[Two Pronged] I love him but the situation is 'messy'
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
I’m a 28-year nurse, “Maria,” in a relatively new relationship with a 28-year office worker, “Juan." We have been going out for a little less than a year. To say that it has been messy would be an understatement.
He just got out of a long-term relationship with Jen, whom he has a daughter with. The daughter “Sarah,” is staying with Jen at the moment. Things ended messily between them. Juan just found out that Jen has not been taking care of Sarah properly. She takes out her anger at our relationship at Sarah, prompting him to stay over at Jen’s place a lot.
I’m very uncomfortable with this situation and told Juan, because he once tried to fix things with Jen behind my back, allegedly for the sake of their daughter.
I suggested we take Sarah to live with us although our schedules would make it very challenging but Jen doesn’t want to give the daughter up. I assume because she wants a bargaining chip against Juan.
I want to file a case against her for child abuse but she and Juan got into a physical fight before so that might be a case against us. I’m lost and confused about what to do.
I love this guy and want him to be in my life and me in his but this is all so messy. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Thank you for your email.
A relationship with a man like Juan who has a child (Sarah) by a previous partner with whom he is fighting is unlikely to go smoothly. In addition to the dynamics between him, his ex and Sarah, you have to contend with the fact that you yourself will only ever have leverage with Juan, not his ex, and Juan will probably always have his daughter in his life, and until she becomes an adult, will have regular dealings with his ex.
None of this is a problem if the ex is a reasonable person but from your description that does not seem to be the case. There is therefore the likelihood of endless crises, many of which may be specifically to enable Jen to connect with Juan thus upsetting his relationship with you.
None of this necessarily means that you and Juan cannot make a success of your relationship but it is always sensible to be aware of the potential pitfalls and that messiness may well characterize your dealings with Sarah for years to come.
All the best,
Relationships that include children from previous relationships can be messy, especially if the partner in the new relationship does not have custody of the child, as it is in your case. The relationship becomes way more difficult when said partner thinks it is ok for him to stab you in the back (even if his plan didn’t work, he still tried, didn’t he?).
In other words, while relationships that include children from exes can be messy, the fact that yours is particularly so is not because of Sarah, not even because of Jen, but because Juan is unclear about what he really wants. Jen picks up on that, realizes her machinations have worked and is thus encouraged to try even harder.
The pain and loneliness you are going through is understandable, but has less to do with the situation (or even Jen). It has to do with Juan (and his integrity or lack of) and you (and your belief that this guy is worth it come what may).
I imagine Juan has tried to convince you that trying to fix things with Jen the time you found out 1. was the only time he ever tried this; and 2. Is something he will never try ever again. Thing is, one can never be sure, can one? And it is this, in my opinion, which is causing you such angst.
If he valued your relationship as much as you, whatever awfulness Jen sent his way would be bearable because you would both know you had each other’s back. Juan knows you’ve got his back. Only a woman totally in love with her man like you are would be willing to have his child live with you, despite all the challenges this would bring.
But you are not sure exactly where you stand vis a vis your relationship with him and his relationship with Sarah. You are unsure because Juan has not behaved in a manner that reassures you. Loving both you and Sarah is not only possible, but desirable. Loving your girlfriend and loving your child is not a contest about who you love more even if Jen is trying her best to make it so, and poor Juan is foolish enough to believe and thus try to mollify her.
If you care about yourself despite truly loving this guy, please remember that he, too, should love you as much. You should be number 1 in his life, the way he is in yours. No 1 not only for as long as Sarah is ok, but number one for always.
There are times when Sarah won’t be especially now that all decisions about her are primarily in Jen’s hands, but you both can work on this together.
People will keep doing what you allow so don’t allow Juan to mess you about. If you do, this is what will continue for the rest of your lives. You do not have to give an ultimatum or a veiled threat. Stay for as long as the level of messiness is acceptable.
When it becomes unacceptable, there is no need to threaten, cry, or use emotional blackmail, but just leave. Knowing you can leave when you feel you must is one of the best Christmas presents you can give yourself.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.
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