Know the Circumstances
How did you meet your new girlfriend? Maybe you met her at work and didn't know she was married. Maybe you knew she was married and was not happy in her marriage, and one thing led to another and you are now in love. Maybe your new love was married before, had a friendly divorce, and her ex is fine with her dating. Maybe your girlfriend had a great marriage and her husband died and she is just starting to date. All of these situations happen every day and can take a toll (positive or negative) on every person involved. It is important for you to figure out exactly what the status is of your new girlfriend's relationship with the father or fathers of her children.
You Didn't Know
You may have begun dating a woman you believed was single, and, a few dates into the relationship, you learned that the woman is married and has children with her husband. Now it is up to you to decide what you want to do. It is concerning that she was not up front with you. Consider her lack of honesty very seriously. Is she really someone with whom you want to have a relationship? If she kept you in the dark about being married and having children, she may keep you in the dark about a lot of other things, too.
If you still want to have a relationship with her, think about your long-term plans. Do you want to pursue a serious relationship with her? Is she planning to leave her husband? If so, put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Even if she has told you he is the worst person ever, consider how being “the other man” may affect your relationship with her and other future relationships. Her children, her parents, her extended family, her friends, and people you may not even know may think of you forever as the one who broke up their marriage. You may be referred to as a home wrecker — or worse. Are you willing to live with that or similar labels as a stepfather? Building a relationship with your stepchildren is likely going to be extremely difficult — especially if they are hearing from everyone around them that their parents' divorce was your fault.
If you decide, in spite of the obstacles, to pursue a relationship with this woman, it's best to find a way to do so that is as respectful as possible under the circumstances. Talk to her about your concern for the children. Let her know that you do not want to be viewed solely as the other man or a home wrecker. Consider taking a break from your relationship until she is able to appropriately end the relationship she has with her husband. Then, after some of the wounds of divorce have healed, think about reconnecting in a relationship.
This is one of the toughest situations, and one that is constantly in the spotlight. If you knew your girlfriend was married with children, then this is all on you. Yes, she took part in it as well, but you knew, and ultimately you made a choice to get involved with a married woman. At this point, it is important to figure out the future of your relationship. Is she planning on leaving him? Is she planning on staying with him, and keeping you on the side? If she is planning on leaving him, it would be kind of you to put the relationship on hold until the divorce is over. She may tell you that the divorce or separation is tough and she needs you more than ever right now, but take a step back and think about the other parties involved. She has a husband, who is likely to be very wounded, and a child or children who are going to be traumatized by the divorce — even if it is for the best. So take a step back, and give her space to focus on the end of her marriage and how she will make sure her children are best cared for during this time.
If this divorce is messy and there is proof of an affair, and you are part of that affair, you are in for some difficult situations. You may need to deal with court dates, custody battles, and many angry people. The best way to deal with this is to remove yourself from the situation for a while. Think about everyone involved. If you are truly in love with this woman and she is truly in love with you, taking time away from each other is unlikely to disrupt your future together; instead, it may be a way of showing respect to the other parties involved. It is always wonderful to find true love, but unfortunate if the relationship disrupts others' lives.
The Internet has opened up an entirely anonymous world at our fingertips. According to research done by the Fortino Group, “one third of all divorce litigation is caused by online affairs.” Online chatting can seem rather benign, but check yourself before it escalates into an affair.
Think about how you want to be perceived and how you will be perceived. Act with dignity and respect for yourself as well as for the people you may be unintentionally hurting by following your heart.
Everyone Is Cool with It
The father of the children is already remarried and wants your girlfriend to find love as well. At least that is what they let you believe. Maybe everyone really is okay with it. That is great, but even if he is okay with it, he still may feel a little tug at his heartstrings when he recognizes you are here for the long haul. He may also be more wary of you when he realizes that you are going to become a key figure in the lives of his children. It is natural for him to want assurances that you are capable of a healthy relationship with his children. If her ex is really fine with everything, keep in mind that there are still children who might react to you in a variety of ways. Be sure you are ready to be a potential stepfather, and stay honest with your girlfriend about your feelings.
There Has Been a Death
If you are dating a woman whose husband and the father of her children has passed away, you should make sure she has had time to deal with the passing of her husband, and that the family has had the opportunity to heal from this loss. When someone has lost a spouse, it is important to give her the room to remain completely in love with the person who passed. She may love you as well, but you need to respect the love she still holds for her husband and understand that she will always have that love. It is not a competition. It is not about loving you more, or you becoming a reincarnation of her husband; it is a different relationship with a different person. It is just as important for you to recognize this as it is for her to recognize it. If your relationship progresses, this attitude of respect for her husband will also help you create a positive relationship with her as well as with her children.