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Am I too selfish for a relationship?

(58 Posts)
FreckledLeopard Wed 26-Feb-14 11:31:13

Having just broken up from a relationship at the weekend, and having turned 32 yesterday, I'm in a fairly contemplative mood and wondering about life and relationships.

Potted history: got unexpectedly pregnant at 18. Had DD at 19. Her father's never been involved. Went to uni, did law school, now working in fairly demanding job (solicitor). DD now almost 13. Had brief and fairly disastrous marriage (28-30). Got divorced last year (get on well with ex now we're divorced).

Having had yet another relationship fail to work out, I'm wondering whether I'm simply too selfish for a relationship to work and am keen to hear from anyone who's been in a similar situation.

It may or may not be relevant but I'm an only child. My parents were in their 40s when they had me. I have never liked compromise and have always been headstrong. In many ways I've loved raising DD as a lone parent, since I've never had to answer to anyone about the way I do things. I've loved extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, taking her backpacking in Asia. DD and I are extremely close and this has been a problem for people I've had relationships with in the past, since they've often felt threatened by the relationship I have with DD. I guess I've always treated DD as an adult (within reason) and have always been open with her about what's going on in my life. Obviously I'm her mother, but we've grown up together.

During this most recent break-up, the accusation has been levelled at me that I have too many fixed plans for DD and my future (where I'd like to live, the type of lifestyle I'd like, the income I want to earn, the fact I want dogs and the fact I want more children) and that if I am with someone, then they'd have to fit into my plans. I think there is some truth in this. There is some flexibility, but I learned the hard way when I married my husband, made a lot of sacrifices and the marriage failed anyway, that I'm not willing to compromise on my goals.

I'm very grateful that I had no children with my now ex-husband, despite wanting them, since I'd be tied to him, and to this country, until the child was an adult, despite the marriage falling apart. I think I'm now sufficiently cynical that I can't see me ever having a baby with another person, because I'm terrified that in the event of the relationship failing, I'd be stuck. In addition, I've relished motherhood and parenting the way I've wanted to, and would have huge difficulties in having to compromise on how to raise a child. Perhaps I'm arrogant, but I think (touch wood) that I've done a pretty good job with DD. Also, at present I love the idea that, should I want to, I could get a job in Australia and relocate. Or I could go and live at my house in France. Or move to the other end of the country. I hate the idea of being tied down to an area, or to a person. all of this insurmountable? Does it mean that I rule out ever having any further relationships? Does it mean I should only ever have more children on my own?

I'm not looking for a character assassination or to be told I'm selfish. I know this. What I am interested in is whether anyone has felt the same? What has the outcome been? Is it simply that I've not met the 'right' person and when (if?) they come along then I'll be happy to make compromises? I like my own life. I like having things my own way. But, I don't like being lonely and also would feel judged and a failure for not having a 'successful' relationship.

FreckledLeopard Wed 26-Feb-14 11:43:34


Twinklestein Wed 26-Feb-14 11:45:09

I'm not convinced you are selfish. You sound strong and self-reliant and know what you want from life.

Working women with kids have to be super organised, all the more so if you're a single mother.

I don't believe it's insurmountable, but maybe you need to find someone who is similarly focused and isn't phased by your forward planning.

FreckledLeopard Wed 26-Feb-14 11:47:43

Thank you Twinklestein

I was braced for a flaming! God knows where this elusive person may be. I wonder too if I should just get on with what I want (jobs, location, having another child) and if I meet someone whilst doing that, then great, and if not, then so be it.

PuddingAndHotMilk Wed 26-Feb-14 11:49:31

You sound like me. I'm in a great relationship with a wonderful guy. Married now 4 years with a 7mo. But. The compromise IS hard. For both of us.
I would parent slightly differently if I was alone but I'd miss out on stuff too. My DD would miss out.

The question to ask isn't if you're 'too selfish' but rather what you will compromise on and if you can find a partner who makes those compromises acceptable.

TonyThePony Wed 26-Feb-14 11:50:09

Not at all helpful but your life actually sounds really great. Your relationship with your dd sounds perfect and hopefully someone will just 'fit in' though I'd expect if someone that you really wanted to be with didn't just fit in, maybe you will naturally just become more flexible...

Sorry that's unbelievably unhelpful.

FreckledLeopard Wed 26-Feb-14 11:51:06

I think that's valid and I think what I learnt from my marriage and this relationship is that there are things I won't compromise on and as such, one has to walk away from relationships, even where you love the other person.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Feb-14 11:54:24

You don't sound selfish, I just think you have high personal standards that others find tough to meet. This board is full of women who have compromised their lives to the point of extinction on the altar of 'having a bloke'. If you're uncompromising there's nothing wrong with that at all.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Feb-14 11:56:42

"would feel judged and a failure for not having a 'successful' relationship"

Anyone judging you on the strength of that wouldn't be worth bothering with IMHO.

FreckledLeopard Wed 26-Feb-14 12:01:33

That's the thing. I know so many relationships which, to all intents and purposes are 'good', but then behind closed doors one of them's having an affair, or gambling away the family money, or doing sweet FA to help around the house. I guess it would be nice to have a relationship which did work though - you know, those couples you see who have been married for 60 years and are best friends.

BertieBottsJustGotMarried Wed 26-Feb-14 12:12:50

"I have too many fixed plans for DD and my future (where I'd like to live, the type of lifestyle I'd like, the income I want to earn, the fact I want dogs and the fact I want more children) and that if I am with someone, then they'd have to fit into my plans."

But this is exactly how it should be, truly.

I think if more people had higher standards and didn't have a relationship unless the other person's morals, goals, desires really fit in with their own then a lot of people would be happier.

But yes being married/with someone doesn't necessarily mean being tied down, it just means that you need someone who is also willing and interested in travel, perhaps someone whose profession is very portable or who likes the challenge of doing new things. I'm currently in Germany and we don't have a fixed plan of whether we will stay here or move somewhere else, we just want to wait and see what happens! I also have a friend who is divorced and has lived both in Spain and the UK and recently found out through her ex that her DS has a sister and grandmother in Italy, which they are all treating as a huge great adventure. I think it's fab smile

I think you sound amazing, inspiring and incredibly strong and I wish I had your conviction! smile

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Feb-14 12:16:49

Even the 60 years together and best friends types have probably made a lot of compromises along the way. That's sort of the deal with long-term relationships. Like any good negotiation process it's all about what's important enough to you to be a deal-breaker and what is trivial enough to give away.

hermionepotter Wed 26-Feb-14 12:18:11

I'm not clear from your OP whether you are saying you want another child? It sounds like you're happy with life as it is and relish the freedom to do what you like, and obviously in a few more years your dd will be off to uni or whatever, which will give you even more freedom.
So that's kind of on the one hand, whereas on the other hand theres's another child, coupledom till you're old etc? confused
It sounds like you're happy with life as it is. Who knows what relationships will come your way, but there's more than just 'conventional ones' eg you might meet someone else who enjoys adventure, someone who's looking for more what you're looking for

Hullygully Wed 26-Feb-14 12:22:44

I imagine that if I met someone who sat me down and said, "Right, this is how it is. Me and dd want this, this and this. This is how we do things, this is what we plan for the future. Can you fit in with that?" that I might feel a bit of a spare part and that we wouldn't be equal partners creating a life together, but a unit of two and a hanger-on.

It doesn't leave much room for the other person to contribute. Or seem that you would want or value their contribution. So yes, that might make it a bit tough to find the person prepared to do all that who also wasn't a wishy washy doormat...

BreakOutTheKaraoke Wed 26-Feb-14 12:36:10

I think I'm very similar to you. My DD is 10, I'm not in the high-flying career, but I do work full time and am training to be an accountant, s hopefully in the future. I was 18 when I had DD, her dad never lived with us and barely sees her, so it has been completely me raising DD.

I haven't had a proper relationship since splitting with her dad when she was 2. It was a very dysfunctional relationship, to the tune of domestic violence, ex went to prison for assault after fighting in the street, he has lots of narcissistic traits, and to be honest, it has taken me a long time to recover. I only realised last weekend that I should probably go for counselling, after having a nightmare about bumping into him unexpectedly and having a panic attack. It put me off relationships for a long time!

Now, I've got to the stage of wanting a relationship, but I know I would be terrible at it! My house is my house, I can't imagine anyone else living here with us, never mind having some input on how to decorate or where to put dirty washing, etc. I know that I don't want any more children, and it's not really a decision thats up for discussion, don't really care that this would affect someone elses life. I love the freedom of being single, but at the same time I miss very much having company and someone to share the good stuff with.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Wed 26-Feb-14 12:43:11

If you're selfish then so am I. That is exactly how I'm planning to live my life with DD.

And yes, if someone wants to be with me then they do, to an extent, have to fit in with my plans. I spent years being miserable trying to make others happy. Well, fuck that. It's my turn to be happy and for my DD to happy. If that means being on my own then so be it.

I think there is nothing wrong with knowing exactly what you want. I don't think it's selfish, I think it's good planning.

greytiles Wed 26-Feb-14 12:48:58

I don't think you sound selfish. I was a young lone parent too, had my DS at 19 and continued at university. No involvement or financial contribution from her dad. We're quite rare, single parents who have remained single for a long time - most single mums find it too hard to shoulder the responsibility on their own and are eager to find a partner to share the burden with. DS is 15 now and although I've had some relationships, I mostly enjoy casual dating and I've never had any boyfriends meet DS as I knew the relationship wasn't going to last long.

The relationship between a single parent (who parents exclusively on their own rather than shared care) and an only child is very unique and intense. I don't think parents who have raised a child in a relationship or share parenting after a relationship ends can understand what it's like. I've grown with DS like you did through your twenties, and took him travelling as well, and I totally understand wanting to have plans for your lifestyle and not knowing how anyone else can fit into it.

I'm not really clear from your posts what it is you want from a relationship, except perhaps to have more children (but you don't need to be in a relationship for that). Personally, I'm not seeking to have any more dc and I don't feel I need the emotional input of a committed relationship, so I'm happy to remain single myself. I definitely enjoy socialising and dating, but I'm in London with plenty of opportunities for more casual liaisons, which I'm happy with for now. It means I'm not lonely, and I don't care about being judged for not being in a relationship - many of my female friends are 30/40somethings in London who are single and child free and are focused on their careers, hobbies and socialising. I feel far more in common with them than other single parents, married couples or parents in general.

Wrapdress Wed 26-Feb-14 12:51:07

As a lone mother, my child (now an adult) would always come first, before a partner. With a married couple having kids, the couple puts each other first before their children. I never dated when my child was growing up. I just didn't see how I would compromise, put my child second behind a man who came along. Now that the child is an adult, it seems to be a more logical time to date a new man. Compromise seems like it would be easier. (Can't say for sure as I haven't actually dated yet!)

I only very briefly wanted more children - my child was age 1 or 2 when I was feeling like that - but then that feeling went away. I have no desire for more children.

I have plenty of lone mother friends over the years and most wanted more children and a partner no matter what - they settled and compromised more than I ever would. I am happy doing my own thing rather than having a man and more kids at any cost. I do think it is intimidating for most men to date independent women like us.

PollyIndia Wed 26-Feb-14 13:11:31

I definitely see where you are coming from - in fact, similar to a number of you on this thread. I am older - 38 - and DS is younger, only 15 months. I have started to date again, but I find it really hard to see how I could have a relationship at this point. DS comes first and I don't really see how a relationship could fit into that. If the right person came along, of course I'd love to think we could make it work, but I don't know how much I'd be willing to compromise on things I wanted to do or the way I wanted to parent DS. It's also hard to see how I'd be an attractive prospect to someone - i can't be spontaneous, laze in bed with the papers on a sunday morning, have a weekend away or stay at theirs or stay out later than 11 when most of my babysitters need to head home. Seems pretty unlikely it will happen really.

How was backpacking with your DD? I've travelled a lot on my own, and took DS to Goa this January. I'd love to go away for longer an backpack with him.

MadBusLady Wed 26-Feb-14 13:19:18

Another who doesn't think you sound remotely selfish.

Saying that, I do think it's as well to be open to possibilities that others (not just romantic partners) might bring into your life that you might never have considered on your own. It's great to have plans that anchor your values and sustain your motivation, but life takes surprising turns and some of the best things are unplanned - your DD for instance! No harm in listening to what other people might bring to your table. You can always try to negotiate. You can always say no.

I also think there's a difference between "compromise" and "sacrifice". I'd do a lot of the former for the right man, none of the latter.

FreckledLeopard Wed 26-Feb-14 13:58:57

Thank you all so much for your messages. It's nice to know I'm not the only one feeling like this.

I do want more children. Part of me wants to plan having children "with" someone, since I've never had that and the idea of planning for, and getting pregnant, with another person, seems almost like a pipe dream and as such makes me want it even more. But on the flip side, I'd be terrified to be tied to another person through having a child.

Part of me, though, still wants to be part of the "norm" and have the house/relationship/kids/dog/volvo.

LurcioLovesFrankie Wed 26-Feb-14 14:15:44

Freckled... You sound not unlike me. (Took DS to an international conference last year by train - via Paris. Huge adventure grin).

When I look back on life so far (I'm 48) the really exciting things I've done (climbed mountains in several continents, post grad, travelled extensively, played music...) have mostly been done in periods of being single. When I'm in a relationship I somehow end up doing what he wants (usually not a lot!) then bailing when it all gets too much - particularly when push comes to shove and I'm expected to give up my job which I love to move to a different city for the sake of the man's job (DS was an active decision to become a single parent by choice). I don't think it's so much that I'm selfish, more that relationships as typically understood by our society allow the man to be selfish while expecting the woman to be self-sacrificing.

MadBusLady's comment about there being a difference between "compromise" and "sacrifice" is such a good way of putting it.

lunatuna Wed 26-Feb-14 14:19:20

I don't think you sound too selfish, I think we all need to be selfish to a certain extent to get what we want and not be walked all over.

The right person would ideally want more or less what you want for yourself and dc, and if you wanted a future with him compromise would happen naturally when planning your lives. Sounds to me like the right man hasn't come along yet, so not a problem with you. Unless you think the fear of being 'tied to another person' is holding you back from making any compromises? Like you need the certainty and control of making sole decisions?

I want the happy ever after house/relationship/kids/dog/volvo mercedes too, and once you already have dcs and are a single parent, the happy ever after seems very risky to embark on!

georgesdino Wed 26-Feb-14 14:24:08

I had very rigid plans of what I wanted to do with my life and dh has done everything with me I said I was going to at 18. There are many men out there that love a woman who knows what she wants

Xenadog Wed 26-Feb-14 14:33:50

OP your post was a real breath of fresh air. You are a strong woman who has a successful career and have a raised a child by yourself. You have plans and dreams but you seem to be wondering if your life style and plans will prevent you from having the oh so elusive ideal relationship you want.

I would say you can't have everything in this life as there's always one element which isn't compatible with everything else. If you remember that you will possibly be in a position to chase and achieve most of what you want.

Why not stop thinking about relationships and babies for a while? I say this as a brand new first time mother at 40 who has really struggled with relinquishing my independence (both financial and literal) and seeing my career go backwards so I can have this child. Of course you could meet someone and have a child with them and go onto do it all successfully but why not put this as a "nice to happen" rather than a goal and actually pursue your dreams of working and living abroad? I would imagine that when you are doing something you love you will attract the right person for you then.

I totally understand your desire for freedom too; I won't marry my DP as I hate the thought that I can't just walk away from him if I was to be unhappy (I'm not at all unhappy though). I totally understand your desire for freedom and independence and if this is your driving force I say don't compromise it for the thought of another child and a relationship.

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