This week’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about what to do when we’re frustrated with the pace of our relationship and whether you should wait for him to come around:
I am a woman in my mid-forties, never married and I don’t have kids. I met a single dad online who is in his early fifties. We have been seeing each other for four months now. He has two kids – one in high school and one in college.
His wife filed for divorce and left just five months ago. She has only contacted the kids once since she left, so the kids are bitter towards her. The kids know that my boyfriend is dating and seeing someone, but they don’t know anything about me.
Here’s my struggle: We live about 30 minutes from each other, but we only see each other once every week or two, and only during work hours. We text a lot (every day) and talk when we can, but it’s mostly after the kids are in bed.
We can both work from home at times, so when we do, we try to sneak in a visit. And, he tries to hide that from his kids. When I ask him to see me during the week, he says he can’t because he has to fix dinner for his kids. (Yes, even with the ages of his kids, he still cooks a nice dinner for them every night).
I know that he kids will always come first, but how long do I wait before I get more than these short sneaky visits? What is the best approach to talk to him about this? I have tried and he says to be patient as this divorce and changes to the family structure are so new.
One of his daughters just moved back home for the summer from college, so he said they had to get a routine. He is extremely close with his daughter. When I bring things up, he says that I’m putting pressure on him. We have only been on one true date because he normally comes to my house where we can spend time together.
I really want to make this work. How soon will it be before we can see each other at other times, like an evening and weekend? I feel very guilty that we have to sneak around and keep our relationship secret from his kids.
Am I being too impatient?
– Tired Sneaking Around
Dear Tired Sneaking Around:
Thanks so much for your message. And thanks for providing the detailed background info. I feel your frustration.
So to answer your question: How long should you wait to get more than sneaky visits and how soon can you see each at other times?
The short answer is: You should wait or be patient for as long as you want to.
Patience Isn’t Only About Delaying Gratification
Patience (delaying gratification) is a skill–but it is also a choice.
When we’re in a relationship, it’s not like we’re putting off having a scoop of ice cream.
When we’re “waiting for someone,” we’re ultimately delaying our experience of what our relationship–our love life–could be, we’re delaying our experience of what we feel comprises a fulfilling relationship.
So I would encourage you to think about:
- What are you waiting or being patient for? (what experience are you looking to have that you’re not currently having and why is it important to you?)
- From the information and experience with this person that you already have, what is the likelihood that you’ll get what you’re waiting for?
- What would you giving up (what need of yours is not being met) while you’re waiting?
- Would you even be willing to give it up?
- If so, for how long?
- And under what circumstances would you stop waiting?
We Are All at Choice
And of course these questions are difficult because at the back our mind…we’re worrying that if we cut our losses and leave the relationship, we might also sever the opportunity to be in a relationship with that person in the future.
All very real costs and risks!
So how soon can you see each other at other times? It really depends on when you want to meet and when he wants to meet.
A meeting can only happen if there is mutual agreement on when and where to meet. So if he does not want to meet at other times or in certain places, that is what he chooses to do and we can’t force him to do otherwise.
From what you describe, it sounds like he is not really ready for or does not want that level of engagement or deeper levels of commitment at this time.
He is very focused on accommodating his kids and managing the recent dissolution of his marriage.
And yes, even though his kids are older, one of whom is an adult, this is the way that he chooses to parent.
And this is how he is choosing to show up (or not show up) in his relationship with you.
How Conflicts Arise in Relationships
Conflicts arise in relationships when needs or requirements are are not being met.
So your frustration about the pace of the relationship, the guilt you feel about sneaking around, points to a need or a requirement that you have in the kind of relationship that you ultimately want.
So I would encourage you to think about:
- What need is not being met? What is it about sneaking around that evokes guilt for you? Does it go against a value you hold?
- Do you need more frequent communication in order to be happy in a relationship? Do you need more frequent meetings?
- What is it about greater frequency that’s important to you?
- What are your functional and emotional needs that you have in order to feel loved?
- Is it greater connection? Is it greater intimacy?
Really zero in on what the real need is that you feel is missing.
I would also try and get clear on what’s your vision for your life and relationship:
- What’s your dream?
- Are you looking for a life partner?
- Do you want to be a stepmom?
- What’s important to you in a fulfilling relationship?
And to your concern about how to talk to him about it…I would have a sit down with him and find out what his vision is for his life and relationship:
- Does he want to remarry?
- What does he envision for his life and relationship?
- What are his needs, desires, hopes, in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
Note: He might not know the answers to these questions. He might not know what he wants. But his lack of clarity serves as information for you, too.
This would be a very valuable conversation to have because then you can see where he’s at and what his intentions are, if he is conscious of them. And then you can see whether his and your visions and intentions align.
You are the ultimate judge on how long you should wait.
It’s a very personal decision and with lots of things to think about.
The only thing we can do is lay our cards on the table so he knows where we stand, and then decide…do I stay or do I go?
The hard part is…how does one make a decision like that?
You would need to figure out what information you need in order to make the decision of whether to stay or go. And whether your relationship issue is solvable or unsolvable.
How to Address Relationship Issues
There’s no rule book out there that can tell us what we “should” do.
With that said, relationship issues can generally be divided into “solvable” and “unsolvable” problems.
Solvable relationship problems are generally related to your needs. The most common relationship needs are emotional and functional.
Your emotional needs are what you need to feel loved.
Your functional needs are what you need for your life to work in a way that fits for you, as determined by your Vision.
Needs are negotiable, and there are many ways to meet a need. However, the test for a need is that if it were not met, you would experience an issue EVERY time, so needs are very important, and are the difference between being happy or unhappy in a relationship.
Unsolvable relationship problems are generally related to your requirements. Whether you know them or not, you do have non-negotiable requirements that MUST be met for a relationship to work for you.
If ONE is missing the relationship will not work for you.
Requirements are the relationship breakers, but we often confuse them with needs and wants, and treat them as equal.
Here are four alternatives for addressing relationship problems that are unsolvable:
1) Stay in the relationship and be unhappy.
Many couples stay together and are miserable for many years. This option was more prevalent in past generations. Today, most people expect and need personal fulfillment, and find it impossible to stay in a situation that doesn’t work for them after time and effort has failed to fix the problem.
2) Leave the relationship.
This is the most common alternative chosen, and the reason for our high divorce rate.
3) Let go of the problem.
It is possible to simply let go of the problem. People do this when they realize the relationship is more important than their requirement, or if it is an area of growth. Requirements are core to who you are and the life and relationship you want, and it is pretty rare to be able to let go of one. An example of letting go of a requirement as an area of growth might be a partner who could not accept their partner’s weight gain, deciding to let go of needing them to be thin and accepting them the way they are.
When you compromise you give up some of what you need in order to meet in the middle. This can be a challenge with Requirements, which tend to be pretty black and white.
So I would encourage you to think about…
What does your inner guidance and lived experienced say about whether this is solvable?
Really tune in.
(if you downloaded my guide about how to decide whether he’s right for you, there’s some great info in there about how to “tune in to your lived experience” in a relationship.)
The guidance that we have inside us is really valuable.
What feels right and true to you?
The Bottom Line
It’s really hard to gauge what the timeline will be as far when he’ll feel comfortable going into deeper levels of commitment (such as introducing you to the kids, etc).
Since the divorce paperwork was set in motion just five months ago, there is still potentially a lot to be sorted out in dissolving the marriage.
Divorce can be a particularly volatile time for everyone involved.
And divorces really vary in length.
But your guiding light is knowing your vision, your needs and your requirements. (And review the other lists of questions above)
- Are you needs being met?
- Or if they are not being met right now, do you have confidence that they will be met?
- Does he have a track record of that?
- And does he align with your vision for the way that you want to live your life and for a fulfilling relationship?
If you’re not getting what you want out of the relationship right now, it’s really up to you whether you want to stay with him and stick it out.
Weigh your options.
If you stay, you might continue to have your needs for more frequent and open communication go unmet (for some time and it is hard to say for how long).
But maybe that’s ok with you! Maybe you can live with that. It’s really up to you if you want to let that need go or not.
Or you can compromise. (see the “four alternatives” above for more detail).
Or you can leave the relationship.
Difficult decisions, I know.
I know this is a lot to think about but I hope this provides some guidance and a process for clarity.
Feel free to reach out if you need any other support.
All the best,
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