I’m a divorced guy dating a woman who is also divorced. We are both in our thirties, and we are talking about getting married in the near future. Our relationship is great, but there is one issue.

She has three children and complete custody. That means that her children will be living with us all the time, without their father ever seeing them. They are starting to consider me their father.

I have only one child, and he joins me on alternate weekends and once during the week. While I get along great with her kids, she has a problem with my kid. She really does not like my son.

I am not saying that my son is an angel, but she makes him out to be a monster. The last time we all got together, she told me privately that I am going to have to make other arrangements so that my son does not spend too much time with us in the future.

I am in a terrible bind. I love my son dearly, but I also do not want to jeopardize the relationship I have with this woman. Is there a way to make this work so we can all be happy, or will I have to choose between this woman and my son?


By Baila Sebrow

You are certainly not in an enviable position. Dating towards a first-time marriage can bring about its own distinctive issues within the relationship. But dating the second time around, especially when there are children in the picture, can be very challenging. In these situations, getting along with the person you are dating is not the only key to happiness. Couples have to make sure that the children on both sides are on board to make that relationship work. And that is no easy accomplishment.

In your case, there are six human beings in the picture. Getting everyone to like each other is almost like asking for a miracle. Blended families often have to work out issues just so they can live under one roof together in harmony.

Your circumstances are a bit unconventional. You are dealing with a potential spouse disliking your son. You do not state the age of this child, but I am guessing, based on the fact that you are in your thirties, that he is still quite young.

You do not indicate what this woman has against your son. Perhaps he might be having a difficult time adjusting not only to the reality that his parents and home are forever broken, but the actuality that other children who are not blood-relatives are now considering you to be their father. Worse, he might feel that these three children are taking his place. This poor child probably feels like an outsider in his own father’s surroundings.

It is very common when a man dates a woman whose young children live with her for him to go the extra mile in winning them over. It seems that you were quite successful in accomplishing that. So much so, that this woman appears content with her picture of a happy family; you, her, and her children. There is no question that she wants your son out of the picture. She is not saying this now in so many words, but telling you she wants him over less often is an indication that even when he comes, she will likely make him uncomfortable. With time, your son will refuse to come to the home you will share with this woman. And with the way things are looking, she will be one happy camper should such a scenario occur.

This woman needs to understand that she is not dating a never-married guy or one without children. She is dating a man who was part of a family unit before he met her. This man was married with a child. And like it or not, that is never going to change.

If this woman is serious about marrying you in the near future, as you say, then she has to understand that your son is part of the deal. Does she not realize that you will be altering your life by living with her three children full-time? It sounds like, in her mind, it is perfectly OK for her children to have a set of parents living together, while your son, who will not have such a privilege, should still be denied the little that he gets. Forgive me, but this woman sounds selfish.

This woman has no right to ruin the relationship you have with your son. If she sincerely wants you all to herself and her children, and she wants you to have less to do with your own child, then it would be better for her to move on and find someone else. Your son’s entire life is dependent on the type of father he has. For you to become less visible in his life is a crime against humanity.

It sounds like this lady friend of yours has it in for your son for whatever reason she may or may not be disclosing. However, angel or monster, he is, and always will be, your flesh and blood. Your first priority is your child, and there are no exceptions. Your responsibility must be towards the child you helped bring into this world.

You and your ex-wife got divorced. Whatever the motive may have been, it had nothing to do with your child. It is great that you met someone with whom you felt the spark of hope that you can rebuild your life. At the same time, this woman you managed to hit it off with also happens to resent your son. But that should not be his problem.

As much as I want to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, I am troubled by the lack of maternal instincts she is displaying. Even if she is a good mother to her own children, the manner in which she expects you to treat your son is troubling. The mere fact that she is a mother should at least sensitize her to the needs of a child.

Children are little humans. They are not perfect–in the same way that adults are not perfect. But unlike adults, children are more easily persuaded to change their behavior if need be, provided that they have a loving, stable family. If the woman you are dating has an issue with your child’s behavior, rejecting him will only make matters worse to the point where he is going to suffer lifelong, harmful consequences.

Can you imagine what is going on in your son’s mind now? Children are more perceptive than we realize. Do you think that he is not bothered by the huge interest you are showing this woman’s children? Having to adjust to the idea that his father is showing affection to someone other than his mother, and the thought that you now have “new” children is, no doubt, tearing him up inside. So it is possible that he might be acting out when he is around that family.

You must immediately seek the support and guidance of a therapist. But first, you must go with your son. He endured the trauma of your divorce coupled with the circumstances of your present relationship. Consequently, much pain is bottled up inside him, and he needs help in dealing with it.

I would advise you to hold off marrying this woman until things are settled. It is not unusual for a couple getting married the second time around to experience problems and dilemmas that relate to one or more of the children. Unfortunately, many second-time divorces have occurred as a result of unresolved blended-family conflicts.

I urge you to seek counseling with this woman also, to help you both discover what is actually troubling her. The objective is for her to develop the ability and the will to accept your son as a member of the family. Under no circumstances should you ever agree to compromise on issues that will involve your son being excluded.

I must warn you that there are situations similar to yours, where even after counseling, the person who has an issue with the other person’s child may throw out an ultimatum: “It’s me or the kid.” That is where one’s true colors come shining through. Should that occur, I trust that at that point you will reevaluate her potential qualities as a wife, mother, and human being.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Ï–

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