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When is enough enough with an unmotivated person in a relationship?
April 6, 2012 10:56 PM   Subscribe

I'd love to get some advice on my relationship. It's complicated and I'm starting to think about ending it, despite being pretty heavily invested. This is a "do I stay or do I go?" question or a "too good to leave but too bad to stay" question. But it's complicated so be prepared to read on.

We grew up together. Childhood sweethearts. Eventually I moved away. Fast forward 20 years. We're both in our mid-30s. She looks me up. We start emailing. Turns out she lives in the same city as me and only a few miles away. I kinda blow her off for a while, not taking it seriously at all. We'd been completely out of contact for many years. Eventually she wants to meet up. My curiosity eventually gives in, so I invite her over.

The picture in my mind of how I thought she had turned out (based on the place that we grew up) could not have been more wrong. She was gorgeous, classy, charming, and fun. Sparks flew right off the bat. She was vague about her relationship status up to this point, but that night she tells me she's married…but it has been on the rocks for a year and it's ending. She also has 2 kids. I'm single, no kids, never been married, a few months out of my last relationship with no good prospects for a few months.

Now, I know what you're going to say. I completely get it. I've been over it a million times. I had a perfect record of fidelity in my relationships at this time. I talked to her at length about her marriage and how if it was over then she needed to end it and do things right. I'm normally cut and dry about that sort of thing. If she wanted to start up with me, then end it with him. But, against my better judgement, I didn't stop seeing her. We were very attracted to each other. And so the affair started. She assures me that her and her husband are done. They are married on paper, but are roommates only and are only together because of the kids.

It was very casual in the beginning. I had no intentions. Fast forward 6 mos. I'm starting to have some serious feelings for her. She two steps ahead, tells me she loves me. But, I'm very frustrated at this point, telling her I'm tired of compromising my integrity by being in this sort of relationship, tired of being ashamed, etc. She listens, is compassionate, pledges to take care of it. But it's very slow going. She says she's getting her stuff in order, preparing for the divorce.

She says if it was just her, she would be gone already. But her kids complicate the situation. She doesn't have a degree. Her husband wanted her to be a stay at home mom when they got married. So, she no means to provide for herself or them. She and the kids are entirely dependent financially on him. She understands she's going to have to get a job, that she'll need to go back to school and get a degree to get that side of her life on track. You know, become a self-sufficient single parent. This is scary for her. I try to be supportive and help where I can.

I draw a line around my last bit of integrity and tell her I won't meet the kids under any circumstance until she is divorced. I've stuck to it.

Things settle into a sort of pattern. Our relationship continues to develop. I get tired of harping on her about the divorce, so I give her some space to take care of it and only bring it up occasionally. It's always a fight. We become closer, fall in love. Our relationship was going great, except for the elephant in the room. She made the relationship convenient for me. It worked well with my busy schedule, etc.

Every few months, I would run out of patience, reach the end of my rope and threaten to end things if she doesn't get things taken care of soon, etc. I told her that I was so tired of being in an "affair". That I just wanted a normal relationship, one that I didn't have to be ashamed about. On one hand, I want to tell everyone about us, because she makes me so happy. Then, I remember she's married and feel no pride in that. So, I've kept it on the DL. I implore her to make things right.

Every few months we would repeat this cycle. I have gotten to the point of ending it a few times, but it doesn't last for even a day. I love her and I know she loves me. There's no doubt of that for either of us, even though it took a long, long time for me to trust her because of her willingness to cheat w/me.

A year and a half in, her husband finally moves out. I think, "great, it's about time, finally a light at the end of the tunnel." But here we are several months later, in a holding pattern. She's scared of having to provide for herself after being out of the workforce. The husband is banking her whole operation, assuming that he's paying less now than if they were to divorce. Neither of them seem particularly motivated to end it, despite both of them moving on with other relationships. She still isn't putting much effort into finding a job or getting school figured out. Going through the motions at best.

This lack of motivation is what is really fueling my thoughts of ending it once and for all, based on rationality this time and not anger. I'm a highly motivated person. Never been married. Very into my career and being successful and being self-sufficient, productive, etc. I want to balance career and family and want a partner who will do the same. She tells me the other day that she doesn't know if she can do all that she needs to do, that I want her to, because she's "not a very motivated person". This would have been nice to know earlier. I've told her that there is no way I would have gotten involved if I thought we be where we are at in 2 years. Nevertheless, here we are. I've also told her that there's no way she's going to go from being taken care of by her husband straight into being taken care of by me.

I can see myself with her in the future. I haven't really found that before and it's really hard to walk away from. I also dread being single again and having to spend all of my free time weeding through a lot of Ms. Wrongs to find someone I could envision a future with. The thought of having to hit the bars again and play the single game is not appealing. I'll suck it up if I have to, but I won't like it.

I also know that I won't be able to find someone like her easily. She's beautiful, fit, very loving, caring, and affectionate, great in the sack, is a great mom to her kids, etc. She has a lot to offer in many ways. So here I am conflicted. I'm sick of being in a holding pattern, want to move forward somehow, with or without her I guess. When is enough enough? Should I stay or should I go?
posted by runflats to Human Relations (50 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
runflats: I've also told her that there's no way she's going to go from being taken care of by her husband straight into being taken care of by me.

I'm convinced that you two really, really love each other and could have a future. This (above) seems to be the main issue, to me. I don't necessarily see why she has to go back to school (expensive and not necessarily even a good investment, these days) or even get a job. You imply you could take care of her and the kids comfortably... yes?

If you're not able to respect a woman without a career, then that's as it is and you'll probably have to end it... because you can't force her into that life if she doesn't want it. And it's not necessarily a failing on her part not to want it, you know.

How old are the children? Are you ready to be a good stepdad?
posted by gilrain at 11:05 PM on April 6, 2012 [23 favorites]

If she actually gets a divorce, then her husband will be paying alimony which you pointed out in the post would be more than she's getting from him now, plus it sounds like if she asked for it she could have your help with getting herself started and supporting her to the next step.

There is something more going on here, and if "being unmotivated" to move on with her life is what it is then it doesn't speak well for her at all (but I suspect that's not all it is). If she can't be bothered to take her relationship with you seriously then I really can't see wasting any further time with her.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:23 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

You refuse to meet her children until her divorce is final. You regularly fight, threatening abandonment, over having the divorce on your schedule. And I've also told her that there's no way she's going to go from being taken care of by her husband straight into being taken care of by me.

You're frustrated by not getting what you want here, but you're also making a lot of demands. Unless there's stuff left out, it doesn't seem she's making demands in return or otherwise trying to direct the relationship to exist on her terms to the extent that you are.

Divorce with children involved, divorce where one partner relies entirely on the other for financial support -- this is a very difficult situation. I wonder if there is not more going on about the (perceived?) slow divorce; perhaps she and the kids will be in a bad spot vis-a-vis health care or something like that when Dad is gone not just as he is now but also on paper?

I, personally, would not have had the patience for you. Two years into a relationship with an at-home mother (who you tell us is a wonderful ditto) you have told her you have no interest in supporting her. I don't think you realise that probably means 'I won't support you' on more than one level to her. That is a bit of 'By the way, I disrespect how you have chosen to raise your children,' and comes off as a somewhat petulant, pointless, controlling and unhelpful thing to say. Not particularly supportive or useful in what must be one of the scariest times in her life.

(I am a single mother. I do work, but not outside the home, and it took a while to get to just that p/t work; the period post-separation felt like...constant dogs at my back? It is a traumatic life change. Anyway, I am thankfully generously supported by my ex who shares my commitments to how our child should be raised. If I chose to date and found myself looking at somebody saying 'That's nice but you need a job or you ain't any thing' there would have been no second date.)

It almost sounds like you've been playing her. You want her, if she'll be a different person for you. Not really a healthy approach.

I want to balance career and family and want a partner who will do the same.

You have incompatible values. You disrespect hers. You are unable to see that they may both have equal value, or that you may be wrong. I would suggest picking up some books along the lines of this and this and having a careful read and a good think. If you still think a woman who has busied herself with the raising of children is "unmotivated" (and not just saying that out of the shame you are causing her to feel), I don't see where the relationship has a future.

I don't think the not meeting the kids thing is doing what you hope it will do. I think it is marking you as a man who is disinterested in family. It sounds like you may be a bit more 'in lust' than 'in love.' You certainly don't sound like an eager stepfather and you are overtly disrespectful of the path she has chosen for herself. I want to say 'bail' because you seem so clueless on so many levels that I can't imagine that the relationship is all that deep -- good in the sack, that's nice, but you're choosing to ignore what must be an unbelievably traumatic transition and basically offer snark over her not doing precisely as you feel she should do, which is -- as gilrain points out -- not a failing on her part, to not want that. Do consider the extent to which you have been, in my view, quite wrong-headed here; if you still feel you are in the right, walk so she can find somebody better.
posted by kmennie at 11:37 PM on April 6, 2012 [53 favorites]

She and her husband are separated. It sounds like they are both okay with dating other people. One reason she may wish to stay separated is that she and the kids can stay on his medical insurance. And it's also a painful and expensive process to divorce and they may not yet be ready to broach that subject with their kids.

It sounds like the main problem is that you are uncomfortable with her being a stay at home mother. If she has child support and spousal support, she may not need to work to support herself and the kids right now. She may be focusing on supporting her kids through this difficult time. Young kids need a great deal of support and care and she (and their dad) may not feel it is the right time to put them into daycare and leave them with more transitions and more examples of relationships that end.

The process of re-evaluating your career as a mother is complex, even for women who have not divorced/separated. She may be concerned about how her children will be looked after, what she will do when they are sick, how she will get them to and from care, where she could work that will fit within daycare pickup hours, etc. It's very complicated, especially when she may not yet know how her children are reacting to all these changes.

That doesn't mean you are meant to be together. But I do think you should consider this from the perspective of a parent.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:38 PM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

She does not sound like the person you want. She is a parent, and it does not sound like you wish to be involved with that.
posted by ead at 11:59 PM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

not to be harsh but i am reading a lot about what she can do for you and not really anything about how you can best support her. if you haven't known this whole time that she was "unmotivated" then have you really known her? it sounds like how affairs are a lot of the time - you can skim off the passion and the drama, while 75% of her reality is out of sight, out of mind - kind of a fantasy scene.
posted by facetious at 12:03 AM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

Ending it seems reasonable and appropriate. You aren't interested in the thing that's taken up most of her energy and focus for years (her children) and she isn't interested in working outside the home right now, which seems really important to you.

This: "I've also told her that there's no way she's going to go from being taken care of by her husband straight into being taken care of by me" reeks of contempt towards her priorities and the energy she's put into parenting - you said yourself she is a great mom, but you make it sound like she's a parasite. Your assessment of her doesn't sound like you love her, either - it sounds like you appreciate her physically and enjoy her warmth but don't fundamentally respect her. Why not find someone that you do respect and who makes you proud to be with her, and leave her to find someone who isn't contemptuous of her priorities?
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:07 AM on April 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

My SO works, but she doesn't make much. She has gone back to school and she's going to have the option of a career at some point, but we all know damned well that I'm likely to end up paying for the bulk of things in our life together because I'm in law school and she hasn't even picked a major yet and is probably going to take another five years or so just to graduate. And you know what? I'm not bothered by that because it's a genuinely good relationship and it wasn't like *I* went to college while working and supporting a kid without any help, so why would I expect her to do that? But that's us. For the sort of person who is really right for this woman, this will not be an issue. If there isn't a person who's really right for her, maybe she is going to have to go through some very hard times ahead, and maybe you'll move on to find the woman who's really right for you. If you want to be The Guy and yet you're not willing to put her through college even though you *could*, then you're just being kind of a jerk about it.

If she still waffles about getting divorced after you've laid out on the table a safe place to live and get an education without having to deal with sudden poverty and backbreaking hours, then you know it's not about that and maybe she doesn't even want a career and maybe you're just incompatible. As it is, it sounds very reasonable to me that she's waffling, because the situation you're offering her is a thousand times harder than the life she currently has, and you're not going to be making anything near that level of sacrifice. It doesn't really come off like you're interested in commitment, but rather in having a fun girlfriend who won't have an impact on your standard of living, and why would you possibly think you're so fantastic that just your mere presence in her life is enough to compensate her for what you're asking her to do?

I mean, you might be wonderful, but I don't think there's an individual alive for whom I would raise two kids, work, and go to school, without help, especially not if they expected that I would still have the energy at the end of the day not to bite their head off.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:11 AM on April 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

Oh, also, since I just caught the ages on re-reading: She's been out of school a very long time. Going back even for my girl, who had only just hit a decade, was already seriously intimidating and also incredibly frustrating because she'd forgotten so much stuff. (I.e., algebra, academic writing.) It took her awhile to just get up the nerve in the first place. She's doing great now and getting back into it bit by bit, but even though I started a couple years late myself, it was nowhere near as hard for me as I see it being for her. Took awhile to get accustomed to this idea that someone as smart as I know she is would be struggling as much as she did to get back into school and make that adjustment. But she's doing much better now, so it does get easier with time.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:25 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also dread being single again and having to spend all of my free time weeding through a lot of Ms. Wrongs to find someone I could envision a future with. The thought of having to hit the bars again and play the single game is not appealing. I'll suck it up if I have to, but I won't like it.

You're willing to be in a relationship with someone just because you don't want to have to be single again? That is not a great reason to keep seeing someone.

Look, you're not her priority. Her kids are. And she is. You're third here (leaving her ex out of this - who is nonetheless also an important person in this). If you don't want to be third, then you can't be in a relationship with her. Things will not happen quickly because of her kids.

But, really, OP, the things that she needs to sort out in her life are far bigger and more complex than - I won't like having to hit the bars again, but I suppose I shall if I must.

I think you need to put things in perspective here.

Don't string her along, though, if you're not really interested, because you'd also be stringing her kids along too. And that's a really horrible thing to do to children.
posted by mleigh at 12:37 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a huge fan of couples therapy, and these kind of issues -- charged, complex issues where passions often run too high to really explore what is going on -- are one place it excels. It sounds like you two need to slow down this conversation and deepen or broaden it. I can only imagine how much anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, self-recrimination, etc. could come up. It may well take a third party's help to make that conversation tolerable.

The reality may well be that she is carrying a heavier load than you realize. Her current/ex husband is still helping carry so much of that. It may well be that she can't figure out how to get financially disentangled without help. You may need to decide if it's worth it to you to provide some help (advice, funds for a lawyer), if she would accept that. At this point, you sound unwilling, and I don't blame you. To discover a willingness to do that, you may first need to forgive her for how hard the past year had been for you, perhaps after getting to really explain it and be understood. She may have a lot of fear coming up or need to know how much support you are willing to provide, if even just emotional. I don't know. The point is, it's more complex than just "get divorced already!" Even though I can see why you're there, it's just so clearly not working for you.

But I do think you guys have something rare and good enough that it's worth getting some help here before giving up.
posted by salvia at 12:43 AM on April 7, 2012

While my post above is really sympathetic to you, I do actually also agree with other posters here. I can relate to you, having once waited for someone, while my anxieties about whether we'd have a future grew and grew. BUT, I also quite agree that you could be more sympathetic about what she's going through and trying to balance.
posted by salvia at 1:29 AM on April 7, 2012

Your question left me with a question: are you up for becoming a stepfather to her children (if things progress that way) or are you not into that?

It is general best practice to not introduce kids to new partners until things are resolved with the first partner, so your instincts there are right. However, if they're officially separated, the kids know it, and both she and the ex have new partners on the up-and-up? That's about the time to introduce.

The big weight on both your minds seems to be giving her some space to establish an independent identity from her last relationship. Whether that's a career or a cause she volunteers for 40 hours/week, it's critical that she find out what she wants to do before she goes down the marriage path again. You both seem very aware that this is necessary for the future health of the relationship.

So: if they're truly separated and you can see her on the up-and-up, start working through the kid introductions. Also help her find something they is passionate about, whether corporate or non-profit. Then assess marriage potential together.

Finally, my read of her "unmotivated" comment is that she might feel overwhelmed and not have much extra energy to pursue new endeavors. That is totally normal when splitting up with a long term partner. You might provide a catalyst that helps her self-start beyond that.
posted by SakuraK at 1:34 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your insistence on not wanting to meet the kids and on her not jumping from his financial support to yours are good things for the beginning of a relationship. You don't want to muddy the waters with that stuff until you know you're serious. But then the two of you jumped the gun and got involved while she was still married and now you've crossed that bridge or burned it or whatever and the waters are muddy. There's no reason to hold out on those issues now (which, as others have pointed out, are huge priorites for her) and it sounds like you're doing it just to hold onto some sort of sense of honor or dignity or control over how this whole thing unfolds. At this point you have to back off completely or jump in with both feet.

Here's the question I would be asking myself if I were in your shoes, though. Why did she hook up with you while she was still married? What was she hoping to get out of that relationship? And if you two get married, and you run into difficulties (which you will), how is she going to deal with that?
posted by zanni at 1:42 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

All thanks for you replies so far...good stuff. Kind of surprised no one has blasted me about the affair. Are people more laid back about that these days?

skmennie: Thank you for replying. But, some clarifications. You seemed to take a few things out of context and spin them far harsher than I meant. When you say "you probably have no interest in supporting her" and that conveys that I won't support her on other levels. Not true. I am there for her for everything, always. But, when it comes to finances, I want a partner who contributes financially, too. Unfortunately I work with many, many divorced people. There's a common theme with them all, make sure he/she works.

I feel like I kinda touched a nerve. I don't disrepect her, or make her feel bad about anything. I've been upfront about the type of partner I want throughout our relationship. She was on the same page as me in those discussions, a year ago. My story hasn't changed, hers has.

Now this week, she's saying "I'm not a motivated person". This is new. That's her saying that, not me. I'm much more of the "you can do it if put your mind to it", or "here's some things to help you get started" sort.

others: This line seems be causing some trouble:
"I've also told her that there's no way she's going to go from being taken care of by her husband straight into being taken care of by me"

What I meant by this is that I don't want her to think that she'll be abe to take her old life (which was easy and all-expenses paid) and expect for me to pick all that right up where the ex left off because they are two totally different relationships. The ex discouraged her from finishing school or working while the kids are young, part of the reason she's in the spot she's in. I don't do that, I encourage her to do things. It's just that most things she wants to do require degrees and/or experience and/or money. So, I help with resumes, applications, admissions, and all that. I'm her cheerleader. I want to help her establish her own separate identity from her last relationship. She has to do it whether I'm in the picture or not. I get that's it tough. I took 10 years off before starting college myself.

Not sure where this stuff about me disrepecting stay-at-home-moms comes from? But it's not coming from me. Yes, I don't want that type of relationship for me, but me saying that isn't casting judgement on those that do.

zanni: Yes, that sounds right. She was looking for a to new things. She wasn't happy in her marriage and that's why she started looking me up to begin with. Now, I'm sure she would marry me in a heartbeat. But I can't hardly stomach the thought because it feels so wrong. Even if I wanted to, I can't! She's married! Even if I wanted to, still haven't met the kids. Don't know what that will be like or how well that will go. But yes, to answer your question, that's something I've talked about with her...part of the mistrust thing. She did go to therapy last year for that and it helped her realize that the way she was ending relationships was not good and that it'd better to end it properly before starting a new one. The relationship with her (2nd) husband happened the same way, he was married to husband 1 still (no kids that time).

SakuraK: spot on. Yes, both of them are having with relationships. (Her with me, him with randoms). Not on the up and up, though. She's not gone public with me to him. She's afraid of him getting angry. He's unstable when he gets angry....cuts off money, threatening to do this or that, irrational, impulsive, completely uncooperative until he calms down. So she keeps the drama down, and so we aren't on the up-and-up, I can't meet the kids...haven't been to her house, etc. He would probably reconcile if he could, so he won't admit to having a relationship, but it's obvious. She says she'll divorce whether I'm around or not.
posted by runflats at 2:15 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the update runflats.

I hate to suggest a dichotomy here, however, have you straight asked her "would you prefer to work or be a stay-at-home mom and return to school?"

I ask because it seems that she is open to your job hunting assistance because she loves you, not necessarily because it's the life that she wants. She may say that she does, but her actions and general waffling in no way support those claims. Look beyond her words here.

These kind of issues don't just "go away". The chance that she get a job, loves it to death, and completely changes her life goals is relatively small. What is more likely is that she get a job, missing being with her children, still wants to go back to school, and unjustly resents you for "pushing" her into a lifestyle that she never really wanted.

If I were you, I would remove myself from this situation for a while. Be honest about it and tell her that you want to be with a woman who works, but respect her life choices. Explain that you want to wait and see if you will be comfortable with her "after divorce" self. She is about to go through a series of emotional and life changes regardless of your presence. She may find a career on her own that she loves, or she may find someone that is willing to care for her in the life style that she prefers. There is no way for anyone to predict what kind of life she will chose for herself. Right now, she probably doesn't even know.

This is not to say that you should "abandon" her. If she feels that you are a fair-weather boyfriend, then you will never have a honest chance with her ever again. So don't go No Contact on her, just stop pushing her to get a job, get divorced, or do anything else that you think she "should be doing", because from here it looks like all thoughs "should do"s are more like "I wants"s.

You can not control her or the outcome of this, so stop trying.
posted by Shouraku at 3:02 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

How old are the kids?

If they're school age, she has time to be working these things out and could easily be in school at the very least. In that case, I share your frustration entirely

If they're not school age, it makes things more complicated although for school she could get by with part-time daycare or preschool (in which many children thrive).

I'm a SAHM and I completely agree with you that she needs to be relatively self-sufficient. I don't see why she would drag her feet at this. It is absolutely necessary for her to be financially stable for her kids. Having a certain lifestyle is all well and good until the rug gets pulled out from under her and her ex is threatening to cut her off--putting her kids in jeopardy. If she genuinely wants to go from one situation of financial dependence to another, she is not thinking about the future security of her kids.

She's also putting you in the situation of getting involved in her divorce with her unstable husband, because if he finds out about you she's on the street. That's not fair to you or her kids.

If she were my friend I'd tell her to get her shit together and fast, and not for your sake. She is in a dangerous place right now and fussing around with you is not helping. Frankly, if I were her friend I'd tell her to stop focusing on you and put 100% towards her kids--meaning start looking at financial help available from the government, start applying to schools, start making sure her children have a secure future, no matter who she is sleeping with.

Anyway, if you want to be married to someone with a career, that is completely your right and it's good that you are realizing this before you involve children.

I draw a line around my last bit of integrity and tell her I won't meet the kids under any circumstance until she is divorced. I've stuck to it.

This is absolutely the right thing to do. If you're not committed, don't meet the kids. Good for you and I think you should stick to this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:09 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

I was your girlfriend, it's almost uncanny how similar our stories are. I had more career experience and had to re-enter the workforce. I was "motivated" because my ex found out about my affair and pulled the plug on the money.

You are missing a few key points:
She is separated, her ex is footing the bill, and they are presumably in alimony/child support negotiation. Even if both parties have emotionally moved on, your head will spin at how fast the ex will change the parameters because there is another man on the scene. It is the perfect excuse/reason to pay less.

You say you "see a future" with this woman but there's a big blindspot. You have never met her children. That is a long and complex process in and of itself. You have to learn to love them and care for them in some way. I honestly don't see how you can "love" her trulydeeply without knowing them and understanding what her relationship is with them, how devoted she is or isn't, etc.

By the way, my old flame and I broke up shortly after my divorce was finalized.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:13 AM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh, and I didn't realize it at the time but I was basically using old flame as an excuse to end my marriage, which was rife with problems when I "looked him up".
posted by thinkpiece at 4:16 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

[A couple of comments deleted. If you are actually angry at the OP and feeling heated, you may not be able to answer this objectively. Please either cool down and try to be helpful, or give this question a pass.]
posted by taz at 5:03 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The relationship with her (2nd) husband happened the same way, he was married to husband 1 still (no kids that time).

While on first reading this feels like a red flag to me (was her first husband supporting her completely as well?) one of my best friends went through something like this, meeting and dating her current husband within weeks of seperating from her then husband (she had a child). I felt that she should take a break and be by herself first before plunging into another relationship but they've been married two years now and she's about to give birth to his second child and as someone who has visited and stayed with her and each of her husbands, I can see that this relationship is good for her.

But her choice to be a SAHM has been negotiated together, so that its a joint decision by them both.

If you are not prepared to enter a long term partnership where financial burdens are not shared, then sit back from this emotional relationship of yours and think deeply about this. This isn't about her. Its about you and what you want/expect/aspire to - its neither a good thing or bad thing but knowing your own thoughts and beliefs on it is the thing.

I know I could not ever again have a relationship where the other party could not carry their own financial weight.
posted by infini at 5:27 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't want her to think that she'll be abe to take her old life (which was easy and all-expenses paid)

She also has 2 kids

I was only going to point out how your interpretation is at odds with the facts, but then while re-reading your question and follow-up something stood out at me: that's the only time you mention her kids. At all, apart from still not having met them. Not their ages or anything. It's a mature and responsible decision on both of your parts not to have met them, but on re-read it is a bit puzzling that you spend so much time on what you see as her lack of motivation, without mentioning anything about her kids. Does she talk about them with you? Do you ask questions about them? I ask because your question, "should I stay or should I go?" has a large and important part of its answer in how invested you are in helping to raise her children.

Qualifying it as "easy and all-expenses paid"... well, I babysat two kids, ages 6 and 2 when I first started, for two summers in a row. I was, in fact, paid for it, 16 years have now passed since I last babysat them and I still remember, vividly, how difficult it was. Enjoyable, goodness yes (but I knew ahead of time that I loved kids and enjoyed them, otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to the job). Easy? Oh hell no. I was a Red Cross certified babysitter and in two summers, just 6 months all told, I had to use my first aid training for everything from minor incidents to a car wreck (the kids were in the car with me; it was another driver's fault – he ran a red light).

Her job has been to raise two children, and you yourself say she's great at it. How do you feel about becoming a step-dad? Have you asked for her help and support in becoming your cheerleader for this new responsibility? Or is it mainly the money that matters to you? (Not meant judgementally, btw. Just that you need to be very clear about your priorities and have empathy for hers in order to best figure out whether you two are a good, long-term fit for each other and her children.)
posted by fraula at 5:42 AM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ok, wait. She's in her mid-30s and hasn't finished college, and has never worked outside the home. (Which, btw, raising kids is totally working, it's a full time job that people pay nannies good money to do.) And now, she's supposed to get accepted to a school that will guarantee her a job that will pay enough to a) pay for her education/training, b) pay for health insurance for her and her kids, c) pay so much more than the cost of childcare - assuming kids are small - that it's worth her continuing to do it, d) pay for all additional kid-related expenses, and e) pay enough to support herself and presumably her part in shared activities with you. That's nuts. Have you seen the economy? Have you seen all the questions on AskMe where people with experience and advanced degrees can't find jobs, let alone extremely well-paying jobs? She'd have to be way more than motivated to want to attempt such a life-changing, time-consuming, and likely impossible journey. Your values, expectations, whatever you want to call it, are simply not compatible. I'm sure you love her, but you need to be dating/marrying someone with a completely different background if this is what you want from a partner.

I'd normally say be very wary of the fact that she ended her first relationship the same way, with an affair. But in this case I don't even think that's the main point.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:57 AM on April 7, 2012 [29 favorites]

Your insistence on not wanting to meet the kids and on her not jumping from his financial support to yours are good things for the beginning of a relationship. You don't want to muddy the waters with that stuff until you know you're serious. But then the two of you jumped the gun and got involved while she was still married and now you've crossed that bridge or burned it or whatever and the waters are muddy.

Totally agree with zanni. This is probably why, in the olden days, people went on about how it was a bad idea to live together before marriage: they were thinking that you kind of get solidified in a temporary situation and may not make decisions based on things being permanent. You're probably accepted a lot of things that you wouldn't if you were meeting her as a totally single person today. The reverse is probably true for her on some levels.

And the thing is, you're still not meeting her as a single person. She still has to go through the divorce and come to whatever financial arrangement she's going to for the kids. At this point they are hostages to the way she's running her life. I am sure among other things that they are seeing less of her because she is seeing you. In my opinion she shouldn't be in a relationship with someone else until she gets these things squared away. Like some other people, I was kind of bugged with your post and update, I think because they read an awful lot like someone taking someone else's inventory, but with some reflection I think you are correctly perceiving that you are both in somewhat of a mess now. I would definitely consider taking a break from the relationship now, in either of your shoes.
posted by BibiRose at 6:00 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this, but the feeling I get from your story is that she is expecting *someone* to fill her husband's role in her life as the primary breadwinner so she can maintain her current lifestyle (including being a SAHM).

If you make a decent living, she probably expects that person to be you. If you are okay with that, then tell her so, and I imagine things will start to move more quickly with the divorce. If you are not okay with that, then I think this will drag out a lot longer, until she finds someone who will fill that role.
posted by 3491again at 6:06 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, I read your earlier post about your previous (?) girlfriend's mental health issues. It sounds like you keep dating women who are in bad situations and desperately need you to rescue them from something (divorce, suicide attempts). You might want to look into why, perhaps in therapy.
posted by 3491again at 6:08 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Full-time parenting is hard work. Describing the life of someone who has agreed with their spouse that they will focus on parenting and not do paid work as "easy and all expenses paid" strikes me as not understanding the importance of parenting.

Which is fine to some extent (except that I think it shows a pretty limited skill set for empathy) but it's probably a fundamental incompatibility between you and her. You clearly don't understand or respect her choice to parent full-time. My guess is that, even if she did return to the paid workforce, you still won't understand the level of time and energy she commits to parenting, and that's just going to make for resentment and pain for you, for her, and for the kids especially.

I don't see how this is going to end happily. Maybe moving on so that she'll be free to meet someone who honors her commitment to parenting and is ready to be an engaged stepparent, and so you'll be free to meet someone who shares your views on work/life balance?
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:28 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

She's in a poor position to find employment even if she wants to. Her desire to do so is definitely in question. You are firmly uninterested in being married to a stay-at-home mother. Those combined would be enough red flags, but this phrase sticks out to me.

even though it took a long, long time for me to trust her because of her willingness to cheat w/me.

You were complicit in this affair. It would be incredibly unfair of you to hold that over her. Between this and your disinterest in her outlook on employment, I suspect this relationship is not headed in a healthy direction. Think about things carefully. Would you be willing to marry her knowing fully well that she may not be employed for five years between education and job search and life intervening? Would you be able to say you respect her as an equal and hold no hard feelings? If not, it's time for you to move on. Rather, take a break. If you are desperately afraid of being single, that's often a sign that you desperately need a bit of time to be single so you can get better perspective on what's right for you.
posted by Saydur at 6:33 AM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was thinking exactly what DestinationUnknown spelled out so well - you're expecting your girlfriend to do the near-impossible. How strongly do you feel that you need to be in a relationship with a woman who works outside the home? Is that a dealbreaker for you? I think you need to decide which you'd prefer: (a) accepting and respecting your girlfriend as a SAHM whose financial income is alimony and child support, or (b) breaking up with her.
posted by whitelily at 6:43 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

This reads like you're conducting your discussions with her about this in ways that are hurtful and counterproductive. Maybe you're at the end of your rope with things, maybe she really is dragging her feet with this divorce thing. But reading what you've written, and the comments, I feel worse for her than I do for you.

Has she had a conversation with a lawyer yet? This would give her a more realistic picture of her financial situation and maybe establish a time line, and you could use the results of this to gauge her interest in going through with the divorce.

Here's another suggestion... Ask her to write up her side of the story and post it here.
posted by alphanerd at 7:57 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depending on the state, a lot of schools have programs specifically for newly-single parents (or "displaced homemakers" of any gender) that provide significant financial and logistical support, subsidized daycare, and other help so that they can retrain, go back to school, and eventually enter the workforce. The key word here is "single". If you marry her, or if she perpetually stays married to her ex, she will not be eligible for much of this support.

Becoming a step-parent and financial support out of guilt sounds like a quick road to resentment.

And as always, the book "Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay" is an excellent read which I recommend highly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:06 AM on April 7, 2012

Yes, of course she's saying now that she's not motivated, because you've essentially been telling her that she's not for a long time. She might not be motivated like you are, but you've never been asked to do what you're asking her to do. You did school and work, after what sounds like an extended period of working before you started school; that's not the same thing as school+work+kids after an even longer period of nothing but being home. You climbed a mountain, and good for you! But you're turning around and telling her that Everest can't really be all that hard and why can't she just do it when you're there to cheer her on?

Having a cheerleader is great, but especially in this economy, cheerleading is not going to get her to a career in the long run. She needs a partner, not a boyfriend. You've been together two years. Stop worrying about the legal mess. Two years in is not too soon to start making decisions about whether you're her boyfriend or her partner.

Part of this probably comes because same-sex relationships start during marriage with a lot of regularity and also tend to involve not "coming out" right away, but I don't think those things need to be a barrier even for straight people. Yes, they're socially awkward, but meh. If it's love, it's love. If she won't put forth the effort when provided with real material support in achieving her goals, she's definitely not for you, but you've got to make the call now about how involved you want to be. It's not inherently awful for you to want a self-supporting girlfriend right now instead of something more involved, but it's downright delusional to think that a currently-at-home mother of two with no degree is going to be able to be that girlfriend if she just gets motivated enough.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:56 AM on April 7, 2012

Echoing what others have said above, I think individual therapy for yourself would not be out of order, so that you can have some space to unpack your feelings about having participated in an extra-marital affair and about entering into a partnership involving children, legal battles, etc.
posted by mustard seeds at 9:45 AM on April 7, 2012

Also, to address those that feel I'm unsupportive. Not true. I help her with everything. I talk with her about her fears and apprehensions. I'm there for a shoulder to cry on. I'm there when the kids get overwhelming and she needs someone to talk to about them. We work through issues. She says she's going to do something about her situation. But nothing comes from it. The point I'm trying to make is that these discussions happen and then *nothing happens*, for days, weeks, months. I understand that it's hard for her, and that's she's got a tough road ahead. But I'm here to help. but I also understand that you actually have to "do it to get through it". Yes, after hearing her promise over and over that she'll do some of these things, I would like some follow-through.

I can tell you that her tendency is not to deal with things, to push them aside because they're uncomfortable. There's enough going on in her daily life to keep her busy and that helps her keep these major life changes on the backburner. She's admitted that.

I'm surprised to find such little sympathy for my side of this. Is it cool that she strings me along and buys a few more months because it's difficult for her? Or that she's been telling me she's going to do certain things and then doesn't? Why you guys think that it's okay that I should have to endure that?

You have to understand that I've watched literally a dozen friends and acquaintances get divorced during this relationship, including people we both know together. Most have had kids. It's disheartening to see one of those couples go from 'together', to filing, divorced, and moving on with their lives in a month or two or three, when I've been getting empty promises over and over. It's happened so many times, it's almost a running joke. And now I feel like my only option is to leave someone I care very much about because talking/waiting/pleading hasn't worked.

alphanerd: Yes, she finally did see a lawyer a few months ago, after a year of talking about it. She's had a lot of bad assumptions about how the process would work, which have been feeding her fears. I've been an advocate for researching/talking to lawyers/finding out for real and putting assumptions aside. Unfortunately, since then, very little has happened.

You guys raise some fair points. I do need to decide whether I can be with a SAHM. I can see now that's it's unlikely that she's going to take on the school/work plan. But I will tell you that it sucks and I feel strung along, because she has been giving me the impression that she's on-board with it this entire time, whether I was going to be in the picture or not.
posted by runflats at 9:57 AM on April 7, 2012

I'm surprised to find such little sympathy for my side of this.

Yeah, none. You got involved with a married, stay-at-home-mom despite your many misgivings. I'm not judging you (remember, I was she) but I have no sympathy for you. It takes years to undo a marriage with kids. Years.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

I do have sympathy for you--the "we're like roommates" thing and the "I'm going to get a divorce any day" are classic cheater lines, and it sucks that you're dealing with this. Happily, you've avoided lots of practical entanglements and kept her kids out of it, which is to your credit.

I hope everything works out for the best with you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:18 AM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised to find such little sympathy for my side of this. Is it cool that she strings me along and buys a few more months because it's difficult for her? Or that she's been telling me she's going to do certain things and then doesn't? Why you guys think that it's okay that I should have to endure that? don't have to. You got into a relationship of your own free will, which you can also use to get out of it. She didn't, like, trap you in a web of prettiness and charm from which you can never extricate yourself. Sure, it's not "cool" if she intentionally lies to you, but there's a lot of bad/unethical behavior in this whole story, on behalf of seemingly all involved. (Except the kids.) But that stuff has already happened. As of now, you can either decide it's all worth it, compromise, and stay in a relationship with someone who has a vastly different vision of the future than you do, or you can leave and be a successful, self-sufficient mid-30s guy who is free to make whatever choices he wants from here on out. I think that's why you're not getting too much sympathy.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:00 AM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Please listen to the tone of what you're saying. You are angry at her! You feel strung along, you feel that she tells you that she'll do things when she won't. And you feel especially hurt that the commenters in this thread aren't more sympathetic to that. That anger — justified or not — is not conducive to a healthy relationship.

You have to understand that I've watched literally a dozen friends and acquaintances get divorced during this relationship, including people we both know together. Most have had kids. It's disheartening to see one of those couples go from 'together', to filing, divorced, and moving on with their lives in a month or two or three, when I've been getting empty promises over and over.

This strikes me as interesting. Really? In the past few years, you've watched dozens of friends and acquaintances in long-term marriages with children get divorced and move on with their lives in three months or less? I don't want to doubt your perception because you know these couples and I don't, but I find it difficult to believe that there isn't more to the picture there that you're unaware of. And hey, maybe my own perception is jaded because I work in family court and see these (ex)couples at their worst. But I really find it hard to believe that these breakups were as quick and easy as you appear to think they were.

But assuming that your perception is spot-on and those breakups were that easy, I'm inclined to ask: in these relationships, were the mothers stay-at-home moms at the time of the breakup? With no college degree or work experience? With no source of financial support other than their husbands?

My experience working at family court tells me that, generally, divorce cases tend to get very messy, very quickly, when one party has been significantly or completely financially reliant on the other. It's even more complicated with the financially-reliant parent is the one who will presumably take care of the kids. Now, factor in that she has "moved on" and is in a serious relationship with you — and her husband hasn't moved on (and would presumably reconcile with her if she would be willing). Jealousyjealousyjealousy. Now, it's entirely possible (and even likely, based on your description of his personality) that he's going to drag his heels in the divorce proceedings and make this more difficult than it needs to be. It's not surprising to me that she's very apprehensive about filing and starting the proceedings.

Not sure where this stuff about me disrespecting stay-at-home-moms comes from? But it's not coming from me. Yes, I don't want that type of relationship for me, but me saying that isn't casting judgement on those that do.

You need to reconcile whether or not you can be with a stay-at-home mom. She is in her thirties, with no college degree and no work experience. I think you have very unrealistic expectations of how quickly she will be able to obtain a job — not to mention that the economy is a mess, and many many many people with college degrees from good schools and significant work experience can't get jobs.

Different couples have different expectations about the financial contributions of each person, and that's okay. It doesn't make you a bad person! But it may likely mean that you and this woman are not compatible.
posted by hypotheticole at 11:03 AM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

I do not think you are any way capable of knowing what it's like to have a life with this woman.

You may have an idea what it's like to have a relationship with her -- you do have one with her, to some extent, right now. But a life? A regular schedule? Involving waking up, making breakfast, getting off to work, coming home, hanging out, dinner, going to bed? Visits to friends and families? Financial planning for the future? All the nitty-gritty details as well as the largest of longterm goals of life? You don't know what that's like. And, given the circumstances, you can't.

Know why? Because she has kids. And you have never met them. You have never met them. From your post, they sound a bit like an abstraction -- it sounds like you understand the sort of difficulties associated with having kids, as well as the general sort of impact children have on a person's life, but you certainly don't seem to understand them as actual people who, if you got your way, would be your stepchildren.

You've never spent a day with these kids. What's it going to be like to spend a life with them? What's it going to be like when they pee the bed in the middle of the night, the day before you have a giant project due at work? What's it going to be like when their backpack rips and their mother is busy and you have to take them to get a new one? What's it going to be like when they don't do their chores, and you have to punish them for it? What's it going to be like when they stay out too late with their friends, and their mother is getting worried, and then they come home with just enough of a scent of alcohol to make you both freak out? (What age are they!? Did I miss someplace where you told us? Don't think this is some extraneous detail. The age of her children will make a huge difference on the day-to-day structure of your life.)

You don't get to be in a relationship with her. Instead, your option is to be in a relationship with her and her kids. You're not in a position to think about the role you play in her life -- and the role she plays in your life -- until you have a clear capacity to appreciate just what role her children will play in your life.

I say all this to caution you to rethink your current understanding of your relationship. You want this to speed up so much. It sounds like you'd be happiest if, tomorrow, she got a job, finalized the divorce, and moved in with you. But take several steps back. You can't start a life with her unless you also start a life with her children. Who you have never met. And that matters. That should deeply worry you. It should concern you, and it should leave you terribly cautious about planning for the future.
posted by meese at 11:29 AM on April 7, 2012 [15 favorites]

Well, I am a woman who is sympathetic to you. While I respect the decision of a stay-at-home mom, there's a difference between choosing to stay home to raise the kids and doing what it takes when your options run out. Women (strongly traditional women) have always taken on some very hard, back-breaking work (especially in immigrant communities) when the husband was out of the picture: ie, dead or otherwise gone.

I think conflating stay-at-home motherhood and absolute dependence on a male is not helpful. Choosing to depend on one's husband, is, I'm sorry, not heroic in any way, shape or form. It is merely easy, comfortable, and difficult to change.

I have some insight into this because I spent my 20s depending on my parents for support. It' is very hard to become independent when you know someone is available to support you and you do (as I did) genuinely need support. It's scary out there with few skills, no Bachelor's (in my case), plus no desire to just show up at a dish-washing place and offer my services. I actually thought I was above that. Why should I have to wash dishes? I'm a creative writer, ok. I'm not saying she thinks like that, but I'm saying it's not that different. There are ways to be a traditional mother and work your ass off independently-- and my family is full of women who do just that. Usually this means your parents, aunts, uncles, etc, all help. It does mean daycare if that's impossible, but this is what necessity is like. Necessity isn't something to spit at just because you choose to be a stay-at-home mom anymore than you should spit at it 'cause you're an artistic, creative writer.

So what should you do? You should realize she's not going to suddenly become independent. You either choose to support her or you choose to let her go, but if my mother couldn't make me get a job until I wanted to for my own sake, likewise you can't make her get a job until she realizes she needs to for her own sake. It can't be about you. It has to be about her kids and herself. Life is a hard thing; it will doubtlessly show her that there's no way but to toughen up and take it on the chin. It's only human to put that moment off for as long as possible. But that moment comes for all of us, eventually. As for you, I would not recommend that you wait, if only because once it comes, she's likely to be a different woman than the one who wants you now.
posted by reenka at 11:34 AM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

This question is like one of those ink blotches where you can see anything in it.

And what seems to have set this off now is a comment about not being a Motivated Person. At best that's a vague phrase that needs defined with its entire concordance of meanings, both for you and her.

More likely it is a red herring or proxy war. If you actually cared about her career motivations, you would have given a lot more background on that topic. You barely gave any.

And here we all are, spitballing at the question. We have no idea what she meant. This situation is complex. We hear your frustration, but really do not know what she meant, so there is no assurance, at all, that we are getting you closer to the truth.

Again, we have no idea what she meant. It could be nothing more than "back off and let me take this at my own pace." You sound so frustrated that I doubt you're able to fully understand what she's saying.

If you want to break up because you're frustrated, just do that. You CAN leave because you can't wait any longer. Don't throw good "money" (time) after bad.

But it feels like you're seizing on this as your escape ticket or excuse. Is this your way of getting to leave saying "she deceived me" and "she wasn't who I thought" instead of "I miscalculated my ability to wait and the likely duration of that delay?"

It feels like this one discussion has left you feeling like she may never leave, and also, that if she did, you wouldn't want to be with her anyway. It's a compound issue. Two issues in one word, motivated. It seems like 90% of your upset is about " LEAVE" and a much smaller portion is about " independently support herself and jumpstart a career."

And true, she may well never leave. That was a risk you took on. It's the #1 risk of dating someone still married. That doesn't mean you can't be upset your risk didn't pay off. But that upset will heal better if you face it rather than cloaking it and if you take responsibility for your part in it.

It also sounds like you got a picture of how weighty and overwhelming this transition and the future are for her, in the way that she is "unmotivated" (or "realistic about her ability to") take it all on herself. That may have been an opportunity to step up and say "we can manage this together." Instead you said, "don't count on my help."

What would be tragic in my opinion is if you said that largely out of frustration about the other "motivation" elephant, rather than giving her an accurate picture of what the possibilities are, and possibly leading to her being more definitive in what SHE's unwilling to do, or some other classic communication standoff.

In my opinion, if you want to do this right, you guys ought to sit down with a counselor for even just three or four sessions. It could make all the difference. It could ensure you're both understanding one another and making the best decision.

You do need empathy for what you're feeling, as you were wanting from us. But it's hard for me to give that when part of what you're wanting is to put the blame on her. Don't dump all the responsibility and blame on her as you walk out the door. Don't paint her as someone she may not be just to make this easier for you.
posted by salvia at 12:23 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, I'm working through Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay (referenced above by the young rope-rider, and possibly others) right now as a means of calibrating my intuition about relationships. You should really get a copy of the book.

There's a list of the 36 questions here, and this situation seems to be a case of #15:

"Is there something your partner does that makes your relationship too bad to stay in and that s/he acknowledges but that, for all intents and purposes, s/he’s unwilling to do anything about?"

There's more than one candidate for what this thing could be that's a dealbreaker for you. (1) The fact that she's still married, and (2) the fact that she's not likely to get a job after her divorce, and maybe (3) her motivation in general.

If she's REALLY only spoken to a lawyer recently, then that to me makes it look like she's dragging her feet on the divorce thing. But does that really need to be a dealbreaker for you? She's separated, and it's socially acceptable for you to be seeing her given the circumstances.

I've told her that there is no way I would have gotten involved if I thought we be where we are at in 2 years.

This seems harsh. You describe your initial involvement with her as being casual, and even say you had no intentions. Part of what got you here is the fact that you actually developed feelings for each other. It seems really unfair of you to talk about what you would have done had you been made aware of information you had absolutely no interest in at the time.

And yet... I understand completely why you'd feel strung along here, with her saying that she'd do x, y, and z and not following through. Is it an option for you to continue with her knowing that she may not get divorced until you're ready to be her next husband? Or is the fact that she's still officially married something that is non-negotiable, and keeping you from WANTING to be her next husband?
posted by alphanerd at 12:24 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Next step: meet the kids.

Your perspective on everything will change and you will have much more of the information that you are missing right now.

You need to meet the kids.

They are such a part of her, that you can't really know her without seeing her with them.

Meet the kids.
posted by Vaike at 12:26 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not that I don't have sympathy for you, it's that you seem not to get that this is what having a secret relationship with someone who is still married to someone else--someone with whom she agreed to focus on full-time parenting rather than pursue paid work--is like, and is going to continue to be like until either she or her husband move definitively toward divorce.

And she doesn't have any incentive to move definitively toward divorce. She has what she wants in terms of the financial support from the kids' dad to continue being a full-time parent. She has a boyfriend that she can have fun with.

You're not getting what you want from this relationship right now, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

In some ways, your misconceptions about what full-time parenting is like are irrelevant to what's actually wrong with this situation. In other ways, they're quite relevant, because they're part of why you seem not to be understanding that what you and this lady are doing is having an affair, not a relationship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:08 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

And the reason that people think you are showing disrespect for full-time parents is that you described her life as "easy and all expenses paid.". "Easy" is pretty clueless; "all expenses paid" overlooks that this was a joint decision between her and her kids' dad to make her doing full-time parenting a priority over her finding paid work.

That's a different question from you not wanting to be in a marriage where one spouse is a full-time parent.

Also, do you want to be these kids' stepfather? It doesn't sound like you're very into the idea.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:13 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

I for one do not understand the level of abuse the OP is getting for simply not wanting to be in a financially unequal relationship.

I have a partner, but I was a single parent for six years. I busted my ass from the very first moment things started to go south. Because as someone said above, it's what you have to do for your kids.

Being a stay at home mom is not a full time job. I know. I've done both. It is not. It's a job. It is work. But it is an incredible luxury that no one should be dismissive of. To have the luxury to be a stay at home mom, with children that presumably are out of diapers due to the length of your relationship, is not so exhausting that she can't possibly get moving to find a job.

Yes, the economy is shitty. Yes, school is shitty. This is all true. But here's the thing.

Alimony doesn't last forever, and when it's gone, it's gone.

If she doesn't get up right now and start looking to become independent, she will be dependent on one provider or another for the rest of her life. If she can find them. If they don't treat the kids badly. Providers able to finance stay at home parenthood do not grow on trees.

I knew someone who didn't start looking for a job until her alimony ran out. It went very, very, very badly for her.

If you care about this woman, you should absolutely keep encouraging her to get on her feet-for both of your sakes.
posted by corb at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Couple of points to think about-

- Integrity- You seem to be really proud of yours. Agreed that its a great quality that is hard to find but I think one's definition of integrity and morals has to be a bit more flexible and a little less black or white. Your anguish seems to stem a lot from the decisions that you perceive as wrong (not getting into what is and isn't, that's not the point) but you have to look at the entire picture for it to make sense. You haven't met the kids because of understandable reasons but you haven't met the kids and you want this woman to change her life for you? You say yourself that it took you ten years to take off without kids and this woman should achieve that by..when? And once she does start walking down that road, how much is good enough for you? Does she have to keep doing this for the rest of her life because she has to prove her "motivation" constantly? I am not questioning you or your intentions. I am just saying that these are some things to perhaps think about.

- What I meant by this is that I don't want her to think that she'll be abe to take her old life (which was easy and all-expenses paid) and expect for me to pick all that right up where the ex left off because they are two totally different relationships. The ex discouraged her from finishing school or working while the kids are young, part of the reason she's in the spot she's in. I don't do that, I encourage her to do things. It's just that most things she wants to do require degrees and/or experience and/or money. So, I help with resumes, applications, admissions, and all that. I'm her cheerleader. I want to help her establish her own separate identity from her last relationship. She has to do it whether I'm in the picture or not. I get that's it tough.

These are two different relationships but she is the common ground. You can't expect her to jump off a cliff with her kids (or learn to fly) without providing real support (more than a shoulder to cry on). I think if you are not in the picture, life would be better for her. The husband is supporting her and the kids- and that's really going to be the main priority. It seems that if you want this to work, you will have to take off from where the husband left, and some more. This is not about him discouraging her and you encouraging her. Its more basic survival mode right now. As a third party looking at it, you look like the elder sibling or adult trying to show her what needs to be done and how. You are thinking from one perspective- yours. You haven't really put yourself in her shoes and listed all the reasons why this one man is worth soooooo much trouble and work, even though he is "supportive" and encouraging. Support comes in different forms. Are you sure she needs the kind you are providing her?

- It doesn't sit well with me that a year ago she was on the same page as you and now you two aren't over working or such issues. I have seen a few women who were the strong, independent kind till this one guy comes along and then that woman mysteriously disappears and here comes the twin who is super-dependent, will wait on the husband night and day and what not. People who really know themselves know what they want and what they don't want- they don't change overnight like that. They may fool themselves and hence others around them but that's for others to pick up on.

All that said, I don't think you have much room to negotiate or put things off longer without either accepting her the way she is, as she is 100%. I think you know she is who she is (and nothing wrong with that!) and you just really have to make up your mind.
posted by xm at 6:25 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also dread being single again and having to spend all of my free time weeding through a lot of Ms. Wrongs to find someone I could envision a future with.

Honestly, with all of the drama and issues in this thread, I think it sounds like this woman IS a Ms. Wrong. Or at least a Ms. Wrong For You.

I wouldn't be comfortable supporting a SAHS myself, but you're not really realizing how incredibly damn hard it is going to be for her to get job credentials/schooling and a job after having been a stay at home mom. She HAS TO have someone else providing for her and supporting her financially now and for the foreseeable future. It's either the husband or you or the homeless shelter, but she can't take care of herself and her kids right now (this is why a lot of stay-at-home spouses have issues with divorce--they're pretty screwed for their ability to self-support after years of not doing so) no matter how much you gripe about it. She needs to hide you and placate the (sounds like he's kind of bad) husband to make sure she and the kids continue to eat and have a home. Especially in case you don't work out.

By all means, help her go back to school and find a job, but you are going to have to be her sugar daddy if you want to marry her. For several years, at least. That's the price you pay to have this family. Do you want her so badly that you're willing to pay that?

And yeah, you shouldn't be "planning a future" without knowing the kids in person and factoring them into this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:01 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I used to be a stay at home mom to 3 kids and it became clear to me that I wanted out of my marriage.

So what I did then was go to grad school, got a job, and arranged childcare (and I did it without the financial support of my husband/and then ex).

It was exhausting but it allowed me the freedom to live my life the way I wanted without anyone bankrolling me and my kids.

And this seems to be your missing piece: she talks a great game but she's not getting off her ass to be able to support herself and her kids. Most (if not all) single moms make that their #1 priority.

I can't see this pattern changing and I think it's fine if you decide you don't want to be in this relationship any more.
posted by kinetic at 4:42 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

This can be formulated simply:

I can see myself with her in the future.

This is what's killing you. There is a relationship that you actually have. That relationship exists. This relationship, the one you actually have, is pretty clearly described and pretty consistent. It's not as if you don't know what to expect in this relationship - you've been doing it for 2 years.

Then there's this other relationship, the one you can see yourself in, in the future. That doesn't exist. It's a construct of your mind. You're confusing aspects of this non-existent relationship, which you want, with the relationship you actually have.

Quit doing that. Everything will become crystal clear immediately.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 12:03 PM on April 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

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