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Thursday
Jan012009

"My boyfriend, his kids, and his ex..."

After this post, we received a number of emails from women which all varied on the theme of "What degree of contact is appropriate for my boyfriend to have with his ex?" and "My boyfriend hasn't introduced me to his kids yet." Our position on co-parenting and dating is discussed in part in the interview I (Deesha) conducted with Mike's fiancee and our children's future stepmom, Sherry.  But because of the feedback we've received, we've decided to share more of our thoughts about dating and co-parenting, based on our experiences, on the experiences of people we know, and on good ol' common sense.Incidentally, our advice is directed at women dating men because, without exception, these are the folks who have reached out to us.  But we believe that the same principles still apply in other dating situations.


It's interesting, however, that men don't seem to have "meet-the-kids-why-are-you-hanging-around-your-ex" concerns to the same extent that women do.  If anything, according to some single guys we know, too many women want to rush their dates/boyfriends into meeting their kids, when the guys would rather proceed more cautiously.

This is a serious topic, but we believe laughter can be the best medicine and  a little levity can help bring peace to a tense situation.

So, sometimes with tongue firmly implanted in cheek, we present the following Co-Parenting and Dating FAQs:

My boyfriend’s ex spends all the holidays with him and their kids, and it drives me nuts!  Am I wrong to complain?*

It depends.  Are shared holidays part of the co-parenting plan your boyfriend and his children’s mother established when they split up?  If so, then it’s not so much that you’re wrong than it is that your boyfriend is obliged to honor this component of his agreement with his ex.  Remember, divorce ends a marriage, but families endure.  Sharing the holidays may be one way that your boyfriend and his ex affirm to their children that though they no longer live together, they are still part of a loving family.

What exactly about this arrangement drives you nuts?  Are you never invited to attend?  Is your boyfriend’s ex rude or otherwise unwelcoming toward you when you do join them?  Are your boyfriend and his ex are a little too “joyous” (i.e., intimate) during these holiday celebrations?  If so, address your concerns to your boyfriend.  The problem is not the joint holiday celebration per se, but rather your feeling excluded, disrespected, and/or his ex’s attitude toward you.

Barring any of the above…it’s perfectly understandable if seeing your boyfriend interact with his children and his ex makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable.  We (Mike and Deesha) routinely socialize together with our kids and our significant others, and yet on occasion we still feel something nudge us inside that says  “This is a little weird!”  Feeling awkward or uncomfortable is part of the growing pains of being part of a co-parenting family.  Name the feelings, own them, and give them time to subside.  The more secure you feel in your relationship with your boyfriend, the less threatened you’ll feel by his interactions with his ex and kids.

You’re entitled to your feelings about all of this and should communicate them appropriately (and privately) to your boyfriend.  If the two of you are forging a serious relationship, and he’s committed to cooperative parenting with his ex, you’ll need to talk about your relationship going forward within the context of putting his children’s needs first…without turning you into a doormat.  It’s an incredible balancing act that should only be attempted by mature adults.

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for six months, and he still hasn’t introduced me to his daughter.  I told him that if he’s serious about me, he’ll let me meet her, and if not, we’re done.

Ultimatums in relationships are rarely a good idea, especially if you don’t have the wherewithal to carry out your “…or else.”

Six months feels like a long time to you, but maybe not so much for your boyfriend.  Perhaps he’s still deciding how he feels about you, how committed he is to your relationship, and if it is serious enough to warrant an introduction to his kids.  Some parents rightfully keep their kids away from the revolving door of their dating lives.  They are very selective about whom they introduce their children to and in what context.

Before our divorce was even finalized, we agreed not to introduce the kids to our “dates”–people we were still getting to know and not sure if we would commit to long-term.  We ended up introducing our children to our respective significant others after a year and two years of dating, respectively, once we believed that these people were The Ones we wanted to spend our lives with, and once we believed the kids were ready for introductions to someone new.  Our significant others were introduced to the kids gradually, first as “just friends”, and then more as time went on.

Every family is different; the “right” time frame for introductions depends on the status of the new couple, the health of the co-parenting relationship, and the children’s specific needs and concerns.  It’s a huge step for children to be introduced to their parent’s significant others.  It may conjure fears of being displaced, concerns about having to “compete” for dad’s (or mom’s) attention, and it kills the fantasy many kids have that their parents will get back together.  For these reasons, timing can be everything when introducing kids to the new someone in your life.

Ask your boyfriend if he has a time frame in mind for introducing you to this daughter.  What are his concerns?  How does he think the introduction should take place?  Where?  How much time will you spend with his daughter at the first meeting?  Does the child’s mother have concerns about the child meeting you?  These should be addressed as well.

If you are committed to a serious relationship with your boyfriend, let him know that you are also committed to doing what’s best for his kids.  Let him know that you honor the fact that his kids come first, but that you would like some reassurance about your presence in his and his children’s lives going forward.

My boyfriend and his ex sleep in the same bed sometimes when he visits his kids.  He says nothing happens and it doesn’t mean anything, but I don’t like it.

It’s time to introduce Kenny Rogers’  “The Gambler” Rules for Dating a Co-Parent:

“You got to know when to hold ‘em….” So it’s been two months, and your boyfriend hasn’t introduced you to his kids.  Sit tight.  Hang in there.  It’s early yet.

“…know when to fold ‘em…” You’re dating this guy, and every night he calls to say goodnight to his kids.  He spends about five minutes talking to the kids, and then 30 minutes talking and laughing with his ex about non-kid stuff and the inside jokes they shared as a couple.  As they chit-chat, you sit next to him twiddling your thumbs while watching Dancing with the Stars.

“…know when to walk away…” You’ve dated this guy for three years.  He hasn’t introduced you to his kids, and he shushes you whenever his ex calls (which is often), saying, “She’s still raw from the breakup.  I haven’t told her about you yet.”

“…know when to run…” Your boyfriend and his ex sleep in the same bed sometimes when he visits his kids.  He says nothing happens and it doesn’t mean anything.

If your gut tells you that your boyfriend isn’t over his ex, you’re probably right.  Listen to your gut, and move on.  If he really is over his ex, and he really is interested in committing to you, he will make it his business to make both crystal clear to you.  You shouldn’t have to wonder.

My boyfriend’s babymama won’t let me meet his kids.  She says that if he brings the kids around me, she’ll go to court to take away his visitation.  Can she do this?

The short answer is, “No, she can’t.”  Unless you pose some danger to the children,  your presence is not legal grounds for ceasing his visitation.

Sounds like the ex wants to punish your boyfriend for moving on (or other crimes), and thinks that his visitation is fair game.   There are few co-parenting matters that infuriate us more than when adults use children as pawns to fight their personal battles and demons.

Hopefully your boyfriend can have a calm conversation with his ex, letting her know that his visitation and your presence in his life have no bearing on each other.  He should affirm to her that the kids are and will always be his first priority.  Has he offered to let her meet you before you meet the kids?  Perhaps that will allay her concerns.  But experience tells us that anyone who would threaten to take away visitation to grind their own personal ax isn’t inclined to be so congenial.  All you (and your boyfriend) can do is try and to treat her with respect, regardless of her irrational threats.

When you do interact with the kids, your conversation about their mother with them and in front of them should exist along the continuum of neutral to nice.  Even if she bad-mouths you and your boyfriend around the kids, the two of you have to be the bigger persons, for the sake of the kids.

Keep in mind that the kids may feel wary or conflicted about meeting you because they know their mother is against it.  Respect their position, and don’t be overly chummy or try too hard to get them to like you.  Treat them kindly, but give them space.  In time, hopefully, the dust will settle between their parents, and the kids will feel free to get to know you.

My boyfriend spends too much time with his ex.  How can I get him to see that this isn’t fair to me?

This is a tough one because how much time do you consider too much time?  Some women think that their boyfriend shouldn’t spend any time with his ex because if it’s over, it’s over, right?  Well, if they have kids, it’s never truly over.   They may no longer be a couple, but if they are committed to cooperative parenting, they will have to interact for their kids’ sake.  As someone dating a co-parent, part of your adjustment is making peace with this reality.

“Too much time” also depends on the circumstances.  Are they spending time together dealing with kid-related concerns (school problems, health or behavior issues, e.g.), or are they just hanging out enjoying each other’s company?  The latter is an eyebrow-raiser that you should certainly address with your boyfriend (and see the Kenny Rogers’  “The Gambler” Rules for Dating a Co-Parent above).

In our culture, we are so accustomed to nasty divorces or to custody arrangements where kids barely (or never) see one parent, that we question how “normal” it is for ex-spouses to get along, much less spend time in each other’s company.  Remember divorce ends a marriage, but families endure.  Children need reassurance that they are still part of a loving, caring family.  Co-parents who interact in civil and cordial ways and minimize conflict–these parents make life much, much better for kids after divorce.  When a new girlfriend (or boyfriend) comes on the scene, it’s important that boundaries between “the old” and “the new” be respected, but the children remain the top priority.

Ask yourself if the real issue is inappropriate contact between your boyfriend and his ex, or if the real issue is your insecurity about your relationship.  Do you feel that your boyfriend and his ex are crossing boundaries and not showing you (and the new relationship) the appropriate respect?  Your boyfriend should be able to demonstrate his commitment to you in definitive ways that do not require his ex to be used  as litmus test.  His interaction with his ex (or lack thereof) isn’t a reliable gauge of his commitment to you.   Share your concerns with him directly–but take the focus off his ex, if the real issue is concern about your relationship.

The more secure you feel in your relationship with your boyfriend, the less threatened you’ll feel by his interactions with his ex.  It’s easy to think, “I’ll feel better if he didn’t spend so much time with her”, when truly what will make you feel better is clarity and reassurance about his commitment to you and your relationship.

My boyfriend vacations with his kids and his ex.  Is this normal?

Is it typical?  No.  But among those committed to cooperative parenting after divorce, it’s not unheard of.  Ever summer since our divorce, we have vacationed together with the kids.  Our respective significant others have accepted this as part of our commitment to affirming to our daughters that they are still part of a family.  One lament that children of divorce have is that they spend all or most of their time with one parent or the other.  Many children crave times when everyone can be together “like old times”; some parents sacrifice to give them such times.

Co-parenting (parenting in general!) involves lots of sacrifice, including continued interaction with one’s ex, forgiveness, and getting along for the sake of the kids.  By dating (or marrying) a co-parent, you are signing up to sacrifice as well: time, attention, and your comfort zone.

We’re not saying it’s easy knowing that your boyfriend is away with his “old” family.  But keep in mind, the kids aren’t “old”–they are very much a part of his present reality.  Get on board with his commitment to meeting their needs.

That said, consider the specific circumstances of your boyfriend’s family vacation in light of the Kenny Rogers’  “The Gambler” Rules for Dating a Co-Parent above.

My boyfriend won’t insist on boundaries with his ex.  She shows up at his house unannounced, interferes with our social plans, calls constantly, bad-mouths our relationship to the kids, and always uses the kids as her excuse for her behavior.  Should I put up with this?

No, you shouldn’t.  Is your boyfriend worried that insisting on boundaries will anger his ex?  If so, he may have to suck it up, have a conversation with her, and deal with the fallout.  She may initially chafe at his insistence that she respect his boundaries, but hopefully  his calm, matter-of-fact presentation of his expectations will temper her reaction.

Your boyfriend should also reflect on why he’s been so unwilling to insist on boundaries.  Are there issues from their relationship that he still needs to heal or resolve?

Finally, as for what you should do, consider your boyfriend situation in light of the Kenny Rogers’  “The Gambler” Rules for Dating a Co-Parent above.  Perhaps you should give him some time to work out this kink in his relationship with his co-parent.  But if the handwriting is on the wall, and he refuses to insist on boundaries, it may be time to fold ‘em.

~~~

Well, that’s the gist of the dating and co-parenting concerns folks have shared with us.  Don’t see your situation reflected in the FAQs above? Leave a comment or email us!

Happy dating and co-parenting!

« 5 Reasons to Co-Parent After Divorce or Separation | Main | "Custody Chaos, Personal Peace: Sharing Custody with an Ex Who is Driving You Crazy" »

Reader Comments (335)

Emily,

Isn't it funny (not "ha-ha" funny, but sad funny) how an expensive lawyer can "turn" a parent who has lost custody/visitation into a "good" parent who is fit to have custody or visitation? Sad, but true. My heart goes out to all those concerned parents who can't afford good representation.

As Rebekah Spicuglia, the founder of NonCustodial Parent Community, pointed out in http://coparenting101.org/2009/07/09/the-truth-about-noncustodial-parents-an-interview-with-rebekah-spicuglia/" rel="nofollow">our interview with her, sometimes it's merely the parent with the best lawyer who is awarded custody. I'm glad your boyfriend had his custody/visitation restored, but it's unfortunate that the drama and stress are continuing for his child. I would suggest on-going counseling for the son, if he's not already getting it (request that the court mandate it, if the mom objects), and also counseling for your boyfriend. A good counselor can help equip your boyfriend to help his son. Further, your boyfriend might ask the court to require parenting classes and/or counseling for him and the child's mother, as part of their shared parenting plan.

In the meantime, he should document, document, document! Every conversation, every incident of concern regarding his child and the child's mother...note it all in a journal; it will come in handy for any future hearings. Finally, click http://coparenting101.org/2009/07/08/a-divorce-attorney-on-co-parenting-an-interview-with-julia-hottle-day-part-2/" rel="nofollow">here for a link to a two-part interview with a divorce attorney on the subject of high-conflict co-parents.

All the best to you and your family,
~Deesha

July 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thank you for your quick response!!

His son has been seeing a social worker for the past year. The sad part is the mother enrolled him in these therapy sessions without notifying him. They have joint legal custody. The mother has also met with this social worker on numerous occasions and has literally "painted" a bad picture of my boyfriend for the last year. She is clever at getting allies on her side from teachers to babysitters, etc. She claims he is the fault of all of his son's problems. However, the social worker did not contact the father to speak with him too. The parenting coordinator was not happy with the social worker's decision not to include the father. She also believes that the social worker isn't helping the boy and suggests he see a psychologist of which neither parent knows and is neutral. Of course, nothing has happened and nothing has changed. I'm hoping that the counselor is building a case to present to the judge that would demand this change in counseling and maybe request counseling for the parents too. Up to this time, the mother has refused any counseling because she is fine... he is the problem. A typical trait of a narcissist.

My boyfriend has documented everything and has about 500+ emails in a binder. He has always been pleasant in the emails. She is the one that goes off the handle.

After going through this with my boyfriend, I have seen first hand how the court system has failed children. I cannot believe a responsible, caring father can lose so much because of lies and personal interest of one party. It's an injustice to children and our future. My boyfriend has spent $50,000+ just to be a Dad to his son and for his son to have a Dad. No wonder why some parents just give up. There should be a penalty for parents that put children in the middle. A lot of this nonsense would stop today.

Thanks again for your reply and suggestions!

Oh...i don't see the link of that interview...

July 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

You're welcome, Emily. I totally agree that the court's tendency to be reactive instead of proactive and to drop the ball at the expense of kids is a disgrace.

Apologies...the link was embedded in my previous comment, but here it is again in full form:
http://coparenting101.org/2009/07/08/a-divorce-attorney-on-co-parenting-an-interview-with-julia-hottle-day-part-2/

Best,
~Deesha

July 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thank you very much!!! Have a nice day.

July 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Keyina,

Absolutely go to the precinct to try and get an order of protection. It sounds like you've exhausted all other possibilities. If you reply to this comment and tell me what state you're in, I'll see if I can run your question by a family law attorney in your state who would be better equipped to advise you. (I won't post/approve the comment giving your location, to protect your privacy; only I will be able to see it.)

Best to you,
Deesha

July 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

i need to know what to do. i was attacked by the girlfriend of my daughter's father. her and three friend jumped me at a night club recently. i dont know this woman but she obviously knows me. I have pictures of a scratch on my face in which she did during the fight. after the fight the woman yelled out that it wasnt over and that she would fight me every time she see's me and she also said that my daughter has to be over there with her when she visits with her father and if she cant get to me she will get to me through my daughter. i take that very seriously especiakky b/cause she started a fight with me for no reason. I filed a police report that night but they made it for harassment because i didnt have her name. when I spoke to my daughter'f father he swore that they were n longer involved and that she no longer lived there. but he refused to give me the info i needed to get an order of protection for my self and for my child. a few days later my friend who was there that night called me & told me that this same woman was in the car with my daugter's father and she tried to get out of the car to fight my friend but my daighter's father pulled off. she also said that the woman yelled out" tell your friend I'm still looking for her. the next day I went down to family court and asked for an order of protection and a modification of visitation because my daughter's father would not give me the necessary info for me to protect myself and our child. i also knew that with people still seeing them togethe that he was also lying about them no longer being together or living together. He also threatned to hurt me if i didnt send our child on her next visit. the courts would not grant me any temporary orders which was appalling to me. im trying to protect my child from a woman who physically hurt me and threatned my 20month old child who cannot yet communicate to me if someone has hurt her in any way. we do however have a hearing date for later this month.
a few days later my daughter's father came to my home to talk to me about the ongoing situation. He again said they were not together and that he was ready to give me the information I needed to get the order of protection. he gave me a fake name and I know this because i had just received the information of who this woman was and that she really did live with him from one of her friends who asked to remain nameless. I knew that he wa only trying to cover his own behind. when i told him that i went to the courts he became enraged and he left and i havent heard from him since. he has missed three visits so far. Ihave also gon to criminal court with the womans info to try to get an order of protection but they wouldnt give me one either. they suggested mediation. they wouldnt give me one unless i had her arrested. im so confused as to why no one is taking this situation serious. I need to know what to do and what my options are as far as keeping this woman away from me and my child. Should i try and get a restraining order at the precint? Im kinda out of ideas. if you can offer any advice i would appreciate it

July 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkeyina

Thank you so much for responding so quickly. have a blessed day

July 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkeyina

You're welcome. May I use your email address, if I am able to get a response for you from an attorney?

Best,
~Deesha

July 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

yes please i need all the help i can get. thank you thank you thank you

July 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkeyina

First, just finding this site has healed me in so many ways! Thank you, thank you, thank you...

I met the man I am dating a year ago and we were both ending/ trying to end the long term relationships we were in when we fell in love. I was successful, but he was not. Instead of being honest with his ex and telling her that he wanted to move on, he continued to date her and me at the same time. Long story short, she found out he was dating me and flipped. He tried to smooth things over which led to sex and she ended up pregnant with his child. To my knowledge, he did not date her while she was pregnant, but he was there for her the entire time. Not only did he help her prepare for the baby (his first, her second) he also took care of her daughter from a previous relationship.

What bothers me is that he, at some point, decided he no longer wanted people to know about us. He had led his friends and family on to believe that he and I no longer exist and that he is just "focusing on his family." When I asked him why he was so afraid to tell his family and ex all of a sudden, he replied, "I don't want my ex to try to keep my child away from me and I know my mother... She will talk if she finds out about you. "

This makes me angry because I feel like I am left alone to take on the burden of "us" alone. Heck, it's not easy for me to explain to my friends that my the person I believe is my soulmate cheated on me with his ex, got her pregnant, and now has a child by another woman! I know his ex is not over him and I know that he is afraid to tell her about us. I understand the family thing.. they want him to be a good guy, work it out for the kids, and get over his little crush on me... But how long is long enough for these feelings to subside? When is the right time to reintroduce me?

I feel like I am settling for a man who is ashamed of me or too cowardly to actually deal with the consequences of being honest with the other people in his life. Yet, I know this is a delicate situation, that his ex is saddened that their relationship didn't work, and that this is very much about timing. Still, I don't want to make excuses for him! I know I should be happy that he is already asking me to meet his son.. but in secret? How long should I wait?

The baby is just days old, and he and I are both adjusting to less time together because of daddy duties. I was already struggling with not being able to speak to/see him as much as I wanted because he was so hands on with the pregnancy. Being a secret adds more strain because we can't speak to one another when he is in the company of his ex or his family which is about 23 hours a day! Should I meet his child under these conditions? If so, when should I expect him to get the guts to tell everyone the truth?

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Hi, Ashley,

I'm so glad you've found the site helpful.

You wrote:

I feel like I am settling for a man who is ashamed of me or too cowardly to actually deal with the consequences of being honest with the other people in his life.

You are indeed settling, and he is indeed either cowardly, lying, or both.

Yet, I know this is a delicate situation, that his ex is saddened that their relationship didn’t work, and that this is very much about timing.

And yet she's an adult, and relationships end, and life goes on, and grown ups learn how to face reality and move on. He's blatantly telling you that he's sacrificing what's fair and respectful to you in order to spare another woman's feelings! I think he's made his choice, but by sticking around, you're sending him the message that you're okay with being his side piece, or playing second fiddle to his child's mother. If this is not what you want to be to him, then let him go until and unless he's ready to date you publicly and respectfully.

The timing has to do with the baby; the baby is new; the fact that he's no longer interested in a relationship with the baby's mother should have sunken by now--IF he's maintained an appropriate boundary with her--IF. But even if it hasn't sunken in with her, why should you settle for a secret relationship? There's no legitimate reason he has to keep up a facade of a relationship with her and keep you a secret. To be a good father, he only has to do right by his child--not date the child's mother, not placate his family.

"“I don’t want my ex to try to keep my child away from me..." Then he should go to court and establish a custody and visitation agreement. This may be a real and vaild concern, but it also plays as just another excuse.

Still, I don’t want to make excuses for him!

Right. Because he's making enough for the both of you.

I know I should be happy that he is already asking me to meet his son..

Actually, no, because that's just a bone he's throwing you. He's offering you just enough to keep you around. As long as you will settle for these crumbs, he'll keep serving them up. Don't settle. And don't interact with someone else's baby in secret. I don't know if you're a mother or not, but I can tell you that I would be livid if anyone--much less my child's father!--had my baby around someone *in secret*. How would you feel if it was your baby, and the tables were turned?

He wants to have his cake and eat it too. He feels torn between what his ex wants, what his family expects, and his mother's tongue-wagging. So hard...but guess what. Life is hard and full of choices that are difficult and painful. It's pretty selfish of him to avoid sleeping in the bed he's made, at your expense. But he can only do this to the extent that you allow him to. He may or may not be willing to dignify your relationship by making it public, but you owe it to yourself to accept nothing less than this.

The baby is just days old, and he and I are both adjusting to less time together because of daddy duties. I was already struggling with not being able to speak to/see him as much as I wanted because he was so hands on with the pregnancy.

Honestly, I think he lied to you. I think it's great that he wants to be a hands on dad, even during the pregnancy, but it sounds like his not spending much time with you during the pregnancy (or now) is a choice he made, not for his child, but for the child's mother, at the very least. There's also the very real possibility that he still wants to be involved with her as well, and has used/is using the baby as an excuse to keep you too. While you would never ask a parent to choose between you and his child, you owe it to yourself to ask him to make a choice between you and this child's mother.

Is he living with his child and the child's mother?

Should I meet his child under these conditions?

No. Doing so tells him that you are willing to continue settling for side status. It would be most appropriate for you to meet his son when/if the two of you are in a solid relationship that is known to everyone, especially the child's mother. If his child were older and could talk, would he introduce you and expect the child to keep the secret too? I doubt it, so your meeting an infant is fairly meaningless. You're not meeting this child because you are special to this man; you are meeting the child because the child can't talk. I don't mean to convey that harshly, but I really think this is the dynamic at play.

If so, when should I expect him to get the guts to tell everyone the truth?

Honestly, I believe he will keep up this charade as long as you allow him to. He should have demonstrated his guts from the outset of his relationship with you. What he has going now is a win-win from his perspective, and a total loss for you.

Finally...if you had a daughter, would you encourage her to stay in a relationship in which she was a secret? If he had a daughter, would he?

Best to you,
~Deesha

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thanks Deesha,

You confirmed what I already knew! I can't be angry if I have allowed these things to be done to me. Time to make a change and stand up for myself. I may end up alone, but really, is that any different than what I am now?

I appreciate your response so much!
Thanks again.. and great point- If my daughter were in my shoes, I would tell her to walk. Shame is, the women in my life, we don't seem to be strong enough to walk away from what we want the most when it hurts us the most. This is going to be hard, but I'm building my courage as we speak.

July 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Brava, Ashley!!

It can be soooo hard to walk away. I've been there!

You made an excellent point: "I may end up alone, but really, is that any different than what I am now?" There's something I've learned along the way that has become a guiding principle in my life: There are worst things in life than being lonely--among them, being with someone and still being lonely.

Another principle: What would I want my daughters to do in a given situation? I should have the same standards for myself and how I interact with others. Often, we demand better for our children than we do for ourselves.

All the best to you,
~Deesha

July 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My boyfriend was with his ex for 9 years and they were engaged. They have a son together who is a 2. My boyfriend and I have been together a little over a year and a half.
He had still been with her while we were dating (I didn't know this at the time. I was led to believe they had been broken up)
When his fiancee and I found out he first tried to lie to her about me. I told her the truth and he finally admitted to it. He told me he stayed with her for the kid, that they had never really planned on getting married and they weren't really together. They weren't sleeping together either. She confirmed this, they weren't getting along. They had been breaking up before she got pregnant. He went off to Europe and she was suppose to be gone when he came back....but she was pregnant so he stayed with her. (This was before we were dating). After she found out about us she wanted to stay with him and I stepped back so they could figure things out. I have no interest in ruining a family. He left her a few days later and a she moved out. After that we got back together.

The problem is he doesn't want her to know that he's seeing me again, he is nervous about bringing me over because her sister still lives in the building and might see me. For that reason he hasn't let me come over when he has his son. (I read what you wrote about seeing kids in secret and I wouldn't want to do that to her anyway). There is also still a picture of her on his fridge. I haven't said anything about it.
I do still go to his place allot and spend the night. All her stuff is gone. So I'm certain she's gone. I know she'll be upset to know we are still together but how long should I wait before he tells her? The pictures of her also bothers me, though I try to ignore them. I clearly still have some trust issues as well, I'm worried that the reason he doesn't want to tell her about us is because he doesn't want to burn any bridges. We've been together a long while, and I had thought they had been broken up just as long so its hard sometimes to remember that its really just been a few months. I'm trying to be patient but its frustrating. What should I do?

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Hi, Lisa,

Thanks for stopping by. You wrote: I’m worried that the reason he doesn’t want to tell her about us is because he doesn’t want to burn any bridges.

Has your boyfriend given you an explanation for why he doesn't want his ex to know he's seeing you? He doesn't have to make an announcement to her that the two of you are dating, unless he plans to introduce you to his son. There are a variety of valid reasons a parent may delay introducing their child to a significant other, but I can't think of a legitimate reason for him not to allow you to come to his house when his son is not around. So what if her sister sees you? As long as his son doesn't, there shouldn't be a problem.

Your concern about him trying to keep the door open with her sounds about right to me. In fact, given his track recording of lying to you, he may be walking through that door already.

So I can certainly understand your frustration. I don't think there's really any reason for you to wait around to see if he's going to tell her about you, especially when he's not giving you any indication as to what he could possibly be waiting for. My advice is to let him know that you would like to date openly--that includes going to his place. If he's not willing to do this, I say move on.

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

We do go and stay at his place often. Probably twice a week but he's always nervous about it. About his ex the only explanation I ever get is "she will freak out if she knows I'm still seeing you".

Her sister is moving out of the building at the end of the month. He wants me to come over then and meet his son. He still wont be telling his ex about me though.

I guess I'll have to try to talk to him about it..... or leave like you suggested if he's unwilling to be honest with everyone.

Thanks for your help!

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Hello,

I read the wise words you offered on your site about co-parenting and taking vacations as a family that is "enduring", and I have a question for you that I really hope you can help me with! I have a lot of information to get across before I get to my question, so I apologize in advance if it seems really choppy! My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for 9 months and are in love with each other. He truly has been wonderful to me. He co-parents his 7-year-old son with his ex and I support their co-parenting. He and his ex attend his school and sporting events together, have joint custody, but otherwise are only in contact with each other when one gets the son from the other, or by phone when something comes up that has to do with the son. My boyfriend wanted to introduce me to his son after we'd been seeing each other for three months, and I wanted to make sure that we didn't rush into it, and that we did our best to ensure that the first meeting was appropriate and respectful. My boyfriend and his ex even asked a child psycholgist about the best way to introduce a new partner into their son's life, and we followed her advice. Since then we have enjoyed activities together several times with his son and my boyfriend feels secure that his son likes me and is fine with our relationship. I haven't met my boyfriend's ex yet. She seems fine with our relationship and doesn't feel threatened by my presence in her son's or her ex's life.
Okay...that's the background info...now I'm leading up to my question...! My boyfriend and his ex recently signed a separation agreement and are planning to file for divorce in September. They are planning to take their son on a trip to Disneyland together in a few weeks as a family trip to give their son happy memories before they divorce. As I mentioned earlier, I do support the idea of co-parenting, but I'm completely new to the idea of co-parenting vacations, and a few details about the trip have me really concerned. First, they are spending a week in California (Disneyland and Sea World in San Diego) just the three of them. Next...they are planning to share a hotel room. I have major concerns about this. I worry about their son -- that it will blur the boundaries of their current reality -- that they have lived in separate houses for over a year and it may confuse their son by getting his hopes up that they are reconciling if he sees them all staying in close quarters. My second concern is for my own heart. I do trust my boyfriend, but human nature is human nature, and I worry that spending that amount of time together, especially sharing a hotel room, will bring back old feelings. I've expressed this to him, and he is adamant that he loves me, can't wait for the divorce to be final so we can move ahead with our relationship (i.e. move in together) and that this is all about being together for his son to give him happy memories and nothing else. Actually, he did mention that it's also about finances and that it's cheaper for them to share a room (which is true...but I still think it's inappropriate for them to share a hotel room). Gaah! What do you think?

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKfactor

Hi, KFactor,

First...major kudos to you, your boyfriend, and his soon-to-be ex for your maturity and sensitivity to the needs of their child.

About their family vacation:

First, they are spending a week in California (Disneyland and Sea World in San Diego) just the three of them.

Check! We did that (took a week-long trip) with the kids every summer, from the onset of our separation and subsequent divorce until this summer when recently we spent a weekend away--Mike, me, the kids, Sherry (Mike's wife), my fiance, my future stepkids, my fiance's niece, and Sherry's niece (I'm tired just typing all that!).

Also my fiance, his ex, and their kids took a week-long vacation once, when we were first dating.

Next…they are planning to share a hotel room.

Check! We did this previously too, and so did my fiance (then-boyfriend) when he and his ex vacationed with the kids.

I have major concerns about this. I worry about their son — that it will blur the boundaries of their current reality — that they have lived in separate houses for over a year and it may confuse their son by getting his hopes up that they are reconciling if he sees them all staying in close quarters.

This could happen, but a lot depends on the age of the child, and on the conversations his parents have been having with him about the finality of their split--or lack thereof. They may even choose to have a special conversation with him about what this family vacation does and does not mean, just to head off some confusion. Regardless, the child may still fantasize about his parents getting back together, finding hope in even the smallest of interactions, whether they go on vacation of not. This is typical of children of divorce.

Over the years that we vacationed together, neither of our children asked about us getting back together. I suppose they saw the vacation as an extension of the occasional dinners and outings that we have together throughout the year. And we've been very clear about the fact that we won't be reconciling, and that we all spend time together because they are important to us, and because we are still a family--Mike and I are just not a couple.

My second concern is for my own heart.

Completely understandable, and I applaud you for being honest with yourself about that.

I do trust my boyfriend, but human nature is human nature, and I worry that spending that amount of time together, especially sharing a hotel room, will bring back old feelings. I’ve expressed this to him, and he is adamant that he loves me, can’t wait for the divorce to be final so we can move ahead with our relationship (i.e. move in together) and that this is all about being together for his son to give him happy memories and nothing else.

Not knowing your boyfriend's situation, I can't comment on the likelihood of proximity rekindling things. But I will say this: First, it is a common myth that people have about co-parenting that being "nice" to each other and being around each other will cause sparks between the former couple and lead to rekindling. We addressed this myth http://coparenting101.org/2009/01/28/5-myths-about-co-parentingor-what-to-tell-the-nay-sayers/" rel="nofollow">here, but in short: Try to give co-parents the benefit of the doubt. If they've taken themselves and their children through the emotional upheaval of separation of divorce, then they probably made sure that the fire was out completely.

That's not to say that co-parents never reconcile, however. And it's easy for me to say "don't worry about it" because I haven't been in your shoes (I didn't have any concern about my then-boyfriend reconciling with his ex when they vacationed with the kids). So once again, I will ask our kids' step-mom, Sherry, to chime in. I know she caught some heat from folks that care about her when Mike and I vacationed with the kids when the two of them were first dating.

In the meantime, I asked my fiance about this. I asked him if he ever worried about Mike and I reconnecting while vacationing with the kids. His response: "If you guys were going to rekindle, you didn't have to wait until you went on vacation to do it. You interacted on other occasions, and had plenty of opportunity. I never worried about that."

Actually, he did mention that it’s also about finances and that it’s cheaper for them to share a room (which is true…but I still think it’s inappropriate for them to share a hotel room). Gaah! What do you think?

Saving money was our primary reason as well. Plus, it's one less time the kids are required to be with one parent OR the other.

I think it's understandable and okay for you not to be thrilled about this. But I also believe that the shared room isn't necessarily inappropriate. Now, if one or both of them were having a hard time letting go of the relationship, or thought they should share a bed or something, then I'd raise an eyebrow.

Now, all of this isn't to say that successful co-parenting requires joint vacations, with or without shared hotel rooms. Some may feel that it is inappropriate for their situation. Just saying that it is something that some co-parenting families find that works for them and that their kids really enjoy.

Best,
~Deesha

August 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha,

Thank you so much for such a fast, kind and considerate reponse! No-one I know has been in my situation or has even really heard of this type of arrangement before, so I really appreciate getting feedback from someone who has been there! I am using my boyfriend's previous behaviour (which has been fabulous) as my guide to help quell my fears, and hearing your experience really helps. We are also visiting the same child psychologist next week to get her feedback on this to ensure that his son doesn't come home from the vacation feeling disappointed and confused -- and possibly hating me for still being in his Dad's life. I'm hoping that an ounce of prevention...as they say... Thank you again so much for such a quick and detailed response. I'll be reading and re-reading it for days. :)

August 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKfactor

Glad to be of help, KFactor!

You can read Sherry's response here:

http://coparenting101.org/2009/08/09/you-said-it-co-parents-sharing-a-hotel-room-is-inappropriate/

August 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha,

I have read all through the posts on this page and haven't found any that match my current situation in one particular way: my current boyfriend of 4 years has a 5 year old daughter by another woman, but (and I understand the sensitivity and varied opinions on this matter), he did not want the child.

The story is this: we live in New York and my boyfriend's work was taking him to Canada frequently during a period in his life prior to our meeting.

Apparently, he met this woman (let's call her Michelle) through friends in NY and they exchanged numbers as she lived in the Canadian city he was visiting. She suggested she "show him around". Well -- and this is something I'm uncomfortable knowing my boyfriend did, but I understand guys will be guys -- they began a casual, physical affair whenever he was "in town".

This went on for about 6 or 7 months, happening once or twice a month... and she apparently visited NY on one or two occasions, staying with other friends, and seeing him.

As he tells it, she played the role of "independent woman" not interested in commitment or "getting serious"; she was career oriented and had lots of friends and, seemingly, boyfriends. But, 7 months after meeting, she suggested she move to NY and when he balked, shortly after the conversation, she announced she was pregnant.

As she told him throughout, she was on the pill. So, this situation was one of that 1% chance of conception.

In light of how my boyfriend felt about her -- and having been honest with her about it once she suggested the NY move -- he felt it was in their best interest not to bring a child into the world considering what was already a fractured situation.

According to my boyfriend, she was open to the "alternative" and said she needed time to consider it. I guess when the medical "due date" for the decision's cut-off came around, she was suspiciously unreachable... the week came and went into her 3rd month of pregnancy and when she finally resurfaced she had decided she would keep it.

My boyfriend didn't tell anyone - including his family - until a few months after the child was born (which he visited upon her birth). "Michelle", however, insisted they maintain that they were still a "couple" separated only by my boyfriend's work obligations in NY... I only discovered the daughter a year into dating when I stumbled upon an online birth announcement.

Currently, he has no relationship with the mother whatsoever. He makes monthly - or once every two month - trips to Canada to see his daughter and usually takes his own mother or father to act as a liason during the pick-up/drop-off's. Occasionally, the child goes to visit his parents (her grandparents) in their own home out of state.

The child has never been invited to visit my boyfriend in NY. However, "Michelle" has - on several occasions - "showed up" in the city, threatening to bring the little girl to my boyfriend's office... waiting outside of his apartment at 6 in the AM with the little girl "waiting" for daddy... "Michelle" has emailed my boyfriend's friends to let them know he has a daughter... she will leave emotional voice and text messages saying he's the only man she's ever loved one minute... and then threatening him with legal action the next.

And regarding that: my boyfriend never took a DNA test, he saw a lawyer when his parents found out, but they have not gone to court. He contributes specific amounts to "Michelle" for specific needs such as school tuition, etc - he does not want to write her a check every month for her to spend it on anyone but the daughter.

I guess my question is this (and excuse the drawn out backstory): I realize my boyfriend is ultimately responsible for the situation; he chose to have sex with a woman he did not care for and this is a consequence. However, "Michelle"'s actions during and after the birth of the baby have led everyone to believe she was trying to "snag" my boyfriend and get him to settle down (believe me, 4 years in and he still can't discuss marriage...). She has shown herself to be manipulative and dishonest (breaking into his voicemail, reading emails, etc) so why should she be believed to have been on birth control? As disgusting as it sounds, we have all heard stories like this.

My boyfriend struggles, it seems, with how he feels about the little girl. The mother is of a different race and there is virtually no trace of my boyfriend's features in her - she looks adopted. Not to mention the physical distance between them. I think he doesn't know how to identify with the little girl because he hates the mother for denying his input in such a life-changing choice.

I struggle with wanting him to be a "father" to a child who is not mine... and wanting him to just walk away from the whole situation. That is selfish of me, but I am being honest.

I am sure part of his unwillingness to commit to me further is maintaining the status quo with "Michelle"; she is aware he has been dating, but has no idea about me specifically or the serious nature and length of our relationship.

I guess I would like to know your thoughts or advice more than anything; I have no one to talk about this with because I have been sworn to secrecy as he says he never wants 'Michelle" to intersect with his "real life" in NY.

What attitude should I take in this? Should I insist "Michelle" know about me specifically (sometimes I think she is holding out for my boyfriend... you should read some of her blog entries in the past... total fantasy stories about her and my boyfriend and their daughter hanging out together on specific dates that I WAS WITH him... thus, she is clearly keeping a rather delusional flame alive)...

And, am I a horrible person to sometimes wish we could just forget about this whole situation and move on without the regular visits? Sometimes I feel like my boyfriend is nothing more than a sperm donor and, thus, shouldn't be involved in the girl's life - all the reunions and parting and explanations - any more than a donor is... maybe a holiday here and there, but maybe the little girl should grow up and decide for herself... it seems like the situation is negative either way.

Please, any thoughts on the matter would be very much appreciated.

Thanks so much for your thoughtful, informed advice to everyone on your website.
Kind regards,
"Confused + Conflicted"

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConfused and Conflicted

Hi, C+C,

Thanks for stopping by. I believe you are on the right track by being honest about your feelings in this situation however conflicting and uncomfortable they may be. Too often, people can't handle the discomfort and dissonance; they find it easier to play the blame game or to single someone out (usually an ex, or a new girlfriend) and deem them The Enemy. That's easier than sitting with hard feelings, but it's neither mature nor productive.

Your feelings are just feelings...you're entitled. I think we've all been there before--wishing that a tough situation would just vanish, that the Earth would just open up and swallow the person/people who represent that thorn in our sides. So...now that you've acknowledged your feelings...what to do? What you do in light of those feelings is what matters most.

In many ways, you and your boyfriend face the same issue: the need to separate out the various entanglements his fatherhood has created.

First, he is a father, and as such has certain obligations to his child. He shouldn't confuse this with his regret about his involvement with the child's mother and the circumstances of her conception. Even if he feels duped and resentful, his child shouldn't be denied a healthy relationship with him and his full support, including financial. I believe that if he views the situation from behind his child's eyes, he will see things very differently. She no doubt wants his love, his presence, and his support. How he feels about her mother should not be a barrier to him providing all of that. It's understandable that he may feel some hesitation, but he can still commit to building a closer relationship with his child. He may need counseling to do this, or he may just need to resolve to see this child as separate from her mother, and worthy of a heart connection with him. It's okay that he may have to work at it; this little girl deserves the effort. At any rate, he needs to stop penalizing her for his regrets and her mother's antics. Where do you come in? Encourage him in this direction. That's the attitude I recommend.

As for the practical matters that he's citing as reasons for keeping his distance...if he questions paternity, he needs to order a test. If he doesn't order a test, for whatever reason, then he needs to stop using that as an excuse for not being fully present in this child's life. If he doesn't order a test, he's accepting paternity, in which case he needs to commit himself to being the best dad he can be to this child. You mentioned that at times you feel like your boyfriend is nothing more than a sperm donor in this situation. I wonder if he feels that way as well, since he didn't desire to have this child. If this is in fact how he feels, and yet he continues to see his daughter, then he needs to find a way to move to a more loving view of her and a more positive view of their relationship. She should not suffer as a result of his ambivalence and uncertainty.

About his only funding specifics like school tuition... Essentially then, he's not contributing to her basic care--food, clothing, shelter. Is this also part of his ambivalence about fatherhood? Because as a father, he should want to contribute all that he can to his child's well-being. While I can understand his not wanting Michelle to squander the money, is he sure that the child is well cared for, when he only sees her 6-12 times a year? Perhaps he and Michelle have an agreement that he pays tuition, and she takes care of everything else. If not, then he really should be contributing in other ways. He's consulted a lawyer once already; his child is worth the effort of him finding out his legal rights and the recourse available to him if, say, the support money is misused. The system doesn't always work like it should--and given that we're dealing with Canada, I really don't know--but your boyfriend should, at the very least, educate himself about the legalities of his situation.

The other entanglement your boyfriend needs to address is you--or rather, you should address it for your own sake. So, the two of you can never marry, for example, because Michelle might find out? Why would he give someone for whom he has so much disdain so much control over his personal life? Make sure he's not using the "trauma" of his experience with Michelle as an excuse for not wanting to make a deeper commitment to you for other reasons. But even if his experience with Michelle is the root of the problem, at some point, he needs to address it.

Further, keeping his "real life" secret from Michelle, means forever keeping his daughter apart from his "real life" too. Has he considered how his daughter will feel about that? He's protecting his "real life" at his child's expense. It's time dad woke up and accepted that is daughter is his real life. Her mother is part of the package, to some extent, but nothing, not even Michelle, should stop him from doing everything he can for his child. The fact is, whether he tells Michelle about you or not, she could make good on her threats to show up at his job and take "legal action" (to get support? which he should be paying anyway?). She already knows quite a bit about his real life anyway--like where he lives and works. Why is he allowing himself to be held hostage indefinitely?

Which brings me to the final entanglements that I see: your need to separate out Michelle's delusions and dramatics from 1) the relationship between your boyfriend and his child, and 2) between your boyfriend and you.

First, if Michelle wasn't manipulative and dishonest, if she were civilized and accepting of the fact that they are no longer a couple and that you are the new woman in his life...would you then encourage him towards a close relationship with his daughter? Would he desire a closer relationship with her under these circumstances? Your boyfriend'sdesire to pursue a relationship with his child shouldn't be conditional upon her mother's behavior. What can he do, in spite of Michelle, to build a closer relationship with his daughter? Visit more often, or for longer stints each visit? Bring her to his home in NY? Admittedly, I don't know how custody and the legalities would work given that the child lives primarily in Canada, but again, an attorney here or in Canada, should be able to advise your boyfriend as to his legal options, and he should pursue them vigorously.

As for Michelle, call the cops when she shows up and makes a scene. It's certainly not good for his kid to witness mommy acting up. And if Michelle can't get herself together, is he (or are his parents) willing to take custody, perhaps temporarily, until she can? Again, the system doesn't always work, but he can at least try. It sounds like he's doing the bare minimum where this little girl is concerned. It's time to stop worrying about protecting his reputation and start protecting his child.

Secondly, you asked if you should insist on Michelle knowing about you and the extent your relationship. Honestly, I don't think that's the most important question. That question places continued emphasis on what the adults in this situation need and want, and not the child. Michelle doesn't need to know about you until and unless your boyfriend is ready to introduce you to his daughter. She has a right to know. But based on what you've shared, I would advise against your being introduced into this child's life until her father solidifies his own relationship with her, and until you are both ready to love and accept her fully, regardless of her mother's faults and schemes.

If you and your boyfriend are worrying that Michelle will ratchet up the drama once she learns about you, then all the more reason to deal with her right now (child support, restraining order--though again, only a lawyer can advise how this works given her residence, or if that's even a factor) and attempt to stabilize the situation before introducing you. I think this is a very different position than your boyfriend's desire to simply keep Michelle out of his "real life"just to keep her at bay. She's already in his real life for at least the next 14 years; what he needs to do is everything he can to keep Michelle from acting in ways that traumatize their daughter, without distancing himself from his daughter. I'm not saying this will be easy but, once again, the kid is worth the effort.

Finally--and I've struggled with how to put this delicately--Michelle's issues aside...what is your boyfriend revealing to you about himself in this situation? I'll share a story with you from my dating life. I ran into a couple of guys who told stories that started with some variation on "Yeah, I don't see my kids because my ex won't let me..." The date or conversation ended for me right there. As a mother, and as a child who grew up without a fully present father--I simply couldn't get involved with a guy who didn't see or support his kids. I couldn't spend time with someone knowing that they didn't spend as much time as they could with their kids. I couldn't let someone buy me dinner knowing that he wasn't feeding or clothing his own kids. And I certainly wasn't going to bring someone around my kids who wasn't spending time with his own. I couldn't imagine having kids with someone who, having already had kids, hadn't proven themselves to be a committed father. I wanted a guy who loved his kids more than anything, who would move heaven and earth to see them; I could understand if he was a noncustodial parent, but not seeing his kids at all, and he's not all that broken up about it? I couldn't live with that.

For me, it's a question of character. My fiance and I joke that we fell in love with each other first as parents...we admired what we saw in each other as parents (based on our conversations, because we didn't introduce our kids into our situation until after a year of dating). How we interacted with and cared for our children spoke volumes to each of us about the other's character and our future prospects.

So, as I said, I don't know what the applicable laws are given that Michelle is in Canada, but if it were me, my standard would have to be that this guy spent every dime he had on lawyers trying to figure it all out and do all he could to protect his kid and make sure she's well cared for--waiting outside of Daddy's house at 6 AM is not well cared for. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but nothing in what you wrote suggested that your boyfriend's primary concern is his child. His primary concerned seemed to be that Michelle not further intrude on his "real life."

I can't tell you how to feel, C+C. But my advice is to listen to that part of you that wants your boyfriend to be a father to this child. Maybe your encouragement can make a difference.

Finally, know that in your "sperm donor" scenario, the little girl who would grow up to "decide for herself" will have grown up essentially without a father, likely confused, burdened by feelings of rejection, knowing that her very existence has been shrouded in regret, secrecy, shame, and conflict. That's not fair to her, nor is that really who you (or your boyfriend) want showing up your door at 18. The situation doesn't have to be a negative, if your boyfriend steps up now and becomes the father this little girl deserves. Michelle notwithstanding, he'll never know what's possible with his daughter he doesn't give it all he's got.

Best,
~Deesha

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Deesha,

First off, thank you. Sincerely, thank you. Thank you for listening and truly dedicating the time and thought required for such a sensitive, personal take on things.

I guess I recognized the argument before: "what do his actions say about him?" and wouldn't i want my boyfriend to truly want to parent his child... But, for some reason, I guess those questions never sunk in; I felt I "knew" my boyfriend and knew, deep down, he's a loving person and that his actions toward his daughter had no bearing on who he "really" is.

But, you know - you're right. I guess framing it as a foreshadowing about what kind of parent he would be to our kids is powerful. He has been lucky to find small success at his own business, so he has gotten to carve out a life that suits his needs and seems very reluctant tweaking that. It's not that he's selfish; maybe just self-centered. Before I mentally and emotionally commit to the idea of him as being the future father of MY children, this systemic problem about his inflexibility and need to keep challenges from intruding on his "life" must change. And your response underscored that.

Lastly, you're right. Nothing melts my heart more than a man loving his kids - it gets me in movies or just on the sidewalk whenever I see a father and child. I guess his ambivalence has made me feel more threatened by his daughter's presence than wanting to encourage a closer bond. But, you're right: that side of a man is much more attractive than cowardice or sticking his head in the sand.

It will be difficult to get him into counseling and I feel he is adamant about not seeking a legal contract. In his defense, the child is well cared for- Michelle has a large family with doting parents whom she lives with and, if anything, my boyfriend struggles with the mother wanting to "provide" expensive things for her like iPods or Wii video systems. They seem to be able to work out what she needs and what's appropriate for him to pay for. A loving father, though, is something that is free and priceless.

Again, thanks for your advice - you have helped open my eyes and my heart, I guess, toward the situation. And you're right: much better idea to get their triangle working before introducing me into the mix.

Many thanks!!!!!
C+C [I like that! ;)]

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConfused and Conflicted

You're welcome, C+C! Btw, do you write professionally? I ask because you are quite eloquent!

Best to you,
~Deesha

August 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha!

Not only have you helped my relationship dilemma, but you even unknowingly gave me a much-needed compliment. And the timing couldn't have been better.

I'm a teacher by day, but secretly dream of writing... I came home last night and was all bummed about the career thing - but then I read your post!

Double thanks is owed to you.
C+C

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConfused and Conflicted

Glad I could help, C+C!~Deesha

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi my name is Angela and I am looking for some advice because I don't know what I should do about this situation. I have been with this guy for a little over a year now and we are in love and very happy together. The only issue we always get into it about is his 4 year old daughter and his baby mama. He was with this girl for 6 years total and they have a 4 year old girl together. I know he does not want to be with her and he says he doesn't care about her feelings but he is always lying to her about what he is doing and who he's with when he is with me. I don't like this plus she doesn't want me to be around their daughter.
When we first started dating I met his daughter and we would hang out all the time since he used to watch her mon-fri all day while the mom was at work. He now sees his kid Tues and Thurs and on the weekends. Now that the mother knows I am with him she is very jelous and she is not over him so she won't let me be around the daughter at all. My boyfriend takes my car alot and she thinks it is his friends car since he has been taking it to her house since day one, so he hides all my stuff when ever he meets up with her. What is really bugging me is the fact that he does things with his daughter and baby mama together. They go to the beach, get ice cream, go to his family parties etc. I dont like this and when I have asked him not to do that for me he tells me it makes his daughter happy when the two if them are with her and I have no say in anything. We almost broke up a week ago because of this and he said he would try to make things better on that part but nothing has changed. He doesn't say anything to the baby mama that would get her upset like telling her he is with me because he says she gets in a bad mood and then takes it out on his daughter so he tries to avoid it because he dosn't want his daughter to hear them argue or her being in a bad mood as the result of him telling her he is spending time with me. I know he has a big heart and wants nothing but the best for his little girl but this is tearing me apart and that is the only issue we argue about and I feel I cannot be ok about the situation unless something changes. He tells me everything will come to the light in time and that he wants to get a house with me and have our own family someday. I don't see how this can happen when she is so jeoulos and she will do anything to break us up. There is so much more to this situation but what is really bothering me is that he has to be around his daughter and the mother at the same time when i cant even see his kid at all and she goes to his family functions like Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the daughter and the fact that she really has no family and she is real close to his family even though they all know she is crazy. Should I end it or wait it out till things get better? HELP!

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Hi, Angela,

We've asked our kids' stepmom, Sherry, to reply to your question. Look for a response soon!

Thanks for stopping by,
~Deesha

September 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Angela,

Sherry hasn't had a chance to reply yet, so I'll jump in. My answer to your "stay or go" question comes down to the issue of progress. Is your boyfriend offering you specifics as to *when* he plans to be open about his relationship with his ex, and *when* he's planning on including you in family gatherings and outings? Because his wanting a house and a family with you can't happen until those changes take place. I wouldn't stick around for generalities when specifics are warranted.

In other words, don't settle for his empty promises of a future together. Let him know that you deserve for those promises to have substance--i.e., a specific plan or timeline for the progression of your relationship, a big part of which is being honest with his child's mother about you and insisting that she be a grown-up and learn to deal with the reality of your relationship, without penalizing their innocent child in the process.

Best to you,
~Deesha

September 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hello! I have a situation that I could use a little advice on :)

I have been with my boyfriend since May of 2008 and we have had a long distance relationship. (6 hours away)..I see him maybe once a month (if that) and we talk almost every day on the phone. We have both been through alot of things in our past and when we first got together, we would always talk about how happy we were with eachother. I found out a month after we were dating that he had a son that was only a few months old. The baby's mother, child and him all live in the same city. At first I was kind of skeptical because I have never been serious with a man that had a child. After dating for a few months I decided to drive and see him without knowing that it was his weekend to have his son. We never really discussed his visitation with his child before. I had no problem when I found out, but I am 25 and I have no kids and no real experience with children. When we got back to the house, I felt very awkward because I knew this was another woman's child. I then thought that was very selfish of me and decided to talk more about his son and ask more questions. He just seems like he is not as "willing" to talk to me about his son and it kind of irritates me because I am trying to be open about the whole situation and he acts like it's none of my business. When I was there the first time I met his child, the mother kept calling him every 5 minutes to ask what "her child" was doing..I didn't say anything to him about it when I was there but a few days later I ended up asking him why she kept calling him. He said he "didn't know"...She just kept calling and asking him questions, and he kept hanging up on her..So, I asked him if she knew that I was coming to visit and he said "Yes, everyone knew." So from that point, I knew that's the reason she kept calling. He claims that he will never get back with her and that he is only communicating with her because of his son, which I commend and am fine with. However, after dating over a year I'm ready for a change. The long distance is becoming harder and harder and I have decided that in order for him to continue to stay in his child's life, I'd have to make the move because of the fact that I have no ties right now. I just finished school, so i'm looking for work where he lives, while working here and saving money for the big move. He claimed in the beginning that he couldn't wait till we could be closer and etc etc..Now that i'm willing to take this big step and move out there, he doesn't want to talk about it anymore. I understand that I should move out there and get on my feet on my own because I shouldn't rely on our relationship or a man, especially if it's rocky already. I plan on moving out there, getting on my feet and getting my own place. We will continue to date, but not move in right away. He doesn't seem excited anymore but says he isn't against me moving there. I'm so confused. I don't know whether I should leave my hometown for a man that seems to not really want the same things I do. He also tends to keep alot of things from me. When we have our monthly weekends together, he usually keeps his phone on silent and he gets alot of text messages, but never mentions who they are from and I don't ask. I don't expect him to tell me EVERYTHING that happens during his day, but I think that him going to the doctor's appointment with his child and the mother is a pretty big plan for the day. He also told me in the beginning that he didn't think she was over him, but it didn't matter because he was done with her and would never give her another chance. He never talks about his past, and that's where we differ. I believe the past made me who I am today, and don't have a problem talking about it, but he believes the past is the past and he only aims for the future.

Sorry this seemed all over the place, I was just typing things as they came to my mind. Lol.

I would love any advice anyone has. My main questions are: Should I make the big move, even though he doesn't seem too excited about it, or is it too early? Does it seem like i'm just too jealous or do I have a right to be? Am I overreacting?

I really want this to work, I love him very much but I am just confused :(

Thanks!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I also forgot to add the fact that she has another child from another man (not my boyfriend). My boyfriend apparently also takes this child back to his apartments to swim and she sends him pictures to his phone of her and her other son. I asked him about the father of the other son and he just said that he had nothing to do with the child. Is it wrong for me to be okay with him having a relationship with his child, but not the other child? I understand that those 2 children are brothers and they play together, but is it okay for him to always take care of her other child when he has his child?

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Hi

First, I'd just like to say, that I am ever so grateful to stumble on this site/forum - it's really hard for me to put my write what I need advice on because I figure after reading all the previous post by other women are in the same situation as me - I can get answers. But like all of them, we have individual concerns so here goes another.

I moved in with my boyfriend almost a year ago. We work at the same place, (this is how we met). His ex hates me because he left her to be with me. They have a daughter together (2 year old).
He said he and her have had problems long before him and I met and that it wasn't going to work out. He is very, very much in love with is baby girl and I completely understand his time spent w/his daughter. He sees her on the weekends and a few times during the week . Lately or in the past rather, he would spend one day and end up spending the night and not telling me after the fact. We have been through arguments over that and he said his ex made him feel guilty giving him the " you abandoned your family" routine and so he stays. I feel very uncomfortable with the matter, and me being w/out any children am unsure if I should just keep quiet and accept it or not--however it makes feel queasy because it's two things. He spends time w/the child only at her house and he isn't allowed to bring her over. I'm not asking or telling him about having to meet his daughter this early on. But him spending time there and a couple nights makes me upset. He tells me he doesn't like it either and if the tables were turned he wouldn't have it. So I don't know if he's borderline controlling and possesive or it's just the macho man in him.

The ex on occasion still gives him ultimatums, calls/texts/emails him everyday and on occasion I see what she says to him and she shows a lot of emotions and affection. She knows that he has moved on w/his life and shares a relationship with me but she still acts as if they are together and I'm getting the feeling she is using their child -she would call any time of the day/night about anything -I don't mind if she does if it’s the baby's sake, but this past weekend she texted him saying, something fell on the roof and she wasn't sure if she should be worried and the dog keeps barking. Of course my BF is going to be concerned.

Little things she will call him for and it really bothers me. Sometimes I wonder if I'm putting in too much and I'm scared about how things will be in the future because he tells me wants to marry me and eventually we too will have a family, however, I feel that he is still affectionate w/his ex and it kills me.

Why are men commonly doing this - ?

Now at this moment ,the ex is planning a vacation and I know this means he will be gone. I have tried numerous times to ask him that he tell me things ahead of time, but he said it's awkward that he doesn't want me to be upset, yet I get even more upset when he doesn't tell me his plans w/his ex and the child. Is it my right to know?
Please help.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSher Ann

I also wanted to add one more thing- there were times where my bf's ex would tell him that she wants to be happy and move and and maybe meet someone else and to let her go. I don't know what that means so I asked him if he is not letting his ex date. He said he is OK with it, so long as the guy is never brought to the house because of everything going on, "child molestation, abuse" he fears for child pedophiles especially since he has a baby girl and not a boy. I completely understand this but I feel it is very selfish of him as he is basically not allowing the ex (mother of his child) move on to be happy. So I'm not sure what they talk about when they are together, but I'm getting the notion she still feels there is hope. I'm so lost.

Thanks again!

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSher Ann

Sher Ann,

My immediate reaction is that these two people aren't completely done with each other! Way too much "controlling" and "affectionate" behavior, as you say, on both sides, it seems. I think you have a right to know about the boundaries--or lack thereof--that he's setting with his ex, when they are local, as well as on vacation. And yes, I agree with you that what's happening now could well be a precursor to what a future with this man may look like, if he's not giving you any indication that he's willing to set clearer boundaries with his ex...and insist that she maintain them.

Maybe part of the reason he doesn't set boundaries for her is that he doesn't want her to set boundaries for him? I understand his concerns about abuse/molestation (though he is sadly mistaken if he thinks men don't abuse little boys), but his expecting her to *never* bring a guy around his daughter is outrageous.

My advice to you is to step back and let these two people decide if they are really ready to move on with their lives--separately, connected only with regard to the best interests of their daughter, not their lingering feelings and control issues.

As for why men do this? (And you can also ask why the children's mothers in these situations behave the way they do.) The answer is simple: Because they can. They can do it right up until the point where the new girlfriend says, "I deserve a healthy, open, respectful relationship, and I won't settle for less."

Best to you,
~Deesha

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Mary,

I'll respond to your second part first. I would say that if your boyfriend wants to include his child's half-brother in their visits, it's a win-win for everyone. Sounds like either your boyfriend established a relationship with the child previously, or he wants to be a father-figure in his life, or both. What about this bothers you, specifically? I could see that it's yet another connection to his ex, and given the state of things, I can understand why you would be a bit uneasy about it.

You wrote: I would love any advice anyone has. My main questions are: Should I make the big move, even though he doesn’t seem too excited about it, or is it too early? Does it seem like i’m just too jealous or do I have a right to be? Am I overreacting?

I would suggest asking yourself this question: If you boyfriend didn't live in this city, would you still move there? Let that be your answer. Beyond that, he's showing quite a few of what I would consider red flags (e.g., lack of openness, unwillingness to discuss his past), plus his not being excited about you coming speaks volumes. Relocating is a big step, and whether you say it's *for him* or not, it is an indication of your commitment to the relationship. If he's not enthusiastic about this, then I would question his commitment.

Best to you,
~Deesha

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

my boyfriend has 2 daughters 8 and 4 we been dating for 3 months now and i have not met the girls nor his parents. I feel as if i dont mean much to him i tried talking to him about the girls and he tells me to leave that subject alone and if it bothers me that much to let him go. i feel bad for myself because i love him and he doesnt seem to care. he sleeps over my house wakes up early saturday and tells me im going aple picking with the girls and i have 3 boys so its like me and the boys dont exist. i dont feel this is fair.

September 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbrunilda

Hi, Brunilda,

I can certainly understand why your boyfriend's abrupt response and ultimatum (leave the subject alone or let him go) would leave you feeling like you don't mean much to him. While a parent may understandably feel that 3 months of dating isn't enough time to introduce kids, if he's unwilling to communicate with you at all about this, it sounds, unfortunately, like you've hit a dead end.

Best to you,
~Deesha,

September 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I have been with my boyfriend for almost 3 years...he has a little girl and was with his ex for about 4 years then they split-up about 6 months before we started talking. Yet she still blames me for they're brake-up. She sent a message to me saying that she will make my life and his hell as long as we are together. She won't allow me to be anywhere around the little girl and he has to go to her house to see the child. They have not been to court. He recently lost his job so is not able to pay as much child support. He worries all the time about her taking him to court and/or taking his daughter away. He is even hideing our relatinship from her. Still I know that she knows because she still does little things on myspace to try and make me think he is still seeing her behind my back.
She has a new boyfriend and thats fine but she won't leave us be. We lived together for a while untill he became unemployed. So now we only see eachother about once a week. He says that she will only cause more problems if she knows about us. We all live in a very small town.
He tells me that it will get better when he is on his feet again and when his daughter is older. I love him very much but I do not want to live the rest of my life this way. Please help...

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryetta

Also it bothers me that I don't know what they're relationship is like when I am not around (and I am never around). He gets upset when I ask him about too many things he says that I am assumeing and attacking him for nothing. I guess it's because It shows my lack of trust or is he hideing something? I don't know.
When he told me she had a new boyfriend he didn't sound happy. So I asked him why if maybe he didn't like the guy and he said that he hasn't even met him yet
" as long as he keeps his hands off my daughter". I would think he might be happy that she is moving on...or is he jealous?
She brought they're little girl on vacation this summer and he sounded down when he told me about the plans so I asked him why and he said it was because "mommy always gets to play the good guy". I though maybe it could be beacuse he wanted to be with them....I don't know I am so confused... Is it just me? I mean I know he loves me and spends every weekend with me yet I feel helpless in this situation. Am I worring for nothing?

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryetta

Hi, Yetta,

I think the hard but honest answer is to either let your boyfriend go, or accept the terms that he's offering: a relationship that is kept hidden, in which you have more questions than answers.

Your boyfriend's ex really does hold all the cards at this time. She's calling the shots and controlling his access to their child via the threat of taking him for child support. Because of this threat, he's reluctant to take her to court to formalize a custody/visitation schedule. As a result, he's at her mercy in order to see his child, and consequently, you're at her mercy to some degree as well.

Child support and custody are related issues, but child support isn't some "admission price" for seeing one's child. There's how the court views the situation, and then there's how your boyfriend's ex views it: She will pull the child support "trigger" if your boyfriend does something she doesn't like or makes any demands. I can understand your frustration, being in this situation, but until your boyfriend is able to assert himself as an equal parenting partner, which includes financial responsibility, it's doubtful that the situation will change.

Also it bothers me that I don't know what they're relationship is like when I am not around (and I am never around). He gets upset when I ask him about too many things he says that I am assumeing and attacking him for nothing. I guess it's because It shows my lack of trust or is he hideing something? I don't know.

It could be either, or both. It's understandable that you are finding it hard to trust him when you're largely in the dark, you're dating in secret, and his ex is working to undermine your trust and sense of security about the relationship. What would be fair to you and foundational to a strong relationship would be for him to offer you some reassurance and to be more responsive to your questions and concerns.

I would think he might be happy that she is moving on...or is he jealous?

Again, it could be both. He could have mixed feelings. It's one thing to break up with someone; it's another to get used to the idea of them being with someone else. This can even be true of the person who initiated the break up. Further, his concern about his daughter's well-being is certainly valid, but beyond that, it may also be hard for him to accept another man having as much if not more contact with his daughter than he does.

She brought they're little girl on vacation this summer and he sounded down when he told me about the plans so I asked him why and he said it was because "mommy always gets to play the good guy". I though maybe it could be beacuse he wanted to be with them....

Maybe he did. Regardless, he needs to stop complaining about Mommy "playing the good guy" when, at the moment, Mommy is the only parent that is financially supporting this child. Not to bash him for being unemployed, but why not be happy that his child got to go on vacation? Many kids don't. Maybe I'm reading too much into his comment, but his frustration seems to be misdirected at his ex and not where it belongs: at his own situation which keeps him from supporting his child financially.

I don't know I am so confused... Is it just me? I mean I know he loves me and spends every weekend with me yet I feel helpless in this situation. Am I worring for nothing?

Love is not enough. You also deserve honesty and respect. Listen to your gut. Ultimately, I wouldn't advise being in a relationship that is hidden and in which others who are not acting in your best interest wield so much influence--while you wield little or none. You deserve an equal partnership. Don't settle for less.

Best,
~Deesha

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

thank you so very much for the advice....I am thinking about giving it about another year and then if things haven't changed I do plan to move on.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryetta

I wish you the best, Yetta. Take care of yourself. ;-)

~Deesha

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi. I have no idea where to start as so much has happened but i will try and start from the very beginning. I have been with my boyfriend now for just over a year. He has a little boy who is nearly 5years. he was with his ex for about 4 years (she got pregnant after 3 weeks, he didn't really want to be with her as didn't know her but thought he'd do the 'right' thing and try to make it work for the sake of his child).

Well it never worked, he tried to leave her several times but always ended up going back. Last July, he decided to leave her properly as he couldnt take the arguments anymore, we became really close friends as I had just split up with my boyfriend and then started seeing eachother a few months later. It became really serious pretty quickly, we were already talking about a future together.

He was still living in the family home until November 08 then moved into a smaller house nearby. They still had a couple of holidays planned together as a family which happened while we were already seeing eachother early this year. I wasnt overly keen on the idea but he said he just wanted to make the most of the time with his child, which i understood. A few weeks after, I found out he slept with her while they were on holiday - looking back i think i was being very naive. At this point I walked away, went to another country on a work visa and then came back after a few weeks. I was still in contact with him while I was away and he kept begging me he wanted to make it work when i got back, to give him another chance.

I was deeply hurt but as I truly do love him, I decided to give him another chance. By this point we had been seeing eachother nearly a year, but he still refused to tell his ex about us. He said it's still raw and to be honest, he even admitted that he is scared of her. I have met her once a couple of years ago and she is a very intimidating woman. very manipulative and controlling. I think she suspected already that we were seeing eachother due to certain circumstances but my boyfriend never admitted we were seeing eachother as she kept threatening he would never see his child, he would ruin his life if he started seeing me, just threat after threat - again a controlling thing I think.

Recently, we had an honest conversation and again I found out that he slept with his ex while I was 'away' a few months ago. Yes we weren't officially together but it still hurt me again. I should've walked away, but I just love him so much and i just think he is in a bad place at the minute. he is in councelling as he is struggling being away form his child. he said that because he never really loved his ex, all his love and attention went to his child so is finding it hard to let go. He was also abused as a child which i think has affected him and also he is now leaving the company he works for to start afresh. I understand he has a lot on his plate.

So instead of walking away, I gave him an ultimatum that if he didnt tell his ex about us then im gone, i couldnt stand all the lies and the hiding anymore, nobody deserves that. So he told her. But as expected, things got worse instead of better. She knew i worked with him so she tried calling at work and sending me threatening emails, that i will never see his son, that she will make our life hell etc etc.

What I find really frustrating is that he is still paying for everything for her. They own 2 houses jointly and he has paid for everything and is still continuing to pay all the bills and mortgage. he is struggling at the moment specially as he is leaving the company yet she is doing nothing to contribute. Plus she has been making his life a living hell. And everytime he sends her a lawyers letter about splitting, she then starts threatening him again about not seeing his child. Its awful. She rings up in the middle of the day and puts the child straight onto the phone crying his eyes out, emotional blackmail I see it as, and then he calms the his son down and says he'll come round to see him and then she says no he cant. Its so frustrating.

I really have no idea what I am hoping for at the moment or what advice I am looking for. It is just all a mess. I really would like to settle down with this guy, i truly do love him and have been here for him through the storms in the last year. I do believe he loves me but somehow he is just struggling with it all. recently I have seen that he has been really trying to make things work with me but with everything else going on, he cant give me anything. We can move in together ( he says he's not ready yet), he wont introduce me to his son, i see him every other weekend when he doesnt see his son and maybe 1 or 2 nights in the week. I have been patient and trying to be understanding, but when do i know enough is enough. I am torn between walking away and waiting a little longer - but struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like I have been trying to climb a very high mountain for a long time yet never seem to be getting any closer to the top.

Can she really stop me from seeing his son? What could she possibly do to ruin us? Is there really no hope for us to be a family one day?

I forgot to mention that his ex also has another child from a previous marriage that she expects my boyfriend to take responsibility for - which again he is finding it very difficult. He sees him once a week and a few other time during the year. I just feel so sorry for the kids to be in this situation but also helpless as there is not much i can do as it is between them and not me. The ex is constantly using them as pawns and it is disgraceful. She has even told the kids that I have stolen their daddy away form them! How evil. She seems to think that I am the reason why her ex is not going back to her, not the fact that they never got on and that she treated him like s**t.

All the stress and frustration is getting to me and I have no idea where to turn or what to do.
Please help.

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlysha

Personally, I feel that my boyfriend is dealing with his babymother too much. She calls him in the middle of the night just to talk about her day and he does the same thing and I think that something is really wrong wit that. I don't mind him taking care of his kids or at least interacting with her but I feel like there is no reason for you to be on the phne with her at 1 in the morning. What are you talking about that is so important it can't wait until a decent hour and the worst part is when I say something he doesnt care and he doesnt see anything wrong with it. I also have a child by another man and we are really good friends and I feel like it would be disrespectful if he called me at all hours of the night or when my daughter is sleep especially now that I am in a relationship and I wouldn't do it to him. And besides that at the beginning of our relationship he slept with his babymother and lied to me about it and she writes him letters all the time telling him she still wants him. So i need to know what should I do.

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeyshawn

Hi, Alysha,

What a heavy situation. Your stress and frustration is understandable--as is your reluctance to walk away from someone you love. However, as is often the case, love is not enough. It's not enough to make this man the whole, equal partner you deserve.

There seems to be a lot for your boyfriend to work out before he can have a healthy relationship with you, or with anyone. There's the past abuse, the current emotional turmoil in which his child is subjected to, and the fact that he is actually afraid of his ex. I believe it's in your best interest to wish this man well and strongly urge him to seek help--for himself and his child. Walking away won't be easy, but from the outside looking in, it appears to be the healthiest, safest option for you.

As to your specific questions: Can she really stop me from seeing his son? What could she possibly do to ruin us? Is there really no hope for us to be a family one day?

I'm unfamiliar with the legal processes in the UK, so I can't comment on what his ex can do legally. However, given the hold she has on your boyfriend, I can imagine that he would cave in to her demands, if only to keep the child from being subjected to more of Mom's antics. It may not be in the child's best interest for you to see him, if it's going to come at such a high emotional cost because Mom's behavior goes unchecked, by the courts and by Dad.

As for ruining you, not to be flippant, but who knows what she means by this? She could have something to hold over your boyfriend's head and blackmail him. She could fabricate stories. She could get cutthroat in the divorce proceedings and get a huge settlement...and/or draw out the legal battle, which would drown your boyfriend in legal fees. The court may order him to pay her legal fees. The possibilities are endless as long as there's no one to check her, or call her bluff.

Finally, I hate to ever consider a situation hopeless, but I have to say, there's little I find encouraging about your situation. You could always leave the door open to your boyfriend to try again with you once he and his child are in a better place.

Best to you,
~Deesha

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hey, Keyshawn,

There's a level of connection between your boyfriend and his ex that, understandably, makes you feel uncomfortable and disrespected. I don't believe anyone should stay in a relationship in which they are routinely disrespected. If your boyfriend won't address the situation in a way that shows you the same courtesy that you've shown him, then I'd say it's time to move on.

Best,
~Deesha

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My boyfriend and I have been living together for a year now and together for a year and a half. The mom has known about me since I met the kids. Every time the kids would come down I would hang out when I could but then go to my moms house to stay the night. (before he asked me to move in). One night his daughter asked me to sleep with her and at the time they were still sleeping in the same bed with their dad. We all agreed that I could and i slept on one side of the bed and my boyfriend on the other side. This went on even after he asked me to move in with him.
ONE night the kids (he has 2) didnt want to sleep next to each other because of touching issues. so the boy moved to the outside of the bed. Well the little girl said she didnt want to sleep next to her dad because she thought he would pass gas on her. (we all were laughing at this) he said he wouldnt but she still insisted that she move so she moved on the outside of the bed as well. That left my boyfriend and I in the middle. We waited until the kids were asleep to move them so we could sleep on the ends of the bed so they wouldnt fall off or whatever. no harm.
a couple weeks later he gets a call from his ex saying that the boy told his therapist that he pretended to be asleep and we were moving around. well yeah we were moving around to move the kids.

months pass by and because we care about the kids and their feelings whenever they come to visit i sleep in a different room and the little girl usually sleeps with me. (we did not have this room before, he had a roomate and when the roomate left it took a while for us to get a bed in there etc)
anyways the mother is sueing him and i cant remember exactly what it says but she wants to put in the decree some rules about overnight guests and what may happen when they stay with their father because she wants to prevent them from being around sexual acts. (she thinks we had sex with the kids right there). He will not sign off to let them move 13 hours away and i beleive she is sueing him over this in retaliation. If there is no real proof besides the boy saying we were moving around can the court rule that i not stay over there when the kids visit?

Also could he counter sue on the grounds that she is in violation of the divorce decree because she is bad mouthing the father in front of the kids and me??
She is hurting the relationship between him and his kids. She is nice to my face but I know she is jealous about me getting close to the kids.

November 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBritney

Hi, Britney,

Your situation is one with a lot of issues that co-parents and those who are dating co-parents can relate to, so I posted my response here:

http://coparenting101.org/2009/11/06/co-parents-co-sleeping-and-visitation/

Best,
~Deesha

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I was so happy to have found this forum (breathing sigh of relief)!

I, too, am in a "situation". Boyfriend of 2 years with 2 kids (10 and 7). They share legal custody, but the ex (they were never married) has residential custody and gets support from him. They agreed to visitation every other weekend, with the option for him to have them more if he wants to. Mind you, he always wants to - regardless of the fact that he and I have no alone time together.

Side story: they had not been getting along when we met and he left her to be with me - so needless to say, she & I have never met and may not ever. She was abusive to him before he left the house [which was his - he now lets her live there rent-free], and so we moved in together. I felt it was a little rushed, but didn't want him to have to deal with that nonsense, having grown up in similar situations myself. We got along really great the first year of our relationship - though looking back, if I was a pessimist, it was because he was just 'reeling me in' - but let's say not - that he really loves me as much as he did then, shall we? =)

Due to support and other bills, we share my car [I've owned it outright for quite a few years, he does not pay insurance or reg], I pay all the housing costs and utilities. He pays for foodstuffs when he can esp when the kids come over. However, he is not necessarily as economically challenged as he might let off and while I know this is perhaps not my business, it is somewhat disturbing to me that I do as much as I do without input from him when he's admitted to substantial 'savings'.

The ex now constantly complains he has to take the kids all weekends because she "can't afford" to take care of them or get a babysitter. Her housing costs are zero AND she has her own job, so not sure I understand that argument.

She has recently begun to put more and more pressure on him to "do" more, which frankly, is just taking on some of HER responsibility (for example, she is required to drop the kids off for the weekend - she has been doing that, but doesn't feed them, only packs some clothing ,so that he'll have to buy them some, and most recently has started to say she is no longer dropping them off - he has to drive an hour to go get them - in my car, btw.)

She is also the master of the "dumping" technique, which I noticed others on this form have described - last minute notifications that he has to go get the kids on a day she was supposed to get them because she has something else to do (work, social,whatever). So he feels guilted into it because if he doesn't, they will be left "sitting there". This often puts a crimp in any plans I or we have due to the last minute nature of the request and use of the car. But I don't disallow it because I don't want the children to suffer for either parent's irresponsibility - it's not their fault.

Before the split, he was their primary caretaker, so he is terribly attached to them. I understand this and have conceded that he lets them come over more often than the 'every other weekend' agreement (which, btw, causes another frustrating sitation - no time alone to the two of us = lack of relationship building/intimacy - this is very difficult for me as I also entered the relationship with no children). I didn't want to give up EVERY weekend to this, esp since he told me HE didn't want visitation every weekend either. So I'm at a loss...He doesn't ever volunteer to "let's do something together just me and you". And when I mention it, I'm being a pain and "making him choose." Lately, I feel like I am not at all a priority - I am just "useful".

However, I also believe that HER problems are not HIS (or my) problems. He is the only one who can stand up to her and if he does not stand up to her, she will, as she has in the past, take total advantage of him - and he will allow it to happen because he thinks it's about the kids (whereas for her, it's not - it's about the money and punishing him and me).

It is a very frustrating situation. We do love eachother but, as you can tell, this puts some measurable strain on our relationship.

What is also frustrating is that my friends see it 2 different ways - my single friends say, if you aren't happy and he's not making the effort, you should move on. While my single mom friend says, he's doing the best he can, he loves you, it's just hard for him to find the balance and the kids come first. But shouldn't I be at least an equal priority sometimes?

Also, I want to mention that the kids have turned pretty bratty since the 2 of them split. When they visit, he gives them few boundaries (and they waver depending on the day and how tired he is) and rules, which doesn't help. I try to encourage boundaries and time alone for us by asking him to consider giving them a bedtime on the weeknds. But I practically have to beg for this. Otherwise, they all just stay up and sleep in the LR all weekend.

I do feel resentful and frustrated because when I reach a breaking point and try to talk to him (including fashioning a "schedule" to deal with the constant unpredictability and the fact that we never have time together), he understands, and says he's going to do better, but still chooses to suck up and succumb to her demands or doesn't make the effort with me. (Though he claims he has not given in to her on some occasions...?) In a small way, in my heart, this tells me he is choosing her over me. In another way, I know this is his way of 'dealing' - by avoiding confrontation by doing what she wants, he doesn't have to deal with the struggle (she is a b---h on wheels).

But so does that mean he isn't afraid of confrontation or conflict wtih me? Or he just figures I'll "understand" because I have for the past year? I don't know. I am feeling like I'm just "convenient".

I know we do care about each other a lot and I have tried very hard - the situation with the ex was very stressful and I've never had kids in my life, so that was a huge adjustment for me, (which I get no credit for) but the kids and I get along pretty well (I think they think I'm cool and I treat their dad nicely - they like to see him happy after all, which is a big change from when he was living with them). But this is kind of a stickign point - that and the fact that he doesn't seem to think that intimacy is important - that 'seeing me during the weekdays' and 'showing up' is enough. (Lack of intimacy is compounded by the fact that he falls asleep in front of the TV in the LR every night, not in our bedroom...so little intimacy there. Plus no intimacy on wkends with the kids there. so...?)

I just know that if you don't build some base of a relationship, or you dont feel like you're at least an equal priority at some point, it will lead to ongoing resentment and being taken for granted.

Maybe if I was more of a b---h I'd get what I want..HA..but that is not my nature - I am terribly empathetic (a blessing & a curse) and compassionate and loyal. But I also dont want to be taken for a fool.

I have started noticing that I am more critical and less tolerant - more snippy and less jovial - both when we're "alone" and together with his kids. I feel guilty because I'm afraid that I'm just being a brat. But on the other hand, I cook, clean up after everybody (constantly - I can't keep up at times), work, pay the bills AND deal with the invasion of privacy and the pendulum doesn't seem to swing the other way. So I'm stuck.

I care about him, yes. But I care about US and ME too. I want to DO things together and grow together. If I stay I know I have to come up with a way to deal with all of this. But it'd sure be nice if I didn't have to "deal" - that I knew I had some help, support, validation, love.

What to do, what to do?
Thanks for listening - sorry for the rant!

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNanner

Hi, Nanner,

Ranting is welcome here!

There's not much advice that I can give you that you haven't already given yourself. I see what you see with regard to your boyfriend and this situation. And I agree with both sets of your friends--don't stew in silence and don't be a doormat (esp. not one that pays for the privilege), but also affirm to your boyfriend explicitly that you recognize that his kids are a priority. Follow that with an invitation for the two of you to go out for the evening; set a regular weekly or every-other-week date-night. Get a sitter if you have the kids. Create a space/time for you two to re-connect and establish how you want to move forward in your relationship--with you in a role other than rent-payer and chief cook and bottle-washer.

Now, if he's not willing to meet you there by giving some time and attention to your relationship and your concerns, then I'd have to side completely with your single non-mom friends.

Best to you,
~Deesha

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

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