Monday, June 20, 2005

Thoughts on when to cut ties and when to keep ties.

No, not the ties you wear. :-)

There is a radio show up here in Michigan that has a catchy name I've already forgotten, but it basically has people call in who had a first date go well, then the second date fell apart for some reason and they have no idea why.

So this guy calls in. Dustin. He had a date with Tracy. He asked her on a second date, and she apparently accepted, and then stood him up. Didn't call, didn't cancel, didn't follow up, just disappeared. Now I think we can all agree that it's not the nicest thing she could have done. That in itself is not the issue.

The issue is why she claims she decided not to see this guy again. The radio station called her up with Dustin on hold and asked her if she would be willing to discuss this situation on the radio, blah blah blah. She says she will. They bring her and Dustin on the line together, live on the radio, and she tells him that she thinks he is not over his ex girlfriend yet, and might want to consider patching things up with her.

Dustin apparently did talk about his ex girlfriend, but not excessively. He did, however, talk about her SON excessively. This son of the ex girlfriend is not Dustin's child. She already had this child when Dustin came into her life. She and Dustin dated for just over two years, and broke up. They keep in touch, but more interestingly, Dustin and her son are still buddies. They have scheduled play dates. From the sound of it, Dustin has basically some form of regular visitation with this child who isn't his.

This is a dilemma. Don't jump too quickly to one side. This is actually a pretty tough situation once I really thought about it for a second. Overall, the situation is good for this little boy, who is of the most importance here. He obviously doesn't have a father, and Dustin has opened his heart wide enough to fill that void, and seems to be doing a good job.

However... It's not as if he is a "Big Brother" through some mentoring organization with no ties to the parents, just a huge will to improve the life of a child. This child happens to be the offspring of his ex girlfriend. It's difficult enough to date someone who has a child of his/her own and thus a direct ongoing connection with a past lover. But to put up with the "ongoing connection" when it's not his child? That's a little bit much to ask most people to do.

And yet, it's wrong to just turn your back on a child who you've become a father figure to, and I guess that shouldn't change depending on whose sperm created the child.

So I'm actually a bit of a fence sitter on this one. I'm rarely, if ever, a fence sitter. But for now I don't really know which way my heart wants to go on this one.

Regardless of whether it's right or wrong to keep ties with an ex's child that isn't your own and expect future dates and future mates to deal with it, I don't think Dustin was appropriate to make this little boy the focus of his conversation for a first date with someone he allegedly really likes. It's not appropriate to talk about ex lovers while on a first date getting to know someone and making a first impression. Chatting endlessly about her child is really no different, given that he wasn't a parent of the child himself. (Now if he had been a father to a child, chatting about his own child with little or no reference to the ex might be okay in the right setting, and if the date obviously doesn't have a problem about it.

And my last cause for wonderment on this complicated issue.... If it is appropriate for Dustin to continue seeing this child and having major involvement in his life, which Tracy, incidentally, thinks is completely inappropriate, what happens if and when the mother of this little boy dates a new guy or gets remarried? How confusing do things get for this child? And how confusing would things be for her new significant other? Tracy explained thoroughly her position that since this was not the father, and the two adults were never married, the mother should simply explain to the boy that Dustin would not be around anymore because they had decided to part ways. Then let the child accept the reality. Sounds harsh at first glance, but there may be some logic and sense to it. I'm just not sure.

I think my own experiences have made this situation complicated for me to draw conclusions on. Had I not had any similar issues in my life, I'd be so inclined to say that Dustin should be this boy's father figure indefinitely and if anyone doesn't like it - tough cookies. But I had a situation in my life where I had to turn my back on four children that I loved more than written words on this webpage could ever really explain. I had one in my life from the time she was about a year and a half, maybe almost two. I was at the hospital for the births of all the other three. They were the most amazing babies. All of them. These were my ex nieces and nephews. The children of my ex-husband's two sisters.

For reasons and circumstances that are too long and complicated to explain here, I had to cut all ties when I got divorced. It was hard. Being married to someone who I knew needed a whole lot of help on a whole lot of issues, then leaving and not even being able to keep in touch, was hard. Cutting ties with him had to mean cutting ties with his friends, our mutual friends, any friends I started with that became mutual friends, and his entire family, which included the children. By this time, I didn't much care about the adults I was leaving behind. It hurt because I had earlier felt like I got two extra sisters out of the deal. But they had done so many hurtful things that it didn't really matter. The kids were a different story. It felt like I was turning my back on my own kids. I felt so guilty that they probably thought I stopped loving them and turned my back on them. God only knows what their parents told them, too. One of these days I'll have to post the story of the divorce...

But the bottom line is, when my ex husband remarried one of my good friends a matter of weeks after our divorce was final, it probably was a bit less confusing to the kids to not have her and me both around as simultaneous aunts. So, in that sense, I think Tracy has a point about Dustin cutting ties with the boy. It's so hard to say. I'm almost inclined to think that each individual situation has to be looked at separately.


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