I am not sure how to bring this up to people, so I am going through you.
I was set up through a Jewish singles dating site. This guy had a nice profile and we matched on everything important. He happened to be in town for a convention, so we had a blind date. He was very pleasant, and he presented as his profile described him. With this being said, I also sensed he was afraid of any commitment that would entail responsibilities (for example, I have my two sons at home). At least that was my suspicion.
After he left, he texted me a few days later, wanting to continue the pleasant conversation. That was fine, but I needed to ask him straight out: “How quick would you be to marry the right woman if she had two children still living at home?” His response should have been either that he is ready or that he is not. But he gave a few responses to a yes-or-no type of question, meaning that there were, at minimum, several obstacles before he could determine if marrying someone with children would be fine.
I suggest that any woman with children who is dating should not waste her time with men who come up with four or more excuses on why not to marry a wonderful partner. And by the way, this permanent bachelor responded to my questions about how he feels about us with his own questions:
- Would they be moving into my house or would it be a commuter relationship for some period of time?
- What would be in the best interest of the kids and what level of relationship would I have with them?
- What would be most appropriate and comfortable for my kids?
He added, “Depending on the answers to these questions, I’d say, in general, the sooner the better to end it. I see no advantage in extending dating past the point where there is mutual clarity.”
Aren’t these what one would call TWs (time-wasters)? What is your opinion, and what advice could you give to a woman like me?
Let’s first begin with those you refer to as TWs (time-wasters). There is no clear-cut answer to that question. Meaning, there are men who know in advance that there is no way they would marry a specific woman with the issues or situations she comes with, and they immediately decline the suggestion. Then you have the men who are aware of what the woman will bring into the relationship and marriage, yet they are so taken by her that they think they can make it work. Some do, and some cannot. For those men who, at the end of the day, are not able to make it work, the results end up being the same, except that time is wasted and feelings are hurt.
I take huge issue with any person from either gender who knows in advance that a particular shidduch is not right for him or her, and, nevertheless, misleads the person and gives cause to believe that he or she is serious about exploring the possibility for a relationship leading to marriage. These things happen not only in a commuter type of relationship, but specifically where the woman has young children.
There are cases where a man meets a woman who has young children living with her, and he may know beyond a shadow of doubt that there is no way he will marry her, yet he pursues her anyway. He will do so because he feels an attraction for her, and he needs her to fill a lonely period of time in his life. Meanwhile, she could be developing feelings for him, and in an effort to temporarily keep her in his life, may deliberately lead her to believe that a future of marriage is on the horizon. You are fortunate that whatever interaction you had with the man you met was not too involved. So although you feel disappointment now, it could have ended much worse for you.
How do you protect yourself in the future, and how can you avoid wasting even one hour of your time with a man who will never accept your place of residence or your young children? Sure, you can ask all the questions, and if you are dealing with an honest person, you will get honest answers. However, if you have been in the dating pool for a while, then you know very well that, sadly, there are people who are not entirely truthful if it means that they will benefit from their evasiveness.
Here is what I suggest. It begins with complete honesty from you. I am not saying that you are hiding anything, but there are times when a woman, in the effort to convince a man to date her, may play up or exaggerate her lifestyle in a more positive light than it really is. For example, there are a few reasons why a man may decline dating a woman with young children at home. One of them is monetary. Most men, and even financially well-to-do men, have no interest in supporting children who are not their own, and no one can blame them. A savvy woman might tell the man that her ex-husband, another family member, or she herself will support her kids and he need not worry.
Even if all that turns out to be true, when people live together under the same roof, and they go food shopping or travel on a vacation, no one wants to be in the position of figuring out how much money one laid out or is owed for paying for the stepchildren. Trust me on this one. I know of shalom bayis issues where the man has kept a log of how much money he spent on his stepchildren. It’s distasteful for all parties concerned.
Typically, it does not usually get that far. As the relationship between the dating couple intensifies, the man becomes aware of any financial issues, and he will usually back out of the relationship. Be upfront about what you expect from any man you will marry. Will he be expected to pick up the slack for tuition (school or camp), healthcare, clothing, etc.? If you know that the answer might be yes to any question, then you must level with him or else it will come back to bite you.
The other factor that some men fear is lack of privacy as well as having to tend to the emotional needs of stepchildren. You need to lay all the facts out on the table before you even agree to a date. Please don’t make the same mistake as many others in assuming that if the guy meets you and likes you, he will say yes to everything you want. He might say yes but not mean it.
With regard to commuter-style relationships, I am not a fan of long-distance relationships of any sort, because for as many that work out, there is a greater percentage that does not. Even with Skyping technology, healthy relationships are nurtured by in-person interactions. If dating is dependent on airline reservations, the rearranging of schedules, not to mention the costs involved, then the outcome for the relationship is usually not favorable, as it is fraught with complications.
For singles who live in areas where there are not too many compatible people to date, it’s a huge problem. Moving to another region is not always possible for various reasons, and such people have no choice but to rely on whatever they can. Here, too, one must be completely upfront about what they expect regarding who will be the one traveling in for dates and who will pay for any incurred costs.
While it is possible that the man you had this situation with might have commitment issues, you need to be careful before labeling him a permanent bachelor. As wonderful a partner in marriage as you surely will be, not every man is cut out for helping to form a blended family.
The dating scene is challenging in the best of circumstances. People of all ages, from young to middle-aged and older, come face-to-face with difficult obstacles. There are no specific steps that one can take to ensure that their process will be perfectly smooth.
In conclusion, I agree that the sooner you find out the truth, the better, but that involves all parties. It sounds like you have a good handle on your situation, and, most importantly, I admire your commitment to your children. You place them first and foremost in your life. As selfless and devoted a parent you are, I am confident that sooner rather than later you will be the same as a wife to the man lucky enough to become your husband.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.