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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Carolyn Hax: Guard dropped for wrong reason

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I am a divorced, 30-year-old father of a bright, happy 11-year-old. I have been in several long-term (two years-plus) relationships that he has been a part of, growing to know and care for my partners.

I’ve been dating a married woman for six months. She had said from the beginning she’s going to get a divorce. She has been staying with me the past couple of months, only stopping at her shared apartment with her husband to get clothes and things she needs. They are still talking, working out the logistics of their separation.

My concern is how I present her to my son. I have been very tentative and protective of him in the past (he doesn’t meet my girlfriends until I’ve been with them at least six months.) However, this has been so great of a relationship he has already met her. Honestly, if she weren’t married, I’d have proposed already. I believe she is the one, and she says the same about me.

Am I being foolish? I’m experienced enough to know this could be the real deal, but I still know to shade my son from the infidelity side of it. Should I keep these two separated until she’s actually divorced? – T.

A little late for that, no?

But I’ll answer you anyway: Yes, you’re being foolish, though that’s a quainter term than I’d choose. And yes, keep the new woman away from your son until she’s actually divorced.

Then keep her at arm’s length until you’re able to appreciate that chucking your old protectiveness is not the good sign you believe it to be. It doesn’t say, “She’s the one”; it says, “She’s the one who dismantled my impulse-control system,” and that’s about attraction, not love. Sometimes love follows attraction, but never bet the household-with-children on it.

Remember, too, she isn’t saying, “Hey, wait, I’m married and you have a kid – let’s slow this sucker down.”

In a way – I can’t believe I’m going to say this – it’s good that she’s married. Dating her is a dumb move, as you know, but that dumb move is keeping you from the far dumber one of rushing to marry someone you barely know as your boy takes notes you don’t want him taking.

When the truth is one you can’t tell your son, then please see that as an argument for a different truth. You still have time to make this true: “Beth was unhappily married while we were dating, which was wrong, so we broke up until she was single.” If you’re the ones, you’ll withstand it.