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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)

Hi Deesha -
Thanks so much for your prompt reply - you have no idea how satisfying it is to get a response so quickly on a matter such as this! I guess I should feel good that I gave myself good advice,eh?

We do sometimes go out during the weekdays for dinner after work, but it's never really as "relaxed" and romantic 'date night' as I would like it to be because we're so wrapped up from work and "doing" stuff. Which is why I kind of tried to do the "let's make a deal" thing with the scheduling - I really would like a weekend, just one!, where my house is not overrun with kids, TV noise, computer games, whining, arguing, and general disarray. And, if we're going to be honest here, while I understand the fun and purpose of a 'quickie', it's not really what I would like to relegate my love life to (and frankly, men are more on/off like than than women are).

I don't like the idea that he says I make him choose, but in a way he HAS to choose some of the things - esp when dealing with the ex. I mean, he tells her he doesn't have a car, but when she challenges him and says 'oh well, not my problem', he feels guilty about the kids not getting picked up [ because she WILL call such a bluff] and then finagles it with me to take the car. So she knows that all she has to do is threaten and he'll find a way. Of course, I am torn between "enabling" this to happen and being the bad guy by saying "no".

There's this other dynamic too - I think that in a way, and it's kind of sweet, but - in a way, I think he pictures us as this 'happy family'. So he tries to get all of us doing stuff together or to get the kids to join in a group hug with me and stuff. Needless to say, at least one of them is apprehensive about this [and tends to do the defensive thing that someone else mentioned - if he gives me a hug, the child breaks in and "needs" something to get him away from me] and I am too. I don't see them as my children. I know that might sound horrible, given what others on this forum have said about loving their bf's kids as their own, but even though I like them, I don't love them like that. I may in time, but it's tough for all parties right now.

So I think on some level he wants all the conflict to 'go away' to the point where he makes it seem like we're a unit or a nuclear family. So when there's a time on the weekend that I want to go over to a gf's house to chat or whatever, sometimes I get the 'why don't you want to hang out with us'? Uh, because I need to get out sometimes? Because I am home with you all *every* weekend and I need a life outside of being third wheel and, as you say, rent-payer & chief cook and bottle washer?

In any case, I guess it's a 'play it by ear' thing. But what do you think of the whole $$thing? Am I getting played here? Did he, like so many people say, just say the right things in the beginning just to win me over? I had even heard third hand that his ex said he was with me because he thought I might have a lot of money (which I don't - some joke there!) - but that could just be the bitterness talking. Still and all, it plants a weird seed, esp given what the current behavior is.

Anyway, thanks again - I'm so glad to talk to soemone about this...and even gladder for the ability to say it "privately".

November 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNanner

I mean, he tells her he doesn’t have a car, but when she challenges him and says ‘oh well, not my problem’, he feels guilty about the kids not getting picked up [ because she WILL call such a bluff] and then finagles it with me to take the car.

And this will continue until he calls her bluff and refuses to pick the kids up when it's not his weekend. Has he tried telling her, "If you live the kids alone, sure I'll come pick them up...with the cops"? Now of course, he should consult an attorney on this because, once the cops are involved and the kids have been left alone, who knows what might happen. But perhaps the threat of him showing up with the cops will be enough to get the ex to stick to the schedule.

I don’t see them as my children. I know that might sound horrible, given what others on this forum have said about loving their bf’s kids as their own, but even though I like them, I don’t love them like that. I may in time, but it’s tough for all parties right now.

It's not horrible at all. It's honesty, and we do kids no favors by trying to affect feelings we don't have. In fact, it's confusing for kids when we put on a "face" that doesn't match the vibe they get from us. Once again, you are giving yourself great advice. Don't be afraid to heed it. Politely let your boyfriend know that you're pressing "pause" on the group hugs. Furthermore, he insults you and his kids by thinking that a forced group hug is what "makes" a family. Mutual respect, balance, honest communication, and shared responsibility, among other things, are what make a family--this is where he should be concentrating his efforts.

But what do you think of the whole $$thing? Am I getting played here? Did he, like so many people say, just say the right things in the beginning just to win me over?

Can't say for sure, what his initial intentions were, but what is clear--that you are now footing the bills--isn't at all balanced. I'm old school--a man should want to pull his weight, or at least be moving heaven and earth to get to a place where he can. That you don't have "a lot of money" is beside the point--what you do have, you're spending to support him, and it's more than what he has on his own. Any amount that you are paying and he's freeloading is "enough" money for him to be taking advantage of you.

Your boyfriend is responsible for himself. He and his ex are responsible for their kids. In different ways, both are failing to support and take proper care of their kids. Your "support" is keeping this dysfunctional operation afloat, and it comes at a tremendous personal cost to you. Listen to that "weird seed". It has found fertile ground in your intuition and is waving all kinds of red flags. There's no reason for you to stay in a relationship in which you do all the giving and receive nothing in return.

Best,
~Deesha

November 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hello,

I've been dating a guy for a year and a half and he has a 6 year old son. Before he and I became serious I did bring up in a very careful way his son's behavior. I understand since he and his ex are not together he does not want to upset or have a bad experience with his son.( he has his son every other week...for the entire week). He is extremly patient and way too passive. We are now living together and I dont have the time or patience to deal with a child that is rude & disrespectful. I've been reading parenting books and having open discussions with my boyfriend on ways to discipline his son together. My boyfriend is open to this project but he is still very passive. Not only that but his ex is contstantly leaving his son (on the weeks that she has him )with my boyfriends mother with out talking to him first (over night & afterschool). I don't understand how that is acceptable.My boyfriends mom watches his son after school on the weeks that we have him and if he & I need her to watch him a couple of hours longer(which is very rare) she complains that my boyfriend never watches him. I think she gets burned out because the ex drops the son off to her too. Shouldn't my boyfriends mom be our life line and not the ex's? Not only that but the ex and my BF still own a home together that they have not been able to sell due to the housing market. She has defaulted twice on the mortgage and of course it affects his credit and if she can't make a payment he of course has to fork over money. What do I do? I love being with him but it's all the extras that are driving me away. What am I doing wrong? What do I need to do to get things in order?

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentererika

Erika,

I can totally see why you are being ‘driven away”, as you say. Discipline and parenting styles are huge issues to consider when dating a co-parent. It’s understandable that you would be none too pleased dealing with a rude and disrespectful child. And while it’s to everyone’s benefit that you have been honest with yourself and your boyfriend about not having the time or patience to deal with an unruly child, the fact remains that you decided to live with this man and this child anyway. Unfortunately, it’s like buying something marked “as-is”.

As for getting things in order at this point, the only person you can truly control is yourself. You are frustrated by Dad’s passivity, and rightfully so. But at the same time, it’s probably not in the child’s best interest to live with someone who isn’t wiling or equipped to deal with his behavior, in the absence of discipline from his father. I’m not saying that you should tolerate the child’s disrespect and rudeness, but instead of sticking around and being frustrated with the child and his dad, everyone might be better served if you all weren’t living together at this time.

If you can rewind, perhaps you and your boyfriend could spend some more time talking candidly about the course you would like your relationship to take, and addressing the parenting issues and the residual issues with his ex. Both of you being clear about your expectations and needs will go a long way in creating a more stable relationship—if it’s meant to be. Some co-parents decide that someone they’re dating, someone they love even, just isn’t a good fit when it comes to their kids. And vice versa: some people dating co-parents may decide that, ultimately, they aren’t ready or willing to deal with someone else’s kids, kids in general, or a child with behavior or other issues. It’s important to be clear about who you are and what you seek in a relationship, especially when there are kids in the mix. It’s also important to be willing to walk away instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Some resources you may find helpful:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/coparentingmatters/2009/11/23/step-dating-dating-with-kids-in-the-mix" rel="nofollow">Podcast of our "Step-Dating: Dating with Kids in the Mix" show on "Co-Parenting Matters"

http://coparenting101.org/2009/03/04/part-2-interview-with-yvonne-kelly-of-the-step-and-blended-family-institute/" rel="nofollow">Info about step-dating from our interview with Yvonne Kelly of the Step and Blended Family Institute/

Try to understand that, for your boyfriend to go from passive/permissive parenting to more structure and discipline isn’t something that’s going to change overnight. And it might not change at all if Dad doesn’t take the lead. It would not be at all appropriate for you to lead the discipline “project.” Further, how his child respond will respond to any changes dad does make is a big unknown. Is your boyfriend open to counseling? Parenting classes? Any improvements in this child’s behavior will take time, and his father will need to consider the underlying causes for his misbehavior, including the impact of his parents’ break-up and your presence in his and his father’s life. Even very young children are affected by a parental split, even when the grown-ups presume they’re not old enough to know what’s going on.

It sounds like you also want your boyfriend to deal with his “unfinished business” with his ex and the mortgage, and that’s certainly understandable. But as long as you are living together and your finances are comingled as a result, then you are pretty much at his—and his ex’s—mercy with regard to his credit rating and all that comes with that. Like the discipline issue, this is one of those things where you can only control yourself, and yet you are being impacted by the decisions of others. So in the absence of your boyfriend getting his ex to refinance and get this name off the mortgage, or at least stay current with her payments, you can either stay and deal with the fallout of his ex’s continued delinquencies, or you can, again, remove yourself from the situation.

Finally, with regard to Grandma, I suspect that she doesn’t feel much allegiance to either “side” when it comes to her grandchild needing to be watched. If she says “no” to his mom that has consequences for her grandchild, so of course she’ll say “yes”. That said, if she is burnt out, she probably feels more comfortable venting to her son than to his ex. Also, if she’s old school, she may not be as invested as you are in the 21st-century formal “his week”/”her week” arrangement. In her mind, dad should take his son whenever the child’s mother can’t, period. No use trying to move that mountain.

All the best to you,
~Deesha

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I have some concerns regarding my current relationship and the interactions he has with his ex. We have been together for a little over a year and have a 6 month old daughter together. We live together with his two teenage sons and I have a wonderful relationship with the boys. He also has a 9 year old daughter that lives with her mother in another state. He dated this woman for 7 years and had a child with her. Their relationship did not work out because her father did not like him and gave her an ultimatum. She chose her father over the relationship. He has been in another long term relationship since then.

To avoid all of the nitty gritty details, his daughter's mom has been off and on over the past 9 years. His daughter has been to visit him one time and he has to go to see her. When we first met, she was engaged to someone and pregnant and would not allow my fiance to see their daughter. He attempted to contact her many times with no luck. Right after I gave birth, her mom contacted him and allowed him to talk to his daughter. He set up a visitation to go spend her birthday with her. He was supposed to go up for the day but called and asked if he could spend the night because it was 5 hours away. I agreed but said that it would be the only time he could stay at her house. He would need to get a hotel room from now on and he agreed.

After that visit, his ex became very contacting with him and sent him an email that I deemed slightly inappropriate. She talked about the night he spent there and how she tossed and turned thinking about their intimate moments. She ended the email wanting to be friends and co parent their daughter. He did not tell me about this email but we have an open relationship in terms of access to each others accounts and he asked me to print an email out for him and I came across it then.

Since then, they talk frequently via text and on the phone. He has gone to visit two times since then and his daughter constantly asks for them to get back together. He asked his ex if I could visit with him next weekend and she said no that it would be to stressful for their daughter during the holidays but maybe after Christmas we could arrange something.

The first time he stayed in a hotel while there, he went to the hotel after she fell asleep and got to the house before she woke up so she would not know he did not stay there. This past visit he let her know he was staying in a hotel and she questioned why. He explained that it is not right for Daddy to stay at another girls house because he is in a relationship. She did not understand this. he has admitted that they never really explained to her that mommy and daddy are not together but have told her that daddy works in another state.

I have two main issues - My daughter has a sister that I want her to know. I grew up in a blended family and have wonderful relationships with my brothers. They were around me from day one. My other issue is that his ex has expressed regrets to him about the way their relationship ended and historically she has had him "by the balls" when it comes to their daughter. What should my expectations be for him to set boundaries with her and be respectful of our relationship without jeopardizing seeing his daughter (he went a year without seeing her so I can understand not wanting to rock the boat right now.) I hope this makes sense.

I feel like I may be a little impatient since all of this is new but I have not had to deal with this until now and I feel like he is leaving his family here to go and play family there. He has a daughter who has siblings here that do not know her the way they would like and she is not given the opportunity to know them. She has met her brothers quite a few times but their is no consistency.

Thanks for your guidance.

December 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGiGi's Mommy

Hi, Gigi's Mommy,

As someone who has 4 half-sisters--one that I'm super close to, two that I'm somewhat close to, and one that I don't know at all--I can totally related to and really admire your desire for your daughter to know her sister. I am thankful that my mother and my close-sister's mother committed to putting their grown-up issues aside and raising us as sisters, ever since my sister was born 35 years ago. What my family's experience has taught me is that all the adults have to be on board. If your boyfriend or his ex aren't committed to keeping the children connected, then it won't happen.

Does your boyfriend share your desire for his daughters to have a relationship with each other? Perhaps his "fear" of his ex is keeping him from making this happen. Until he manages that co-parenting relationship better, it's actually not in his daughter's best interest to be around you and her new sibling. If her mom is contributing to the child's expectation that her parents will get back together, meeting you and your baby will likely be confusing and upsetting to her. She's already confused because her parents haven't been honest with her about their break-up.

If you feel like your boyfriend is “playing family” in two places, that’s a serious problem. Listen to your instincts, and tell your boyfriend how you feel. While I can understand him not wanting to rock the boat and upset his ex, he has to decide if that’s how he wants to continue living. Once he makes a decision, you’ll need to decide what you’re willing to live with as well.

Has your boyfriend formalized his custody and visitation arrangement via a court order? By doing so, this is one way that he can set boundaries and expectations with his ex, not just for the sake of your relationship, but for the sake of his child. The child’s mother should not be allowed to use access to the child as a means of controlling your boyfriend. As far as your expectations, while your boyfriend won’t have the final word on his visitation terms, I believe it’s reasonable for you to expect him to use the resources available to him to make sure he sees his daughter on a regular basis, on terms that are in his child’s best interest, and not by design of her mother’s whims.

Best to you and your family,
~Deesha

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thank You Deesha,
In terms of a court order, he took her to court a few years ago, and after about $10,000, she moved out of state and the case was thrown out because they could not proceed. I truly believe he wants his daughter to know her siblings but he has not put his foot down with her because when she gets ticked off at him she stops contact. This has happened on numerous occasions over the past 9 years and he says it is a cycle she goes through. We talked about it last night and I voiced my concerns about her and asked if she was not letting their daughter come her so that he would go there to spend time with her. He said that it is probably the case. I know that her intentions right now may not be for their daughter but for her to get him back in her life and she is using their daughter as a pawn. I feel like she is trying to act quick because she knows we are getting married and she does not want that to happen. The topic of trust has come up and I assure him that it is not that I don't trust him, it is that I know that he will do anything to see his daughter and I fear that leading her on or not setting strict boundaries with her is his quick fix to maintain contact with his little girl.
We can not afford to go back to court at this point but I need him to understand that the decisions he makes regarding his ex are having a substantial impact on our relationship and my comfort level with him going 5 hours away to visit for the weekend.
I feel completely left out and do not have any say it what is going on. I understand that I have to be patient but I also believe that because we are getting married, their needs to be expectations set for all parties - including his daughter's mother - and those boundaries must be respected or they need to be addressed immediately out of respect for all parties involved.

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGiGi's Mommy

Wow, Gigi's Mommy...it's sounds like you're being very clear and reasonable about your expectations. And it does sound like--in the absence of being able to proceed legally--your boyfriend is doing whatever it takes to see his daughter, at the expense of setting boundaries with his ex. Patience is important, but so is a plan for moving toward a more functional, healthy co-parenting dynamic. I'm not sure what state your boyfriend is in but perhaps he can file a motion and request a parenting coordinator to work with his family? But I know you mentioned that you can't afford to go back to court, so I'll reach out to a parenting coordinator we know, Brooke Randolph, and see what advice she may have for you. I can post her reply here, or send it to the email address you've provided. Please let me know what you prefer.

In the meantime, here's an interview we conducted with Brooke about parent coordination:
http://coparenting101.org/2009/06/19/when-co-parents-collide-interview-with-parenting-coordinator-brooke-randolph/

I'll be in touch,
~Deesha

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thank you so much. You may send it to my email. I really appreciate this.
J

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGiGi's Mommy

I have recently gotten back with an ex-boyfriend of mine. We dated in 1996 broke up a year later continued to stay in contact (sleep with each other) for years until I got a serious boyfriend in 2002. Even then, we would stay in contact albeit not physically always emotionally. Fast forward to this year my boyfriend of 2002 and I broke up and my ex and I gave it a go again. When we first started dating he was very secretive and illusive. He for example would never let me stay at his house or disappear for hours.. But the excitement of getting back together was nice. I randomly heard something and decided to look him up in the family city clerk records and low and behold he has 2 children that are at least 9 because the mother filed a paternity suit in 2000. Dug deeper found it was true this is back in September. I never mentioned it to him just acted normally. I recently went through his phone saw an inappropriate email to and from his ex and I had to confront him about their relationship. Which in turn reveled my knowledge of the kids. He said yes he said he was relieved that I knew and assured me nothing was going on with the kid’s mother. But he was very coy about the details of the children when I asked how old they were became illusive again and would not tell me. He said he felt bad he has kept this from me for so long. We talked some more and he intially said a relationship is not a real priority because he has so much going on but he wanted to see where we could go from here and try to see if it could work. We haven't talked about it again and have just acted normally. (but the elephant is in the room it has always been) Now that I have in essence forced him to tell me… I guess my question is how do I proceed? Given our history... I do love him I always have and I know he loves me...but how do I make him feel comfortable sharing this side of him?

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheEx

Hi, TheEx,

I think you have been very accepting of your boyfriend--his lies and his illusive behavior, for example. I don't believe it's your job to making feel "comfortable" enough to share details of his personal life with you and do deeper into a relationship. Why should you do more when he's already done so little? And based on the information provided, I would say that the problem isn't that you haven't done enough to make him feel comfortable; it's that he simply chooses not to include you in that part of his life. It sounds like he's getting what he wants out of your relationship as it exists right now. You want more, but does he? Really? If so, he would understand that the first and most important building block to your relationship is honesty. If anything, he needs to make you feel more comfortable in the relationship, but people will only give us what we put forth that we deserve.

Best to you,
~Deesha

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I'm heavily sighing because this is obviously a scenario that is never easy to resolve. I have been with my boyfriend for six months (I've known him for about two years total) and he has a daughter who is three. The mother lives in a different state (about two hours away) and pretty much calls the shots regarding visitation. He has asked her to bring their daughter to his place one weekend and he proposed to visit the alternate weekend. She never agrees to this. She knows that we are in a relationship and although we have never met, he has been pretty clear about my presence in his life. Because he is always having to visit their daughter at her house, sometimes he spends the night there. He assures me that they don't even sleep in the same room, but this really makes me uncomfortable. I know that his ex still has feelings about the break up because she would say things like, "I know we're not together, but you can still take me out." I am understanding of his situation and I love him very much, but I don't think it's fair to me for him to spend the night there under any circumstances besides an emergency, especially since she obviously still has feelings for him. Am I overreacting?

December 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndie

Hi, Andie,

Lots of red flags here that indicate that your boyfriend isn't maintaining boundaries with his ex. I don't think you're overreacting at all.

Best,
~Deesha

December 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My boyfriend has a young daughter who lives out of state with her mother. Before we started dating, which was about 9 months ago, he was still having sex off and on with his ex, even though they had not been a couple for about three years. He told me that he was having sex out of convenience (I'm the first serious girlfriend after they broke up) and after we met and started being serious about each other, he cut all ties out of fairness to me (and to her...apparently she still has feelings for him). When he visits his daughter he also stays at his ex's house overnight. Considering his daughter doesn't live particularly close to him and he is doing the bulk of the traveling to visit without a car, is this normal? I am very upset about him staying at her house overnight. Are there any other viable and affordable options that I can pose to him? I don't have any children, we are not married and he and his ex were never married. This is my first relationship dating a man with a child. HELP PLEASE!!!!

December 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSimone

Petricia,

You can read the response to your comment here:

http://coparenting101.org/2009/12/25/dating-and-co-parenting-take-your-time-do-it-right/

Best,
~Deesha

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Simone,

As for "normal"...well, co-parenting arrangements vary. It sounds like your boyfriend has visitation while his child's mother has primary or sole physical custody; other co-parents might share physical custody 50-50. And there are various arrangments in between on this spectrum. Regardless, the only thing that matters is if this is an arrangement that your boyfriend is willing to continue; if he's happy with it, then there's not much you can do. However, if you are able to impress upon him that you feel that he should make other overnight arrangements out of respect for your relationship, only he can say what's viable and affordable for him.

Even if he could afford a hotel room, he may not want to spend his time with his child in a hotel like a traveling salesman.

He might not have established the type of relationship with his child such that she is comfortable staying overnight with him without her mother present.

He may or may not have relatives or friends in the area with whom he can stay while in town visiting his daughter.

He might consider going to court to change the terms of his custody and visitation agreement so that he (or his ex) can bring his daughter to him for visits.

But again, if your boyfriend doesn't feel like the situation is broken, he's probably not going to be inclined to "fix" it to make you feel better.

Because he was having sex off and on with his ex "out of convenience" for 3 years and she still has feelings for him, it would seem that he would want to initiate an arrangement that doesn't include him staying at her house, so as to establish clear boundaries--whether he was in a new relationship or not. Take heed to the fact that he hasn't done this.

Best,
~Deesha

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My boyfriend went through a nasty divorce seven years ego. His ex made our life living hell, went after us emotionally and financially and made an ultimatum to him that he needs to choose between seeing his kids and being with me. Six years later, he finally removed court signed agreement that prevented me from seeing his three children and over last year I have seen two of them out of three 3 times. This situation caused fights between my boyfriend and me as he would put his kids and his ex demands in front of our interests and did not create trustworthy environment for him and I start living together and integrating my daughter into relationship as he would break up with me every time his kids would want him to do something that was outside of the visitation agreement and just went along with their and his ex's demands. She managed to collect over 40% of his net pay and he also left all their marital assets with her living us with not much to work with.
To make things even more complicated, now his ex wants to meet me after we managed to spend one nice day with the two of his children over holidays - his son still refuses to see me. I told my boyfriend that I really do not want to meet his ex wife because all horrible things she has said and done (hired a private investigator to find out how much I make, wanted to have my salary as a part of her alimony and child support calculations!....) I am portrayed by my boyfriend as someone who is sabotaging a nice opportunity for all of us to get along well after so many years. I feel pushed around as am always put into situation to accommodate her and her children's needs and just deal with my life circumstances without any kind of support ( I have a child too!) I simply do not want to see her nor have anything to do with her. I just want to be left alone and have some peace finally!

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAna

Any advise? How should I convey my message to her without offending her?

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAna

Hi, Ana,

Unfortunately, I don't think you can convey your message without offending her. Not to excuse her behavior, but from the ex's perspective she's trying to reach out, perhaps finally accepting that you are going to have a significant presence in her children's lives, and you are telling her, essentially, "too little too late." As a mother, I would want to have some kind of rapport, however minimal and business-like, with anyone who is going to be around my children, even moreso with the person who is sharing a home with their father. If this person is unwilling to do this, then I would be wary (at best) about their involvement in my children's lives. You don't have to be friends, or even to talk after the meeting, but a single meeting can open the door to a peaceful co-existence. What do you have to lose?

That said, you have to do what works for you. If you are reluctant to meet her because of her misdeeds and because you are tired of always accommodating--I can also understand that. However, your primary beef is with your boyfriend, not his ex. He's the one that made the choice over the years to put his ex's needs/wants above yours; he's the one who has failed to balance his role as a father with his role as your partner; he's the one that gave his ex all the marital assets and broke up with you when it suited him; and finally, he's the one that is now portraying you as sabotaging the relationship potential with his ex. You want peace and to be left alone, okay--but why do you want to continue in a relationship with this man?

It's very easy to demonize the ex, especially when she has been so contentious over the years. But I urge you not to make her the fall guy for your boyfriend's failure to meet your needs in this relationship. Hold him, not his ex, accountable for not being the partner you expect him to be.

Best to you,
~Deesha

January 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi ... okay I have been reading all posts and feel to write my issue.

I met my boyfriend almost 2 years ago. At the time we met, we were both in marriages that were not going right. He was my trainer and so we spent 1 hr /4days a week together. For maybe 6 mths it was just student vs. trainer meanwhile at home on both ends it was just not getting better. In a nut shell we had an affair. I am and was always against that but it happened to me. I tried to stay away, then I convinced myself that we would eventually end things as we never intended to hurt our spouses. In the end that did not happen. We definitely fell strongly inlove and have spent everyday since together and we are best friends. We are very happy. We are both friends with ex's which I would prefer cause he has a child (1yr) with his ex and know it is good for the child to have parents that are civil.

Now we live together, have a business together and want to continue to grow together...but his ex is still not over the breakup and blames me for it. I understand cause it was an affair but it was his choice to stray and leave...as it was with my marriage.

So the huge issue is that she refuses to let me go near their child. She calls me names and hates me. It really saddens me as I am a kind and thoughtful and caring person... i never meant to hurt anyone but I guess I did. And all i want is to share the joy with my boyfriend when he is with his child. I want to get to know her cause she is so important to him. I do not want to be her mother or anything like that but just sometimes do things the 3 of us.
His ex only wants him to visit his child at their old house. I guess she wants to control the situation.

He has talked to her about me and him doing things with their child and she freaks out real bad. She has now threatened him that if he brings their child anywhere near me she will pick up and leave. She will move away near her family that is 4hour plain ride away. So he is really afraid.

what do you think, any suggestions?
help! Please and thank you.
I just want to live happy and all around to get along.

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Hi, Jen,

This is a heavy situation. Let me reach out to some professionals, and I'll get right back to you.

Best,
~Deesha

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

thanks for such a quick reply and yes please do if you can as I have spent many days and nights with stress and heartache. I appreciate your advice.

Thx

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

hi again.... just wondering if you got anything for me. I dont mean to be a pain just in crisis and need a new outlook i guess

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Hi, Jen,

You're no pain. It may take a little while to get response, but I have passed your question on to a professional who is familiar with situations like yours. If you'd like, I can email you at the address you provided as soon as I post the response.

Best,
~Deesha

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

yes I would very much like that.
Thanks you Deesha.
And for the record I think what you are doing with your posts is a great thing as you provide people with help, advice and reality of the situation. I will wait for your email

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

You're welcome, Jen.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

ive been readin all the posts and wow i am not alone, i have been with my boyfriend for about a year now we live together and i have two kids from a precvious relation and i he has two kids as well . he is very involved in his kids life which is a good thing. he gets his kids every other weekend and thursdays from 6-8pm but ofcourse he says he wants to spend more time with his kids and the ex lets him by inviting him to go wih her & the kids somewhere or just come to the house and ofcourse he goes and i dont have a say so because when it comes to his kids seeing his kids is more important that what i haver to say , recently it was his ex's birthday and he told mybf to invite me and he did and we went to her house and had dinner , he picked up the kids a day before to go buy her a gift, and he also gave her a camera thathe had gotten from work that he didnt need but was new, am i over reacting or is this crossing the boundaries that im lettign this bother me and for him to go see his kids during the week from like 5pm to 10pm. and he wants to take his kids to the monster jam but its on the weekend he doesnt get them so she is letting him take them but she is goign as well and im just left out. she also picked him up one time and they went to the zoo and then to the movies with the kids and then they both just showed up at out apt and she stayed there his family also came over but i felt that was very weird and he just said he couldnt be mean and tell her no. do i just need to be more understanding or what , please help

January 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Hi. Ive been with my boyfriend who has two kids (8 and 2) with two different women for four months. He doesnt see the older child but pays child support, the other child he sees on a regular basis. A month after we started dating we moved in together. (i know, really fast). After moving in with him i started realizing the financial strain he was under due to the child support he pays each woman. He was behind on all his bills and there was no food in the house. After i moved in I paid some of the back balances so theyd be current and I bought groceries every 2 weeks. Unfortunately he and I never go out because he has no money and then i couldnt pay because of the extra financial burden that i took by living with him. I started feeling like his only priority was his children because we spent no time together and I was broke all the time. At first the financial burden bothered me but i was ok because we were building a life together but now im angry i keep picking fights with him. i just feel so disatisfied coz i feel like he just moved me in to pay bills. I also feel like there is a lot of things hes lying to me about. A couple months ago he got a knock on the door and was served papers...i heard the guy say it was divorce papers. i asked him if he was married and he swore he wasnt married and never was. a couple of weeks ago we got into a big fight and he told me to leave coz our relationship wasnt working. before i left i started snooping through his things and found that he had significant debt and that he was in fact married at some point. I dont know if he still is. after i moved out he told me the "truth" and he said he wanted to make things work. As for the 2nd baby mother i never met her. but today i found that he has pictures of her on his comp. Is this relationship worth saving? Did he move me in to help him financially and how will i know if hes over the last baby mother?

January 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Hi, Lisa,

You wrote: Is this relationship worth saving?

Often, though not always, the mere fact that you are asking yourself this question suggests that the relationship is not salvageable. Based on what you'd shared, I'd suggest cutting your losses and moving on from this extremely one-sided relationship. In finance and economic practice, there's something called a cost-benefit analysis in which you consider the cost of a particular undertaking and weigh it against the benefit that you expect to get from it. In the case of your current relationship, the costs to you far outweigh any benefits. And actually, based on what you've shared, I don't see how this relationship benefits you at all--not financially, not emotionally, not socially.

Did he move me in to help him financially and how will i know if hes over the last baby mother?

Of course I can't say for sure what his motives were for moving you in, but again, if you have to ask, your worst fears are probably true. Finally, as for whether or not he's over his previous girlfriend...again, you can't know for sure, but there's so much else going wrong with this guy, it's pretty much a moot point.

I suspect that you already know that you need to move on, but maybe it's hard to do so. Imagine if you had a daughter...would you advise her to stay with this guy? Tell yourself what you would tell her...because you deserve the same kind of mutual respect and healthy relationship.

Best to you,
~Deeesha

January 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Anna,

If your boyfriend's standard is that telling his ex "no" is the equivalent of "being mean", then he may have some issues drawing boundaries. That said, as for whether the amount of time they spend together, his celebrating her birthday, and the gift-giving is crossing a line...it depends. While rare, some co-parents really are this friendly--and platonic--after a break up. But this only works if everyone is on the same page with the "platonic" part. Also, this kind of chumminess can become problematic when one or both of the co-parents is involved with someone else and the co-parenting friendship begins to make the new partner feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or insecure. While your boyfriend's children are a priority, he has to find a way to balance his responsibilities to his children with being a respectful and responsive partner in his relationship with you. Sometimes, how you feel about things will be trumped, but I don't believe this should be a given.

Your feelings and concerns should not be dismissed out of hand. If you have questions about his boundaries with his ex, he should be willing to have a conversation with you, to clarify, reassure, and figure out what you can both live with. Do his children attend school during the week? If so, are they really staying up until 10 PM on school nights? Is this level of involvement with his ex something he envisions sustaining, or does he have a time frame for fewer joint activities as his children get older and/or more adjusted to their parents' split? In other words, does will he continue to allow his ex to make his extra time with the kids conditional on her being present? If things are comfortable enough for his ex to hang out at your place, is there a reason you can't join them for Monster Jam, the movies, and the zoo, or hang out at her house? Does he believe he should never tell his ex "no"?

Your boyfriend helping the kids get their mom a gift was great, but what happened beyond that, I believe, was also fair game for discussion between the two of you. It was a very nice gesture on his ex's part to invite you to her birthday party as well, but neither his nor your attendance was necessary. Nice, but not necessary, especially if you weren't completely comfortable with it.

It sounds like you're already doing a lot of understanding and compromising; perhaps it's time for your boyfriend to do some as well. He can still be a great dad and spend lots of time with his kids...and be responsive to your concerns as his partner.

Best to you,
~Deesha

January 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

thank you so much for responding and yes he does see it as being mean. i dont knwo if part of it is jelousy becausei can see how much he cares for her and just makes me feel like maybe one day he will just decide he wants to try again with her.i think my only problem is insecurity and not enough reassurance. but your right we didnt have to go to her birthday dinner but im sure his kids wanted him too and its hard for him to tell his kids no as well and then she will just make him feel bad and guilty. and your right i should be able to go placed with them but he tells me he doesnt feel liek dealing with attitude from her and hE rather just avoid it. ive asked him before if he thinks about gettign back with her and he tells me know but more and more i see how nice he is too her and how caring so i dont know what to think, and he did purchase 5 tickets to monster jam so im thinking he is taking her and her newphew that he gets along with and not telling me to avoid argument since he told me he wants it to be just him and the kids so if he goes with her and not tell me he will loose my trust i dont know if i should confront him about it before he goes or after

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

You're welcome, Anna. I believe your fears and insecurities are valid, based on what's going on in your relationship. While it's admirable that your boyfriend wants to keep the peace with his ex, your feelings matter too. Also, it's unrealistic, not too mention untenable for him to be a functioning partner in a healthy relationship with another person, while shying away from ever saying "no" to or disappointing his ex and his kids. Disappointment, compromise, and not getting everything you want is a natural part of life. He does them no favors shielding them from reality.

In order to make his ex and kids happy, he's constantly disappointing you. I encourage you not to settle for less than you deserve in this, or any relationship.

Best,
~Deesha

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

why is this so fustrating to me im trying to be okay and be happy with my boyfriend who i love so much,he had his kids all this weekend and just got off of work and is going to his ex's house right now to see his kids, i dont knwo why it bothers me so much, am i bein selfish? is there nothing wrong with him going to his ex's house almost everyday? he use to not be this way, but since he;s lived with me and my kids he feels he should be over there alot more to be with his kids instead of mine.

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Hi, Anna,

Your boyfriend's guilt about living with kids not his own isn't unheard of. Maybe he's trying to make sure that he spends more time with his kids than with yours, so that his kids don't feel slighted? If so, again, he's not doing a very good job of balancing things where his relationship with you is concerned. What would balance look like to you? Is your boyfriend willing to hear your concerns and adjust how he spends his time? Ultimately, it's up to you to decide the terms you are willing to live with.

Best,
~Deesha

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

why not bring the kids over to your place that you share and spend time there with all the kids together. If he is not willing to compromise then I think its not good and I do not think you are being selfish or you would not be writing on this board at all.

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

well my boyfriend does bring his kids over to out home every other weekend, but when he is not scheduled to see his kids he will just go over to his ex house and spend time with them for about 4 or 5 hours. he told me the other day he feels uncomfortable when me and her are together and thats why he didnt invite me to monster jam with him because it was the weekend when he doesnt get his kids so the only way she let him take the kids was if she goes and he told me he wanted to enjoy that time with his kids without feeling uncomfortable. ive been very understanding the time he leave to go see his kids and don try to argue with him and we seem to be more at peace. i do trust him, but i am going to talk to him and see if he is willing to change some things to make me feel better. my balance would be if the ex invites him somewhere on the day that he is not scheduled to get kids is to at least invite me or when he goes see the kids at her house to ask me if i want to go or give me a time when he will be back, just little things like that would make me feel alot better

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Anna, it sounds like you have the makings of a good conversation.

Best to you,
~Deesha

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

last night my boyfriends ex called and said theyw ere at the mall by our house it was 7pm so hegets dressed right away and leaves and i asked if i can go and he laughed and said why would i take you im just goign to see the kids, why do i think thats oky if his ex will just belike why did she have to come and then he will just loose more time with his kids because she might not invite him next time. so he left. when he came back he told me it was over and he hasnt been happy in a long time and doesnt love me and doesnt see me in his future. he told me thats just the way he feels he cant do this anymore with me or my kids and he sai he is moving out as soon as he finds a place. he said he just wants to be alone and take this weight off his shoulders. and he said he doesnt liek the way i act when he leaves to see his kids and he said its many other things too and he doesnt want to drag this on ...... so its over :(

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Hi, Anna,

I'm so sorry...the hurt you feel is palpable in what you wrote. I hope you can find support and care from your friends and family at this sad time.

One suggestion: I would not let your boyfriend dictate when he wants to leave. A date needs to be set, and he needs to honor that. You don't want him staying just because he can't find a place, when it's very clear he doesn't want to be with you.

Best,
~Deesha

January 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, my boyfriend have been together for three years and he has two kids with his ex and they are currently going through a divorce. He still has not introduced me to his kids because he feels his ex will be spiteful and give him a harder time than she already is when it comes to the courts. He has been the nicer one and thinks this will pay off, but so far it has not. She is trying to get all she can from him and he knows the money he gives her monthly to take care of kids doesnt all go to kids. She doesnt want to be with him but wants to make it so that he will be miserable and unable to have a family in future. I feel that my boyfriend is being weak by being afraid of this woman and I feel that he is allowing his ex to control him and the decisions that he makes.i.e, not introducing me to the kids. Also he doesnt want me to ever bring up the topic of his ex or kids. I just hope that after his divorce is final he will stop living in fear of this woman.

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkarine

Hi, Karine,

Quiet as it's kept, it's actually pretty common for men to be fearful during and in the aftermath of a divorce. Perhaps like many men, your boyfriend fears losing contact with his children or having his relationship with them hindered by their mother. Of course no one should have to worry about these things, but the fear is real, and the possibility of his soon-to-be-ex acting out is real as well. While reasonable people may disagree about the effectiveness of his strategy of concession, the bottom line is, that's the strategy he's chosen. And it's not unreasonable for him to want to wait until he is actually divorced before introducing his children to his girlfriend.

The timing of the introduction is his decision to make. He's the parent. You can respect his decision, or you can refuse to and walk away. Pressuring him or declaring him "weak" for wanting to wait and be more prudent about the introduction will likely backfire on you. Kudos to him for being a good parent. You're thinking about what will feel good and right for you. He has to consider what's best for his kids...and as his partner, you would do well to do the same. Have you thought about how the kids will feel about meeting you? Your comment didn't include any acknowledgment of what meeting you might likely mean for them. Do you know where they are, emotionally, at this juncture? If all you've conveyed to your boyfriend is that you feel it's time to meet his kids, with no recognition as to what a mixed bag of emotions this will create in them...then what you are telling him is that you aren't thinking about anyone but yourself. And that's certainly not going to give him any incentive to rush an introduction between you and his children. One of the biggest factors influencing how meeting you will impact the children is what their mother conveys to them about you. Given that your boyfriend is already handling her with kid gloves, and she doesn't want you to meet them, do you realize how conflicted these children are going to feel meeting you when their mother is against such a meeting? Perhaps she will never want them to meet you, but why press the issue right now?

Don't ask a father to go against what he thinks is best for his children just because you are feeling impatient with a decision you made. Reality check: You are partnering with a man with children. The sacrificing and the compromising never ends. You hope he stops "living in fear" of his wife once the divorce is finalized. Guess what...the divorce only means his marriage has ended; his co-parenting relationship with "this woman" has many years to go. You are likely setting yourself up for disappointment (and more conflict with your boyfriend) if you think a divorce decree is going to change the dynamic between him and his wife. The negotiations are just beginning: birthdays, vacations, custody, changes to the schedule; expenses; holidays; school, health, discipline, and behavior issues; clothing; extracurricular activities; summer camp... Child support is not engraved in stone; mom can request a modification at any time, even after the divorce is finalized. It doesn't mean it will be granted, but the point is: divorces are fluid processes. Agreements are violated. Kids' needs change. Parents' circumstances change.

In some respects, it never truly "ends" until the kids are independent.

If your boyfriend is not discussing these issues with you, you have no idea what agreements he's making regarding these issues and how they will impact him, his time, his money, his future, or his relationship with you. Do you really, fully know what you're signing up for, by dating this man? You can't be as in the dark as you are...and then turn around and make demands of him when your expectations aren't met. Demands that he might not be able to meet even if he wanted to because they violate a legal agreement he's made and never discussed with you. This is a rocky foundation on which to build a relationship. Your boyfriend needs to discuss these matters with you...but you need to be open, reasonable, and empathetic so that he will.

Perhaps you feel that you've already sacrificed enough, been patient enough, and paid your dues because you decided to wait on the sidelines these final 3 years of his marriage. But unless he promised you that he would be introducing you to his children at this time, it's presumptuous of you to expect him to. And even if he did make that promise, the reality is, for whatever reason, he's not willing or able to honor it. The next move is yours. The only person's behavior you can control is yours. If he believes the best thing is to make concessions with his ex, then you will have to go along with the program...or find a partner who is willing to deal with his ex the way you think is best, or one who isn't co-parenting. In time, your boyfriend may decide that he can concede less and stand up to his ex more; but I can't imagine your pressuring him or considering him weak is going to endear you to him in the meantime. If he knows that you consider his behavior "weak", no wonder he doesn't want to discuss his kids or his ex with you. You've shown no respect for his feelings or the difficult position he's in.

(Now, for all I know, your boyfriend has strung you along and doesn't have honorable reasons for not wanting you to discuss his ex and his kids...but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt since the only negative you've stated about him is that you consider him to be weak.)

In being with this man for 3 years while he's still married, you've made a decision that a lot of people would not in part because it really is a lot of waiting, so your impatience is understandable, but that's precisely it--your issue. Regardless of what his ex is doing and what your boyfriend is allowing her to do, the issue for you is...you, and your expectations, which may not be reasonable for a man who is just on the verge of divorce. If you had just met him, would you expect to meet his kids right now? Of course not. You've got 3 years "invested", but unfortunately, those years don't count as much as they would if he had been divorced when you first started dating.

And they really, really don't count if he's been living with his ex and his kids at any time while the two of you have been together.

If you want your boyfriend to be open to discussing his ex and his kids with you, show him that you are willing to listen and empathize, and that you care about his kids' well-being and about his relationship with them. He's not going to want to discuss his kids and his ex with you as long as such conversations are really just about you and what you want.

Best,
~Deesha

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha,

I want to thank you for pointing out the things that I have been doing wrong and I plan to take your advice. When I met him, he was separated from his wife and has finally decided to go through with his divorce but it is still a difficult situation for him. He and I can be great together, but I realize now that I have to be more understanding and realistic and if i care about him like i do then I need to really change a few things. Thanks again.
Karine

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkarine

Hi, Karine,

You're welcome, and I wish you much clarity and peace as you move forward!

Best,
~Deesha

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hello,

I am a "baby momma" and my Ex has put me through many troublesome events. I have experience domestic disputes with him.

I would not mind him visiting the kids but he is very controlling and the woman that he is with he cheated on me with when I was pregnant with his first child. This woman refused to leave him alone after she knew we were living together and he told her I love my kids mother, in which he brought me a dog and kept it at her house until he got his stuff.

He lied on so many occassions and this woman waited for him to "come home." I told my kids father about my sons baseball game and he said he was going to come instead this woman shows up. She sat next to me and didnt say anything I called her out. I said to her are you with him and she said no. He told her not to say anything and like a dummy she didnt say anything.

I wouldnt mind if he was with anyone else but her she is a snake and they deserve each other and the pain and heartache that they inflicted on me goes beyond words. I didnt hear from my kids father for five years. He didnt want to be found and when he was found he was living with that woman.

He tells her to keep her mouth shut and mind her business and stuff like oo you can never be my kids mother. He tells me oo I love her and I am with her cause you left me. He then trys to manipulate the kids when he does come around. I am tired of crying and tired of the lies and I cant stand him or the woman. I cant stand him because he disappeared and lives with this woman and takes care of her kid and he has never taken care of our kids. I worked he lived off of me he was the babysitter.

This woman has called me names and she knew about me and was OK with "sharing" a man like thats normal.

I needed the financial help from my kids father but he will only give help if I as he terms it "play the game". I have tried for several years to get child support and he goes under the radar by working jobs under the table and by disappearing. He has his family lie and everything. I am soo confused as what to do. He makes me out to be the crazy baby momma when in reality he is the one playing games. He plays me against the other woman and makes her feel like I want him and he just trys to destroy my person period. Please help and give advice. Its to the point where I started having nightmares again and I wake up screaming.

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterblessed

Hi, blessed,

You didn't specify the help and advice you're seeking, but I'll do my best to respond to what you've written:

1) My heart goes out to your kids because it sounds as if their father is an inconsistent presence in their lives, at best. Because of their father's inconsistency and his manipulation of them, I suggest you get counseling for your children. You didn't mention how they are coping with all of this, but I can't imagine this is a healthy situation for them.

2) Because this situation is stressing you out, I also suggest that you get counseling, for your own well-being, and so that you can be the whole, healthy parent your children need.

3) If cost is an issue with regard to counseling, reach out to a private practitioner or community mental health center in your area that will offer services on a sliding scale. Try Googling "your city's name", "counseling/therapy" & "sliding fee."

4) I don't know what you exactly what you mean by "he will only give help if I as he terms it 'play the game'", but whatever the "game" is, I doubt it's fair or appropriate. Even if you cannot collect child support, depending on your state's regulations, you may be able to have the back child support accrue and the arrears held against him. So if he ever does become a W-2 wage earner or files for disability, etc., you will get support. By doing this, you could even get support deducted from any income tax refund he has coming. Plus, there are consequences he could face by owing documented back child support, like not being able to get a passport, for example. Again, the laws vary from state to state, but contact your local child support enforcement office to find out your options; things may have changed since the last time you tried. Sadly, doing right by his children isn't motivation enough to get him to pay child support; it sounds like he needs other incentives.

5) You may be tempted to think that it's better for your kids to see their dad whenever he decides to come around--or not--rather than not to see him at all (if that's what he's been threatening). However there are emotional costs to your kids that you should weigh as well. It doesn't sound like you have a formal visitation agreement in place, but because of the volatility of the situation and for the well-being of you and your children, you really should. An attorney can help you with this, or you can go to family court directly and ask for assistance in establishing a custody and visitation agreement between you and your ex that establishes you as their primary custodian and which allocates set visitation for him. The consistency of a regular visitation schedule is in your children's best interest. You say that your ex is manipulating your kids; then perhaps you should ask the court to order him to attend parenting classes as a condition of visitation and/or order supervised visits until he gets his act together. He has a right to see his children, but with that right comes a responsibility to treat them appropriately. If not, his rights can be made conditional.

6) I mention your ex's new girlfriend last because except with regard to contact with your children, she really isn't your concern. If you are concerned about her harming your children, bring this up when you go to family court for assistance. Outside of that, don't talk to her. Don't talk to your ex about her. If it doesn't directly impact your children, there's nothing for you and your ex to discuss. Ask yourself the very hard question: "What am I getting by continuing this unhealthy interaction with him?" When Girlfriend showed up at the baseball game, she should have been invisible to you. I know you've been hurt, but honestly, it's none of your concern who he dates as long as your kids aren't being harmed. Why are you even discussing his relationship with him? These are the kinds of healing questions you can address in counseling to help you move on.

7) The family court system doesn't always work the way it should, so I'm not suggesting that this will be easy or work out perfectly. But your children--and your peace of mind--are worth the effort. Remove your focus from what others (your ex, his girlfriend) are doing to you, and focus instead on what you are doing for yourself and for your kids. As Talibah Mbonisi of WeParent.com likes to say: "Lose your victim, and claim your power."

The only person you can control is yourself. So do what you need to do to empower, equip, and heal yourself from this old relationship and the fallout from it in your present life. Move forward and be a role model of strength and self-determination for your children. Don't teach them to dwell on what someone else is not doing, or trying to get other folk to "act right"; show them that it's important for each of us to take charge of our own lives and not let others hinder us. Teach them that we don't wait around hoping others will do right by us; we play the hand we're dealt, demand respect, and take care of ourselves.

Your kids need you in so many ways; don't let their father and his girlfriend distract you from the work of being the parent they deserve.

Best to you,
~Deesha

January 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

well after the breakup its been very hard for me, ive tried talking to him to work things out but he didnt want too, now he has been goin everywhere with his ex andthe kids, i know they are not gettin back together but still it hurt veryu much and then he comes hom and brings pictures they took together, and they even went to some casino with her and her family and that night he stayed at her moms house that just tore me apart. im 99% sure they are not messin around or anything but it still killed me, the next day his family was celebrating his bday along with his dads, he txt me that morning saying everyone was coming to our place at 1pm, then he shows up with her too and everyone left around 11pm he left too to take her home, after all this i no longer want to work things out with him i feel like all the love i had for him has shattered and i want him to move out asap, he asked me if i no longer wanted to talk to him and i said no andhe asked if i wanted him to move out and i said yes and he asked to give him a week and if i still wanted to be friends and i said ok and no and he said ok. i feel so much anger towards him right now i dont knwo who else to talk to, i did so much for him etc. but now i just want him out. oh and another thing i think i might be preg. =( i hope im not because i cant stand being around him anymore and this will be very hard.

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Hi, Anna,

I hope you continue to insist that this man move out so that you can move on with your life. Pregnancy would certainly complicate things, but as long as you don't believe a baby will "make" him love you, respect you, or "act right", there's no reason you can't continue to forge a healthy, functional path for yourself.

Best,
~Deesha

February 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

hello, well my bf came to me and said he doesnt want to brake up and he does love me he just gets so scared that he is going tomove on and leavehis kids behind, we had a long talk and got back together =). but now i feel like maybe i still want to move on, but for right now we are doign good im just not sure now if this is what i want. and i dont think im preg yay! :D. thanks alot , will keep you posted.

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

Okay, Anna...all the best to you!
~Deesha

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi there, this is amazing that so many woman have the same problem. I am in a similar situation. My fiance and I have been together for 7 months now. He was in a loveless marriage, they had seperate lives, sperate vacations, finances, and yes bedrooms. They were more like roommates. She asked him for a divorce three years prior and he was concerned for their now 8 year old daughter. He filed for a dissolution 8 months ago and of course she has to dsign the papers in agreement. She has pulled every card, she was dying, she was going to lose her job, on and on and all of it was a lie. She even hired a private investigator to follow me for six months and used his mortgage money to pay for it and now risks losing the house. She signed the papers yesterday. He is still living in the house though, even though he has a cabin of his own. His daughter knows about me fromteh beginning, but now he has her hidden and will not even talk to me on the phone if he is with her. We see each other about 20 minutes a week at this point. He says that things will be this way or that way, but I am sitting here waiting for seven months and still not much is moving. I am not a homewrecker, she told him to leave and find someone else for about 6 years. She has always known of me and did not care until we bought property together. She has threatened me and she scares me. He says he has to see his daughter every day and I am afraid he will be going to his ex's house every night to put his daughter to bed so he can spend quality time with her and I will sitting there waiting for him. He cries when he thinks of not seeing his daughter every day and going with the agreement of every other week. I am not sure if I can do this or not. I also have a daughter who is nine and get along fine with my ex. This woman is wicked and he gives in to anything because of their daughter. Is there any hope in this mess?

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRonda

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