First off I am 27 years old. I came off the heels of breaking off an engagement July of last year. Emotionally and mentally, I had been over it for more than 6 months. Moving forward I moved into an apartment with my brother. I hadn’t been looking for a relationship of sorts. But, just like ‘that’ I was introduced to a man and knew immediately that there was something very special about him. (He is 33 years old and well established in his career.) We began hanging out and took things slow. Low and behold, he was in the middle of the beginning stages of a separation/divorce. We came from similar situations/feelings so I trusted the process because I didn’t want to let this potential relationship go. Hindsight, they were still living in the same household, but switching on the weekends staying at parents’ and at times he would stay with me. In totality they were together 12 years, 4 years married. So a couple months go by and he informs me that his ex is pregnant. Some time in July, the point on conception occurred. A big trial for them was that she always wanted children, he did not. He was under the impression she was still utilizing contraception… obviously not the case.
Anyways, this news was a blow to me. How could we/I move forward? He was fixated on the fact that he did not want to put our relationship on a hiatus. He assured me that reassurance and communication would be prioritized. Admittedly he did initially resent his ex because he felt like she was ‘trapping’ him. A few more months had gone by and none of it was the topic of much discussion. Of course, it hadn’t escaped my mind, so I asked how things were going and he informed me that she was having a girl. In a way, my heart broke. In some sense, I feel like every woman dreams of having a daughter of their own. My dad had passed away when I was young, so the father/daughter relationship was also very precious to me. I had reiterated to him on numerous occasions that his daughter was going to need him. Due to future arrival of their daughter, the divorce proceedings were put on a standstill until the baby was born. Meanwhile, his and my relationship had blossomed more quickly than we had ever anticipated. He had all of the qualities I had been wanting in a man and then some. But of course, everything that was also happening in his life became a huge stressor. He had gone to a few doctor’s appointments with his ex to make sure things were progressing positively, which they were. Baby came a little late and was born May 4th. I never imagined how hard that day might be for me. The man I came to love and respect so much was going through these life changing experiences without me. He sent me pictures and updates to make me feel included, which I appreciated, but it was still so hard.
The subsequent weeks, we moved into together, I graduated from school, started a new job. However during the day he would take off from work and head over to her house to spend time with the baby. His family, whom I’d never met, came into town to see the baby. No matter how many times we’d talk about it, I felt as though there was no real way to prepare myself. I was overwhelmed by anxiety. Yet, I didn’t want to take away this precious time he deserved. It was such a catch 22. More than a month later, he brought the baby over. It was an honor for me to meet his daughter, but also a reality check. As more time has gone on, he has been able to pick the baby up twice a week for a few hours of ‘family time’ as I like to call it. More hindsight, the baby’s mother still doesn’t know about me. He hasn’t told her, mostly to keep a peaceful relationship with her as the divorce proceedings come to a much anticipated close. I feel like I have adjusted well to these changes. I love his little girl. But it is so weird hearing ‘my daughter’, ‘my child’. I am trying to decipher what my role is. At times, I feel jealous and/or insecure. More than anything, I know it is a unique situation. I am looking for advice to help me cope moreso. How can I communicate effectively? I want to be the best bonus mom and significant other. Any comments, advice, or questions are welcome!
-Bonus Mom to an infant
Dear Bonus Mom,
This is certainly a challenging love story. You were fresh out of an engagement and you found a wonderful guy. Little did you know at that first meeting that he was married and would have a newborn baby several months later. Not the ideal situation to meet a partner, but the situation that you found yourself in. You never really signed up for this, but through a series of considered decisions you have found yourself here.
First things first, he is still married and has a newborn baby with his wife. If I were you I would be looking for clear communication from him as to his intentions with his current marriage and with you. I would also be looking for action steps (or at least a plan) towards permanent separation from his wife and a commitment to you. Maybe he has already made all of this clear for you but I wouldn’t be floating along without it. It concerns me that his wife isn’t at least aware of your relationship. I suppose that he doesn’t owe his wife an explanation, but at some point she is going to find out. It seems as though the longer your relationship stays a secret the more dramatic that reveal will be. Perhaps you both feel as though his wife couldn’t possibly handle learning of you, but people can often handle more than you think when you are honest.
People can often handle more than you think when you are honest.
I think it is incredibly gracious and warm-hearted of you to be looking for opportunities to be a bonus mother. This could be turn out to be a wonderful story of an integrated family that includes you as a mother to his daughter. It sounds quite reasonable for you to feel uncertain and insecure in this current situation.
This is an emotional time as a new baby is first growing up and both you and your partner are trying to figure out what it means to fit into this child’s life. Take it slow, be sure that you are openly communicating your feelings along the way, and have expectations for your partner to show his commitment to you. The rest will come with time.
Dear Bonus Mom,
Timing is such a mysterious thing. Sometimes it’s great and other times it’s disastrous. Sometimes the disasters turn into learning experiences and other times it only seems to cause major complications in our life. Take your engagement for example. Had you ended up marrying your fiancé, you may be miserable right now. It was a hard process to move forward but you’ve arrived at the decision that it was the right move. Similarly, entering into a relationship wasn’t on your agenda immediately following, but you met a great guy. You didn’t expect there to be a surprising announcement of a baby entering the picture, but neither did he.
Your situation is complicated. The man that you love has stepped into a role as a provider and caregiver while simultaneously trying to leave the woman who made him a father. A few points of clarification that I believe you need to communicate to your boyfriend to help you with next steps. First, let him know that your relationship needs to be transparent. That means, he needs to be honest with his friends, family and ex that you are a part of this equation. You are living together and have become a part of this baby’s life.
He needs to be honest with his friends, family and ex that you are a part of this equation.
Secondly, get a firm timeline on the filings of the divorce. You are living together and committed to seeing this relationship grow. If this is the case, I would feel especially motivated to discuss when the divorce will be finalized. Thirdly, define roles of engagement with his daughter. This may also follow on the heels of him informing his ex that you are dating. Once you feel part of the picture, you can start becoming an integrated part of this baby’s life and feel completely accepted by her father.