If you’re tormented by feelings about your partner’s past and other relationships, what can you do? Read on…


a note For New Readers

I teach a mind-body awareness process called Inner Relationship Focusing (“Focusing”). My response to this question will make more sense if you have some familiarity with the Focusing process. If you’ve never heard of Focusing, I have a free e-course to help you feel calmer, clearer, and able to manage many of the overwhelming feelings that come with daily life. You can sign up for the free course and learn more about Focusing here.


Michelle writes:

I try so hard to make peace with the fact that my boyfriend experienced having children with another woman before me.

I find myself comparing myself to his ex-partner, feeling threatened by his relationship with his kids, feeling (irrationally) angry at him that he had kids before I was in his life, worried that he has a stronger bond with his ex than with me just because they share children, and sad that if and when we have our own children, it won’t be his first time.

I love him and don’t want my feelings about his past to wreck the present, but can’t seem to ease the pain that these facts seem to cause me.

I wonder if using Focusing might help me to accept this pain and transmute it into something to help me grow and better love myself, my boyfriend and his children.

Dear Michelle:

I am so admiring of you for being aware of the issue of your feelings about your boyfriend’s past, and for being determined to work on this in yourself.

One of the great things about Inner Relationship Focusing is that it allows us to turn toward and work with our feelings without being taken over by them.

You’ve tried dealing with your reactions by telling yourself they are irrational… and obviously that hasn’t worked!

Feelings such as you describe are understandable… but they could lead to the very outcomes you are worried about. And such feelings can’t be changed by deciding to feel differently, can they?

Using Inner Relationship Focusing, you will come into your body awareness, feel the support beneath you, and then invite one of these emotions into your awareness… using the language that we call Presence Language.

Like this: “I am sensing something in me that feels threatened by my boyfriend’s relationship with his kids.”

Now pause to sense the “something that feels threatened” somewhere in your body… and be gentle to it.

Notice how different that is from telling it that it shouldn’t feel that way!

I’m guessing that this is probably a very young part of you. Its longing to feel special to someone might come from early in your life.

And what it needs is for YOU to be with it now… with kindness and compassion… not telling it that it is wrong… but putting a gentle hand there where you feel it in your body, and letting it know you really understand how much it is longing to feel special.

And then keep listening to how IT feels.

It’s this inner relationship that has the power to totally shift these painful feelings… and that lets YOU be the strong calm self that can love freely from a wide open perspective.

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27 Comments

  1. I was wondering if someone could post follow-up of how they handled this situation with their partner?

  2. My partner has a child from a previous relationship. She’s young, just turned 3. I thought I was ok and mature about the situation but his ex created lots of rules which caused problems for us to see each other and she made him choose on special occasions me or his daughter. She then sent me messages accusing him of wanting to get back together. I love my partner and think he is a good father, and despite I don’t believe her accusations I still have this problem now which has gotten so bad. Everytime he had to arrange to see his daughter I get upset and I hate it and hate myself for it. I don’t trust her but love him. We just had a miscarriage which makes things even more frustrating when having to be reminded of his relationship with her and that they have what we could have had but lost. I don’t think I can deal with the pain it constantly causes me 🙁

    1. I had this exact thing happen to me…. It creates so much pain.. how have things worked out for you?

  3. Husband had two kids with the ex while married and went and got a vasectomy. It has become a cancer in our relationship, so much so that I am thinking of leaving him.

  4. This is my experience rn. My boyfriend had a relationship with his ex partner, she also had a daughter from another man before having his.

    She cried for him because she cant give him children (she reasoned she has a PCOS) so he became confident enough to have sex with her without any condoms.

    Past forward, two years after, their relationship got sour. The girl used to throw his clothes when she is angry and she cheated on him multiple times (although online). Her mother also told him that he cant provide for her daughter and their children (step and bio) and that it would be better if he is out of her daighter’s life.

    And so my bf, having enough of it. Leave the house not telling anyone and going back to his family with lots of resentment on his heart… They stayed in contact and have not really broke up officially.

    Then he met me by the end of year. He was kind and really sweet but he never told me he had a child and that he had yet to broke it off with his ex partner. When I found out through facebook stalking, he admitted that he had a kid with her and had leave her that january. He still havent told me that he is yet to broke off their relationship. Only later, when I threathened him that I will leave the relationship if he wont tell me honestly about the status of their relationship.

    He choose me and told me, he made a mistake. He was thinking of breaking off with her for long but stayed because of his son.

    Now, 4 months after, his family already knew about me and we already found out that she already dated someone a month earlier before we dated too. So i should stop feeling guilty about them breaking up because of me.

    Still, whenever I saw videos of them together when their kid… It broke my heart. Like how I wish it was me. How I wish I was first. Then he would criy always and told me that he miss his son and I dont know what to say to him cause listening to him say that really broke my heart.

    How I wish we have met first and his son was my son instead. It made me feel angry to myself that I feel jealousy and insecurity towards his ex. Maybe because the ideal family I wanted when I was a kid will never be the same as an adult now. I have so much anxiety going on. His family couldn’t accept me yet and I am afraid his son will reject me as well.

    I came from a broken family. Growing with no mom and dad in my side and i think having rejected since I was young and being rejected as well as only coming into “second” made me depress and lost my self-esteem a lot. Please help me.

  5. This is my experiemce rn. My boyfriend had a relationship with his ex partner, she also had a daughter from another man before having his.

    She cried for him because he cant guve him children (she reasoned she has a PCOS) so he became confident enough to have sex with ger without any condoms.

    Past forward, two years after, their relationship got sour. The girl used to throw his clothes when she is angry and she cheated on him multiple times (although online). Her mother also told him that he cant provide for her daughter and their children and that it would ve better if ge is out of her daighter’s life.

    And so my bf, having enough of it. Leave the house not telling anyone and going back to his family with lots of resentment on his heart… They stayed in contact and have not really broke up officially.

    Then he met me by the end of year. He was kind and really sweet but he never told me he had a child and that he had yet to broke it off with his ex partner. When I foun out through facebook stalking, he admitted that he had a kid with her and had leave her this january. He still havent told me that he is yet to broke off their relationship. Onky later when i threathened him that I will leace the relationship if he wont tell me honestly about the status of their relationship.

    He choose me and told me, he made a mistake. He was thinking of breaking off with her for long but stayed because of his son.

    Now, 4 months after, his family already know about me and we already found out that she already dated someone a month earlier before we dated too. So i should not feel guilty about them breaking up because of me.

    Still, whenever I saw videos of them together when the kid is still a baby… It broke my heart. Like how I wish it was me. Now, he cried always whenever he told me he miss his son and I dont know what to say to him cause listeming to him as well broke my heart.

    How I wish we have met first and his son was my son instead. It made me feel angry to myself that I feel jealousy and insecurity towards his ex. Maybe because the ideal family I wanted when I was a kid will never be the same.

    Now, I have so much anxiety going on. His family couldn’t accept me yet and I am afraid his son will reject me as well.

    I came from a broken family. Growing with no mom and dad in my side and i think having rejected since I was young and being rejected as well as only coming into “second” made me depress and lost my self-esteem a lot. Please help me.

  6. My boyfriend has five kids with another woman. He told me he never wanted kids and begged her but they were together for 18 years and things happen – I know her – she is one of a kind (in a bad way). He was always at work (away jobs) their entire relationship and he told me that their relationship wasn’t romantic at all and he feels bad he stayed in it for so long. Ours is romantic and everything else that I’ve been waiting for. He’s 9 years older than I. I have no children and currently want some.

    I still feel like ‘how could you go and have five kids’ then magically fall in love after? I get jealous because he goes to take care of them and I can hear them talk over the phone and I feel instant sadness and this feeling like I want to punish him for seeing his own kids. So I will tell him not to come see me and stop interacting with him for awhile. He apologized for having kids to me a couple times (I never asked him). We recently went through two losses of trying to get pregnant. We’re currently waiting to try again. Im sad about all of it. I dont know how to stop feeling this way.

    1. em, I know it’s been a while since your post but I just came across this today and I want to cry because I can relate so much to your situation. My current partner, he was with his ex for 18 years and they too have 5 children together. Since we’ve been together, she had caused nothing but hell and ruined my peace at my own home (you wouldn’t believe). Him, he’s wonderful, though he has his flaws, and like no one I’ve ever been with before (a lot older than me too). He too said he never wanted to have kids and she would lie and say she was on the pill, or on her birth control, and boom now it’s five kids later (one of which who is only two). He does want to have kids with me, however, which makes me feel special but not too special given the previous situation. Then, I feel like there’s a limit to how many we have because he already gave her so many (even though it was unintentional). I hate to feel sad when I hear him on the phone with them, or feel jealousy. It’s hard for me to look at them because some look like her (and I have a strong dislike for her because of things she done). But, she ended up moving away cause she couldn’t stand him building a life with someone else and now he has that distance from his kids that pains him almost everyday. Lately, I’ve been in my head so much about his past with her, how long they were together, the kids they have. They basically grew up together and we’ve been together for over a year now. I just hate to compare myself to his situation and then feel guilty for feeling so negatively. I wish I had met him sooner, because I always hoped for meeting someone and building a family from scratch with no other baggage. But, you can’t help who you fall in love with. It’s been messing with me lately. It’s to the point where I don’t even know if I want to have kids with him. It just doesn’t feel like it would be as special (seeing as he experienced 5 with someone else). It’s hard and I plan on not ever bringing this up to him just to prevent hurting his feelings. I just pray that we’re able to get past this (maybe you already are at this point) and find a way to release these emotions, accepting the happiness that’s with us. Thank you again for sharing, just seeing your message gave me some relief.

    2. em, this may sound weird to say but thanks for your comment. I don’t ever reply or comment but I had to here because our situations are so similar. My current partner was with his ex for 18 years and they’ve had five kids together. Since we’ve been together, she has caused nothing but hell, completely disturbing my peace (you wouldn’t believe). Him, however, he’s a wonderful man and like nobody I’ve even been with before. Our connection is unmatched. Lately tho, I’ve been so in my head about what was between them. The fact that they basically grew up together and had a whole family, a life. I keep wishing that I’d met him sooner and he’s said the same thing to me. All of his kids were mistakes and unplanned, cause he never wanted to have kids. She lied about being on the pill and on birth control many times. He does want to have kids with me though, start over because of all the damage that she’s brought upon his relationship with his current kids. I want to give him that chance because I love him and I don’t see a future without him, but thinking about the life he’s had before with her makes me not want to have any kids with him. Then, she moved away with the kids because she couldn’t stand him building a life with someone else. Now he was that distance from them and it messes with him everyday we’re together. When he gets on the phone with them, I can’t help but feel sad, hurt, jealous and I hate that I get that way. It’s hard for me to look at them too because they look like her (and I can’t stand her at all for all the she’s done). I always desired to start a life with someone from scratch and have a family with no additional baggage, but you can’t help who you fall in love with him. For him, I’m trying to get past these feelings and address it in a healthy way so we can continue our journey together. He’s 16 years older than me too. I hope that we’re able to get past this (maybe you’re already past it by now) and enjoy the happiness that’s with us. Thank you again for sharing.

  7. Can anyone offer some helpful advice? I know I am young but I want to be part of this because my boyfriend cares about me and takes great care of me and has been very understanding of all of my emotions through this, but I am still feeling very insecure and threatened by this situation.

    1. I understand your feelings completely and let yourself know that they are valid! I am in a similar situation and my therapist gave me some advice saying when I feel this way to feel it and let it flow through me, don’t fight it. Recognize that it is anxiety/strong emotion, put a name to it. It is hard for my boyfriend as well but I know it is hard for him too because there is nothing he can do about it. Try telling yourself, “everything will be okay,” because I promise you it will be.

    2. I really recommend seeing a counselor for this. That has helped me make sense of my emotions and put them in a different perspective. If you need someone to reach out to, I would be happy to speak with you about this because I completely understand you and have felt the same feelings! Remember, we are all just doing the best we can and it is a very honorable thing to love someone so much and to stick by there side when things are hard. You are a fighter and a trooper!!! Do not forget your own worth!

    3. Malory, walk away. You may love him but you’ll love again and you are so young. In my opinion that girl shouldn’t have irresponsibly kept the baby, I am very pro choice, but alas the baby is here now. It’s her mess to deal with, your bf has been forced into fatherhood and it’s going to be his mess too. You are so young, you will recover from this.
      Funnily I’m in your situation except the mother of the baby got pregnant on purpose. There is a lot of resentment that I am trying to process, I am older than you though, ready to settle down and my partner is ready to do it all with me ‘the proper way’. But even so I still have my doubts, he’s the right guy, he’s ready and I can hear my biological clock ticking, but i am still so unsure. In your position there’s no way I would stick around, they may all be good people, that’s why you wish them good luck and find something better for you.

  8. I am in a similar situation. I have been with my boyfriend coming up on 6 months now (I know that seems like a long time but I am only 19). Before the two of us were together he was very open about the situation with his ex that was pregnant at the time. This girl did not know for sure sure who the father was and was telling several guys, including my boyfriend, that they were the father. The girl had cheated on with a few different guys and my boyfriend was very convinced that child was not his, but regardless of all that I agreed to stand with him and support him no matter what. Flash forward to now, the girl just shows up at his house with the baby… It looks just like him. They are still getting a test but the odds seem to be in favor of my boyfriend being the father. I am still in knots over this and I have no idea what I am supposed to do. I am so jealous of the mother and I am scared because this feels threatening to my relationship,

  9. Boy, I have been really beating myself up admit this. I met a guy several years ago. At the time he wasn’t ready to tell me everything and lied about having 1 daughter and being divorced. I had two kids off my own, never been married and that was my truth. I didn’t like explaining it, but I had no regrets. I’ve always wanted a third kid, and after realizing our connection a little voice told me he was the one. I foolishly started planning that in my head imaging i’d have his first son.

    Fast forward 7 years later, after reconnecting twice I find out there was another…a boy, after having excepting the total of 3 daughter’s he had from that previous marriage. He says he didn’t want to mention then because it was happening out of wedlock. I contemplated leaving but found out I was pregnant. Now post miscarriage, and living together, I’ve taken up a lot of anger with the universe, and with him. Nothing is going to change the situation. But all the reasons everyone has mentioned, and then some, I am extremely p****d off about this situation. I don’t want it to exist and even though we get along great and he’s moved several states to be with me, I feel like putting in the work with all my writing, just makes this too hard. I’m not sure it will ever be worth it… At least mentally

  10. I’m currently experiencing these feelings as well. When I first got with my fiancé I knew he had two kids with his ex before me, and I had excepted as best as I could I thought. But every time he talks to them or goes to see them she’s always there. I get jealous about and feel really bad that I do. Now it seems as if it’s gotten worse now that I’m pregnant. I feel as if I’m alone (and I know I’m not he’s absolutely amazing) I just can’t stand the thought of him having the same or more of a connection with another women.

  11. I am also going through the same thing. I reconnected with the first guy I ever fell for from back in 94. It didn’t work back then because we were too young or more or less I was too young for him at the time. But even back then something sparked between us. He tried to keep in touch but I was too angry and heartbroken.
    3 years later we saw each other again, tried but he was going through somethings and wasn’tready to be in any relationship.
    Then low and behold again in 2003 we ran into each other again but I was dating someone and I guess he assumed I was happy and didn’t want to interfere.
    After that I never heard or saw him again but heard later on down the road that he had a family and I went on to get married to the guy I was with when I ran into him. I ended up divorced because my ex was a drug addict then on to one of the worst relationship of my life.
    Fast forward to last year I found out his only brother had passed away so I messaged him to send my condolences from there he told me what I always believed and wanted to hear. That he thought about me more than I knew. And from there we began talking everyday. I knew he had kids and I was okay with it at the time. Only because I think my last boyfriend had 5 kids with 3 different women. So I believed that I would be okay with his 3 kids from 1 partner. He is sweet, loving and honest and a responsible father and person. And we are so good together in every way, we practically think the same.
    But lately those feelings of anger, hurt and jealousy have been hindering. I feel angry because why couldn’t it have been us that had a family?? I feel angry at his ex because every pregnancy she lied and said she was on the pill then cheated on him anyway. I feel angry with him for not being more cautious back then, for not trying to contact me etc. etc..
    It’s been really hard to deal with. Sometimes I feel like life couldn’t get anymore unfair.
    He says he wants a baby with me but I’m in my early 40’s and it just doesn’t seem possible or realistic.
    And besides that I feel robbed of having that whole experience with him because he’s been through it 3x
    His oldest daughter lives with him and the other 2 visit him once or twice a week.
    He’s been wanting me to move in for a while now and I probably would have moved in with him already if his oldest didn’t live with him although I do spend a lot of time there. It’s very awkward for me and for her too I believe.
    I know I love him but it’s all been a lot for me to accept and deal with.
    And I know things take time.
    I don’t blame or hate his kids but what I believe is exactly what you explained about that feeling of wanting to feel special to someone when I was young. I don’t think I got the love and attention I needed or wanted back then so it is hard to share his love and attention with his kids.
    I’d just hate to walk away from something we both always wanted a second chance to be together. He always said he thought we’d be great together and we are. It’s just not exactly how I would have preferred or imagined it to be.

  12. I’m currently experiencing the same thing but he is 20 years older than me and has multiple kids from multiple different women. He got me pregnant this year and 3 months later I had a miscarriage. I felt as if he didn’t care because he has other kids but it traumatized me and I’m still healing. I am currently pregnant by him again and am so nervous the same thing will happen. Also he gives his babymommas money for his kids but has acted SO broke through my last pregnancy and this one. I feel so ashamed to still be with him but he threatens when I try to leave. Any advice?

  13. I’m dealing with the same situation
    I’ve been with My wife for over a year and She can’t get over I have a kid with another woman. She also find herself comparing to my ex-partner, feeling threatened by my relationship with my kid, feeling angry at me that I had a kid before I was in her life, worried that I have a stronger bond with my ex than with her just because we share a children. I only see my kid once a week and every time that day gets closer I can notice her getting sad, upset, distant. And usually this end with arguments. It looks like she wants to try to be okay with That situation but the pain she feels is stronger
    I love her and I don’t want her to be sad
    What can I do?

    1. I understand how your wife feels about that bond with your ex than with her just because we share a children. My partner has children with their ex. And he had a vasectomy before divorcing. Now he and I are together and will never be able to have children together. He and I will never have a legacy together. The only legacy that exists is from his previous failed marriage. His ex-wife throws it in my face all the time that she had all of the firsts with him and I will never have that. Never have it with him, or with anybody. I don’t know how to process this. i’ve always wanted to have kids of my own. However I love him.

    2. I know this post has been posted 2 years ago. I wanted to know how your wife is dealing right now with this situation that you have?
      What you wrote is exactly what I am feeling whenever my partner get his kids. I am single with no kids, my boyfriend has 2 kids. Me and my boyfriend are sweet with each other if I may say, but I can notice it to myself that everytime I know that he’s gonna pick up his kids, my mood changes. I was trying to be okay, to reject what I am feeling but I cannot control it. I was trying to feel ok when his kids are around but I cannot help but get jealous and most of the times I ended up getting mad at my boyfriend. We were 2 years together now and up until now I am still dealing with this feelings. I do not know if this will still go away but I do not like the feeling. I just want us all to be happy.

  14. Dear Ann, dear Michelle,
    my I add something here? Something general about these kinds of feelings?
    There is so much to say about how our society instills in us an idea of “the one and only” in our lives. It is considered “natural”, and ignores the fact that there are other ways of living and bringing up children, in societies which are now mostly threatened to become extinct,,,,,,,
    With warm greetings from Gisela

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