Carolyn Hax: Single Mom’s Boyfriend Is (Too) OK With Her Being Busy

Carolyn Hax: Single Mom’s Boyfriend Is (Too) OK With Her Being Busy

Carolyn Hax: Single Mom’s Boyfriend Is (Too) OK With Her Being Busy


Dear Caroline: My ex and I divorced when we had a toddler and a baby (not recommended). I started dating “Ben” about five years later, and we’ve been together for almost three years.

After all the horror stories I’ve heard about what it would be like to try and find love as a single mom, I thought I was REALLY lucky with Ben. He was never competitive for my time. He understands how busy I am as a mother and has always agreed that our quality time together should be once a week when the kids are with their dad. He is good with children but never tries to step on our toes as parents. I thought it was all the dream.

So this year, I brought up the idea of ​​moving in together and/or getting engaged. I also mentioned that I would like him to spend more time with me and the kids as a family.

That’s when I learned that, in Ben’s words, the beauty of our relationship is that I have so much else to do and he’s able to have time for him. He does not consider himself a step-parent and has no intention of being one. He said he would like to move in together once I have an empty nest…but that’s in 11 years (at the earliest).

I do not know what to do. I love this man. But basically, I’ve just been told that what he likes about me is that I don’t have time to demand too much of him and that he doesn’t have room in his life for my children. Is it possible for a single mom to have a strong, meaningful relationship that doesn’t compete with motherhood, but also has room to grow?

Bubble Burst: This is not the question I was expecting.

The answer to the question you posed is, of course, it is “possible”. There are approximately 8 billion people on earth and so far you have only dated (and fatherly eliminated) one of them.

The question I was expecting was more what-do-I-do-with-Ben? thing. Because it’s fascinating, and not obvious from every angle I can see.

Unless you can agree to his terms and have already broken up with no regrets. It would be pretty obvious.

Otherwise, from my position of safe detachment, I’m not as alarmed by what Ben said, and I even see a certain beauty in it. Peeking out from the wreckage.

The glaring problem is that you were able to be together romantically while being conceptually so far apart for so long. Who wasn’t talking to whom? Who wasn’t listening? Who was thinking the hardest? Was anyone misled on purpose?

These are no small worries. If you’re still with Ben at the time I received, read, reflected, replied, filed, and posted this, then I hope you’ve already spent some of your quality time sorting out and resolving your miscommunication.

As long as you’re able to work this out, though, and no one was lying to anyone, there may be a deceptively good relationship for you and Ben.

The reason for this is the relationship itself, as it was, or what it was from the beginning and until Ben dropped the bombshell. You were both very happy with it. Such love compatibility is a bit of greatness that I’m afraid you won’t give it due credit. Think about it: you are upset, you and Ben do not share the same vision of what your unit could be. Which means, by definition, that your disagreement is about something that was not yet and may never be real. At least find out if changing your envisioned future changes what you have in the present.

Plans affect how we feel now. But the starting point is extending what we have — basing retirement savings on current spending, for example. So maybe the two of you, in each other, can expect a partner who continues to meet your emotional needs – and continues to leave enough room for yourself.

Who can say: 1. This will not be true when your children grow up, in an evolutionary form? 2. That he is the only one to benefit from your airy arrangement?

And who’s to say, on the negative projection side, that you’ll still love Ben so much if you don’t give yourself that space?

Believe it or not, I slipped into this answer with thoughts of alternate romance. You and Ben struck me as a couple who stumbled upon an untraditional arrangement that uplifts you both. Then I wrote my way into a treatise on embracing cynicism as a matchmaker.

Also, I have no room for the possibility of there being boomerang grown children in your shared house one day with Ben.

But even if Ben isn’t the guy, I still think there’s a very good question here: Is moving in and co-raising kids the only measure of the “solid and serious” growth potential that exists?

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