Dear Carolyn • I am a 32-year-old woman who has been dating a wonderful man for a little over a year. We are now making lifelong plans together, starting with the process of looking for a new home to move into together.
My boyfriend has joint custody over his 5-year-old son, who until now, has lived solely with his mom. We are looking at homes with the idea that his son would live with us half the time. His son and I have a very good relationship. He’s a sweetheart and I welcome him living with us, getting to know him better, and helping raise him.
What sort of things I should be prepared for, and my boyfriend and I should discuss, before we move in together? Any big issues that couples need to address when moving in together when one partner has a child? Neither of us has lived with a partner before and neither of us has lived with kids before.
Dear Stepmom-to-Be • You can make sure you’re permanent. Before the house, before the half-time custody, before the book on stepfamily dynamics, there is your relationship with the father of this little boy. Calling him your "boyfriend" says you’re either still just dating, or are in the gray area between "dating" and "lifelong," and that says forming this stepfamily is premature.
That doesn’t mean your life with man and child is anything but promising. In fact, everything that needs to be there seems to be: A man is changing his life to make room for his child; joint custody and regular visitation suggest he and mom are cooperating; you’re getting to know the boy, and you like and care about both father and son. Good for you.
But setting up this "and-son-makes-three" household before you and your boyfriend have made a life commitment is fundamentally not in the best interest of the child. You may have no intention of becoming the first of Dad’s Live-In Girlfriends, and he may not intend you to become that, but your best insurance against that is patience. Don’t gather under one roof and then commit. Commitment, then roof.
Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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