Sometimes my life seems difficult and complex.
But then I hear about a situation like I chronicled two weeks ago. A reader wrote to me that her ex-husband has a pregnant girlfriend who is moving in with him and his 10-year-old son.
The reader, the boy’s mother, is concerned. Here’s the kicker: The girlfriend is pregnant by another man, not the reader’s ex-husband. The mom fears her son is likely to be confused and threatened by the soap opera scenario.
Who could blame her? Will the boy resent that his dad is helping raise another woman’s child, reducing the attention he receives?
“That is a terribly complicated new blended family scenario, and highly unlikely to succeed,” Nina says.
The girlfriend’s focus will be on her pregnancy and then the newborn child – not on the 10-year-old boy, Nina says. And his father, having agreed to let the girlfriend move in, has implied that he’ll help raise the child – even though it’s not his own.
The boy will struggle to “come to terms” with the new family situation, Nina says.
Her advice to the reader: Sit down with her ex and talk about how they will explain the arrival of the pregnant woman to their son.
“Do your best to come to common ground on the messaging so that it is truthful without burdening him with your misgivings,” Nina says. “Ask your ex to be honest with you as this goes forward and to let you know if things become turbulent with his girlfriend. Ask him to agree to have your son spend more time with you to take him out of the picture if things start to go south with the girlfriend.”
I think Nina’s advice is right on.
I also asked Nina’s take on the broader question of single dads with young kids having a girlfriend move in.
“Living with someone you date teaches your child a set of values that you may not want to impart,” she says. “Later, it makes it really tough for you to encourage your adult child to hold out for marriage instead of moving in with someone.”
Other pitfalls exist too, Nina says.
“The problem is that in the early stages of a relationship, you have no idea if it will be stabilizing or chaotic down the road. Far more dating relationships fail than succeed, and you risk your child’s emotional stability when you have your newest love interest move in with you before you have had time to grow deep roots together.”
Previously, I’ve written that I’m opposed to live-in girlfriends when you have young kids. Nina agrees, and I like her explanation why.
“Anyone can meet someone hot and hook up,” she says. “It takes a real man to slow down, consider the ramifications of a new relationship in your child’s life, take the time to slowly get to know the new woman, and reserve living together for marriage – and that only after a considerable period of time dating.
“That takes self-control and thoughtfulness.”
Those are two characteristics all fathers should have.
Be thankful that you’re not living with a girlfriend who is pregnant by another man. Be thankful you don’t have to explain that situation to your kid. But shy away from even less-complicated scenarios. Don’t allow your girlfriend to move in while you have kids at home. They won’t understand your relationship with the woman and their place in the home. Don’t sacrifice your child’s emotional stability to satisfy your relationship needs.