[Two Pronged] Should I give my child's dad another chance?
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,
Seven years ago, I met a single dad and we hit it off quite quickly. Too quick perhaps, that a year after we met, I had a child with him. It was a complicated, roller-coaster relationship which we ended after our child turned one. However, his constant visits to our child continued, and we found ourselves spending more and more time together. Eventually, we decided to give our relationship another shot.
There were complications from both our sides. My family never liked him, does not treat him well, looks down on him because I earn more than he does. His being a single dad also adds to the complication. We tried planning for the future but ended up fighting. It brought out the worst from each of us because of insecurity, pressure and unmet expectations. Realizing that our expectations from each other did not have common ground, we broke up again.
It has been over two years since we fell apart. He still constantly visits our child who is now 6. They regularly spend time together, he provides meager financial support and even recently, was able to introduce our child to his older one.
I have since moved on and focused on my career, got a promotion. I even secured a place of our own, where my child and I will be moving to in two years.
He, on the other hand, had successful deals and is doing quite well. We have not spoken to each other since we last broke up. We avoided each other like the plague but a recent school event had us talking again.
Currently both single and not seeing other people, we crept towards the question “would it be worth it to give ourselves another chance at building our family?”
I am torn. The last break up took a toll on me and I am apprehensive to try again. But whenever I see our child too happy to see us together, it really melts my heart.
What do I do?
From what you tell us, you have sound reasons for having broken up with your child’s father (let’s call him Jon). Complicated, rollercoaster, insecurities, pressure, unmet expectations, no common ground – none of this constitutes an ideal match and avoiding each other like the plague sounds an excellent strategy.
Yet here you are, contemplating not the first but the second attempt to get together again. And what reason do you give for this? Your child is happy to see you together.
Obviously Jon has a powerful influence over you, for reasons that you do not choose to mention. Perhaps he is a wonderful lover, or a great cook, or a miracle mechanic – who knows, because you are not telling. But the real question is whether all the negatives that caused your previous breakups have been eliminated, or at least dealt with in such a way that they will not resurface and destroy you as a couple for a third time.
Bear in mind too that a couple that is imploding but trying to play happy families for the sake of the children do them few favors. An old Quaker adage says “Attitudes are caught, not taught." Children are not deaf and blind to what goes on around them and parental behavior i.e. the behavior of their primary role models, will be significant in their formation.
With this in mind, think carefully before embarking on a journey which has twice led to disaster. Remember Albert Einstein’s saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results."
If, however, there have been sufficient positive changes to justify a third attempt, go for it.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. First two caveats and then (hopefully) an objective but – ahem – more optimistic opinion on the possibility of your getting back together with Jon.
The caveats are:
Relationships rekindled only for “the good of the children” do not end up happily. They may last— if you are willing to be a martyr now, you may well be willing to be a martyr for the next 10, 20, 25 years! — but they will neither be meaningful or contribute to anyone’s well being.
Your have secured a place, and in all likelihood, some other assets. Please ensure they remain in your name so that, should things not turn out well, you will not have the added burden of trying to avoid unnecessary losses.
And now for the more optimistic part, but this will work only if you and Jon are doing this for yourselves and not for your child alone, otherwise your relationship with him will not work: You mention insecurity, pressure and unmet expectations as the major reasons you broke up.
A lot can happen in seven years: insecurity may have moved towards security, pressure may have gone down, and your expectations may have changed so that they are more aligned. More significantly, what you consider of primary importance may have shifted, so that earning a living you now take for granted and consider love a top priority.
To quote Erica Jong, in Fear of Flying (1973): “Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.”
So, if giving it a go with Jon feels right, go ahead and be subversive. Please, Diane.
As Ms Jong continues: “And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more”.
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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