I am in a relationship with a man that loves me. We have been dating for over 2 years and I can see myself with him for a long time. But there’s one problem, he doesn’t get along with my 12-year old son.
It took me awhile to introduce him to my son. Because I didn’t want them to meet until I was sure that it wasn’t just a casual thing. But they were like oil and vinegar from the very beginning.
I understand my son having reservations because it’s been just the two of us for most of his life. But my boyfriend is a grown man and he’s not even trying. He rarely has conversations with my son and when he does I can feel the tension in his voice.
I thought it would get better over time, but it doesn’t seem to be changing. It’s been nearly 6-months since they started interacting and it seems to be getting worse. It’s almost unbearable at this point.
In the long run, I’d like to get married, which is something he says that he wants to. But how can I marry a man who doesn’t seem to like my child?
What should I do?
– Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck in the Middle,
Let me begin by honoring you for being discerning about who meets your son and when. Children are very impressionable and they thrive in consistent environments. So it’s great that you waited until you were sure that this relationship was not casual before the introduction.
Solo parenting adds an extra layer of adversity to the dating experience. And it’s nice when the chemistry is right and the relationship feels like it’s moving toward a long-term commitment. It makes total sense that you would want to integrate this man into your life. It also makes sense that your son might find it difficult to accept this new dynamic. But it doesn’t make sense that your boyfriend is not trying.
As you said, your boyfriend is a “grown man,” and that means that he needs to act like a grown up. It’s not to say that dealing with a teenage boy is ever easy, but if he wants to be with you he has to try. Your son is part of the package, there is no you without him. If he is not interested in putting forth a real effort to connect with your son, there is no future for the two of you.
No matter where you live you are home to your son. You are his safe space. You are the one constant in his life and that is going to be true for years to come. And he is beginning to transition into manhood, which means that he is protective of his mother. But one thing is true for most boys, they desire/crave/need males to bond with. There’s a lot of potential for closeness if your boyfriend were willing to invest the time, effort, and patience it takes to create it. But he has to want to.
Childhood goes by quickly. It won’t be long before your son is an adult, but until then you are his safe space. You won’t always have to consider his feelings in your romantic life, but right now you do.
I know it’s not easy to find a loving partner. But love does not happen in a bubble. How your partner loves and treats others is just as important as how he loves and treats you. Whatever is going on with your boyfriend likely has nothing to do with your son, but that does not mean he’s not affected.
You need to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your boyfriend before you can move forward. Express your concerns, but even more than that make room for him to express his feelings too. You must be committed to letting him express himself freely, without interruption. And once it’s all on the table you will know whether the relationship is viable or not.
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