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‘I’m dating a previously married man but I feel sad that I will always come second to his children’

Tell Me About It: I knew what I was signing myself up for, but I wish almost every day that things were different

'We laugh a lot, he is a good communicator and I know he cares about me'


I have started a relationship with a man who was previously married and has young children. He told me this when we first met and, though it caught me by surprise, I made a decision to continue seeing him. It had been a number of years since I’d been in a relationship and I’ve always struggled to meet people whom I connect with and find attractive – and for them to feel the same way about me.

So, while I was not looking to date someone with children (and I never have until now), I came to a conclusion that I needed to give this man a chance. I took it slowly but the fact was that I simply wanted to see him again after each time I saw him. And I’m glad I did because it’s been going well and by far the healthiest and happiest few months in my dating history.

He is kind, caring and considerate. We laugh a lot, he is a good communicator and I know he cares about me. We’ve now been dating for three months, and I think it has long-term potential. We’ve acknowledged this and spoken about it together a little, but not the practicalities of what it might look like.

And this is where I’m starting to struggle.


The reality that I will always come second to his children. He sees his ex-wife at least twice a week, every week. They are in almost daily contact regarding their children and he often stays over in their former family home (he is currently renting an apartment so it doesn’t suit for his young kids to stay overnight in his place). And, each week, we have to wait to confirm our own weekend plans because, of course, it depends on his children’s visits.

All of this is starting to make me sad, and I don’t really know why. I trust him and I knew what I was signing myself up for the first day I met him, but three to four months in, I wish almost every day that things were different. I don’t want to end the relationship, but neither do I want to resent him or his children, or continue to experience these feelings of sadness and a sense that I’m missing out. We haven’t discussed potential future children of our own yet – I’m quite ambivalent, but, again, I probably had always thought of not having children of my own and being with a partner who also did not have children.

This is different. I want to give this lovely man and relationship a chance, but I don’t know what I need to feel like it will work or to just be able to accept it as it is. I haven’t brought this up with him directly as I’m worried about sounding selfish or needy, and that it would be unfair of me to discuss it, as he cannot change anything and he told me about it on day one. And I’m not even sure what he could say in response to me, or what I’d want to hear.

I could probably benefit from talking to a therapist about it.


The thing about setting up as a couple is that it is supposed to be a developmental stage where both people grow, and this does not happen without some level of challenge and difficulty. Your expectations (of what a relationship is like) and your partner’s responsibilities are clashing and this is something that needs to be embraced and engaged with and not avoided.

You are in the early stages of what feels like a very significant relationship and it is natural for you to want to be the centre of your partner’s attention and to check out that you are number one in his life. However, your partner is doing the adult thing of prioritising his children after a separation and making sure that they are feeling safe and secure as both he and the children’s mother go about their lives separately. A thriving environment is created for children when parents demonstrate their love and they demonstrate a good relationship where they can communicate well. This seems to be happening here and credit is due to both your partner and his ex-wife for not bringing strife and discord into their children’s lives.

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The chances are that the children will not feel forced to take sides when your partner makes it known that he has a significant other and thus your acceptance into their lives might be smoother than might otherwise be expected. As your relationship progresses, there will be a need for your partner to commit to events and holidays with you, so everyone will have to compromise and adapt, but this is normal and might even offer the children a role model for handling multiple needs.

The difficulty is that you feel sad and are worried about feeling resentment, and it is great that you are addressing this early and looking for ways to overcome it. Seeing a therapist might really help as you can be completely honest about your feelings, and you can get assistance with self-compassion as well as teasing out some of your reactions to this situation. All of us feel insecure and fragile sometimes and no more so than when something is of such huge importance to us.

You care deeply for this man and fear that his love might be divided and that you are getting the lesser part of this. But love does not work this way and if you can lean into it, you will find that it grows to fill whatever need is there. The difficulty is that fear constrains us and makes us pessimistic and narrow in our approach so it is important that you face your fear (of not being number one) and overcome this by trusting that the relationship can grow stronger and that it will not break in the face of adversity.

It is not up to your partner to make you feel secure, you need to do this for yourself, so seek therapeutic support and overcome your fear by taking on the current challenge and resourcing yourself.

Being in love usually offers the possibility of stretching our normal sense of self, so use this opportunity and take the opportunity for development.