Hi Leather and Lace Advice: Here’s my issue. I really love Patrick, but he’s not really free to be with me, because his he and his ex are in a nasty custody battle for the kids, and she is being brutal to him. When we first met, Patrick was really passionate, and loving, and he felt sure he wanted to be with me. His ex continued to draw things out, and I tried to be compassionate, understanding, loving and patient as possible. But as time went on, and the legal issues dragged on and he become withdrawn and upset all the time. Then I met “Tom” and we have been seeing each other exclusively for six months. Tom is ready to commit and I think that we could have a good life together if I want it. Tom is a good man and I love him too even though I don’t feel the same level of passion as I do for Patrick. But the other day, Patrick called and said he really wanted to see me and that he missed “us” and wanted to be with me again. I was treally thrown by this! Obviously Patrick has his issues, and he already broke up with me once, but I can’t stop thinking about him and how much I want to be back in his arms. I know it’s crazy to give up a good man and a sure thing for a man who isn’t even available right now, but how can you choose between two people if you love the both, just differently? Please help! Jacinda
Alison’s Take: Jacinda, you’re in a tough spot. As my partner, Tony is fond of saying, you can’t help who you fall in love with. And I do believe that you can easily fall in love with more than one person at a time. But do you love both? It sounds like passionate Patrick is the one you really want and Tom is a nice man you care for. You are wise to be careful with your choice, because if you choose a man who is unpredictable and has plenty of serious issues, you need to know exactly what you are signing up for, long term. You are also wise to consider whether or not you’re up for getting your heart broken again, let alone throwing away a good relationship with someone who might be a long term partner for you. But can you live with someone that doesn’t offer you passion? Let’s try to break this down, logically: Patrick may be passionate and you may love him, but he is not available now and maybe not ever. Patrick may make you feel tingly all the way from your head to your toes, but he is in a nasty custody battle for his children with a vindictive ex who can use his relationship with you (no matter how innocent and above-board you think it is) as a reason why he is unfit to have custody. If you love this man, would you want to be one of the reasons he might lose his kids in a battle he has been waging since he met you? Patrick isn’t emotionally stable and therefore can’t offer you the stable relationship you want, either. When things didn’t go well with his long and protracted legal issues, he got upset and ditched you instead of looking to you for support. If things don’t go well again, are you ready for another heartbreak if Patrick bolts ? And what about Patrick’s motives? He is asking to see you now, when he didn’t even contact you for half a year. His custody battle ins’t over, so what has changed? Could it be that since Patrick knows that you have a steady boyfriend e just wants the challenge of taking you away from another man? If he really cared about your feelings and future, he’d back off since he has nothing to offer you. It’s just selfish to do anything else. Even if Patrick does win his custody battle, he’ll be busy caring for his children, and they will be #1 in his heart and there will be little room for you. Should you get back together and eventually marry, you’ll be a stepmother. Is that a role you want? Not every woman has the personality and patience for that kind of special relationship with children that are not her own. As to Tom, only you know if what you feel is real love, or if he is a rebound relationship — something you slipped into because he was receptive and you didn’t want to be alone. Tom, by your own admission, is a good guy and you can envision having a good life with him. But if it is passion that you want, can you be satisfied long term with someone who doesn’t give you what you long for? Some people are able to put passion aside and live quite comfortably as “friends” with their partner. But if the mere thought of Patrick sets your heart aflame, will Tom ever be enough? If the answer is no, your best course of action ism in my opinion, to find a different partner entirely that can offer you the stability you want, and the passion you crave. There is more than one soul-mate for every person — yours is still out there, waiting for you if you want to find him.
Tony’s Take: True passion is the one thing that can not be faked and thus the single most valuable thing in a relationship, if you are not passionate about the person you are with then you are just room mates. The goal of life is to find someone you are passionate about and who can be passionate about you. Although Tom is “easier” it does not sound as if you are passionate about him nor he passionate about you. Companionship and friendship are very desirable, but you, have had more. So will that not always taint the relationship? Having observed bad breakups before, being with Patrick will be hard but you can make it work. But can you live with the conditions his situation presents? First off, if you have ever been arrested you can never be with Patrick because you would be a “bad influence” on the kids. The next question is: do you want to be a mother to his kids, and how does it affect having your own? Many women who give up having their own children to raise their husband’s end up deeply regretting it, and even those that did have children had fewer of their own than they would have preferred (often for economic reasons). What are his feelings on more children? If he does not want more and you are not totally sure you never want kids, it is not going to work out. The next question is: can you stand the isolation? You can not be around him when the kids are there, as his ex can complain about the company he keeps. When you get engaged to Patrick you can legally be around the kids but you cannot sleep over when they are there (bad moral influence, sleeping with woman he is not married to). Thus you can not live with Patrick until you marry him. Finally you have to deal with his ex. His ex is trying to draw this out in order to punish and control him. She will use everything she can find to make his life miserable. She will quiz the kids after each visit so you constantly have to be on guard. She will look for signs you are living together so that she can go back to court and demand more money since he has a room mate to share the rent. If you are employed and earning more than one third what Patrick is, if you marry him you will have to go to a lawyer and get a pre-nup and file taxes separately to protect you — otherwise you could end up paying child support for her children. You need to make sure you can tough it out for the long term, because these issues do not lessen until the youngest is 16 (15 in some states) and they do not go away until the youngest is 18 (although expect demands for college support till 21). As to staying with Tom — Yes, you can have a wonderful, easy life with Tom, but will you get bored? A relationship without passion does not withstand stress well, Do you see a breakup if the demands get too great? This is a big life decision, and one with no guarantees and no clear cut answer. You need more information, and you need to answer some questions about yourself and your two men. You need to start by taking Patrick out for coffee and having a long talk about how things are going to work, and how he realistically sees things going with his ex and his kids, and where you sit in this soap opera. Ask yourself the ultimate question; “Do I want this man to be the father of my children? ” (as you must ask yourself about Tom). Make sure you have a solid basis on which to make a decision because otherwise this is what regrets are made of.