Dear Jeanne,

It has been a while since I contacted you – almost ten years ago. Back then I was on the verge of committing myself to a man that I was so in love with and was contemplating relocating across the country to live with him.

Here it is eight years later. I did relocate and lately, I have been really questioning my choice to do so.

You see, I don’t like him a lot of the time. The connection between us is still very much there and we do have quite a strong chemistry. Yet lately I have been questioning this choice in my life – to be with him.

We are life partners and not married. He had a bad experience with marriage (not sure if you recall our story or that part of the “equation”) and we did finally decide not to marry.

It is so interesting how much that now bothers me. It didn’t at first, but now I feel that I don’t really share all of his life.

There are aspects of his life that I am kept out of, and his children (now adults) are one of those parts that he keeps separate. I can understand when he doesn’t include me in certain business interactions and discussions, but it bothers me that he connects without me with his children.

I think they view me as if I am transient – not as his life partner. I believe that if we were married, our relationship would elevate in their eyes.

I don’t like how he shuts me down when I try to converse with him about this. It happened earlier and I almost just packed my bags and left. I definitely have such a strong urge to flee these days and I worry that I will regret doing so. You see, I don’t know if he would come after me.

I feel a bit shaken, just writing this …

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Dear A Bit Shaken,

You are not alone in this situation of managing preexisting child relationships inside a growing partner relationship. The blending of families is a very prevalent topic in today’s society. I’m not sure that there is an actual “playbook” for this, as each family’s dynamics are unique to them.

There are some basic principles that do apply universally. Touching on a couple of them here might help you.

There seem to be some out-points that have gained momentum in your relationship and are impacting it negatively. When that occurs, the beautiful dance of your relationship can feel not synchronized and not harmonious. Just know that all relationships encounter challenges that are opportunities for growth within their timeline.

The naming or categorizing of your relationship seems to be a troublesome thing for you. You have chosen to remain life partners without legal marriage and are questioning that now. I do want you to know that how you respect and value each other is much more important than how you label your relationship. I believe that is what is really bothering you here, so let’s look at that.

The validity of your commitment to each other is not measured by a marriage certificate. There are many relationships with and without a marriage certificate enduring the same type of challenges. It has less to do with the piece of paper and more to do with the agreements and energy between you.

When we first commit to a long-term relationship it is not uncommon to ride over things that later become significantly important. You left your home and relocated eight years ago in order to pursue the next level of relationship with a man who had older teenage children. There are many dynamics playing in just that, including your partner’s handling of responsible parenting and your personal sacrifices to reduce the physical distance in relocating.

Added to that are any number of unhandled emotions from past relationships that inevitably surface when a relationship leaves its “newness” and begins to mature. Over time, a “perfect storm” can emerge.

The first thing that I would offer to you is to prioritize self-care and loving yourself. That is truly primary here, as it is in any healthy relationship. When something in a relationship is coming from the space of “need”, the more elusive that thing can be. It’s almost as if the more we need it the more we push it away in our own neediness.

Focusing on feeling gratified as an individual is a good first step. Restoring your sense of love and appreciation for the “me” of who you are and prioritizing that into your day will help you in the restoration of your personal power.

If you like yoga, a yoga practice would be good to implement or another physically interactive activity. Taking a walk, getting a massage, getting a manicure or pedicure, sitting in sunlight for a few minutes each day, meditating, pursuing a hobby that satisfies you, having a coffee date with a friend – each of these will make small, regular deposits into the bank of your self-worth. These deposits will pay wonderful dividends to your life and your partner relationship.

Acceptance is next. Accepting anew what you once accepted as the relationship’s agreements is the next thing I would encourage you to embrace. The more that you challenge these agreements the more defensive about them your partner can become. A relationship has a better chance of expanding over time when we are not operating from a state of mis-emotion or from the emotional lens of “not” (not being heard, not being appreciated, not being respected). Operating from the latter lens will actually set us up for more of the same.

Acceptance can shift all that – beginning with accepting that this is how it has been and seems to continue to be. This is a healthy step in the right direction. From there, looking at the vision of what you hold for the relationship is important.

You had a vision at one point and if the reality is not matching the vision then finding creative ways to enhance the reality is a better vantage point. Insisting that things are the certain way that you need them to be can be counterproductive. If you desire more of a sense of family with your partner and his children, live in the question of how you can create that a little bit more sense of this every day.

“A little bit more” is the operative phrase here and the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is applicable. Consistently wearing the lens of what can be created (rather than what is lacking) can release so much gentle magic into this area and into your life. The serendipitous opportunities that will present themselves will be beautiful to experience and can even build a new momentum over time.

As always, do reach out for any clarifications on what I have suggested here.

Much love,