Q: My boyfriend and I recently got engaged. He has two children, ages 3 and 4, but he never married their mother. He says they have known each other since childhood and they had kids as “friends.” I have been struggling for three years with their relationship as they have no boundaries, and the relationship is ongoing. He says he told her about me, but I am waiting (after three years) to meet her. It’s always an inappropriate time. I am still excluded from picking them up, birthday parties, everything. When is it time for me? 

A: Seriously? The appropriate time would have been about two and a half years ago if it appeared you were going to be a permanent fixture, but definitely as soon as possible now that you are engaged.

We do see a red flag here. We can’t say we have never heard of people having children together as “friends,” but it is rare, so we’re thinking this may have been more than a friendship — at least in the mother’s eyes. If they were more than friends to your fiance, he probably would be referring to her in “ex” terms. That means Mom may not see things the same way Dad does — and that right there could be the root of why you have not met her in the last few years.

In fact, we are betting she wasn’t “just a friend” and may not even be an ex. All signs point to something you may not have taken into consideration. She’s not the other woman. You are. The fact that he told you about her and his kids allows him to talk to her freely when you are around. The youngest child is the same age as when you started dating. It just sounds very fishy to us.

Of course there are reasons why parents don’t introduce their new partners to their children. Particularly in the beginning of a relationship, it’s best to hold off on introductions until you are sure the partner will be a partner. But rarely does this take as long as you have stated. It’s time to introduce you to the mother of his children so you can progress to meeting the children and normalize your relationship. Give him a safe time frame, say 30 days (it has been three years, after all) to put everything in place. If he refuses or drags his feet, that’s another red flag.

Ex-Etiquette Rule 8: Be honest and straightforward. You can’t build a good relationship on so many secrets.

Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Exetiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).