He Disappears When He’s With His Kids

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Hi Meredith,

I’ve been dating an amazing man for about four months. We have amazing chemistry and though we’ve had some initial ups and downs, I feel very strongly for him already.

We are both divorced and have children. My children are with me about 80 percent of the time, whereas he has 50/50 custody and has his kids every other week. We’ve not met each other’s children and we’re not in any rush to take our relationship to that point. I respect his time with his kids and don’t expect to be priority over them at all. In fact, him being such an amazing and dedicated father is something that makes him even more attractive to me. He’s made a lovely home for his kids and values his time with them immensely. But when he has his boys, he becomes distant. Barely messages me, sometimes not for days, takes hours to reply to texts, doesn’t call. It’s like our relationship goes in week-long cycles. The week he doesn’t have his kids he is the perfect boyfriend. He says and does things that make me so confident in our future. But then he gets his kids back and suddenly everything feels different.

I want to be clear that I don’t feel like I am competing with his children for his attention at all. I would never expect to take priority over his kids. But after four months am I not allowed to expect some consistency in his behavior? Is he not able to manage a relationship and being a father? Because if he isn’t, what sort of future do we really have? How do I approach him about this without sounding like I’m jealous of his kids?

– Cycles


“But after four months am I not allowed to expect some consistency in his behavior?”

It sounds like he’s been pretty consistent, to be honest. He’s yours when he’s alone, and when he has the kids, he gives his time and attention to them. At this point, you know what to expect. You just have to figure out the specifics and whether the relationship can grow enough every other week.

I do think you can ask him about how to best communicate when his kids are with him. Is it better to text after a certain hour? What works with his schedule? Waiting hours on a response to a message doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially if it’s an off-week, but if you feel like you’re hiding for days, that’s another thing. What are some work-arounds?

Talk to him about what you said in this letter, and be clear you don’t have any intention of getting in the way of his time with his children. But you’d like to set some better and more understandable expectations so you don’t feel ghosted. Let him know that any guidance from him would be appreciated.

I hate to keep blaming feelings on the pandemic – some insecurities have nothing to do with how we’re experiencing life right now – but I do think it’s made all primary relationships that much more important. It’s not as though we can spread the wealth and hop over to a friend’s house on a free night. Remember that these off-weeks are great times to catch up with others, do a puzzle, watch some TV, etc. If you talk to him and better define the expectations for your time alone, you might be able to enjoy the space.

– Meredith

Readers? What are your expectations for communicating with a partner when they’re with their kids? At work? Doing other important things?

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