What It's Like Loving A Man Who Doesn't Love My Kids

By the third date, he told me he never wanted anything to do with my kids.

woman smiling with kids courtesy of the author

It scares me to know what falling in love after not allowing myself to have it for so long did to me. It blinded me. It weakened what I had always seen as my biggest accomplishment: being a mother.

The guilt consumes me when I think about it because society teaches us that as mothers we need to put ourselves last. It scares me knowing if I would have involved him in my kids’ lives, they would have seen how happy and different I was with him and wanted him around more, never knowing how he wished them away before he even met them.


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 kids.

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

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At the time I didn’t care; the last thing I was looking for was something serious after just getting out of a seven-year relationship, in which I gave birth at the ripe, young age of 20.

But he was fun and sweet, and he kept up with my crazy humor. I wanted more.

It was the start of a long end for us. His honesty felt admirable and hurtful at the same time. Yet still, it felt like he was much more forthcoming than I would have been.


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 the kids.

He was 31, never married, and looking for a wife — who didn't have kids already. There was pressure from his family to start his own, and pressure within himself to hurry up. I think he went out with me in between other dates, thinking he would be able to move on easily when the time came, thinking I'd be just another girl that didn’t hold his interest.

We both couldn’t have been more wrong.


Instead, I let him hold my hand in public without feeling uncomfortable for the first time in my life. I didn’t look away but instead, looked right at him when he told me I was amazing and would never be able to look at another woman the same after I did.

Because when he looked at me, it felt like I existed for the first time in a long time as someone other than someone’s mom. It was like I was flying and the more time I spent with him, the more I craved him like a drug. I was addicted to the high he gave me, choosing to be ignorant of the hellish withdrawal I knew would eventually happen.

Before him, I was happy to be separated and 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. 

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But eight months was all it took to turn me from being pessimistic about the idea of love into a believer. 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 mom’s warnings or to my friends, who told me to protect my heart because it would get broken. I thought after the initial infatuation faded, we could just stop seeing each other.

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 for the first time, feeling my heart melt and break open at the same time because I knew this was eventually going to end and I was going to have to peel myself up off the floor. 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 and I wouldn't be dating a man who didn't want my kids. Hope that he would accept them, realize he couldn’t live without me, and be willing to make a sacrifice. I wanted to hear him say he wanted me  all of me plus them. And that I was worth it.

My mom said if he was the one I was meant to be with he wouldn't ask questions like, “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?” I didn’t believe my mom when she fed me example after example about my amazing stepfather coming into our lives and I spit out excuses one after the other about why she was wrong, all while choking back tears on the other end of the phone knowing damn well she was right.

I thought his attitude about my kids would change and that he would eventually see they were just an extension of me, the person he loves the most, and he'd feel differently. 

The first time and only time he met my kids, we met at the mall. I told my 6-year-old that my "friend" might stop by and he came to the playground.


I still remember how nervous he looked, his uncomfortable expression. I can still feel the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that rose from my heart to my head, screaming at me to realize there was no point.

I pointed my kids out to him. Nothing. I asked him if he wanted me to call them over. Nothing.

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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.”

It was a punch in my gut, especially because I wasn't the one who suggested he meet them in the first place; it was 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 be with each other and still have the life we wanted.

When we did break up for good, we could no longer deny the truth staring us right in the face: I loved a man who didn't want my kids. 

After we broke up, he asked if we could still talk because being without me made him miserable. He wanted to cut his misery in half by cutting my heart in half. Instead, he was expecting me to stay in his life while he looked for someone new to move on with.


When he told me he understood that I didn’t want to see him and that he didn’t want me to hurt any more than I already was, yet still called me every day expecting me to be there for him, I realized this isn’t real love. This was selfish love. One-sided love.

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. I didn't put them first by continuing to date him.


It was irresponsible 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.

I'm sure he'll find what he's looking for. The woman he imagined for himself with the perfect situation — and I’m sure she will be great. But she won’t ever love him as I did. I loved him in a big way.

I know now what that passionate love they write about, sing about, and make movies about feels like. It’s a feeling of two people that cross that line of being able to think with their heads; they can’t feel logic, only their hearts.

But I also know passion is not enough. The person you choose has to accept all of you, including your children.


I won’t ever let anyone try and pick out the pieces of me they adore while stepping on all the other parts they wish weren’t there. I won’t ever let anyone make me question if I’m worth it, because to someone else, I will be. To someone else, my kids will be a bonus  not a problem to be dealt with.

My heart may never be exactly the way it was before. But maybe it will be better.

Stephanie Portell has been published in Huffington Post, Disney’s Babble, BrainChildMag, Mamamia, The Good Men Project, Scary Mommy, and more.