"Say me and my partner go down different paths but I became emotionally attached to the child my ex has, how do you cope with that?"
I said this when I wrote about my experience dating someone who had a kid and now I’m saying it again: Never thought I’d be writing about this and I wasn’t really sure I’d ever be able to articulate how I feel or how to give advice about it but let’s give it a shot since it’s been such a frequently asked question!
As you may or may not know, I was dating someone who had a kid and got pretty involved. I’d say a step mom level of involvement just to paint a picture for you. I lived with my ex, and was very close with the child’s mom. You can read about that whole blog post HERE.
I was 21 when this all started, and then a level of involvement stayed even post-breakup with my ex because, like I said, I was friends with his mother whom I have nothing but positive feelings and so much love towards until this day. I won’t be sharing what my involvement is now or the details of what has happened since the breakup which is probably around 2 years ago now, because I think regardless of your involvement post relationship, or even if there’s no involvement at all, it’s still a lot to deal with emotionally and mentally. It’s such a strange feeling because at least for me, you really love this little human as if it were your own, and of course I can’t speak for parents out there because I’ve never birthed a child and I don’t know what that is like, but I can tell you for certain that I’ve never felt that type of love towards someone before and even if it’s not the same as being a biological parent, I think there needs to be some credit given to the feelings us “step parents” go through because it’s valid and real, and I found that a lot of times I was embarrassed because of it. Or maybe less embarrassed and more so just confused about how or what to do with it because nobody really understands what you’re going through. So anyways, fast forward to the end of the relationship with your partner. This isn’t a normal breakup because you’re losing a family in a sense. You have to deal with heartbreak of someone you’re in love with and then also come to terms with the fact that you’re no longer heavily involved in this child’s life. Now of course every situation is different and I don’t know what you’re going through, but I can tell you that although I still got to see my ex's child after we had broken up I, was going through such crazy emotions knowing things would be different moving forward. That even if I still saw him I had to take a step back myself and adjust to the new role in his life, which is a big pill to swallow when you invest so much love and emotion into someone.
Many things came to mind when I started to go through this and it’s taken me some time to really understand what they meant so I will try to explain the best I can.
The first feeling was a fear of abandoning the child. This is normal, I mean you see someone so often and suddenly you’re not there, and you don’t want them to feel like you left them. But you have to remember that they have parents. They have people there that love them and will look after them; that’s really all that matters. Of course they will probably miss you and ask about you or think about you, but I noticed this fear of abandonment towards him was coming more from a place of me feeling worthless in that I don’t matter anymore, realizing that their life will go on without me and one day this child that you spent so much time with and created so many memories with might not even recognize you in a few years. It’s as if you never existed and that’s a scary and very sad thought. The way I managed to deal with it is by first and foremost giving myself the space to feel all that bullshit. I let it all flood in even if it doesn’t make sense in the moment and I never allow myself to feel bad about it or embarrassed. Again it’s strange to express because you’re not their parent but you feel that way and I don’t care if I get shit for this or if some parent reads this and shakes their head, but IT’S A REAL FEELING and I don’t want anyone that has gone through it to feel like what they are feeling isn’t valid because I experienced that shit with you.
Now let’s talk about what to do with all of these emotions. The biggest thing for me was focusing on the things that are good and that I know for certain which are the memories I had, the things I learned and the positives I added into this child’s life. I’m not talking about whether or not you contributed as a parent the right way, or said the right things, changed the most diapers... I’m talking about the fact that you added love into that kid’s life. You gave them another source of stability and warmth and love, and that is priceless. Regardless if they remember your face or not, they will carry that love you built inside of them forever and remembering that alone makes me so happy and gives me some peace. Much about this type of experience in indescribable but the good thing is, I really learned so much about myself, being selfless, realizing how SELFISH I can be when you’re forced to learn how to put another person first and all that stuff. So carry whatever new knowledge and experience from that situation into your life moving forward, apply it into other situations.
Another thing I want to point out is that there needs to be some understanding and respect for however the parents treat your involvement moving forward. Regardless if it’s zero - 65 or 100%, they have that child to put first and worry about and make a decision for what they think is best for them and their family. You can never take any of that to heart or personally no matter how messy it is or feels. There’s a weird peacefulness I feel when realizing that so much that you go through in life you have no control over and that majority of the time you have to go through them alone. It seems sad at first of course. But it forces you to become so close with yourself and your feelings. You find a friend in yourself. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to survive and I expect everyone to always do what is best for them and their family. I hope that when the time comes when you have to make a difficult decision in your own life you’re able to do it in a graceful way that doesn’t burn any bridges or purposefully hurt someone’s life, but you have to have the courage to do so and make those hard choices just like you have to be able to accept change when it happens to you and is out of your control.
Regardless of what happened or will happen in the future when it comes to my own story, I will always be so thankful for that time in my life, just like I am for any other hardship I went through emotionally because it forced me to understand myself on a deeper level and gave me an oppurtuniry to try and help anyone else going through the same thing. Remember that just like I said in my initial blog post, we have an idea in our head of how our life is supposed to be but sometimes it doesn’t turn out as expected. Embrace the change, accept the feelings, and come out stronger, more understanding and move on with love in your heart. I know it sounds so absolutely cheesy but you have to truly feel it inside your chest and believe that!!!! Thanks again for reading my posts. Let me know what you think, and connect with me on Instagram HERE