Q: I am dating a man who has two children from his previous marriage. He has asked me to marry him. After nine months, I still haven’t met his kids. His parents came to visit and made it clear they wanted to meet with him alone. I was hurt by this, but my boyfriend didn’t tell his parents they were being rude. Also, his parents stayed with his ex-wife during their visit. I think these are signs that he is not serious about having me in his future. What do you think?
A: I think there are some very odd signs here, which should make you question whether you should be serious about having this man in your future.
Generally, it is unwise for a parent to introduce kids to a new mate until the relationship is very serious. Kids can quickly become attached to a potential new mate, and are devastated if the relationship ends.
In your case, however, this man is saying, “Marry me,” without having introduced you to his children. Is he waiting until he hears a yes from you? Maybe, but if this is the case, you should know it. If you are potentially going to be a stepmother to these children, you have to meet them.
And if there’s a reason he doesn’t want you to meet them, you should know that. Are they hostile and ill-behaved? Are they hoping he will reunite with their mother? Is your boyfriend hiding something?
It sounds as though you have no idea.
The fact that you are wondering what is going on points to a real communication problem. That’s dangerous in any relationship, but especially so in a relationship complicated by a previous spouse and kids, where there may be plenty of issues to work through.
The same lack of communication shows up in the situation with his parents. Maybe his parents like his ex-wife. You can’t expect your boyfriend to make them dislike her, to make them like you, or to tell them where to stay. But you can expect him to talk to you about what’s going on and listen to your feelings. It hardly sounds as though this is happening.
If your boyfriend is so uncommunicative and so unconcerned about your feelings — and if you are so uncertain about what is going on in his head, and unable to get answers from him — you will have a hard time making a marriage to him work.
So, does he want you in his future? Maybe or maybe not, but the bigger question is about improving your ability to share feelings and information.
Some people don’t innately communicate easily, but this is something that, with effort, both parties can improve.
So now it’s time to ask yourself: Do you want him in your future? Can you find it in yourself to motivate a change for both of you, in terms of better communication? Can you talk to him about your need to meet his children and understand what’s going on with his parents?
Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: If a mate won’t introduce you to close relatives and — even more significant — keeps you guessing about why, you need to improve your communication with each other.
Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book, "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts" (Penguin), helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.