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RealSupport, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  MHT-MHRS-MS-MA Integral Psychotherapist & Life Coach
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I wrote to Dr Mark previously. I have a new question. The

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I wrote to Dr Mark previously. I have a new question. The man I've been seeing for 7 months now and I have a more or less serious relationship. We are both separated (he is divorced). We enjoy each other's company and have been exclusive for a good 6 months. Things are going pretty well but I can't shake some doubts in my mind.

The man I am seeing is 43 and I am 42. We both have children from previous marriages. His are 9 and 11 and mine are aged 3 and 6.

He has made it clear and we've discussed and agreed not to introduce the children anytime soon. We both want to establish the relationship and it be more solid before this occurs. Even though I agree with him on this matter, I still feel like it's going to be a long time before he is ready....for instance the other night he told me is was looking at all his pictures of his children (including his ex wife) and he's now put photos of us onto his hard drive but he's making sure they are hidden so that his children won't see them. He doesn't want his ex wife to know he's seeing me. I have met a couple of his friend but no family yet. He hasn't met mine either. He said he fiecely guards his children.

The thing is, I am concerned that I may be ready before him to further our relationship. He's been separated 4 years and claims I'm the first serious relationship since his ex wife. He said he's serious about me. He was involved with a woman for a year but claims they weren't serious and she wasn't his girlfriend in his eyes but he refers to me as his girlfriend.

I'm just a bit concerned that he may never be ready and I'm feeling insecure when he insists on keeping things separate. While I think it's wise to take the time to introduce the children, what would be a reasonable amount of time into the relationship to consider it? He also says he's very cautious and I feel it's a bit vague what his long term plans are. He talks about our future eg one day I'd like to go away to Fiji with you etc and mentions the possibility of meeting his family. He's from a large Italian family.

I sometimes think he's a commitment phobic, but he's been married before and we've only been dating for 7 months. We see each other every Tuesday night and every 2nd weekend when we don't have the children. This is all of my time without the kids but for him he has more alone time as he doesn't have the children as often.

What should I expect from him? He says he likes me a lot and adores me etc. No talk of love at this stage and he says "that takes time".

Thanks for your help.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I am sorry to know about this challenging and frustrating situation.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Your message appears very clear to me. You are both adults, who have previous experiences-marriage, have children and feel good with each other. But it seems that what you expect and need from this relationship is much different from what he does. I absolutely agree that it takes time to "build" a healthy and fulfilling relationship, and you have been dating only for 7 months and actually being together-meeting one night a week and every second weekend, which is very little, specially for a new relatiosnhip.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Then it makes sense your agreement about giving yourselves time and take it slowly about your children. At the same time I wonder what time frame you have set to work on building this relationship to the point of being able to form really an integral part of each others' lives?

Rafael M.T.Therapist :

Hello, thank you for joining the chat.

Rafael M.T.Therapist :


Rafael M.T.Therapist :

I can see you are online and in the chat but cannot read any input from you, it could be a chat bug that uses to limit communication with experts. I will change format from chat to postings for us to dialogue without having this technical this problem.

I can see you are online and in the chat but cannot read any input from you, it could be a chat bug that uses to limit communication with experts. I will change format from chat to postings for us to dialogue without having this technical this problem.

I hope you can read and reply now. I am here to support you.
While it is reasonable and healthy to set boundaries around his children and family, it seems that his approach may go beyond what most people would expect and accept as healthy. I'd say that one year of dating would be a good period of time for you to start to integrate your relationship into your lives as responsible adults.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you I was thinking around that time too. Would you suggest enjoying the relationship for what it is now or having a discussion with him around this? I was thinking as it gets closer to the one year mark I'd bring it up if he doesn't then deal with it then.

He states he takes you seriously, that you are his girlfriend but he also acknowledges he was before with another woman who considered him as her boyfriend while he didn't take her seriously. If we take that concrete situation into account , plus the other behaviors you have identified that seem to be red flags here, then it could become a concerning situation.

It's interesting to see how many people could use children as good reasons for keeping new relationships totally aside from their real whole life, from integrating them in their realities. it is not uncommon to find people who literally alienate new girlfriends or even partners to the point of keeping the relationships so secret, that the other person has not way not to feel isolated and nos as a real part of their boyfriend's reality.

Many times I do not see how being fully honest and open about having a serious relationship could "damage" children, 4 years a marriage has ended. There could be multiple reasons people in his shoes could use, but most times would be codependent excuses and not assertive points justifying such behavior. It is very common to find people in your shoes to find themselves after long periods of time facing situations around abandonment, neglect and betrayal. I am not telling you this is your case, but it's wise to be aware of all the limitations and needs for improvement your relationship presents, for both of you to work on it.

Thus I believe that it'd be necessary for you to start a time frame to start truly integrating you in each others' lives. If you are truly serious with each other, I do not see any reason for that not to happen like after a year of dating. If you address this issue and he keeps being avoidant or reluctant, then that would be another red flag, or if you agree to do it at that time but he gives more excuses not to do it, then you would need to reassess how well this relationship meets your core needs and expectations.

Does it make sense?
You're very welcome. My suggestion would be for you not to avoid talking about this core concern in the present, to be clear about it, and to set that time frame. From his response or reaction and then from his concrete actions you would better know how serious or not he's been.
For sure, if what you expect from this relationship is to enjoy what you have in the present and feel fulfilled with that even when aware that it could not lead to anything stable or truly serious in the future, then no problem, enjoy it now, but just be sure you know what you want and are willing to afford, that way you would not get hurt in case things do not evolve the way you need and deserve.

healthy and fulfilling relationships do not push people into something they do not feel or want, neither bypass necessary time for sharing, learning and actually building it, but they need to be based on mutual real respect, honesty, openness, understanding, caring and support. They are not alienated from the partners' lives, but become one, and there is no reason for that not to be that way, and children do not get traumatized nor damaged by it. It could be a challenge for them for sure, but it would be dysfunctional and destructive to keep a relationship isolated from real world stating it has to be that way to protect children, protect them from what? Unless he has a romantic relationship or expectations around that with his ex-wife or males his children believe that, there should be no reason to keep such approach, and justify this behavior for long periods of time.
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