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Ask Margot-His son has come between us


She’s dating a man whose grown son has all kinds of legal woes…can their relationship be salvaged?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
My boyfriend and I have four children between us but they are from our prior marriages. We kept putting off a future together because our kids don’t get along and we wanted to wait till they were a little older and out on their own. Now most of mine have moved out but his son has a life full of problems. I
I could never ask him to choose between us.
love this man and his son but really see no future for us now. I know he loves me too, and I could never ask him to choose between us. I’m ready to get married and go on with my life but don’t feel any sympathy for his kid. The kid’s got legal problems that his dad is trying to cover up and when I confront him about it, he says, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” How can I respond when he is quoting the Good Book like that?

We met in church and I can’t talk to our friends about this issue because it would be gossip and make me look bad. I also have a small child at home who is crazy about my boyfriend. It would be devastating to him to lose another father figure, but he doesn’t need to be around this man’s irresponsible son. What do I do in this situation?
– Concerned in Costa Mesa

Dear Concerned,
I want to be compassionate here, I really do, but I find myself coming to two snap judgments about your situation:
  1. You don’t really want to be with this guy, or you’d join him in his work with his son, not ditch him because of it.
  2. You’re very concerned about what other people think. And maybe that’s what’s driving your distaste for your man’s son and your willingness to chuck everything.
That’s how I see it, anyway. And here’s what I’d tell you if you were sitting right here in my parlor this very second: If it’s the first scenario, you’re not being honest with yourself about what you want in a relationship or in this guy. And that’s never good. While his son may be a factor in your decision, he isn’t the only factor. I suggest you take a few minutes to find the real reason you don’t want to be with him (timing, attraction, interests, whatever). Once you’re honest with yourself, you can be honest with him about your authentic reasons for calling it off—instead of blaming it on his son. You’ll come off as a forthright and caring person. And you’ll avoid making him feel worse about his son than he already does. Try to show a little compassion for his struggle—even if you don’t want to be a part of it.

Now, there’s definitely some truth to my second observation—it’s all over your letter. You say you can’t talk to your fellow congregants because it
Your man needs to be with someone who doesn’t resent his child.
would make you look bad. Notice that your concern has nothing to do with your boyfriend. It’s clearly your movie, and you’re not only starring, you’re directing and producing. He and his son are simply handy plot devices.

Listen, I understand. Nobody likes to look bad. But you can’t control what other people think or say about you any more than you can control the tides. That’s why worrying about appearances is so damning. You can’t win for losing.

Here’s why:
  1. You’re already associated with this man and his son, and your friends probably already know there are some challenges with the son. Truth is, they might be thinking things about you right now. Maybe they’re thinking you’re a saint for helping the guy and his progeny out.
  2. In being so focused on yourself and your public image, you’ve got me (and probably a few of my readers) thinking you’re self-centered and uncompassionate.
So you end up losing no matter what. What can you do? Probably the best thing is to follow your initial inclination to break up with him. But for the right reasons. Your man needs to be with someone who doesn’t resent his child and who can partner with him to develop an effective and constructive relationship with his son. You’re not that person.

Then you can spend some time looking at your motivation for being so concerned with public opinion. Are you running for office (or even vestry)? Have you been wrongly accused in the past? The most important question to ask is: What am I really afraid of?

Getting over your self-centeredness is the key to finding your true self—and someone who will love that person.


Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to AskMargot@match.com.
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