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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 958
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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What does it mean when your significant other does not show

Resolved Question:

What does it mean when your significant other does not show affection towards you when in the presence of his children?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 1 year ago.

Dr. Norman Brown :

It must feel like he doesn't want them to know he cares about you.

Dr. Norman Brown :

But the degree to which you can interpret his holding back depends on many other factors that I know nothing about, until I get a chance to read some other questions you may have posted on this relationship.

Dr. Norman Brown :

The duration of his relationship with you would matter. So would the recency of his separation from the children's' mother, the children's

Dr. Norman Brown :

ages, and how much he might feel vulnerable to their ability to reject him in favor of a mother who may not be dating and therefore not exposing them to thoughts that she does not want to get back together with him and thus restore the appearance of a safe, intact family that they might have naturally assumed until the separation/divorce was first presented to them.

Dr. Norman Brown :

It's not likely that his failure to show affection in front of his kids means anything more serious about the tentativeness of his relationship with you (with months of separation and months of your relationship, as well as whether yours is his first post-marital relationship being the key factors for estimating how ready he might be unconsciously to embrace your new partnership whole-heartedly). But even so his obvious prioritizing of the effect on his children over the effect on you could make you wonder if you'll ever take priority.over his children in his heart.

Dr. Norman Brown :

this conflict of priorities is a given in post divorce dating relationships. If you're not a divorcee yourself, your relationship's upside might be that you're attracting the attention of a man who's more established and successful in his life situation than you are in yours. But it's downside includes both an exwife and their children. Though he may have predominantly negative attitudes towards his exwife, her image nevertheless will continue to occupy significant neuronal structures that can't be erased. But in contrast, his children will also exist in him internally as comparable neuronal structures, but without the intensity of negative surface feelings to keep them from taking priority over you.

Customer:

Yes that is what it feels like to me. As well as, it seems like he is hiding something from them and me.

Customer:

The duration of our relationship is at 2.75 years. He recently divorced his wife as of June 2013 after being "legally separated" for five years. His children are 10 and 16 and are both boys along with a 19 year old daughter of whom i have never met. Only the boys i have met. I have been divorced for six years and made this clear when me and him first met. He said he was divorced as well, but to only find out two days before i moved in with him that he was not divorced.

Customer:

I guess finding a picture of his ex wife in his wallet was a red flag, when there was none of me.

Customer:

I am trying to make our relationship work, and have had several conversations with him about my feelings and about our relationship, but it seems that the more i think about this relationship, it seems to only be a want on one side of it. How do i approach him about this concern of mine without making him feel like i am trying to make him chose between me and his "other family.?

Dr. Norman Brown :

As a conclusion only to my first round of commentary--since we haven't discussed anything yet--I'd say that the stage of divorce-recovery he's in normally has a lot to do with how much of oneself a divorced man or woman is able to commit to a new love relationship. It's also quite normal for a fairly newly divorced man to unconsciously pick a woman who is more ready to give herself in love than he is, because he is unconsciously protecting himself from experiencing anything like the pain of the original divorce: especially since 2/3 or more of divorces are initiated by women, so the men are more often caught by surprise, feeling helpless --which they're way less used to than women are-- and also not sure why it happened and ill-prepared to deal with their feelings of loss. Perhaps now you can tell me more about your situation, building on the information I've given you. [I spent 10 years studying research to write about this subject in my textbook published in 2000.]

Customer:

To my understanding from what he shared with me in a very brief conversation about his wife in the beginning of our relationship, he was the one that initiated the separation because she cheated on him. I have been cheated on as well, but to not have empathy for his situation would not be human. As a woman, i share the same feelings as you stated above about a man. I initiated my divorce because cheating is not acceptable to me whether married or in a long term relationship.

Customer:

He does not talk about his ex wife at all unless i bring her up of which i do not because it seems like a very delicate touchy subject. I feel as though i have some rights being that we have established a relationship that started out as a long distance relationship into what we have now to know where he stands in his divorce and his feelings about his ex wife as well as where we stand as two people that say we love each other.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 958
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown
Professor on Writing Sabbatical
375 Satisfied Customers
Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples