Ben Claassen III (For Express)
Express Advice Columnist

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Q. I am in my 40s, divorced with no kids, dating a woman with elementary school-age children. I know this is strange to say but I really, really like her kids and could see being a father figure to them someday (though their dad is very much still in their life). I look forward to seeing them just as much — or, honestly, more — as seeing their mom, and I worry what this means for our relationship. I don’t want to be using someone to have a ready-made family, but I also am happier with her than I am without her.

Well, you’re happier with her than without her. That’s something, right? (Even better than both liking “Breakfast at Tiffany’s!”) Though it doesn’t seem ideal to look forward to seeing her kids more than seeing her, it could be a positive thing, depending. How big is the gap between the two feelings? Are your feelings two subtly different levels of marvelous, or are they one marvelous and one “meh”? Also, how long have you been together? Being super-psyched to see her children just six weeks in — at the expense of truly getting to know her — is problematic, and could mask your judgment about whether she is the right fit. But having the same feeling six months in could mean that you are bonding with the family overall and are meshing beautifully with the big picture of her life, which could bode well. But if deep down you just want to be a dad — or a dad-ish figure — and she is only along for the ride, that’s not fair to anyone. Figure out the nuances here, and be honest with yourself.

If only I could be his only one

Q. How long should you give a guy to decide that he truly wants to be monogamous? I have been dating someone for six months. We met online, and agreed to keep things casual. A couple of months in, I wanted more and was ready to stop seeing other people, but he said he wasn’t ready to be monogamous. It’s been four more months and he says he still needs more time. He treats me like someone he happens to have plans with on a Friday night, but I really like him and think there’s long-term potential.

All that matters here is what feels right to you. Objectively, yes, six months is a reasonable time frame to expect someone to decide if they want to be monogamous. But more bothersome than the timeframe is the fact that the quality of the relationship seems unbalanced, and perhaps has been from the very beginning. It’s not about months, it’s about your different levels of prioritizing each other, your different goals and different visions. So I’m sorry that I don’t necessarily see the long-term potential quite the way you do. Key question: What actually will more time give him? What more is he hoping to figure out, and what would be different in two weeks or two months as compared to now? Without a good rationale, there’s an extremely weak line between deliberating versus stringing you along.

Read more Baggage Check:

My co-worker is obsessed with my boyfriend but doesn’t seem that interested in me

A year after our breakup, I’m still not over my ex-boyfriend. Am I hopeless?

My girlfriend keeps invading my personal space. How do I tell her to stop?