real life

When your partner wants you, but not your children.

Love blinded me.

On the first date, we both knew it was different, we both felt it – we just clicked. By the third date he told me he never wanted anything to do with my two kids.

“Having an instant family is not what I imagined or wanted for myself,” he said.

At the time I didn’t care, the last thing I was looking for was something serious after just leaving a seven-year relationship. He was fun, and sweet, and he kept up with my crazy humour and I wanted more.

It was the start to a long end for us.

Because when he looked at me, for the first time in a long time I was someone other than a mum. It was like I was flying and had met my match, and the more I experienced the feeling with him, the more I craved it like a drug. I was addicted to the high he gave me, ignoring the hellish withdrawal I knew would come the minute we parted.

He was 31, never married, and looking for a wife. There was pressure from his family to start his own, and pressure within himself to hurry up.

When he said, “I hope you don’t expect me to ever change my mind”, I was shocked at his willingness to come forward so early, because I knew he felt as strongly as I did. I am guilty of being selfish, and I probably wouldn’t have brought it up if he had been the one with kids.

Before him, I was happy to be separated. To be living alone. I had been preparing myself for this for a while – freedom I didn’t have anyone to answer to, and I didn’t have anyone’s needs except my own and my kids to think about. Then I met him.

Eight months was all it took to turn me from being pessimistic about the idea of love into a believer of passionate love. The kind of love that makes you work to catch your breath in their presence. The kind of love that makes it hard to focus on anything other than seeing that person next.

I had no plans to involve my kids, so I thought what I was doing was okay. It wasn’t affecting them. I didn’t listen to my mum’s warnings. Or to my friends. They said to protect my heart because it would get broken. I thought after the initial infatuation we could just stop seeing each other. I am not someone who would enjoy living with someone else’s children, it was hard enough making it through the early years with my own, and I don’t know if I could do it with someone else’s. We were very alike in that way.

My mum warned me if he loved me he would realise this wasn’t a big sacrifice, compared to the sacrifice of a life without me.  I tried to defend my reason for staying. I said it was because I had a feeling I would never let myself feel love again the way I was now.

My mum said if he was the one I was meant to be with he would not ask me questions such as: “Do you expect me to buy them cars when they turn 16? Or to help pay for their college? You do know that they could never come first to me right?”

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We both had a hard time accepting an ending to our story where we didn’t end up together.

The first time I tried to end it was the first time he told me he loved me. I should have said goodbye instead of letting him kiss me - feeling my heart melt and break open at the same time because I knew this was going to end and I was going to have to peel myself up off the floor where my heartbreak would knock me down. But I couldn’t stop. And neither could he.

He started to become my everything, he started to become all that I thought about, and somewhere, in the very back of my mind and at the very bottom of my heart I was hiding a scary feeling. Hope.

Hope that he would change his mind. Hope that he would accept them, and realise that he couldn’t live without me and was willing to make what he called a “sacrifice.” I hoped to hear him say he wanted me. All of me plus them. And that I was worth it.

It was easy for me to believe he loved me because I knew this was huge for him. To say he wanted to meet my kids and to try with me.

I thought for that brief time, maybe his attitude about it will change? Maybe it will somehow work? He’s going to see that they are just an extension of me, the person he loves the most, and he will feel differently. Before him I always said I didn’t want love, commitment, or someone to be there. But that was suddenly what I had, and I didn’t want to lose this person I had become.

The first time and only time he met them, we met at the local shopping centre. I told my six-year-old my friend might stop by and he came to the playground. I can still see how nervous he looked. The uncomfortable expression.

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I can still feel the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and the feeling finally rising from my heart to my head, screaming at me to realise there was no point. I pointed them out to him - nothing. I asked him if he wanted me to call them over - nothing.

He finally said, “I’m sorry but I am freaking out. I normally can’t keep my hands off you, but I have no desire to touch you right now.”

That really felt like a punch in my gut. I am not the one who suggested he meet them, I never had unrealistic expectations (at least I thought I didn’t) I had tried to end it. This was all at his request.

Still we stayed together for several more months, because when we were alone, we didn’t think about anyone but ourselves, and how happy we made each other. It went unspoken for a long time what we both knew. We couldn’t have each other and still have the life we wanted.

When we did break up for good, I felt like it was the right time. Time to admit the truth. Time to face it. But it still wasn’t anything I was prepared for.

My life did not make sense with him, but it didn’t make sense without him either. I felt physical pain from missing him so much, and I was not a good mother during that time. I only have myself to blame for that.

It scares me knowing if we would have gotten married, and had our own kids, he would have had obvious favouritism to his own kids over mine. I would have walked on eggshells trying to make sure he wasn’t feeling like he was making any more of a “sacrifice" than he already felt he was making by being with me. By being with us.

But this was selfish love. One sided love.

One woman's relationship dilemma: "It's me or the baby." Post continues after video.


If you love someone, you don’t expect them to be by your side and watch you move on just so you don’t have to endure the pain. He wanted the best of both worlds and I gave it to him for a while.

In the end, what snapped me out of it was my kids. I love them more than anything. I made some wrong choices, and I am admitting here for the first time, that I did not put them first by continuing to date him. I know most might expect me to say I am ashamed of myself and in some ways I am. I never involved them but I did get too involved with my heart, and it was broken. That did affect them. I think I always knew deep down I would never subject them to that despite the pain I subjected myself to. For a while I wondered if this whole experience was a waste of my spirit, But I think it might be worth learning how to love again, and the lessons I picked up along the way.

I have learned that someone who really wanted me and couldn’t live without me would accept my kids who are the best part of me, and accept them happily. Not everyone is like him not wanting to take on other people’s children, some men, and women, are completely open to this idea, and go on to become amazing step-parents.

I can’t settle for less than I deserve, but more importantly, what my kids deserve.

I don’t think he was a horrible person by any means. I think it takes strength and clarity to recognise you don’t want the responsibility of being involved in someone else’s kids’ lives no matter how much you want them. Do I think it’s responsible to keep dating someone when you know it won’t work, even if she is gorgeous, kind, smart, and everything you ever wanted in a woman but haven’t been able to find?

No, I don’t.

How to stop dating a type. Post continues after audio.

It’s not the right thing to do. But it was irresponsible of me as well to continue seeing someone I knew was going to be hard to let go of, when he wanted me all to himself. Falling in love with him was like falling on my knees every time he got worried about the future and pushed me away, only to be kicked back down again just as soon as it all started to feel right again.

But I do know this: I won’t ever be stuck feeling like I will never move on again because now I know I have the strength to do so. I won’t ever be with someone again and feel like when we are together, no matter how tight we hold on to each other, it could always be the last time.

And I won’t decide to choose him when he realises he gave up the person he’s been searching for his whole life, because he chose not to choose me.

Stephanie Portell is a single working mum to two boys, and part-time writer. She primarily focused on the funny aspect of parenting and keeping herself sane when her kids purposely try to make her insane. She has been published on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and The Good Men Project. You can read more of her writing on her blog, More Than Mothers.