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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
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.