Single mom seeking advice… about her boyfriend

by singlemomseeking on November 6, 2008

Some of you might know “Wonder Mom” from her blog, Picking Up the Pieces.

Wonder Mom — who’s the single mom of two little boys — recently asked me for some advice. Since you are all the experts, I’m turning to you!

Here’s the deal:

A guy friend whom she’d lost touch with came back into her life a few months ago. Yes, there’s a spark. She met his family recently. They’ve gone on outings with her kids. And they recently had their first kiss!

Sounds divine, right?

Well, as you know, things are a bit more complicated.

First, Wonder Mom, whom I’ll call “WM,” is in the middle of a divorce. She and her ex are in mediation as I write — and it’s messy. His visits are infrequent, and they usually amount to the boys watching a movie and taking a nap at his place before they come back home.

WM knows that she needs to get through her divorce. In the meantime, her new man-friend almost sounds too good to be true.

“I’m afraid I might mess this up,” she wrote in a recent email.

Yet clearly he respects her. They see each other on weekends. When he calls, he always asks whether she’d like to have “a grown up date or family time — and he seems perfectly happy with either one.”

Moreover, her boys like the boyfriend — although WM fears that her four-year-old might be confused. (He recently asked if the boyfriend could come to a school event, instead of his Daddy.)

I’m afraid we’re taking things too fast,” WM says. “We’ve danced around these issues, but my boyfriend says I’m just over-thinking and should relax.”

He’s taking this all in stride. The other night, for instance, he was at their place when her toddler needed to use the potty.

“I got up to help him, but my son pitched a fit saying he wanted [my boyfriend]. So, he got up and took him to the potty, helped him wash his hands, all that.”

It just seems a little too perfect and too fast for me. Sure, I’ve always wanted a parenting partner, but it’s a little scary, too. I’ve always been the one to call the shots and make all the decisions. I’ve done all the discipline and all the bargaining. Now there’s someone who can help? Maybe I I feel a little bit threatened by that?”

What is the boyfriend saying?

“He has let slip a few times that he’s imagining a future with the four of us. Not that he’s proposed or anything, but he’s definitely thinking long term. He has been saving for a down payment on a house and now he wants to look for one that would be good for the boys.”

But WM says that this is all moving too fast:

“I want to talk to him about all of this, but I’m unclear about what I need right now. I also want to talk to him about boundaries, but I don’t know what my boundaries are!”

Does this ring true for any of you, moms or dads?

Do you think that this mom should slow down and take a breather?

Should she sit her boyfriend down and talk to him about her boundaries? Any suggestions about what those boundaries might look like?

After all, he does seem like he kind of thoughtful guy who wants to do be there for her…

Photo by Jyn Meyer

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica Burton March 3, 2009 at 7:40 am

This sounds kinda like me, I am still trying to figure out if it is me scared or someone being needy. I have been raising 4 kids on my own for 7 years. I meet this guy 6 months ago,we dated and then 3 months later I let him meet my kids. My oldest daughter is in her teen went into depression since. We are still working with this. But my boyfriend seems to think he needs to know everything that is going on with that. And always texting me and wanting to be around me. I got a cell phone bill that was over 1000.oo dollors from texting. Because if i don’t answer him right away he thinks he has said or done things wrong and this is not the reason I happen to be busy with my other children. I now told him I can’t use my cell phone to text or talk as i can’t afford it. He hasn’t offered to help me with that bill as part of it is his as well. and now he is calling my house leaving messages if i am not home to call him and if he don’t hear from me he will come to my this a guy who really cares or is he being needy. I am not sure please help someone!


Wondermom November 8, 2008 at 12:03 am

Wow…y’all are awesome! Sorry it’s taken me a little while to respond, it’s been a crazy couple of days.

I really do appreciate all the advice…you’ve given me a lot to think about.

For the dad’s who’ve responded, I have the utmost respect for those of you who are doing the best you can with what you have. I do think you’re very different from my ex but I’m still hoping that he’ll step up and do the right thing with the kids. We had our mediation and came to an agreement and I’m trying very hard to make a fresh start and put the past few months behind us. I’m being cautiously optimistic. I’m going to give him a chance to do the right thing…or give him enough rope to hang himself.

In my defense, this new relationship kind of took me by surprise. I went to high school with the guy but we weren’t really friends back then…then a few years ago he started working with my husband so we met again and we were all friends. He knew even then that Ex was not treating me right but he stayed on the sidelines as a friend of the family. After Ex and I split up, he called me to tell me that he cared about me and respected me and would be there for anything I needed. At first when he called, I wouldn’t even talk to him but he persisted and finally won my trust. For the past several months, he’s insisted that the only thing he wants is friendship…if anything else is meant to be then it will come in time but you have to be friends first. That’s why I finally agreed to let him spend some time with me and the kids. There really wasn’t any way for us to spend time together without the kids because I always have them and as long as we were “just friends” there was no problem with him seeing them now and then. I really didn’t anticipate things taking this turn this soon.

What I actually asked Rachel about was what the boundaries should be. I told her that I feel like he’s crossed into some dangerous territory lately, but I’m not sure where the line should be. I mean, it’s awesome for him to come over after work and help me get dinner, baths, stories, etc. and get the kids to bed. It’s even more awesome to have that kind of evening and then have grownup time afterwards. But I do feel like that’s crossing the line between friendship and daddyhood. And it is confusing to the kids. They’re so young, but they know that Daddy never gave them a bath and read them stories and then tucked them in.

For me, it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had someone who will walk in and say “oh, the trash is full, let me take that out for you!” with no judgement about the condition of my apartment or expectation of anything in return…just a genuine desire to help. That’s great. But he just fits too perfectly into our crazy little world and I think we’re all a little confused by that. I’m happy that the boys finally have a strong male role model who cares about them and respects me, but I don’t want him to replace their daddy and I don’t want them to feel like they have to choose.

My marriage was horrible and abusive and codependent. I was not allowed to have friends or any kind of a life outside of Ex. So now I’m not sure what a healthy relationship looks like. I totally agree that for my own sanity, this relationship needs to slow down and perhaps even take a step backwards or two, but what I can’t figure out is what is ok and good and healthy for the boys and what is too much. I mean, do I make a “rule” that he can come over on the weekends and take us out or visit here but he can’t take part in the bedtime routine and he can’t come over during the week? Or we can do playdates with him and his nephew but he can’t visit with the boys without his nephew? Or he can date me but never be around the kids at all? I feel like we’ve gone too far right now but I’m not sure where the line in the sand should be.

We talked about it a good bit tonight and he understands that the boys are confused. He agreed that he wants to back off a little and see what Ex is going to do and try to let the boys clear up their relationship with him a bit. He’s always been happy to respect whatever I want, it’s just putting what I want into words for him that I struggle with.

Thank you again for all the advice and encouragement…please keep it coming. Rachel, you and all your readers are amazing!

Wondermom´s last blog post…We did it!


Amy November 6, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I would think if this is a good guy – he will be there for WM even if she needs to set some boundaries (and the very fact she doesn’t know what to do is her proof that it is time to push the pause button).

And a “kind of involved” dad is still the dad. Yes it sucks – and yes it is wrong for a father to half ass parent. But I don’t think making a “choice” is ever appropriate. If the dad is not being a good dad – the boys will see it soon enough – but they need to come to that in their own time.If the new guy is a good guy – he’ll understand that. And he can still be close to the boys. In the end he could even end up being closer than the dad if the dad doesn’t pull it together and start acting like one even though there is a divorce in place. But this is something that we as adults have to be careful to not encourage. Kids can be pleasers and they are always watching – and if they see mom “in love” with the new guy – they may think they need to be too.

I think that the “family” (WM, her ex and the boys) through the process of the divorce should be working on what the “new family” is going to look like. That can’t done clearly with another man in the mix who even though his intentions are good is going to influence the situation. I’m not saying they’ll get back together – but they need to redefine themselves post divorce. I think that takes alittle bit of time. When that is done – this guy may be an answered prayer.

But even toying with the idea of “bad real dad” vs “good stepdad(or potential)” is a very dangerous thing to do. Boyfriend – wanna-be-stepdad could turn out to not be prince charming. Likewise, biological dad might finally “get it” and step it up.

I don’t think any of that made sense. Sorry. This hit a nerve because my ex’s girlfriend has no respect for my position as Sadie’s mother. Ironically – my ex husband is a horrible addict who only sees our daughter once a month at the most – yet – I respect the fact that he is Sadie’s dad and will maintain that respect even if I ended up with a new partner – even one who seems to love Sadie more than her dad.

Anyway – I agree with whoever said that WM sounds like she knows what she needs to do.


Alicia November 6, 2008 at 6:50 pm

@ dadshouse: …”but at least he’s involved a little bit.”

I get that this guy’s the “real dad”, but just going thru the motions as a father doesn’t cut it. If I had the choice of an emotionally present father figure or the biological father who “puts in his time”, the choice is pretty clear.

Wonder Mom’s ex sounds like a self involved jerk-a movie, a nap, and then back-to-mom? Quality time, much?


Katherine (SOLO dot MOM) November 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Personally I try to recommend to anyone going through the divorce to wait till the divorce is over and behind you to get wrapped up into a new relationship. I think that is best for lots of reasons on all kinds of levels. But it sounds like she is already wrapped up… perhaps taking a step back would be a good thing – if it’s meant to be – he will wait for her and be patient.

Katherine (SOLO dot MOM)´s last blog post…Embracing CHANGE


GLSD November 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm

slowwwwww down…set up her boundaries…and if he’s the one it’ll work out after the divorce. listen to her gut. don’t confuse the kids. tough situation!


mc November 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

This post is about something that I also struggle with….I’ve been divorced for over 2 yrs (& separated for 2 yrs before that).

While I like men and dating and romance and the sex and all, and I’m most happy dating one guy exclusive and long-term, I simply cannot imagine ever getting married or living with someone again, at least not for 10 yrs or so when my kids are gone at college.

I still have actual nightmares about being trapped again back in my awful marriage, that feeling of helplessness, unable to stop him from destroying my life and my children’s life. I feel very strongly that I have to preserve my current stable home life with my children as something totally safe and solid, something that no one could ever have the ability to destroy ever again.

Plus I fail to see much advantage to having a live-in BF or husband. Yes, it would be nice to have someone to snuggle and share with, but cooking and cleaning for yet another person just makes me tired to think about it.

But what is it with men these days? I thought men in general were supposed to be commitment-adverse? That has not been my experience at all!

Every single man I’ve dated since my divorce has pushed for “being exclusive” around only the 4th date, then he wants to see me on every single kid-less night I have (although I try to be vague about my schedule because I need some time to myself!), and then he wants to meet my kids much sooner than I’m comfortable with (usually also around the 4th date (!) when I think 4-6 months is more appropriate).

He tries to show me his potential as super Dad (even though I discourage that behavior because my kids already have a Dad, and because he’s supposed to be dating me, not my kids, you know?), and he usually ends up driving me nuts by trying to install us as a fused at the hip couple way, way too soon.

I do think that many decent divorced men are just desperately lonely. They’re not players, and they really do want a wife and family life. The men I’ve dated are a little shy and kind of workaholics and so they never had much social life apart from their ex-wife, so after the divorce they’re at a loss. Then they start dating a reasonably nice woman and decide she’s going to save them and they lose all sense of proportion! They start building castles in the sky too soon, put too much pressure on the relationship for being responsible for their future happiness.

So, tell him to back off and slow it way down. You are not wrong to not be ready–listen to your gut.


Carolyn November 6, 2008 at 11:51 am

It’s definitely a “sign.”

With me, it was seeing The Corporal’s Facebook page go from “single” to “In a Relationship.”

That was when the significance of my discomfort with the intensity of the relationship sunk in. Instead of being elated, I felt dread.

It never hurts to slow down and take a step back… She should gauge his reaction. A mentally healthy, mature man will respect a woman’s comfort level in a new relationship. And a mature, mentally healthy woman will be okay with slowing things down and setting up a few boundaries.

Carolyn´s last blog post…I Had a Dream Last Night


Ruth November 6, 2008 at 11:48 am

My personal advice, having been in this almost EXACT same situation (except I have 1 boy not 2!) is that she needs to WAIT. Slow down, and just date the guy very casually while getting divorced. Then be divorced for at least a year or two and make sure 1) she has her wits about her and 2) he sticks around before they even consider moving in together. You can’t be too careful when you have kids involved. And who knows what is really going to happen with the ex. His right to see the kids will always be there and she will be obligated to work it out with him even if he does amount to coming and going from their lives over the years. She doesn’t need a prince charming to swoop in and make her life picture perfect again. Once she has her own ducks in a row, she can share her life with someone else. Its way too soon to be thinking about long term commitment. Honesty is the best policy. She needs to just tell him he’s moving too fast.


dadshouse November 6, 2008 at 10:55 am

The part where the 4 year old says they want the boyfriend to come to the school even rather than the dad really choked me up. I’m a single dad with half-time custody, and my ex has a boyfriend. Early on, my son wondered whether I would stop being his dad and the boyfriend would take my place. That sucks! I will ALWAYS be there for my kids. The boyfriend and my ex could break up tomorrow. Who knows?

WM’s situation is different in that the dad sees the kids far less. But he sees them. I think WM is too angry with her ex to make a choice she’ll be at peace with for years to come. I would prefer she make sure her kids know who their dad is. She may not agree with her ex’s parenting skills or styles, but at least he’s involved a little bit. He’s the father of those kids forever. That doesn’t mean she can’t remarry – but the new man in her life is her partner, and a potential step-dad – not the dad.

dadshouse´s last blog post…Nude in Chains (An Actual Date)


Sinngle Mom November 6, 2008 at 9:16 am

I think if it feels right, it is okay to go at whatever pace you want. My boyfriend talks about our future together (he is in the military and going to Afganistan for 12 months in four weeks), growing old together, all the stuff that I wished for in a partner, as well as a great father, great man… BUT I know what you mean, we have only been together a short time, but it feels so right. Everything is my head is telling me no, have your guard up, dont trust him, but my heart is saying yes (I know- such cliche)

I have a huge problem trusting men because most of the men in my life (father, uncles, grandfathers, ex-boyfriends) have cheated and/or lied. And I HATE that this poor guy has to deal with my insecurities about men, but he is wonderful and is okay with the fact that I need reassurance and he totally understands that it has nothing to do with him- just men in general. I think he is amazing BUT I keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. This is the first relationship where I feel like it is totally equal. In the past I was always the one who “did” for the other, “loved” the other one a little bit more than they loved me, “cared” about them a little bit more…. but with him it seems so equal. We both have the same values, goals, wants, needs….

All of our past experience, both men & women, tell us “this is just going to be another failed relationship”- BUT until you find the right one, every relationship is going to fail. Those have to fail so that you can find the right one. It took me 31 years to find my perfect guy and it was worth the past exes to get to him….

Take your time if you think you want to… but ask yourself this- are you wanting to slow down b/c of what other people will think? That was a HUGE thing with me- I was so worried of what my friends/family would think by moving so quick with my BF and of course, none of us want to hear to inevitable “told you so” if it does fail. But you have to live your life for you and do what make you happy and feels right.

Sinngle Mom´s last blog post…Over $500 mark


singlemomseeking November 6, 2008 at 9:10 am

You are all so right on!

Indeed, Carolyn, her life does sound “SO much like” your recent situation.

By email, when I referred to WM’s friend as her “boyfriend,” she quickly wrote back to say that she doesn’t even refer to him as her “boyfriend.”

A sign, yes?


wandamd November 6, 2008 at 8:20 am

If you can, perhaps you need to take a little alone time (I know that sounds selfish)…even just an afternoon and do some hard thinking about what it is that is scaring you so much. Maybe it is the lack of boundaries or perhaps its that you are simultaneously starting to have strong feelings for this man while ending the relationship with your sons’ father.

Take it fast, take it slow…only you will know what’s right for you. I do believe that if you can identify what your feelings are first (maybe not do too much family dates right now) then figure out how they can create a family unit (if that’s where they take it) it might be a little less chaotic feeling.

While it would be helpful to have a parenting parner, you need/deserve someone who not only loves and wants you and your kids, but somone who incites passion and love in you for him.


Eathan November 6, 2008 at 8:03 am

I think this is a normal reaction for someone who is going through a nasty divorce w/kids. You want the best for you and your kids. The ex doesn’t seem to meet your expectations. And the new love interest seems to fill every need you and the kids have. It’s even tougher when the kids are young.

I’m sure if you set boundaries the new love will totally understand. The kids should be the main concern. You should take into consideration of their young emotional state also. They should always be protected from harms way.

As A dad, I think every dad should have the opportunity to be one with out having another male confusing the situation. I will admit that I had to deal with a “interfering” male with one of my ex’s. The way that I dealt with it, I was such a strong image in my son’s life there wasn’t much room for any other male. I made sure that every other male was compared to his Dad. I don’t know the details of WM’s ex..(financial, emotional, & mental) but if he doesn’t step up.. the kids will adjust with out him. As a guy, I would challenge the ex to stop up his parenting influence.

Eathan´s last blog post…The IR Dating Coward


Legal Editor Mom November 6, 2008 at 7:45 am

Of course every relationship is different, but if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. My advice would be to slow down. Slow way down. The ink isn’t even dry on the divorce papers yet (It’s not even on there at all yet!) and a lot can happen in that time.

Definitely trust your instincts. Stay strong and committed to your convictions. You definitely don’t want to confuse your kids.

If he really cares, which it sounds like he does, he will respect your request for boundaries AND your need for occasional space. Divorce is difficult enough and while it’s wonderful to have someone around to nurture your soul, you have to take care of yourself first. You also have to heal before you can think about committing to someone else. If he “loves” you now, he’ll love you in a few months or a year or however long it takes to tie up all the loose ends and make a clean start. Just sit him down and explain how you feel…

Wishing you the best.


Kat Wilder November 6, 2008 at 7:34 am

Debra said it, just as WM is saying it — you need to trust your gut on these things and you absolutely need to have time alone to sort through the muck of a breakup. This is where the growth is.

All that said, if this truly is a guy who imagines a future together … he will still be there in six months, a year, two years. Forever is forever, right? And if he’s not, well, WM did not “mess it up.” She was honest with herself, her kids and him. And who would want to start a relationship, a future together, with anything less?

Kat Wilder´s last blog post…If she’s hot, what am I?


debra November 6, 2008 at 6:06 am

WM has already answered her own question, and needs to learn to trust her instincts; they seem pretty strong. “I don’t know what my boundaries are!”

Every one needs a different amount of time after a divorce to finish mourning the loss of the spouse (no matter how bad it was), the loss of family, deal with the guilt or whatever other feelings you have about what the new situtaion means to you and your children. You need to time to figure out who you are again. You need to know what your boundaries are, you need to figure out how to trust yourself, you need to decide what you want. For some people, this takes a few months, for others, years. But WM needs to trust herself, and her instincts, in thinking this is too fast. Those who don’t deal with the issues surrounding the breakdown of a marriage are far more likely to repeat them again.


Carolyn November 6, 2008 at 5:57 am

Golly, that sounds SO much like my recent situation with the Corporal (which I wrote about on my blog), except that he was long distance.

He is this amazing guy who came back into my life from ten years ago. I am also still going through my messy divorce (first court appearance coming up in a week!).

This guy and I were talking for hours every night, he would ask about the kids, send gifts (my daughter had a birthday), and he was generally just being the kind of guy I wanted to be with.

He was also getting serious quickly. He referred to me as his girlfriend, was making plans to visit, and he was already imagining a life with me and the kids. It was heady- and scary.

I wouldn’t deign to give advice, but what happened with me is I freaked. Too much, too fast. I asked him to slow down.

I am also working on boundaries (and by the way there are GREAT books on the subject- just cruise I felt that I needed time and space, free of the responsibilities of a relationship, to get my issues worked out and to find time to adapt to being a single parent. I don’t want to find myself dependent on a man again so soon after gaining my indepedence… even though it is tempting to allow such a nice man to “take care of me” in some sense.

I’m still in “single mama” training wheels, and I need time to gain my balance and confidence before hooking up with anyone.

Carolyn´s last blog post…I Had a Dream Last Night


Kendall November 6, 2008 at 5:43 am

For more details, here:

I personally say take a deep breath and step back if she feels comfortable doing so but I may be a wee bit biased.

Kendall´s last blog post…Wednesday Workshop: Shit List


Kendall November 6, 2008 at 5:41 am

How is that your posts more often than not seem relevant to my life?

My girlfriend’s daughter (who I refer to as Daybreak) has called me Papa since before we were even dating. Before the girlfriend (Eva) even said anything, I told Daybreak I couldn’t be her daddy but I could be her friend. Felt like my heart shattered when she started to cry.

Now I look back on that and have to shake my head. I love a bit too easily which is probably why I so often refer to daybreak as my daughter in my head and have let that slip out loud.

Kendall´s last blog post…Wednesday Workshop: Shit List


jeanie November 6, 2008 at 5:28 am


One aspect of that was my situation a few years ago – except for the messy divorce part, the boys part, the having the father around part, the timing part…

Doesn’t life suck when it doesn’t happen at the right time?

I have no advice – our relationship moved fairly quickly so I know that bit can work – but the other factors are really carpy, aren’t they?

Good luck.

jeanie´s last blog post…Experimental


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