Ask Margot-Should his ex’s kids tag along?

Her boyfriend wants to bring his ex’s children to church with them on Sunday, but she feels it’s inappropriate.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
My new boyfriend and I have been dating for almost three months now. He is a great guy. He is good to me, good to my son, and he has good family morals… but, he dated a girl for about three months before me and she had two daughters. Throughout their short relationship, he became a little close to her daughters and they always attended church together. Now they are calling him and wanting to spend time with him and go to church with the three of us (himself, my son and me), and it makes me feel
That is the past, and he needs to move on and concentrate on us.
uncomfortable. I feel that, although it is nice that he still cares for them and is concerned about them, that is the past, and he needs to move on and concentrate on us. He says it’s okay to bring the girls to church with us because their mother doesn’t attend and they need the spiritual guidance. Am I wrong for feeling this way or is there more to it that I don’t see yet? Please help me to know whether I am being selfish, or if I am in the right here.
—Lovelorn Leslie

Dear LL,
Are you being selfish? Absolutely. Are you wrong for feeling this way? Absolutely not. That’s the hard part in situations like this: They bring up strong feelings inside of us, feelings that are perfectly justified, but that make us feel uncomfortable all the same. And the worst part is there’s no right answer other than what’s right for you and your family. How’s that for an unhelpful answer? But don’t give up on me just yet!

First of all, let’s try to figure out what really sticks in your craw about this. Do you hate the girls? Are you afraid your guy will go back to their mother? Is this a personal boundary issue? Are you only comfortable going to church with your immediate family? There are lots of reasons not to like this situation and it may help you to understand what exactly is pushing your buttons.

Once you’ve thought long and hard about the origins of your feelings, you can begin trying to figure out what to do. Obviously, you want this situation to change. You want to attend services without the ex’s progeny.

While it’s natural to feel that we have to justify ourselves every time we want to change something in a relationship, the truth is, we don’t. It’s perfectly OK to want something just because you want it. And it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for it solely on that basis. So if you want him to leave
Now comes the tough part: Just sit back and wait.
the girls out of your church services on Sunday, just tell him that’s how you feel.

Now, I’m not suggesting you just walk in and throw down an ultimatum. Even if your request is reasonable, that approach puts everyone on the defensive and makes it almost impossible for him not to react with a knee-jerk “no way.”

To make the discussion less tense, keep a few things in mind. First of all, as you pointed out in your letter, his intentions seem honorable. Make sure you acknowledge that. Next, make it all about you. It’s not about him or these two girls or even the woman he used to date. It’s about you and your need to experience church with him and your son. Or your need to feel secure in the relationship. Or your need for [fill in the blank here]. If it’s all about you, he can’t disagree with it. These are your feelings and this is your request to him, plain and simple. Finally, focus on the positive feelings you have about being together. Once again, if you make it about you and your feelings, he can’t disagree with anything.

Now comes the tough part: Just sit back and wait. Don’t justify yourself or tell him that you know how he must feel or that you’re sorry to be asking for something. Just sit back and see what he has to say. If he’s really listening to you, my hunch is he’ll be able to let the little girls go and spend those Sunday services with you just the way you want.

And if he’s utterly unwilling to hear your case and consider changing his behavior, well, that may be a good thing. Any man who’d listen to you pour out your feelings and then essentially say those feelings don’t matter (and he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing) is no man for you. I know, because I’ve made the mistake of dating someone who did this very thing. A few months later, I dumped him because I finally wised up to how little regard he had for my feelings and needs.

So have this important conversation with your man — it’s the only way to start getting what you need.

Margot Carmichael Lester, a freelance writer based in North Carolina, has been a columnist for since 2003. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Go magazine and other national publications.
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