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The 'Net Set

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 4/23/2003

I'm 34 years old, divorced, and have three of the best kids any mother could hope for. My oldest girl is 10, and I have two boys ages eight and six. Their father and I divorced when the youngest was two. He and I aren't especially friendly, but we always manage to be civil, at least in front of the kids. And we don't bad-mouth each other to them. He sees them regularly and pays his child support on time, which I really appreciate. A year after the divorce, I started a relationship with another man who had two kids of his own. After a few months, however, he broke it off. He said he just couldn't deal with the responsibility of raising five kids. It hurt me a lot, but I got over it. Recently, I met another man who is without kids. We went out a few times and were getting along great. I really thought we might have a future. But then I told him about my kids and he backpedaled so fast my head was spinning. I was an instant "good friend." Does having kids automatically mean I can't have another man in my life? I'm still young and don't want to give up on love.

Mom Looking For Love

Dear MLFL:
You went out with this guy "a few" times before you sprung it on him that you have kids? And you were surprised when he backed off? While it's not particularly sexy to whip out all 14 volumes of baby pictures on the first date, or bore your new beau with tales of the latest, cutest thing your youngest said just before he fell asleep last night, you do have to, at the very least, mention the kids. This isn't a minor detail like the color of your living room curtains. It's the most important fact of your life right now. So you owe it to everyone involved to be up front about your situation from the top. Otherwise, not only could the guy justifiably feel deceived, your kids could feel pretty crummy, too, especially if they knew you were keeping them a secret just so you could get dates.

If you're serious about finding a new mate, stop thinking of your kids as an obstacle. Start looking for guys who won't be scared off by them. There are clubs and organizations all over the country just for single parents. Parents Without Partners is one of the biggest I know of, among others. At a major chain bookstore the other day I saw between 40 to 50 books just on the subject of second marriages with kids. Online dating services usually have a place where you can point out that you have kids. In turn, potential mates can also indicate whether they're OK with that. At your age, it's completely normal for you to not want to give up on grownup love. It's also true that, as a mom, you may have a smaller talent pool to choose from. But any man who isn't willing to embrace your family is a man you--and your kids--don't want anyway.

My boyfriend can't get off the Internet. It's all he does. The minute he comes home from work he's in his office with the door closed. He barely says hello. I can't get him to eat dinner or watch TV with me, much less go out anywhere. We started living together about eight months ago. It feels like I see him less now than when we were just dating. Plus, our sex life has totally tanked. He swears he isn't logging on to sex chat rooms or downloading porn--which I could maybe understand even if I didn't like it. But he's playing something called a MUD game. I even offered to learn it so we could play together. However, he told me it was too complicated. I'm really unhappy. Should I throw away his computer?

Mac Hater

Dear MH:
It won't do you any good to toss the computer out unless you toss your boyfriend with it. He's a junkie. Until he kicks his habit, ain't nothin' gonna change. An addiction to a Multiple User Domain game is as severe as any heroin addiction. Ritual role playing and puzzle-solving are simply substitutes for tying off and shooting up. And with all the Internet cafés around, even if you won't let him play at home, he'll have no trouble finding somewhere else to spend his time (and money).

There are no 12-step programs (that I could find) for the problem yet. But I'm pretty sure it's just a matter of time. Some clinics and addiction treatment centers have started to offer help. The bitch is that he has to do it himself. If you're lucky, he will. If he refuses, your decision becomes simple, though, not easy. You can leave, which might make you feel uncaring and hard for walking out on your man when he needs you. But leaving would get you out of a relationship that's going nowhere. Of course, you could stay and tolerate his behavior, which would make you an enabler. You might want to attend an Al-Anon meeting or two while making up your mind. Al-Anon focuses on the loved ones of alcoholics, although the principles of dealing with another's addiction are the same. Good luck.

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