Right Man, Wrong Timing?

Dear Karen,

I am in love with a man I want to be with so badly.  He’s the best guy I’ve ever been with (and I’ve known many).  He’s not completely done with his divorce, and it’s pretty ugly between them right now.  They’ve got kids they’re fighting over, and they can’t seem to agree on anything.  He loves me and wants to be with me – the problem is that he can’t seem to plan time with me, because whenever we try, something comes up with his wife and/or the kids and he’s off to do her bidding.  It’s making me angry, and I know I’m not doing a good job of keeping it to myself.  Is there anything I can do to move this along more quickly, so he and I can be together and start our life? – Joyce, CA

Dear Joyce,

I feel your pain.  And I can’t tell you how often I get emails from women who are dealing with a very similar situation – it’s a hard road to travel.


The first thing I’d suggest you focus on here is that, after having been in many other relationships, you’ve attracted a man who is the best fit for you (so far).  That’s fabulous.  It does show you that you’ve been growing, and using what you’ve learned from past relationships to improve your romantic life.

I would also encourage you to see that your man is such a devoted and loyal father that he’s staying in the battle to give his kids what he believes they need.  That’s probably one of the reasons you love him!  And it feels way better than putting your attention on the fact that “he’s off to do her bidding”.  That line of thought can only bring you pain – your own, plus what he’s picking up from you (and believe me, it’s leaking out!), that’s causing him to feel like he’s failing you (and the reality is that you do believe he’s failing you).


I have been sharing my “rule of thumb” with women for many years now:

Never be with a man who isn’t legally divorced for at least one year, and who hasn’t had at least one transitional relationship.

It is very possible that your sweetheart, as much as you love each other, is just not ready for the relationship you want with him.  And you can’t do anything to speed up time (or the legal system, either).  From the sounds of things, not knowing more of the details, you’re in for a long haul with this man, with no guarantee of success in the end.


Now, for full disclosure: I am very happily married to a man who was not yet divorced when he and I started dating (back in 1992).

“What’s up with that?” could be your next question, which would make sense.

Well, it sure wasn’t easy!  Craig was very angry about what his wife was doing, about losing his kids, and a huge amount of his emotional energy was tied up in the divorce process.

I had many opportunities to take things personally, and, frankly, there were times when I wasn’t my best self.  I’d say, overall, what it took from me, in order to end up where we are, was the following:

•    I knew that he fit my requirements;
•    I knew he was aligned with my vision for life;
•    I accepted him unconditionally;
•    I was clear that his children would be a higher priority at times, and I didn’t take that personally;
•    I had a support system in place to keep me at my best in our relationship;
•    I communicated with him respectfully, vulnerably, and honestly;
•    I had no timeline for when things had to happen;
•    I always assumed his best motives and intentions;
•    I focused on giving him the benefit of the doubt (when that was needed);
•    I made sure I wasn’t his “therapist” or “support system” around his divorce;
•    I lived a life that was fulfilling to me;
•    I believed he was a “marriage-able man”, meaning he wasn’t going to end up being a serial dater after his divorce.

Being with a man who isn’t completely available is very challenging work, and I do have to tell you, even though in this situation Craig and I did end up married, the odds are stacked WAY against you that you’ll end up together in the end.

Most of the time, once he’s moved beyond the rubble of his marriage, and he gets the sense that he’s really free, he’s going to be looking for a clean slate.  If you’ve been too much a part of that challenging past, he is likely to want to move beyond it – every part of it (one of the great arguments against being too “supportive” and involved during his divorce).

I’m not telling you that it’s impossible for you to end up with this man (how could I tell you that, after all), but I am telling you that it’s going to take an extraordinary effort on your part – and alot of sacrifice.  And there is no guarantee that, at the end of the day, he’ll be where you want him to be, which is choosing to spend the rest of his life with you.

I wish you the very best, Joyce.