Are you asking too much of a boyfriend?

Ladies – Before we go into today’s letter, I have a favor to ask you. I’m re-doing the cover of The Tao of Dating, and I’d love to know which ones you like best! Click here to go to the contest and let your opinion be known:

With that out of the way, here’s a great email exchange I had recently about relationship expectations and being in touch with your own needs and emotions. Where does jealousy come from? Why and when do we feel someone isn’t good enough? How do we get in the way of our own loving?

Dear Dr. Ali, 

I’m in a very challenging situation and you’re the only person I completely agree with when it comes to relationships so I would really appreciate your help.

I have recently started dating an amazing man. We get along really well, our conversations flow effortlessly, we have insane chemistry, and he makes me extraordinarily happy.

There is, however, one catch. He has two kids from his previous marriage. He only sees them once or twice a week and spends enough time with me. As much as I am happy with him, this fact is always bothering me in the back of my mind and I can’t get over it.

I keep thinking “what if I had met him earlier when he was childless?” And this is just driving me crazy. I don’t know what to do. He is so amazing and I think I can never find someone like him again, on the other hand, I think the fact that he has kids is always going to bother me. I know I sound like a horrible person but I just can’t help it!

What do you think I should do? Giovanna from Harvard

Dear Giovanna –

Sounds like you’ve got a good thing going! Some background info would be useful: your age, his age, do you have/want kids, what kind of work you do, are you angling for marriage, etc.

So I don’t know the full story here, but one thing is for sure: the kids bug you. And it may not even be the kids themselves; it’s the very idea of the kids. So you need to ask yourself: why does the existence of the kids bug you so?

Is it because mom, dad and society would frown on the relationship? Is it because it constitutes incontrovertible proof that you’re not the one and only, and that he has shagged someone else at least twice? Is it because you’re projecting so far into the future with a potential life with him and thinking you don’t want to be anybody’s stepmom that this is now poisoning the present moment? Are the kids crowding out Giovanna time?

Again, I don’t know the situation fully, but this much I can tell you: you are letting thoughts about the unlikely future poison your present connection and joy with this guy. Are you crazy?! It’s like being at a 5-star restaurant having the meal of your life, and instead of enjoying the insanely amazing meal, to focus on your tax return due in 6 months. When the universe conspires to provide you with miraculous experiences, it’s a good idea to be fully present for them.

And consider this: what if you had met him when he had no kids? It’s possible that he would have been much more self-centered and not even all that attractive to you. It’s possible that he would have spent all his time with you to the point of your getting fed up with it and getting rid of him. Maybe the kids are precisely the glue that has brought you two together and kept you together. Maybe the kids are a feature, not a bug.

So this is what I suggest as your homework: 1) Examine what the hey is going on in your head, and what is it specifically about the kids that bugs you. Talk to him about it, too. 2) Start meditating. It sounds like you’re taking your own thoughts too seriously. Time to stop that already :)

Giovanna: Ahhhh you are so amazing! You managed to say exactly what goes on in my head. I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

I’m 22, he’s 29. I don’t have kids, I might want kids (he said he might too in the future), I’m currently a student, he’s a lawyer, and yes I am angling for marriage. 

The things that bother me: all of the above (or below). Everything that you mentioned! And you are so right that I have to meditate. I often do this to myself. I let one thought get to me to the point of making me ill. 

I would very much prefer to be with someone who is as amazing as him AND doesn’t have kids. Is that too much to ask? I might be able to find someone like that in which case I am wasting my precious youth with someone I probably won’t end up with because the kids bother me so much. Or I can just enjoy the amazing time we have together and at the same time be constantly bothered by the thought hoping that maybe someday they won’t bother me as much. What do you suggest?

22, huh. Don’t you think you may be overthinking this just a tiny tad?

Here’s the truth: you are not going to be with this guy forever. And there’s a better than 90% chance that you will break up with him, just like you broke up with all those other boyfriends who were so wonderful to start. Not because he (or they) were good or bad — just because that’s the way the world works. 9 breakups, 1 guy you marry (and 50% of the time, you end up divorcing him, too).

So why ruin the good stuff you have with thoughts about the stuff that will probably never even be an issue? Enjoy the ride! Every person you meet is an opportunity to practice being loving, vs checking some box: first kiss, first sex, first relationship, first husband, etc.

So go ahead and practice being a loving, kind, supportive person with this candidate who has presented himself. And then, when that’s no longer a fit for your life or his, practice with someone else. It’s all practice anyway, all the way to the grave.

And no, you are not angling for marriage. Not right now. At age 22, you have no clue who you are, what you want and where you’re going. Heck, you don’t even have clear access to your own feelings, as demonstrated by your initial question. How can you have access to the feelings of another? It would be simply unkind of you to inflict your cluelessness upon someone else right now, in this form. Trust me — I was 22 at some point, too.

You are growing, however. And the chances of you finding someone at this age who will grow in the exact same direction as you is teeny tiny infinitesimal. Give yourself till 30, when things will be much clearer, when you’ll be ready for an ever better match. You’ll look back on 22 the same way you look back now on  being 12 years old. Yeah, it’s that different.

However, here is a guy who seems to like you and value you. And you seem to like him back. Jackpot! Have fun with it. You Harvard kids do know how to have fun, right?

Hope that helps, ladies. And if you have questions on your own, here are the rules:

  1. 200 words max sent to DrAli(at)
  2. Put “Question” in the subject line so I know to get to it first
  3. Make sure there’s an actual question in there involving what you want out of the quandary you’re in. “What do you think I should do, Doc” is not a useful question.

And if you haven’t already — go check out the Cover Contest for The Tao of Dating and vote!

Best, Dr Ali

2 Comments on “Are you asking too much of a boyfriend?”

  1. Diana


    I came across your article n I m writing to u abt something that just happened today.

    A guy i met couple of yearsback at a social gathering liked me at first sightbut never said dat until last year after we connected on FB. He chased n kept showing his onterest n finally got me to like him alot. He claimed to throw surprises n do alot. He has done stuff but he has responsibilities n kids from his ex. N we hardly get time to meet. We chat every single day but inspite of living in d same city, we meet on an avg twice a month. He s crazy busy at work too(or so he says).

    Lately(last 1 month), i feel his interest has reduced. We plan our dates way in advance due to v busy schedules esp his. Few weeks back we planned to meet at a cafe during wirk hours n he cancelled. We had another plan to meet in couple of weeks during work hours nhe cancelled today, some meetings hv come up he says.

    Mhighly dissapointed but ididnt show him as muchcoz he kept saying it was notin his hands to get out of those meetings.

    M lil frustrated n this whole thingmames me uneasy. We hv chatted v late nights but lately, he doesnt stay up v late.

    I hv to stay d time we spend together is priceless(email/chars/inperson) but i dont getmuch of it lately. His kids work etc seem to tk much higherpriority than before.

    I feel like reacting badly or not be available politely or express my concern. Please advise.

    1. Ali Binazir MD MPhil Post author

      what have i done to deserve reading this gibberish? please write it out in english, with full words, 200 words or less, with a question in there. “please advise” is not a valid question.