Sorry… Pardon?

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Dear Dharma,

First I want to say how much I like your site – I enjoy reading the questions and your answers are great!  I have a problem and I hope you can give me some advice because I am stuck at the “OMG are you kidding” stage.

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 5 years and are both committed to our relationship.  We each have had past partners, good and not so good, and both think this time it’s the real deal.  One of his past partners, from well before we were together, showed up out of the blue a week ago.  This was someone who had not even been mentioned in occasional conversations we had about old flames, and he says that they only dated for a couple of months.  She moved away right after they broke up and has been living out of the province for the past 7 years.

Now she is moving back to our city with her daughter.  Who is about 7.  And as it turns out, my boyfriend is her father.

And that’s where I am stuck.  How do we handle this?  He swears he had no idea, and that she had never approached him before.

Signed,

My Head is Spinning, but I Think I Need Wine!

Dear Spinning, Need Wine

Yup, a phone call like that is gonna shake things up a bit, isn’t it.

And so many questions!  Like… why did she wait 7 years?  What does the daughter know? What are the expectations going forward?

Without having this information, let’s just address some high level stuff…

No matter the shock, no matter the potential turmoil, no matter anything – none of this is the fault of the child.  Depending on the expectations and desires of all 3 parties (mother, father, child), that has to be kept at the forefront.

You’re thinking, “Hey!  Why wasn’t I mentioned in that list??  It affects me too!!!”  And you’re right… it does… but differently.

Example – Father wants relationship with daughter, daughter wants relationship with father, and mother is supportive and agreeable.  You are not.

I don’t think you get veto power here, is all I’m saying.  I mean, I guess you could go that route, but that’s going to be a problem, depending on what your boyfriend wants.  Putting him in a position where he feels he needs to choose could easily put you on the wrong side of things.

So I guess that’s where you start, with gathering facts.  He needs more information from the mother, you need feedback from him as he processes that information, and then you need to decide where you stand in all this.  Which of course, will be dependent on the expectations and desires of all 3 parties.

See what we did there?  Circled all the way back around…

I don’t know your take on having children in your life, and you may well be thinking, “I did NOT sign up for this”.  That’s the beauty and tragedy of life though, non?  Who signs up for disease, divorce and disaster?  Uh uh, no one does, but it’s all in the way we roll with it that creates the patina of our lives.  You will likely have some choices to make going forward in this, and if one of them involves welcoming this girl into your world, please keep in mind how nervous and out of place she will likely feel.  That trumps how nervous and out of place you will likely feel…

I’m really interested to see how this progresses, so please feel free to get in touch again with an update.

Oh – and thank  you!  I love receiving your questions, and I’m glad you enjoy the answers

Dharma

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