Friday 23 March 2018

We fell in love but then he had a surprise baby with his wife

Patricia Redlich

QI'M in my early 30s and I'm dating -- and living with -- a man who is the same age. He was married before and is now separated with four children, all of whom are obviously still quite young. He is an excellent father and a very caring person all-round. When we spend time together, it is always fun, and we have a lot in common. He also has a career which is very different to mine.

When we met two years ago, I felt he was the love of my life and I completely wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Now time has passed and a baby has been born. We found out a few weeks after meeting and falling in love that his wife was expecting a baby. This was an unplanned pregnancy. They had already decided to separate before he found out she was expecting again. From the timing of the birth, etc, I know that he is telling the truth and that it was a moment of weakness on their part that the baby was conceived.

I'm not sure how I feel anymore, though. I recently met the children for the first time and they are undoubtedly beautiful. I'm also very good with children and I think they liked me too. One would think that all is well, since his ex-wife and he are working together very amicably towards divorce. My problem is that I'm now feeling strange -- if strange is the right word -- about moving into the stepmother role. I often feel that part of my life is compromised because of my boyfriend's commitments, both to work and to his children.

We've talked about having children together but I'm not so sure anymore. I grew up in a Catholic family where my father in particular had very high moral standards. He died a few years ago and somehow I feel that if he were around, he would be disappointed in me. I often wonder if I have settled for something abnormal. And recently I've been asking myself if I am really happy.

My dream was to walk up the aisle of a Catholic church, and I know that this will not happen now. I wonder if part of me blocked all that out for the past two years, rather than really accepting it. Have I ignored my own needs in order to please someone else? I've been to therapy to try and sort these questions out, but I'm not sure I'm being entirely honest with myself. So I don't really know how to reach the truth.

AYES, you are right. You are not being entirely honest with yourself. To begin with, it was not a moment of weakness that resulted in your boyfriend's wife getting pregnant as they split up. It was a moment of appalling carelessness and messiness on their part. They already had three children and conceived a fourth as they settled for separating.

Whatever about walking up the aisle of a Catholic church, do you really think you can sustain a happy marriage with someone who brings that kind of grief into your life? So yes, I think you did block out a lot of things during the past two years.

I don't know why it took all this time for you to meet your boyfriend's children, but I'd say it helped you dodge reality -- even if it wasn't your choice to be kept separate from them. And now they are there, in your life, and you can't dodge anymore. It must also have taken some fancy intellectual footwork on your part to ignore your boyfriend being a husband to his newly pregnant wife -- which I presume involved doing a lot of babysitting for the other children, perhaps being in at the birth, and looking after her at least during the first few weeks following the birth -- and all that while the two of you were in the first flush of a new romance. I mean, what did you do with yourself while he and his ex sat choosing a name for their new baby?

Yes again, four small children will hugely compromise your life with your boyfriend. They take time, and money. Where, exactly, will be the space for the two of you? And where, in the name of all that is holy, will there be any space for you to have a family?

It's not that a part of your life has been compromised by your boyfriend's commitments. You can't breathe because of the extent of his commitments. Be grateful that you've finally woken up. Now listen to what your head, and heart, are saying to you.

I am sorry if all of this sounds harsh, or judgmental, particularly about your boyfriend. It's just that sometimes in life we need someone to call it like it is -- or at least like they see it. It's never pleasant to hear -- or to say, for that matter.

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