January 13, 2012
Feeling Second Best
I am 38 years old, and have been dating my girlfriend for three years now. She has a son from a previous marriage that is 10 years old. For the most part, he and I get a long very well. Sometimes he even calls me ‘dad’. Recently, I feel like his relationship with his mom, my girlfriend, is having an indirect impact on our relationship and its progression. I have alluded to wanting to get married over the last year, and she believes that its too soon for us to get married because it may have an impact on her son. Though I understand her need to protect her son, I also feel like a lot of the things I want to do in my life, and hope to do, will be put on hold because of her son. I wonder if I will always be second best? Or if I will ever be a priority? I don’t want to compete with her child, or be a burden on that relationship, but sometimes I feel like I am getting put on the backburner.
Dear Feeling Second Best,
It is quite clear that entering a relationship where kids are involved is no small challenge. It’s understandable that you are frustrated about the slow progression of your relationship, and often feel second best to your girlfriend as compared to her son. However, when you chose to date a woman with a young child you actually signed up for a divided attention from her. It is inevitable that as a responsible mother she would be protective of her son, and would want to make the best choices for him. In fact, this sort of accountability should be considered as a positive quality about this woman, which might have been one of the reasons you were drawn to her. You would know that if the two of you ever have children together she would be a good and responsible mother. All this said, you might also want to consider that her love and affection for her son does not need to compare with her love and affection for you. She treats you like an adult. Her responsibility towards you is of a romantic, and adult nature. You can negotiate the terms of your relationship, and discuss your needs in a mutual and adult level. Her relationship to her son is more of a caretaker nature, and is therefore not mutual. He needs her in a completely different way than you do. Just think about the balancing act your girlfriend must be struggling with between being a competent mother, and an attentive girlfriend.