|By Amy Alkon|
Love me tinder & mommy disappearestQ: I met a woman, and we hit it off like wildfire. It seemed everything she said and did was perfect. In six months, we were engaged. She and her four kids moved in with me and my two kids. Shortly afterward, it turned sour. We parent quite differently. Her kids are bad-mannered, curse at her, respect no property or space, and constantly get kicked out of school. When I tried to correct them and improve their behavior, her ex-husband got a restraining order on my fiancee to keep their children away from me. She and the kids moved out, but we kept dating. I soon became aware that she was also dating an old boyfriend. She said she was scared and wanted a backup plan in case we didn’t work. I got sick of this and ended it. She claimed she wanted to be with me, yet she now seems very happy with the old boyfriend. How does a person move on so fast? How do I get past feeling totally dumped?
A: As a parent, you’re supposed to be in the business of buzz-kill, not only setting boundaries for your kids but modeling the mature, adult thing to do. For example: “Come on, kids — I found this hot stranger we can live with!”
There are people who can act this impulsively; they’re called “single, childless adults.” Six months into a relationship, you’re in a sex fog, meaning the windows of your judgment are steamed over, meaning it’s the perfect time to commit to nothing more long-lasting than a week’s vacation. You defend your impulsivity by saying you two “hit it off like wildfire,” which, if you think about it, is like saying “like one of the most dangerous and destructive natural disasters.” (Not exactly the best basis for forming the new Brady Bunch.)
This woman didn’t change; you just saw more of her as time went by. As I’ve written before, people don’t break up because somebody’s got a great laugh or they’re awesome in bed — the stuff that’s apparent at the start. That’s why, before you commit to somebody, you need to put in time and effort to dig up all the unpalatable things — like mouthy delinquent children and an ex with an itchy court-filing finger — and see if you can deal. Doing this takes wanting to see what a person’s all about, as opposed to wanting to believe you’ve found true love and tightening your blindfold. When you’re honest about who a woman is, you can predict what she’ll do instead of learning it through hindsight — a term which pretty much spells out the problem. To put it delicately, you should re-read the directions on your contact lenses, because you’ve probably been putting them in the wrong area.
Q: After mutually ending a 20-year marriage that was more friendship than passion/romance, I met a man I love. We’re considering buying a home together. The complication is my 16-year-old daughter, who’s downright frosty toward my boyfriend. It’s hard to be spending weekdays with my daughter and weekends with him, like I’m living in two camps. She’s got two years of high school left, and it’d be okay with me if she wanted to live with her dad (if he were okay with that). Should I ask her if she would consider that? I’m afraid she’ll feel really rejected.
A: You’re essentially suggesting doing what some people do with their pets. The dog growls at the new boyfriend, so she gets “rehomed”: “She’s really not working for us anymore. Here’s her dish and her iPhone.”
Sorry, but “I’m just not that into you” isn’t something a mother gets to say to her daughter. Divorce is damaging enough to a kid. Sometimes it’s the best-case scenario — like if there’s constant high conflict. But it’s extremely indulgent of parents to break up a family simply because their romance waned and the sex got kinda yawny. This is of no interest to a kid — nor should it be. And what are you thinking now, what’s a little more psychological damage on top of what you’ve inflicted? “Honey, I know you wanted a car for your 17th birthday, but I thought I’d give you abandonment issues instead.”
You’ve got just two years until your “complication” leaves for college. You can either build a working time machine and go back and use birth control or act like a mom and treat your daughter like a priority instead of excess baggage keeping you from the life you want with your boyfriend: “Wherever do we put her? I guess we could store her at her father’s for the next couple years…”