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Dear Demetria:

I recently married a man who cheated on his child's mother with me and other women. We had a short engagement and were married only a few months after his previous relationship ended. I think we got married too quickly. He and his ex have been in an ongoing custody battle and I am second-guessing myself. I really love him, but I don't know if getting married was the right thing. His child is just a toddler and I'm not comfortable with the situation. How do I fix this? —Anonymous

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It’s really hard to build anything sturdy when you don’t have a solid foundation. That goes for physical structures and relationships. Given the instability of your initial relationship with this man, I’m not at all surprised to hear you are second-guessing yourself. When it comes to this situation, neither of you has demonstrated good character here, and you haven’t given each other a reason to trust each other. That’s hard to work with.

Frankly, you should be second-guessing yourself. Neither you nor the man you married has demonstrated great decision-making. He was committed to someone he had a child with, and he was cheating all over the place with you and other women.

Your relationship was never healthy, and unfortunately, marriage isn’t a magic wand that can make a bad situation better or erase the secrecy, lies and deceit in which you both participated. Without intense work and the help of a professional, this relationship won’t just stay bad; it’ll get worse. That’s what you need to be worried about rather than the custody battle and the age of the child. Find a marriage counselor immediately, and share your concerns with your husband there. 

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I’m going to guess that part of the rush to marry him was to claim him, in a sense, from his child’s mother or the other women with whom he was cheating. Since he was cheating on her with you and others, there was clearly some hesitation on his part to leave the primary relationship.

But he did, eventually, and you probably wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t be headed back to her or to any other women, so you rushed the marriage without thinking through the very basics that came with this humongous decision and its impact on your life.  

The most baffling part of what you’ve shared is your shock that his child is a toddler and that he is seeking custody. You did know that he had a young child when you decided to marry him, so is it that you never discussed that he might want custody of his child, or did you expect that the child’s mother was going to turn custody over with little to no complaint? Or is it that you aren’t ready to be a stepmother (which is puzzling for a woman who married a man with a child)? It sounds like you were hell-bent on having this man for yourself at any cost and you never considered what actually comes along with that commitment. You got what you asked for, and now you’re realizing that you got more than you expected.

What is working in your favor is that the custody battle won’t last forever and the kid won’t be a toddler forever. If the battle and the age of the child are your biggest gripes, then time will take care of both. That said, I don’t know how long the child’s mother will be rightfully angry about this situation. She could, if she wanted, make both of your lives hell for a very long time.

If you don’t want to be a full-time mom, then it’s best you exit this marriage with haste. It would be reprehensible for you to attempt to interfere with your husband’s ability to seek custody of his child. And if he gains custody, it would be equally terrible to make this child feel unwelcome and unwanted because you wanted the daddy but not him or her. You shouldn’t have put yourself in this situation, but don’t make it even worse by punishing the child for your shortsighted decisions.  

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

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Previously in Ask Demetria: “I Want to Get to Know the Guy I’m Sleeping With Better, but He Only Cares About the Sex