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Advice | Carolyn Hax: The single mom’s friend is (too) okay with how busy she is


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 now.

After all the horror stories I heard about what it would be like to find love as a single mom, I thought I was REALLY lucky with Ben. He’s never been competitive before my time. He understands how busy I am as a mom and was always fine with our quality time together having to take place once a week when the kids are with their dad. He’s nice to the kids, but never tried to step on our parents’ toes. I thought that was all the dream.

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

It was then that I learned that, in Ben’s words, the beauty of our relationship is that I have so much more on my mind and he can have time to himself. He does not see himself as a stepparent and does not intend to become one. He did say he’d love to move in together once I have an empty nest… but that’s 11 years old (at the earliest).

I don’t know what to do. I love this man. But I was just told that what he likes about me is that I don’t have time to demand too much from him and he has no room in his life for my kids. Is it possible for a single mom to have a solid, serious relationship that doesn’t compete with motherhood but also has room to grow?

bubble, burst: That’s not the question I expected.

The answer to the question you asked, of course, is that it is “possible”. There are 8 billion people on the planet, and so far you’ve dated (and stepfathered) only one of them.

The question I expected was more of a what-am-I-with-Ben? thing. Because that’s a fascinating one, and not obvious from any angle.

Unless you couldn’t accept his terms and have already broken up with no regrets. That would be pretty obvious.

Otherwise, from my position of secure detachment, I’m not so alarmed by what Ben said, and even see something beautiful in it. Peeking out of the wreckage.

The glaring problem is that you two could be romantically together for so long when they were so far apart conceptually. Who did not speak to whom? Who didn’t listen? Who was wishful thinking the hardest? Has someone been misled on purpose?

These are no minor concerns. If you are still with Ben by the time I have received, read, considered, answered, submitted and published this, then I hope you have already spent some of your quality time figuring out and resolving your miscommunication.

But as long as you can fix that and no one lied to anyone, there could be a deceptively good relationship between you and Ben.

The reason for that is the relationship itself, as it is, or what it was all along until Ben’s bombing. You were both very happy with it. Such loving compatibility is a bit of beautiful grandeur that I’m afraid doesn’t give you credit. Think about it: you’re upset, you and Ben don’t share the same vision of what your togetherness is could be. Which means that your disagreement is by definition about something that wasn’t there before and may never have become a reality. By all means, find out if changing your intended future changes what you have in the present.

Plans affect how we feel now. But the starting point is to expand what we have, for example by basing pension savings on current expenditures. So maybe both of you, in each other, can look forward to a partner who continues to meet your emotional needs – and always leave enough space for yourself.

Who’s to say: 1. That won’t be true when your children are adults, in evolving form? 2. That he is the only one who benefits from your light-hearted arrangement?

And who’s to say, on the side of the negative projection, that you’ll still like Ben just as much if you don’t give each other this space?

Believe it or not, I stopped in this answer with alt-romantic thoughts in mind. You and Ben came across to me as a couple who stumbled upon a non-traditional date that takes you both to the next level. Then I wrote my way into a treatise on embracing cynicism as your matchmaker.

Plus, I have no room for the possibility of adult boomerang children in your home ever shared with Ben.

But even if Ben isn’t the guy, I still think there’s a really good question: Is moving in and raising kids together the only measure of “solid, serious” growth potential out there?

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