QUESTION: For the past six months I’ve been going out with a divorced man and we love each other very much.
But he seems obsessed with his children. He wants us to move in together, but that means having them over every weekend and I don’t know that I could stand it. I understand that he loves them, but they seem to be the number one priority in his life, and my concerns always come last.
Surely they should learn that they won’t be treated like princes and princesses in later life, and learn to fit in with other people?
ANSWER: What a grisly upbringing you must have had yourself, Maggie. Clearly, you have no good role models to refer to when it comes to loving and looking after children - because you couldn't write to me like this without, surely, being both childless yourself and having no experience of a good parent's love.
Bad parenting is so often excused with phrases such as: “Well, he's got to learn that the world is a cruel place sometimes!” or “She can't expect me to wait on her hand and foot now - she's got to learn that life isn't easy!”
Some parents seem to think that if you kick a baby in the head then this is an excellent way for the baby to learn that sometimes you can get shafted in later life. But what they don't seem to realise is that children can only cope with blows in adulthood if they have been loved and cherished and made to feel worthwhile in the first place.
Children of divorced parents are particularly vulnerable. They feel guilty. They don't know why, but they're sure they are to blame. This is one of the reasons why your exemplary lover is spending so much time with his children. He's trying to reassure them that they're not guilty, that he loves them, that the divorce isn't their fault. Let's hope their mother, at her end, is doing the same.
Remember, too, that you, if you stick around (which sounds unlikely since you're so jealous) will always be there. But the children won't be. They'll grow up and grow away. Your partner has got to make the most of every moment he can spend with them now, because he'll only have them as children for a finite time. He can't afford to lose a minute.
He is also creating something. Imagine him as a cabinet maker. You wouldn't ask him to botch a perfect job halfway through just because you want his attention, would you? Because if he does, the cabinet will never be able to stand upright, the doors will always stick, the wood will warp.
He's only got one chance with his kids and he wants to give them as much love and security as he can while they're still young. So that, as you say, they can have enough confidence to fit in with other people when they grow up.
Unlike, I have to say, you. Are you “fitting in with other people”? No, you're not. Are you behaving like a princess, expecting the world to stop for you? Yes, you are. And that's, sadly, probably because you didn't have a mother or father like this man who, at the moment, you can't appreciate.
Can you not see how lucky you are to have such a nice chap?