DEAR NATALIE: I just started dating someone with a five-year-old kid. He and his ex-wife split up three years ago and are great friends. I think she’s amazing, too. I’ve never dated someone with a kid, though, and it’s a really harsh adjustment. He spends more time with his daughter, because of her mom’s schedule, which means I’ve been spending a lot of time with her, too. She walked in on us in the bedroom more than once (the door’s lock doesn’t always stick) and she just takes up a lot of space. She’s an amazing kid – but she’s got a big personality – and some behavioral issues. Would it be inappropriate for me to ask his ex to take her for an additional night occasionally so we can have some alone time? How will I know when it’s too much for me, even if things are going well between him and I? – THIRD WHEELING IT
DEAR THIRD WHEELING IT: As someone who dated (and eventually married) someone with a child from a previous marriage, I have to tell you this: You are going to be in the backseat a lot of the time. Buckle up. Dating someone with a child means understanding that this little person relies on him for mostly everything. They need to feel secure and safe, especially after the divorce. It can be very hard to know your place in the dynamic, but talking to his ex-wife about taking her child more so you can have alone time is not the look I would go for. It’s great to be friendly with her, but if you have any issues, you need to address them with him. Dating is messy as it is, and it’s also OK if you aren’t ready for the responsibilities and sacrifices that come from being with someone who has a child. Know yourself first and what your needs are. If they aren’t being met and you don’t feel as though you are ready for this kind of relationship, you may be better off letting him go. It’s not fair to take time away from his daughter who is going to be a big part of his life forever. You have to build a strong foundation with not only him, but with her, too. It’s okay to be in different places in your life. This just may not be the time for you to be with someone with a child. If that’s the case – let him know sooner than later.
DEAR NATALIE: How do you deal with differing beliefs at the dinner table? A mutual friend, Katie, who introduced me to my current partner, is someone we hang out with a lot. My partner works in lighting for a theater company and is extremely involved with his union chapter. Katie has been dating a new guy, Harry, for the past few months. Recently, most of Harry’s co-workers (from a different industry) have gone on strike because they want better benefits. He’s not striking with them and thinks that they’re approaching it wrong. He thinks that by calling attention to the company’s wrongdoings that they’re less likely to get what they’re bargaining for. My partner and I believe Harry is handling this wrong by crossing the picket line, but we don’t ever say that. However, every time we’ve hung out with them, Harry brings up union issues seemingly to get a rise out of my partner. Katie has apologized on his behalf. She says that she’s talked to him about it but that he ignores her. Would we be crazy to tell her we think this is a red flag? We know she wants to have a kid with a partner sooner than later and it seems like someone who doesn’t believe that his co-workers deserve better health care would make a great partner in the long run. Are we crazy? – DINNER TABLE DRAMA
DEAR DINNER TABLE DRAMA: As someone who worked in a union newsroom for many years, I can attest to the importance and necessity of unions. I often interview people for my KDKA weekly radio show who are currently on strike or working on forming a union so that they can have better pay, working conditions and benefits. I’ve also seen the lengths that corporations will go to in order to union bust, often spending much more to fight a union’s demands than to just negotiate a fair contract. Having a pro-labor stance informs many of my other philosophies in life, so I understand why you think it would color his decisions as a partner. I don’t like that he wants to get a rise out of you or shows disrespect to Katie or her friends — those are the real red flags for me. He’s clearly not at peace with the choices he’s made or he wouldn’t feel so insecure and need to bait your partner. If he was secure in himself, he wouldn’t ignore Katie’s requests and could live and let live. The fact that he doesn’t have basic respect for the others in this situation is probably what bleeds over into his professional space, too. If Katie wants a partner who will be supportive and respectful of people in her life with differing views and opinions, then she needs someone who isn’t so egotistical. But that’s for her to find out. In the interim, just avoid double dates whenever you can and spend time with her on your own so that you don’t have to be around someone who doesn’t believe in the power of the collective. I feel sorry for him. A life without community is a lonely place indeed.
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