Relationship advice needed...what does the Dope think?

Alright, my dear and favorite message board…I’ve a question to ask the teeming masses, and it may be a bit long. A bit of history first: Around two years ago, I caught my ex-wife cheating on me, unrepentant entirely, and she refused to work on things. It was a big, painful debacle, and long story short, we went our separate ways. Since then, I’ve been living with my parents, helping take care of my dad, who has terminal cancer. Recently, however, an opportunity has come up where I can get a place of my own, while still being close enough to take care of my parents. On to the relationship portion.

Shortly after things went south with my ex, I met a really wonderful girl. To be honest, at first she was a “revenge” relationship - I was really hurting and wanted to show my ex that I could find someone else too. Oddly, she was in the same boat, having just been walked out on by her ex-husband. I was clearly not in the right mind or place to do so, and despite the fact that this girl and I are an excellent fit in many ways, I repeatedly flipped out about commitment stuff while we were dating, so it was a constant on again and off again relationship. Around a year ago, though, I found that it didn’t scare me as badly any more, and we have been in a solid, steadily dating relationship since.

Combined, we have 4 kids between us (two of mine, two of hers. I have part time custody of mine and she has full custody of hers) and they all get along great. They really do seem to love each other and together we get on like one big happy family. Everything is and has been smooth for quite a while despite a number of personal and financial hardships we’ve faced over the last year and a half. We are now talking about moving in together… slowly over the next 6 months to a year.
We have discussed two possibilities, on which I’d like your advice.

One is keeping all our belongings seperate and having duplicates of many items so if we end (like our past relationships did) then we are better prepared than we were in the past. The starting over thing is a real bitch, so we would be protecting ourselves should we find out that, well as we get along now, we can’t stand living together. This is the way I lean.

The other option is that when we decide to commit then we go into it planning forever, no safety nets. We just set our minds to there being no chance of an end… making it as hard as possible for us to leave (so that we work hard to make it work despite challenges). No walls up, fully vunerable and committed. This is the way she leans.

What is your advice on the best plan of attack? Not just for safety in case of breakup but all around…what is likely the best bet for keeping our relationship solid and healthy as we head forward?

Well, in my opinion, planning for a separation generally leads to a separation, and you don’t need two alarm clocks anyway. But if you want to be fully vulnerable and committed, why not marry? Or is than an un-PC question? (I’ve been living in sin with somebody for four years going on five, so it’s not a moral judgment.)

You’re either committed or your not. Having a lot of “just in case” stuff will make it seem to everyone that you’ve got one foot out the door. And if things don’t work out, having an extra toaster to take with you is going to be the very least of your issues.

I lean the same way she does.

P.S. I’m a guy and my first marriage ended pretty much like yours did but we didn’t have kids.

Marriage is definitely something I am considering, but I am admittedly gun-shy…my last marriage hurt me considerably financially as well as emotionally. I guess I want to be sure we get along great living together before making that kind of commitment.

Depending on your state law, living together without benefit of matrimony could be the basis of an attempt to modify child custody against one or both of you. In my state, that kind of thing is frowned upon in court. It may not be enough to tip the scale, but even an unsuccessful attempt can be expensive and stressful on all concerned. Then again, I’m in a very red state, bible belt, etc.

I vote with the others - either commit to moving in together and get rid of the excess, or don’t move in together. If you’re both worried that it won’t work out - then maybe you should both wait another 6 months and then re-open the issue.

Why not keep your belongings separate for about 6 months and decide ahead of time that if things are working out well for you together then have a garage sale? She sells half of her duplicate things and you sell half of your duplicate things to keep it equitable.
Try making an effort to get over being gun shy, your life could be richer for it.

Personally, I think a prenup would be a good idea. I had one for my second marriage and I think it is a good idea for everyone to be aware of the financial ramifications.

If you’re not ready to fully commit, (i.e. get married) then my advice is don’t move in together. It takes an enormous amount of sacrifice to make it work, and if one is more committed than the other, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

I went the latter route with Celtling’s Dad. Funny, I failed to notice that the vast majority of the stuff we kept was his. Almost two years later I am still trying to replace everything that I need. I really miss having dining room chairs.

Just sayin.

I disagree with the “if you’re planning for a separation, there will be one” (the same argument used against pre-nuptial agreements of all flavors). Hogwash. For the first year of co-habitation, my fiancee and I kept duplicate stuff in storage. The really big, stuff that would cause hardship to replace if we ever broke up. It wasn’t a matter of “one foot out the door”, it was a matter of making sure the other was protected in the case of disaster.

We set a one-year deadline, then started getting rid of most of the duplicate pieces. There are still a few pieces that we’re keeping in storage only because of their value (we both collect vintage furniture). I’d recommend storing the duplicates in a facility that is not your home, with a firm deadline, and not worrying what other people think.

Eventually, as things progress happily along, you’ll realize that you never need or think about that stuff and you’ll be prepareed to get rid of it.

It seems really cruel to the kids to have one foot out the door. Frankly, I think it’s cruel to the kids to move in without making a lasting (i.e., marital) commitment. And think of the pains in the ass - can you pick up her kids from school? What if one of her kids is in the hospital, can you visit? I’m not sure “dad’s girlfriend” needs to be living with kids and vice versa - the children involved make it much more high stakes.

I think I’m leaning the same way you are, Woeg. Normally I would agree that preparing to separate leads to separation, but you are two people who have been pretty badly burnt recently, so caution is understandable in your situations. I agree with going slowly, making sure that everyone involved is fully on board. I would suggest that you set a time to re-visit the separation preparations (maybe in two years or so), and have something of a “commitment ceremony” at that time (or, heck, have a full wedding :slight_smile: ), in which you get rid of the duplicates and settle in for the long haul.

@Oakminster: Hmmm that is definitely something to consider. I am not sure what the cohabitation laws are in this area, and will have to look into that, being that I am in a very Bible-belt state as well.

@Emily: I like that idea – its rather where I thought things would go…once we’re sure, we’d keep the “good stuff” and put the rest out for sale. I am working on getting over being gun-shy…and feel I’ve made considerable progress this last year. Still a work in progress, however! :wink:

@ratatoskK: Heh, a prenup would be great, if either of us had anything left after our divorces! We unfortunately both let our exes take significant advantage of us…hence the financial strains we’ve had this last year. Not a bad thought though.

@TruCelt: It’s hard to say that I don’t want to fully commit, in my heart I do…but I am admittedly terrified. My last relationship lasted 14 years, and its ending both blindsided me and absolutely devastated me emotionally – I shamefully admit that I barely survived it…mentally, I was touch and go for a while. That said, this girl is someone amazing – beautiful, compassionate, sweet, and loving…and I can’t imagine ever wanting to lose her.

@Swallowed: I like the idea of a deadline – that may be an excellent compromise. Her main concern is that we may be spending money for things that she already has, that we would just be selling off later.

@Zsofia: I am on her approved pick up list for the kids, and she is on mine, and we both have had no problems with doctor stuff (I’ve helped shuttle kids to and from appointments and the like, and she’s done the same). I totally understand what you are saying though…my ex moved her boyfriend in literally the day after I left the marital house, and he’s been staying there since, and I hate that.

@Cat: That jibes along with what Swallowed said, and I really like the idea of having a deadline of some sorts. This might be something she is amenable towards.
Again, I really appreciate everyone sharing your opinions. I’ve been a mostly silent Doper for a long time, and I really value the intelligence and wisdom of this community…y’all rock. :slight_smile:

I have to admit that my first kneejerk response was “Either go ahead and commit or don’t move in together,” but given your history, I really like the suggestion by others of a deadline to work towards.

…I don’t quite understand this. Why would you be spending money on additional stuff? Or do you mean the money for storing duplicate items? (Which I think I would chalk down to “peace-of-mind” money-- I think every relationship has some of these “okay, we’re spending a bit of money here so that one of the partners feels better about things”-- and leave at that.)

FTR: We had a one-year deadline and didn’t get engaged until awhile after we’d been living together for that long. Her mother is the one who stored some of my large (non-vintage) stuff, and she actually thought it was all a wise idea.

Depending on the age of the kids and probability of one or more of them going off to college in the next year or two (though you make it sound like they are younger than that), it might be a good idea to keep duplicates just so you don’t have to buy stuff for them when they move!

It sounds to me like you’re still too nervous about this, in which case I say wait a few more months before making any decisions just to see if your apprehensions fade or not. Keeping duplicate items for a short while seems like a fair idea, except that it’s possible that the worries you have now about not having an “out” will simply surface when you go to sell your stuff.

Give it time, and be more certain about your actions. There’s no hurry - if it’s “forever” now, it will be “forever” later, and on much sounder footing.

I agree with this. With the kids involved, I vote that you wait until you are really ready to get married, and then do it. You don’t need to be in a hurry.

Except it doesn’t quite work that way. Firstly, it seems I need to repeat this: it is NOT about “having an out”. It was a matter of making sure the other was protected in case something went horribly wrong.*

Secondly, if you’ve been living together as a family and everything is going along all happily-ever-after, when the deadline comes up, there are no worries. When our one-year deadline for storage stuff came up, it was a mutual overwhelming sense of “Oh… now we have to deal with all that stuff? Phooey!” Any consternation was in anticipation of the hassle of Craig’s Listing all the stuff we had totally forgotten about.

If you’ve been living together comfortably for a year and things are going really well, you won’t want to keep the stuff, because keeping it is an unnecessary inconvenience. If in one year (or whatever time frame you deem is about right), you still balk at getting rid of all the stuff you haven’t laid eyes on or missed in all that time, you need to figure out what the problem is.

Similarly, at the age of 35 I had my last will and testament drafted. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting to die any time soon. Being young, very healthy and with a family history of longevity, I don’t plan on dying for 30 years, but if things go horribly wrong and I’m hit by a satellite falling to earth, I want to be sure the best interests of my family are secured. It’s a matter of being prudent, not one of expecting the worst.

Yeah, I think the way the feelings go at the future deadline will be a good indicator of how to proceed.

Thirded. Even if you all get along swimmingly and stay together forever, moving your families in together will be stressful for the kids, to some degree. And if, heaven forbid, you decide to break up, having to buy a new toaster will pale in comparison to putting the kids through all of that again.

If it were just you and the girl, I’d be on board with holding onto the stuff until you decide you don’t need it or whatever, but with kids involved, it’s a totally different question. They get no say in this, either way, so it’s on the adults to be as cautious as possible on their behalf.