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Fear of meeting boyfriend's daughter raises red flags

Question: I am dating a guy who has a 9-year-old daughter. He is fun and he makes me happy, but I can't seem to get comfortable that he is a father. He wants me to meet his daughter, but I'm not sure if I want to. I'm a little afraid she might not like me and that will end my dating her father.

Answer: We see lots of red flags here. The biggest one is that you aren't being honest with the guy you're dating. He has no idea you're uncomfortable with his being a father. If he did, and he still wanted you to meet his child, we'd be worried about him as well. It's not a good idea to introduce a new partner to your kids until you know they are partner material. Even you don't know!

The second red flag is your fear that the relationship will be over if the child doesn't like you. We're wondering if Dad told you that or if that is a secret fear. True, it is the reason for some breakups, but that's usually after an attempt to get to know each other, not an arbitrary single meeting.

It takes time to cultivate a positive relationship with your partner's children. There will be bumps, and the kids might not like you at first. You might not like them at first, but that is what commitment is all about. It's not uncommon for kids to act like they don't like you so that you have to prove your commitment to them and to their parent. Remember, this child is the product of a breakup. How you and her father resolve conflict and interact with her mother teaches her how to trust again and how to problem-solve her own relationships in the future.

When someone has children, it's a lot more than "he's fun and makes me happy." We are not diminishing the importance of attraction and having fun. We do hope, however, we've made the point that no relationship with a person who has children is frivolous if they want to introduce you. Doing so is a commitment of sorts. If he doesn't look at it that way, he should. And if you don't, take another look.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families.

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