Q: Dear Meredith,
Boyfriend of 2 years and I are both divorced. Both have kids (his are over 12, mine are over 17). My divorce was mutual and amicable after a long marriage; his was incredibly hostile. His blue-collar paycheck is bled dry from child support, which he owes for at least the next decade. His ex gets half of everything.
On the bright side, we have what we both deem to be really great chemistry and compatibility. He says he is completely content with me and needs nothing more for the rest of his life. Me? Not so much. Since my divorce (10 years ago), I've met my share of men. I know what's out there and what I'm looking for. Hands down, he is a catch -- almost. The almost is that our pooled income and expenses leaves minimal resources to do anything. We have both reached the top of our income levels for the jobs we have. He's a blue collar guy; I'm an office worker. You can figure the income -- at best middle. Due to his support obligations and expenses, he's already maxed out and will be long into the future.
Being married very young and raising three kids, my ex and I decided it would be best to have me be the stay-at-home mom. We scraped and saved literally pennies. We made due with one car between us and minimal electronics, toys ... anything beyond the necessities. We made it work, but looking back, we were never able to do anything or go anywhere. That was a choice we both made voluntarily because we wanted a family.
Fast forward to this relationship. There will be no children between us. Mine are setting up their own lives or going to college, while he is estranged from his. We've talked about marriage and our future, but really, what future is there? Our present life consists of staying at home watching TV or engaging in any other free activity. We cannot afford anything other than the basics, which is all I did the first go round, but at least then I was having and raising three kids.
He's a totally great guy but he's penniless now and for the future. I want to enjoy life, doing all the things that my ex and I could never afford to do before when raising our kids. I say we should keep dating, but open our relationship up. He can find someone content with all he has to offer, which consists of himself and nothing more. I can hope to find someone who, together with my limited income, perhaps can someday enjoy some of what life offers. I feel like if I settle for this, I'll have a repeat of my first relationship but with not even having the goal of raising children. I don't want to come off sounding like a gold digger because that's the opposite of what I am, but I also don't want to just watch TV with a great guy for the rest of my life. What to do?
– Future or No Future, Woburn
A: "I say we should keep dating, but open our relationship up."
Nope. Sorry. You can't use this man as a temporary TV companion until you meet someone better. If you want to find a new partner, you must let your boyfriend go.
This kind of chemistry can be hard to find, but it's obviously not enough. If you want to be able to take trips, live without obligations, and just enjoy your empty nest, this man isn't for you. He has young children. Even if he's estranged from them, they exist.
After two years, you're willing to let him go. That's your answer. Just don't string him along, and don't be a liner-upper. You can't date him until you find someone with more money. If you want someone new, you'll have to be single before you go looking. You'll have to watch TV alone.
Readers? Is it wrong for her to want an easier life? Can she keep dating this guy? What about the estranged kids? Will she find what she's looking for? Does watching TV with a great guy sound so bad? Help.
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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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.