Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about how to decide how long you should wait to meet your boyfriend’s kids and family and how long you should wait for him to tell his ex-wife about your relationship. In my response, I provide guidance on what’s normal to expect in this situation, why he might be holding off on introducing you to his kids and telling his ex about you, how long you should wait, and when to be concerned.
I have been dating a man for about five months now. He is newly separated and says he has been unhappy for years and they just stayed together for the kids. He treats me like gold…brings me flowers, pays for everything when we go out and really is a caring sweet guy.
I am a little concerned, however, because his ex does not know about me and he has not yet told his family that he is dating me. My family has met him though. Only his friends know about me. Is this normal? And how long should I be waiting to meet his kids and family?
I am eight years younger than him. And during our first few months of dating he would not sleep with me. He told me it had to be special and waited to have sex even though I was ok with it and wanted to have sex earlier. He said trust me, I want you but we have to wait.
He once hated his ex, but they get along better now than they did before. I think it is great for the kids’ sake. I have been super understanding with his arrangements and how they are as a parental unit.
I do think he is just being careful but when I asked him when he is going to tell his family he answered with “I don’t know?” So I said are you going to tell them and he said yes eventually.
Should I be worried? Is this normal?
Dear Worry Wart,
Thanks so much for reaching out. I hear you and understand why you might be feeling concerned.
Why hasn’t he told his ex about me? Is this normal?
Well, there are a few things happening here. It’s clear he is uncomfortable, at the moment, with introducing you to his kids and telling his ex-wife about you.
And it sounds like you want your relationship to progress into deeper levels of intimacy and commitment, but you don’t feel as if you can have a normal relationship (and grow your relationship!) if he’s hiding you from the important people in his life.
A question that comes up for me is: What does he say is in the way of him introducing you to his kids and telling his ex about you?
Because his reasons WHY he’s holding off on doing those things might shed some light on this issue for you.
Also, how far along is he in his divorce process?
If he is still separated and his divorce is pending or undergoing mediation, he may be treading VERY carefully to protect his custody or estate interests during the divorce litigation.
So, I would have a heart to heart conversation with him.
Share with him why meeting his kids is important to you and your relationship and why having him tell his ex about your relationship is important to you.
And ask him what’s in the way of him feeling comfortable with you meeting his kids and telling his ex?
This heart to heart conversation is for the purpose of understanding him.
Then once you have a deeper understanding, you have more information with which to decide what this situation means for you.
And even if he doesn’t provide more information or eludes your questions, well, then that’s information as well.
How Long Should You Wait Until He Tells His Ex About You
If he still has legal obligations to his ex, and he is concerned about his stake in those legal obligations, it’s reasonable to expect him to not want to do or say anything that could potentially jeopardize his interest in this divorce litigation – and that includes telling his ex that he’s dating other people.
How could mentioning to his ex that he’s dating other people jeopardize his interests in this divorce?
In some areas of the United States that don’t have “no-fault divorce,” if a spouse can prove that the other person is at fault for adultery, for example, proving fault can provide the spouse who is without fault with a larger portion of the marital property or support.
Also, if his ex really wanted to, she could make it really difficult for him mentally, emotionally, and financially to proceed with this divorce by pulling out all the stops, playing hardball, and (God forbid) using the children as pawns.
Now, his ex doesn’t sound like that kind of person.
But I’ve seen it happen to “nice” people.
People will go to great lengths to protect their interests, especially if they feel as if their back is against the wall, sometimes resorting to shameful things like putting the children in the middle of the contention and alienating them from their father or mother, or harassing extended family members and dragging them into the drama.
When money and kids are involved in the dissolution of a marriage – in other words, when there’s a lot at stake – the pressure and circumstances can bring out the worst in some people.
So, even though he “gets along” with his ex, his concern may be due to not wanting to take a chance at pissing her off, given that his divorce is still pending.
So how long should you wait?
It entirely depends on your tolerance for not having this need met in your life for the near future.
Understanding the situation helps with tolerance.
But at the end of the day, what matters is how this is making you feel, what it’s costing you to wait, and whether you think paying that price is worth it.
My general rule is: he has to be taking meaningful action toward resolving the issue in order to justify waiting for any length of time.
There has to be a “light at the end of the tunnel” and he has to doing everything in his power to get out of that tunnel.
Not dragging his feet.
Not making excuses.
Not being unsure about what he wants.
Otherwise, there’s no telling HOW long you’ll be waiting for a resolution.
If there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and he’s not taking meaningful action within his power toward resolving the issue, then who knows how long you’ll be “paying the price” for waiting.
How Long Should You Wait to Meet His Kids?
There are a couple of really important issues to be conscious of before meeting the kids: his kids’ readiness to meet daddy’s girlfriend, and your readiness as a couple to go into deeper levels of commitment in this relationship.
I would definitely advise waiting until the divorce is final and until the kids have healed from the divorce before meeting them.
Divorce and transitioning from a two-parent household to a single-parent household is a huge physical and emotional undertaking for kids.
Introducing a new person into the picture before they’re ready would just make them feel further threatened and even jeopardize the kids’ ability to build a healthy relationship with you.
So, going slow is best.
And if your boyfriend cares about having you meet them eventually, he needs to be proactive about helping his kids heal and adjust to the “new normal.”
That doesn’t mean forcing them to heal. Because you can’t force healing.
It’s something that he needs to be conscious of nurturing within his family.
Maybe that means taking his kids to see a counselor.
Maybe that means he educates himself on divorce recovery.
Whatever path he chooses, he needs to consciously prepare his kids for this new relationship in his life.
And it is also worth exploring whether you’re ready as a couple to make the kids aware of your relationship and ready to take on the responsibility that comes with that.
General wisdom is to not introduce your children to your dates until you are both dating each other exclusively and becoming pre-committed as a final area of “testing,” according to The Step and Blended Family Institute.
I highly recommend waiting until you’ve both sure that your needs and relationship requirements could be met in this relationship and that you have a shared vision for the kind of life and relationship that you really want.
In other words, wait until you both know this relationship has long-term viability and you both want and are headed down that road.
If you have any doubts, hold off on involving the kids until you are certain about the long-term viability of your relationship.
Take the time to exclusively date each other for a good length of time before introducing the children, so that you both have some strong inclinations that this is someone you could be in a long-term relationship with because, again, lack of stability can feel very threatening to children.
Should You Be Worried?
If he’s not taking meaningful action that’s within his power to resolve the issues that are in the way of the growth of your relationship, then I would seriously question how committed he is to the future of your relationship.
But if he is moving heaven and earth to try and be with you and create the relationship that you both really want together, then I might give him a chance.
But I wouldn’t wait forever.
Only you know how long is worth it for you to wait.
Remember to ask yourself: what price are you paying to wait? And how long are you willing to pay that price?
How to Decide if He’s Right for You
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