Reader writes: I have been divorced for three years now with three children. My boyfriend has been divorced for six months and has two children. We have known each other for over 10 years and actually started dating when his divorce was final six months ago.
We have been very happy and doing a lot together with all of the kids. His kids do not know we are dating, just that we are friends. We both agree they need time to adjust to the divorce.
Here's the problem. This is his second divorce. He married really young the first time and said they were more like best friends than husband and wife. That marriage ended after 10 years.
His second marriage completely changed his life. He became a devoted Christian husband and father. They even attended seminars and weekend devotionals about keeping your marriage alive and being good Christian parents. He worked harder than he ever had to make sure this marriage would last. After 12 years and a few bouts with Christian marriage counseling because of his wife's infidelity, she told him she didn't love him any more and left him.
He is very angry that his wife tore their family apart and separated him from his kids. Since they separated, he has learned a lot about his ex-wife that he never knew.
We agreed to take things slow and see where they go. He has a lot to work through. It has been six months, and we have been very open about our feelings for each other and what we want. He told me last night that he never knew he had all these walls up, but the longer we are together, the more fears and walls keep pulling him back. He knows that I eventually want to be married again and he says part of his fear is that he never will be married again. He fears making another mistake, letting me and my children down, having a blended family, etc. All the normal worries that anyone would have, even me.
So now neither one of us wants to lose the other. Keep in mind neither one of us is talking about it now, just down the road. He has a long road of healing, and I feel like if we stayed together and he continues to work on his issues, we have the potential to have a wonderful marriage.
But, I don't want to stay in a relationship if he will never be ready for one. Please help me! What should we do? Take the chance, or should I run from the first man who has come along that has made me feel that I can love again?
Chuck replies: How is he "working through" this issue? Is he involved in therapy, or is he just waiting to see if time will heal his wounds? Yes, he has been hurt deeply, and I can understand his fear of being hurt again. I doubt, based on what you have written, that he will be able to manage this on his own. One criteria you might want to establish in terms of your decision to stay in or leave the relationship is whether or not he would be willing to enlist the aid of a therapist to heal from this painful experience and explore ways in which he can move beyond his fear of re-commitment. At some point in that process, it would make sense for you to attend some sessions with him. Your participation could help him to understand the depth of your commitment to him, and it could potentially help you make an informed decision about this relationship. I wish you both well.