The Love Story

It's very far from a fairy tale, more like a twisted comedy sitcom.

My boyfriend is my Knight in Dented Armor. He's been through a lot in his life thus far, so no shine to his armor and it has a lot of dents. It wasn't like I met my boyfriend in a bar, heard about his situation and said, "Oh let me get in on this!". I met my boyfriend when we were doing theater out here in Los Angeles. We are both actors. At the time, he had two children (of which I didn't know about yet. Remember this because it will be relevant later) and I was in another relationship. I really had no interest in hanging out with the other actors after hours. That sounds incredibly stuck-up... I was cool everyone! Let me explain: When you're working on a production, you have rehearsals that last for a few hours and they're almost every day. It's a job and like most jobs, you have to be there. The difference is that we don't work in an office, we work in a theater (or set, if you're working on a film/tv production). Like many work environments, if you're single and you're spending a lot of time with your co-workers, connections, hook ups, relationships and all the sparks happen. It's a little bit of a notorious aspect of the "behind the scenes" of theater: everyone hooks-up! I was friendly to everyone, but during this time of my life, I was starting to get over it. I was starting to want to set down roots and the single life was not appealing to me anymore. At the time, my then future-boyfriend was single and living it up. Yeah, no, that life was not for me, I did not want to be around it, no judgements from me against the people who were meeting up after rehearsals - I just wasn't interested. So I didn't really get to know him that well at that time. He was an acquaintance, we thought the other was cool, we saw each other at parties, would say hi, vaguely keep tabs on each other through social media and that was pretty much it. I never asked much about him because I knew that he was a ladies man and I kept my distance.

5 years later, we booked the same film gig. A couple things were different now: I was single and he had had his third baby (I still didn't know about any kids, by the way). This film project was a bit of a different beast. I didn't have a sizable theater to roam around in away from people during breaks. We had a green room and the room in which we were filming. He was in every scene I was in so I was either on set with him, or with him in the green room because we were given breaks at the same time. We of course, did the whole "catch up" thing: "Hey, what's up? It's been how long? What have you been up to?" (still no mention of his kids) and this time, started to actually ask questions about the other. Since we were in close quarters on this film set, I actually got to see his acting. Here's a little trivia about me: If I like your work and you're a straight male, I'll develop a "day crush" on you. A day crush is exactly what it sounds: it lasts for the day. Usually by the time I've gone home, I've forgotten about it. My Knight is a very perceptive kind of person and picked up on my crushing vibes. Like any opportunistic single guy, he asked me to give him my number because he "had no friends to hang out with". I eye-rolled, told him to shut up, that I knew he had friends and then I gave him my number. In my experience, I never understood how people who have been friends for years, suddenly go from platonic to romantic. It had never happened to me. So when he asked to go out for dinner and drinks two days later, I thought I was going out with a friend. I had also forgotten about my day crush on him. It wasn't until 30 minutes into the date that I realized I was on a date. Yep ... *insert moment of panic here*. I mean, him picking me up from my place, giving me a kiss on the cheek when we said hello and holding open the passenger door of his car for me were clues that I noticed, but instantaneously thought, "Nah... he's my friend! He's just being really nice!" I'm a special kind of special. Once I realized and accepted that we were on a date (keyword here is "accepted"), we hit it off! (When I told my girl friends about all of this they pointed out, "What friend texts you, 'Would you like to get dinner and drinks?!?' They either say, 'Let's grab a drink!' or 'Let's grab dinner!' You're an idiot!". Fair enough.)

He was different than the other men I had been dating. He didn't play those typical dating games with me. He would call me when he said he would and he made it clear that he wanted to spend his time with me. He was asking to see me every couple of days! He would also tell me what he was up to without me even asking. My mind was blown! (What does that tell you about the majority of men that I'd been dealing with in the dating pool? I'm sure women do the same thing, but I've only had experience from the straight female's perspective.) Since he was being so transparent with me, I decided to give him my time because, why not? It was refreshing to spend time with someone who made it clear that he enjoyed my company. I didn't have to feign disinterest to get interest! The turning point for us was New Year's Day 2019. We woke up together in my apartment and had breakfast. We had both thought that this particular date would end after breakfast. Instead, we embarked on a 7 hour conversation about spirituality. We realized that we could talk to each other for hours and that we wanted to talk to each other for hours!

He didn't tell me about his children until 2 months into the relationship! He hid his family life really well - it was slightly alarming at how well he did it. Being actors, we both have experience working odd jobs. We usually are not on a regular schedule and our jobs frequently can take up our weekends. At the time, he did have a night weekend job, but he spent the days on every other weekend with his kids. I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks when he finally decided to tell me about them. We had been discussing whether we wanted to become an official couple and potentially build a future together. So maybe it was time to clue me in on children?!? (*Insert the first of many inner screams here*) He wasted 2 months of my life! He should have told me about his children as soon as he realized that I didn't know about them. He lied by omission and it was wrong! This was supposed to be the foundation of our relationship? I was angry and I was ready to leave. He then said, and I paraphrase:

"I'm sorry for lying to you. Most women leave when they find out about my situation and I usually tell them around the first time we become intimate. I didn't tell you because I really like you and I selfishly wanted to enjoy as much time with you as possible. I'm expecting you to leave now that you know. Just because I have kids doesn't mean you can't build with me. I've been around you for 2 months now. I know what you want in a partner and I can be that. Just give me a chance, please. There will be no more lies from here on out."

Sob story! Don't give in, girl!!! But, I did. I gave in. I didn't give in quietly or easily, though. I took a few days to think about it. By this time, I had really started to think of him not only as a lover, but also as a friend. If a friend of mine had said to me, "Rucka, I want an amazing woman who would be my partner, genuinely love me, support me in my dreams, hold me accountable to be my best self, accept me with the mistakes that I've made and accept me with my children. Does a woman like that exist?" I would've responded with, "Sure! But you've probably gotta be extremely patient and manifest that request hard. A woman who'd fit your criteria and accept 3 mothers would have to be extremely generous, patient and loving. Those women are hard to find!" I'm not a patient person and I'm only generous if I like you. But it felt hypocritical to me to actually believe that a woman existed out there for him, as long as that woman wasn't me. So I told him that I would give him that chance, but that the idea of taking on non-biological children was never in my plans. I was very weary of baby mama drama (in this case, times 3!!!) and the idea of accepting another woman's child was just ... no, I didn't want it! I was going to trust him when he said that, "Dating a single dad is not that bad." I also made it clear that I wanted monogamy. If he wanted me to stay, there had to be fidelity. I am not the jealous type and I'm old enough to realize that if a man wants to cheat, he will find a way to cheat. There is no point in trying to keep tabs on a man, cheating will happen if he wants it to happen. If I discovered that my boyfriend was unfaithful, I would leave the relationship and he would have to be the one to explain to his family as to why I left. There would be no second chance after this, no possibility of reconciliation. This was a non-negotiable deal breaker for me. At the time, I didn't trust that he had the baby mama drama under control. So I also had the clause that if I saw things that I didn't like, I would be out! When I first started dating my boyfriend, the inability to stay with one woman was part of his identity (these are his words). He didn't want to be "controlled". (So dramatic. *Insert eye roll here*) This was ridiculous! So I was supposed to "allow him to be himself" while not holding any standards for what I wanted for myself? I was a woman who was educated, career oriented, financially solvent, had steady employment, no children of my own and I was supposed to put up with a man who couldn't be faithful?!? F no! This was my price tag. If he wanted me, this was the price he would have to pay to keep me. In exchange, his price tag required me to adjust my vision of what kind of family I wanted, which, if I decided to have a family, was with a man who didn't have children. I felt that was fair. Is there a chance that my boyfriend could cheat? Absolutely. Do I believe that "once a cheater, always a cheater"? Yeah, I kind of do. Here is what I'll say in response: I am confident in myself to know that if my boyfriend cheats, I will be okay. My heart might hurt, but I can move forward and date anyone I want! My boyfriend, on the other hand has said, "The women I like are up here." (Visualize a hand gesture pointing to an imaginary boundary close to the ceiling.) "Because of my kids and my history, the women that I end up dealing with are down here" (Visualize accompanying hand gesture to the ground.) "You are up there and I want to keep you." He has more to lose than I do, especially now that I have a good relationship with his family and kids.

My boyfriend is lucky. I say that not because I think I'm all that amazing (but am I, though?), but because I don't think many men would be able to keep their girlfriend after a huge lie like that. To be fair, had he told me about his children on our first date, I would have ended things that evening. My decision to stay doesn't justify him lying by omission, although I can understand his logic. Again, he's just lucky. Things worked out for him due to my generosity. I chose to give him a chance and I will say that he has stepped up and met every standard that I have for a partner. Since he has made the effort to be a good partner, and by default has also stepped up his game to improve himself as a father, I do not feel like I've settled. He is imperfect, he is scarred, he is still working towards fixing past mistakes and bettering himself, but he has proven himself to be worthy of me. And for that, I love him, with all the dents in his very used armor.

Oh, and by request from my boyfriend, I'm telling the world that building a blended family with him and his kids hasn't been as terrifying as I initially thought it was going to be.

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