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My Boyfriend Has Kids, I Don’t … Should I Stay?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,
My boyfriend already has three children. I have none. Should I continue dating him? I'm 26 years old. I can't seem to accept the fact he's already experienced having a family. I truly care for him, but I'm struggling. - Torn

Dear Torn,

Thank you for writing in with such a rich and complex question. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a simple yes-or-no answer. As is often true with relationships, it is a bit more complicated than that. I can, however, suggest some areas for you to explore as you consider your next steps.

First, I would encourage you to explore why you are having such difficulty accepting the fact your boyfriend already has children. This would give many people pause. Relationships can be quite complicated when only two people are involved—each person brings his or her own unique goals, dreams, and expectations, as well as wounds from previous relationships. Negotiating all of this can be challenging. Add three children and their mother to the mix and things can get very complicated, very quickly. But the question for you is, how are you experiencing this? How do you feel about his children? Do you get along well with them or is there a lot of tension between you? Are you concerned about whether your boyfriend will want to have children with you, given he already has three of his own? If he does want to have children with you, are you worried that it won’t mean as much to him as it does to you, as a first-time parent? Are you interested in being a mother at all? Did you envision motherhood coming later in your life? What will your role with his three children be and what are your thoughts and feelings on that role? Sit with these questions, allow others to arise, and be brutally honest with yourself in answering them. It might be a good idea to partner with a therapist who can facilitate a thorough exploration of these issues and support you in the process.

Once you have gained greater clarity on your thoughts, feelings, and concerns about the fact your boyfriend is already a father, it seems that the next step is to talk to him. Share with him what arose for you in your exploration of this very serious issue. If you do choose to stay in this relationship, it will be essential to be able to have difficult conversations with him about his children and how you feel about them, and about how they impact your relationship. If you don’t choose to stay in the relationship, you will likely need to have another kind of difficult conversation about why you are leaving the relationship. A therapist could be very valuable in helping you prepare for these conversations and in processing the outcomes.

Thank you again for writing in with a question that surely resonates with many. I wish you courage in the process of sorting this out and peace with whatever choice you make.

  • lily December 15th, 2012 at 11:44 AM #1

    when did he tell you about the children? was he upfront about it from the very beginning? or are the facts being revealed to you gradually? if it is the latter I would say run, without a doubt!

    but if he was honest with you from the beginning I think you need to think about what future you see with him. if you see yourself settling down with this man then you need to consider all the things that he will bring along into the marriage – the custody of the kids, his connection with his ex wife, your connection with his children,your plans of having children, and many others. tbh there’s no one but you who can answer this for sure. there is a lot of introspection to do and I would say its better to start ASAP.

  • Ella December 16th, 2012 at 8:27 AM #2

    There isn’t much wrong in him having kids already,as long as you are kept in the loop.I think you can definitely make things work,but proceed only if you are sure you are okay with it.No reason to continue now only to be heartbroken later due to the decision,is it?!

  • Laura December 16th, 2012 at 10:01 AM #3

    It’s not like he hid this from you, right? So you have known all along that he already has a family. I think that maybe this is something that you will have to work out on your own. You are the one who seemingly has issues with this. So you are the one who has to make that right choice for you.

  • liliana December 17th, 2012 at 6:17 AM #4

    Run. Find a man that has no children & start your own journey together. You’re always going to feel like the outsider in this relationship. I say run!

  • Anonymous December 25th, 2012 at 4:13 AM #5

    You people who are acting as a man is a criminal for having children are no better than those people who crap on single mothers. You’re completely horrible individuals with no compassion, no conscience, and no decency. So what if he has kids. You don’t know the circumstances, yet you’re already judging him to be a devious bastard. It’s people like you who contribute to the high divorce rate.

    You’re arrogant in the extreme and unfairly judgmental of people you’ve never even met and too quick to condemn a man on the basis that he’s got different plumbing than you. For if you weren’t you’d say the same crap about single mothers and you know what?…I seldom see women ripping apart the reputations of single mothers. …but single fathers. Yep. You’ll definitely do that.

    I truly hope you people choke on all that bile you’re spewing.

  • Anonymous December 25th, 2012 at 4:18 AM #6

    Also…with how judgmental you vile harpies are, it’s no surprise that someone wouldn’t want to come out and automatically state they’re a single parent, especially if they don’t have custody.

    “Oh hai. Can we have coffee. I’m a single parent.” <—This would NOT be proper at all, yet here you are expecting people to just spew forth all the skeletons in their closet from their past to some girl they just met who hasn't EARNED the right to know all of a person's secrets.

    Seriously. Where the Hell is respect for privacy? I don't see you evil crones going out there and telling people YOUR unfortunate experiences all in one giant blast. You people make me sick.

  • mike December 27th, 2012 at 12:17 AM #7

    Just as an added comment given with first hand experience. I am a single father with three young children. Through court I was awarded full custody and enjoy it immensely. In trying to develop a new relationship there seems to be need to be somewhat timid in referencing both children and more so the number of children. I have been told by some woman that three kids its a problem in relationship development. This is where it becomes difficult when a father has multiple kids – there seems in my experience there is quite different treatment between single mothers and single fathers and this increased with the number of children involved.
    I know from a years worth of this that its incredibly difficult to find someone who has much interest in being with a single father of multiple children.

  • Angie February 5th, 2013 at 8:30 AM #8

    I am currently dating someone who has 3 kids and full custody (not legally- just a POS for a mom). She basically only has anything to do with the kids unless it benefits her. I live with them and pay half the bills in the house. The biggest issue we have is when disciplining the kids. He still (after 3 years of living together) feels that it is up to him. My opinion is that since we are both adults in a commited long term relationship it should be a joint decision. Their ages are 16, 14 and 12, so the kinds of punishments are taking away computer useage, cell phones and no extra activities. Maybe since we are not married, I shouldn’t expect to have a say….I just don’t know. Initially when we discussed living together, it was decided that we would split things down the middle. I just don’t feel that it’s right to expect half for everything, but if I am home alone with the kids I can’t ask them to help with chores- or if they are fighting tell them to stop. Any advice?

  • Tamara July 14th, 2013 at 12:13 PM #9

    Man oh man… Angie I am with you on that, I have a boyfriend I have been living with for three years and he has two kids two little girls and he lets them get away with everything. He threatens punishment but he never follows through. My biggest complaint in our relationship amongst everything is that when we are in an argument he makes me angry then he comforts his kids as a safety net and I have no one to comfort me its unfair and unjust.

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