the scorn that her friends and family will dole out to her once they find out that we are planning a future.

I told her that I can't change those basic facts, and that there's no guarantee that her "dream" relationship will be better. I don't know if it's correct for me to say those things, but I love her and I'd like for her to stay. She said it would've been much better had I not had a child, despite the fact that they love one another so. It is my observation that we bicker as much as any other couple, but it seems like many of these normal relationship ups and downs lead to her wanting to leave, due in large part to her disdain for my past. The fighting and breaking up over this issue used to be much more intense and frequent in the past, and though the frequency of the fighting has diminished, I am acutely aware that her feelings about the matter haven't changed. We intend to move forward and build a life together, but I'm anxious if we'll get there or for how long she will stay if we do get there. Do you have any advice or observations?

– Unconventional

Listen, you might be right. Maybe her dream relationship would be less perfect – and less fun – than what the two of you have together.

It's also possible that she would be much more comfortable with someone whose past resembles her own. She might actually love feeling like she's starting from scratch with someone when it comes to marriage and kids.

Really, I have no idea. Neither do you.

All I know is that you need someone who can commit to you without feeling deeply conflicted about it. Someone who’s pretty sure that joining you in this life is worth whatever hassles come with it. Because in 10 years, when this 5-year-old is 15 and in a bad mood, it would be great if your partner can say, "Yeah, I get it. And I love being here anyway" Your family life will evolve, but you and your kid are a pair. You don't want to commit to someone who's not all in on that concept.

It's tough advice, but if she's has this nagging feeling that this life is not what she wants, both of you should listen to her gut. She doesn't want to be a bad partner, and you don't want to have to keep convincing her to stay.

As you talk about all of this, tell her what kind of partner you want. One who can be excited to stick around. One who feels good about explaining this to friends and family. If she can see that happening, great. If she knows it never will, don’t lobby her to stay. At that point, it would be about next steps and how to make the unraveling of this understandable to your child.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on how to talk about doubt?