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I recently spent the night for the first time at the home of the person I’ve been seeing. In the morning, we were rudely awakened by their kids! We are both divorced with young kids … So far we’ve only spent time out, and at my house when my kids are gone half the week. To make matters worse, their ex has been crashing at the house … and was upstairs in the kitchen fixing breakfast! Kiki, I had no idea anybody would be around, and I totally freaked out. To me, it’s a really big deal to bring anyone around my kids and this just seemed so casual … My sweetheart acted like everything was fine … I got out of there ASAP, and now I’m avoiding spending time with them. I really like this person and we have great chemistry, but I was so uncomfortable … Am I being a prude, or a jerk, or something? … Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?
— Parent Trapped
Whoa, Nellie! There are so many things going on here. First of all, you’re right that dating while parenting young kids is no picnic. You’re dating for the usual reasons, but maybe somewhere in there you’re also vetting your partner to see how suitable they would be to merge into some kind of Brady Bunch with you and yours. It seems like you and your sweetie have wildly differing expectations that you didn’t totally communicate about. If you like this person a lot, it’s up to you to make your boundaries known and try to reach some middle ground with them about if, when and how the kids enter the picture.
Little ones aside, it sounds like you’re really uncomfortable with the ex being around. Certainly, even the most libertine among us would rather not meet an ex in the post-lovemaking, morning-after zone. But believe it or not, in these modern times, some folks manage to marry, have children and break up, while still getting along really well as friends. It’s far from a majority, but my point is, maybe everything is cool with this particular ex. Maybe the ex is on your side, and wants their co-parent/roommate/buddy to be happy and in love. People are capable of all kinds of emotional gymnastics and sometimes these utopian, post-picket-fence situations really do exist.
Do you trust your sweetheart? Do you trust their choices and their morals and ability to function in the world as a responsible mature person? It sounds like this situation really did throw you for a loop, waving red flags that may point at one big giant red flag in the middle: the T-word. Dig deep on these questions. If this romance is to continue and get serious, you’ll need to put on your big grown up communication hats and be willing to make some adjustments to keep things going smoothly between you.
Meanwhile, maybe you just keep having dates at your place for now, OK doll? xoxo, Kiki
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 198.