Q: I've been in a relationship with "Kevin" for about two years. We're both in our late thirties/early forties. I love the time I spend with him. We travel a lot and spend time with my young child and his young kids. Our lives have merged nicely together over the last year or so -- family dinners with the kids, vacations, the whole nice family scene. So when Kevin asked my child and me to move in with him and his kids, it only seemed natural. He suggested we buy a house together.
But I'm having second thoughts. He says he's not ready to get married. His first marriage ended in a very bad divorce. I sense that he's gun-shy about doing it again. I get that. My divorce was no picnic either.
My big concern is that he'll never be "ready." It recently occurred to me that people don't stay around his life for very long. The people that have been around more than a few years are either colleagues -- or high school buddies who like to hang out at his really nice house. People stick around if there's a financial aspect to the relationship.
It's the people he knows on a purely social level that seem to disappear after a while -- neighbors, parents of his kids' friends, etc. If they just faded away naturally, I wouldn't be so concerned, but at least three former friends have told him off about something and angrily stopped talking to him -- all of them women. From the stories his kids tell, it seems that these people used to spend a lot of time with them – birthdays, weekend trips, etc. I've asked him what happened, and the explanation always centers on some minor disagreement. He can't understand why the person would "overreact" like they do and then he claims the person is "crazy." I haven't met any of these people and I don't know enough about the arguments to know if these people are crazy or not, but it's weird for it to happen over and over again.
I also have reservations about his divorce. He still refers to his ex-wife by a derogatory nickname -- even in front of the kids. He'll tell anyone who listens that the divorce was all her fault. He also has no explanation for why she left other than "she's crazy." Then he will go on and on about everything he did for her and how he couldn't understand why she wouldn't be happy. My husband left me, too, and it took me by surprise, but years later I have some insight into how our marriage broke down. Kevin has no insights like that at all. It's all very strange and uncomfortable and I'm not convinced he's over her.
This leads me to wonder if he's capable of a stable, long-term relationship with anyone, especially a woman. Our relationship seems wonderful. He and I and our kids have a nice life going here. Am I the next "crazy" person to leave in a huff or should I stop worrying about it? Should I move in with him and see how it goes or insist on a marriage proposal?
– Am I The Next Crazy One?, Massachusetts
A: My first piece of advice: Don't insist on a marriage proposal. You don't know if you want to marry him, so it seems weird to demand that he ask. You're allowed to take your time and answer these questions before you pressure him (or yourself) to move forward.
My questions for you: Does he make you feel safe? Does he listen to you when you have problems? Does he ever show signs of empathy for others? Does he only empathize when it suits him?
Based on what you've told us, my biggest issue with you guys moving in together is the name calling. You have every right to tell him that you don't want to combine households with a guy who calls his ex by a mean name. You want to set an example for your young child. No negative nicknames. That has to be a rule.
Make a list of other rules you keep in your own home. Can this man respect them? Does he understand them? Will he listen? If you're not so sure, it's not safe to buy a house with him. You don't want to get stuck.
Bring up the name calling and see how he responds. If he respects the complaint and can participate in a good discussion about how you want to frame your divorces in front of your children, that's a sign that he's not "crazy." If he barks at you for questioning him or accuses you of being nuts, that's a sign of something else.
Good luck. Ask your questions and make that list. I want you to feel safe and respected in your home.
Readers? Anyone call their ex names in front of kids? Is that ever OK? Should this LW be concerned about marriage? What should she do? Is it possible that all of the people who left him were crazy? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.