Dear Wanda and Wayne:
I met an amazing woman online three months ago and we really hit it off. Our chemistry is incredible -- we've talked and laughed like old friends from the start and our physical connection has been exciting and easy. In a normal situation, everything would be perfect for a long-term relationship. But this isn't normal. She has a 5-year-old kid and she still hasn't introduced me to her. And her baby daddy is kinda crazy, so there's that. She's already canceled three dates over the last month because of baby-sitting issues, baby daddy skipping his duties, something kid-related or just her being upset about everything. And she can't go out on weekends, which is the most frustrating for me because that's when I'm free and the perfect time to relax, have a date on the town, spend the night, or even get out of town for a night or two. She's frustrated, too, and we've talked about our shared frustrations. But she refuses to let me meet her kid -- I respect that, the time will come and I'm fine with that. But she also refuses to come up with any kind of solution that allows us all to be happy, spend more time together and potentially grow. I am patient, but this is really testing me and kinda bringing me down. Am I just going to be a two-or-three-day-a-week boyfriend? Or is this relationship doomed entirely?
Are You Kidding
Wayne says: This is your life, my friend, and I don't see it changing anytime soon. Mother Bear is going to place the well-being of her li'l cub first and foremost in all situations. Especially if she's already mated with a rabid bear who keeps sniffing around and disappearing. I'm glad you understand all of that.
Sounds like you've made some headway and that you're the endurance type, but this is the kind of relationship that is going to move at a glacial pace. To survive, you'll need monk-like fortitude and gymnast-like flexibility. Unless you're willing to slow your expectations, your frustration (and hers) is just going to deepen. You'll both end up getting more salty or more sour. Then it's going to end.
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself if you can handle a complicated relationship that moves in first gear and if you're ready to have her child in your life. If you answer no to either, it's time to hug it out and move on. If you answer yes to both, then you need to ask her when she's going to be ready to bring her child into your life and start working toward that point. That won't exactly get you those romantic weekends away or weekend date nights on the town that normal couples get, but it will get you more time together and opportunities to grow and trust.
Wanda says: Dating people with children is not easy. But since when was dating easy anyway? If you have a genuine spark with your lady friend, give this coupling a try. Wayne's right: things may not move as fast as you'd hope them to. Want more bad news? You will never be her first priority. The child's father will always be in the picture. It will be very unfair for you to expect her to be spontaneous or available at a moment's notice. Your most convenient windows for interaction -- i.e., weekends -- may prove her worst.
The good news? People who put an earnest effort toward raising children are capable of something else too: commitment! And while the big scary C-word crushes some would-be couplings right out of the gate, you've found a woman who has shown that she's devoted to the biggest, most unbreakable commitment around: parenthood. This is good news if you are in the market for a long-term love and, eventually, marriage. You've found someone who understands what it means to take life's big steps.
But dating for a single parent is very difficult, with enriched vulnerabilities and tons riding on every move. Not only is her heart on the table, but she's facing the possibility of allowing her child to bond with and attach to a new adult figure who may just up and walk away at any moment. No wonder she's delaying that big-deal introduction. So think hard about what you're ready for. Dating a mother is on a whole different level than some unattached free spirit with no serious responsibilities. You owe it to her to be honest about your needs and limits. Can you see yourself as a stepdad? Can you exchange romantic, spontaneous dates and nights on the town for family outings and a more low-key, suburban pace? If you can truly commit and be all in, then express this to her, assure her, and have a talk about when you can meet her daughter and take this partnership to the next level.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.