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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

My boyfriend and I recently moved in together. We were planning on getting married and starting a family. At the same time I moved in with him, his ex-wife gave him their ten year old daughter and told him that she would now live with us. Now that we have moved in together, we are struggling to create a solid relationship and future for ourselves.

My boyfriend is trying so hard to be the best Dad for his daughter that I feel that I am not important. As a matter of fact, he says that he lives with his daughter and if she and I can't get along, then I should move out. What do I do? I want us to work out and I love the daughter. But it seems that he no longer cares about the relationship.

Answer

Your boyfriend is taking his responsibility as a father very seriously. He has made this change of circumstance the priority in his life. He may be subordinating his personal relationship for the benefit of the child. It is even more difficult for him since he may be harboring some degree of guilt for not preserving his marriage. He may also be trying to make up for the fact that his wife may be rejecting their child. Being the father of a ten year old girl is a full-time commitment.

You have some serious soul-searching to do. Whereas previously, you and your boyfriend had many nights alone and were able to relegate child-rearing to a part-time activity, now it has become a full-time effort. You will always have to share your boyfriend's time and emotions. You are no longer the center of his life. This is very difficult. Even if you marry and have children of your own, your boyfriend will be sharing his feelings with the child of another woman as well as with the child born of the two of you. You and your child will have to share him with another child and another woman -- his ex-wife. Your position is a very difficult one. It is not the same as finding a man who has no children, falling in love, and then deciding to marry and have children of your own where you both start from the same level playing field.

Your boyfriend may care about your relationship, but not in the same way. Now he has to consider his child. You have to come to terms with that. You have to decide how much you need, how much you can give, and what you want. No one could fault you for saying that this is more than you bargained for. It is one thing to have a child for weekly or bi-weekly visits; it is entirely different being a full-time step-parent of a ten year old. You have to decide what will work for you.

I suggest that you do a lot of reading about what it is like to step-parent, talk to people who have done it, look inside yourself, and even seek professional help to deal with the issues. You might find some material in Resources Department of this magazine.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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