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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)

Hello and thank you for reading my posting once again, its been very hard since we got back together first he says he wants us to get a bigger place then it all changes back. its valentines today and yes im home alone, and today we found ou i was pregnant. today we went to a kids parade with his ex then on teh drive back home she invites him to her house and he goes and leaves me at home. he says he feels bad leaving me all the time but he'd rather be with the kids. at this point he is there everyday right after he gets off work until the kids fall asleep and in the weekend from when he wakes up until the kids goes to sleep. right now i dont know what to do, i feel like just packing up my stuff and leaving to my moms or staying here but seperated so he can take responsibility and be here fr teh pregnancy, he wasnt to happy about it but didnt say much. im so down right now because i already have two kids from different relationships and now a 3rd. sometimes i just feel like telling him why doesnt he move in with his ex at her moms house because he's there all the time anyways. i know i need to stop feeling sorry for myself. part of me doesnt want to go to my moms because there is really no room for me and my two kids and too much yelling. and i cant do it on my own right now. i do trust him and believe there is nothign going on between them but they are turning into best friends now and before they were enemies and he couldnt even stand her mom but now they are the closest ever and his ex is even being so nice to his family and now they go to her house alot too. all he basically does now is gets home to sleep and thats it.

February 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranna

My name is colleen. I married terry who has 2 sons by another woman. His ex wont let him see his kids when he is with. So Terry and i have been broken up four different times. I dont know what to do. He comes back to me becuase i know he loves me. But after a few months or so he gets extremely depressed and ends up leaving me to see his kids. Right now we are having a hard time finding jobs so we dont have the money to take her to court for visits. So what can I do? He just left me again a couple days ago. I know he will be back but i dont know what to do. I have so many dreams and goals with him. I dont want to just give that up. Please i need advice

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColleen Grubbs

Hey there,
I have been living with my bf for 7 months and I am 4 months pregnant. He has a 6 y old boy with another woman.He stays with us every second weekend and on school holidays.
The thing is my bf said his son is insecure and unhappy as he sees all his friends have dad living with them. So he wants to give his son a good feeling about that doing things together with him and the ex. Im just concerned that this will give his son the hope that his parents gonna be together again. And thats not fun for the child. And I think his ex would like them to get back together. She was furious when she found out I was pregnant.
Today he has been out all day with them, he just texted saying he wont b back until late. I just feel so lonely, I know my pregnancy makes my stress much more worse and emotions grow over the head.
And even his son knows and sees us together he thinks Im just a friend-thats what my bf says. And his son knows that he will have a half sister or brother soon. I just want my bf to explain his son that he is with me and he loves me and it doesnt matter that he is not together with his mom he still loves him. But my bf says he wouldnt understand.

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSillu

And now he even didnt come home for the night, didnt even bother to let me know. And when I was telling him what I feel or think about it he just texted me back im a stupid bitch. I think I opened my eyes, I didnt want to do it for a long time. But its about the time.. Last week he even said he hates this baby inside me..

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSillu

my fiance's ex is completely horrible. she used to call MY cell over and over again asking for my fiance when she knew his number. finally i changed my number. then all of a sudden she wanted him back even though she was pregnant with another guy's child. they've been split up 4 years and she's had 4 kids since. he rejected her saying that he only wants me. now she tells his kids (2 beautiful daughters that deserve better) that their dad doesn't love them and even goes as far as to say that he's DEAD. now they call him by his first name which breaks his heart. total parental alienation i think. when he asks to see them, she says she's going to charge him with harassment!! is there anything we can do?? she only keeps them for the money. everyone knows she has babysitters every night so she can follow her boyfriend around 24/7. what can i do???

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermal

Hi,

I have been with my bf for about 6 months now. He has 2 boys (5 and 8) and i have 1 girl (7 years old). My bf introduced his kids to me pretty early about 2 months of our relationship and his kids were nice and could accept me. However his ex wife was not happy with my bf and told him that it was way too early to introduce the kids. He told her that he was comfortable to introduce the kids to me at that point and the kids could accept me, so what's the problem. He included me to all his kids's activities/sports practices. (And of course the ex wife also attends in her kids activities everytime)

The next month after that conversation, out of the blue the kids really hate me. They don't want to see me at all. And so his ex told him to not let me to see the boys at all. And because of that too, we almost broke up.
She never likes the idea that he's serious with me. She'd prefer that he only has casual dates (she told him about that). So yes, she never likes me)

I feel somehow that my bf hasn't moved on from his ex as well. So whatever she said, he seemed agree to her. Any favors she asked, he would take it. For example: (1) if she asked me to babysit the kids while she went for grocery shopping, he would okay her. (2) He really likes hanging out at his ex wife's place with the kids. (Often the kids asked him to have dinner with them and stayed with them at her place. they would tell him how that made them so happy)--This situation annoyed me and I complained to him because to me, it would give them an impression of empty hopes for their parents to get back together. On the other hand, he did enjoy the moments and didn't mind at all. (3) He told his ex that he would marry me, and per his story, his ex sounded not happy about it and he told her right away that was just a joke (here I felt he wanted to make her jealous and he liked her reaction and answer).

We used to meet up for 2-3 times a week, now if we can meet up once a week, that's good enough. Every time we argue, he always says that his kids is first priority. And so whenever his kids want to spend time with him, he would make time for them even though we had plan. He would cancel or change the plan we had in last minute. And if i complained, he would say that I'm jealous with time he spends with the kids.
I only ask for one day in a week to spend time with me and he can't make the time for me. I feel I'm not important anymore. He keeps saying that he has no choice as he has 2 kids and they have heavy sets of activities and he must attend all. (I told him to do it like and my ex husband's and my way with our kid which is take turn every other week between us. I don't understand why he has to attend to the activities every week. Like an obligation. Why can't he explain to the kids).

I don't know what to do. I feel like to move on sometimes because I don't feel accepted in his life and family. And how his ex wife so hates me. But at the same time, I still love him and would prove to his ex that she is wrong all along about me...help me please

March 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervanessa

hi again,,

i re-read my post..for the example no#1. I should correct it to if she asked "him". :)

thanks
vanessa

March 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervanessa

Anna, it's pretty clear that your involvement with this man is bringing you nothing but a rollercoaster ride. For your own sake and that of your child, please consider getting off and getting yourself on stable ground.

Best to you,
~Deesha

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Colleen, the advice I have is likely not what you want to hear: Give up those dreams and goals with this man because chances are, they will not become a reality. All you can do is take care of yourself. Terry is conflicted about his situation, and isn't likely to be a healthy partner for anyone until he resolves things where his kids and his ex are concerned. It takes a lot more than love to make a relationship work: commitment, honesty, and consistency, for starters.

Best to you,
~Deesha

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Sillu, I think you'd answered your own questions about this man. Take care of yourself.

Best,
~Deesha

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Mal, I suggest your boyfriend get a court-mandated parenting time agreement in place so that his time with his children isn't at his ex's whim. Unless there are safety reasons why he's not allowed to be with his children, he should be able to file a motion for this at the courthouse, with or without an attorney.

Best,
~Deesha

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I don’t know what to do. I feel like to move on sometimes because I don’t feel accepted in his life and family. And how his ex wife so hates me. But at the same time, I still love him and would prove to his ex that she is wrong all along about me…help me please

Vanessa, once you take his ex out of the equation and focus on your boyfriend's commitment to your relationship, or lack thereof, as evidenced by his behavior, all signs point to you needing to move on as hard as it may be. Love isn't enough. I encourage you to value yourself enough that you won't stay in a one-sided relationship just to prove another woman wrong. You can't control what other people think about you. This is your life we're talking about; you deserve more and better.

Best to you,
~Deesha

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I have been dating this incredible man for five months. He was an 11 month old son with an ex-girlfriend. He was going to break up with her the day she announced her pregnancy. He said he would stick through it with her, but was not going to marry her. He bought a house and let her move in trying as best he could to make the relationship work. He has since accepted a job in another state from his son and ex. They do not have any legal agreement in place at the moment and I keep telling him he needs to get a lawyer. She is an emotionally abusive person towards my boyfriend. And he has not told her about me for fear of her trying to take away his son. She is still living in the house he bought, so he is paying all of the bills and mortgage at the house, plus the bills and rent for his new place up here. He pays her 1800 a month in addition for child support, which seems high considering she has no bills to pay. He goes back every other weekend to see his son, but stays in the house with the two of them. I trust my boyfriend, but my concern is that she doesn't know that things are over. I don't think he helps in this situation by not saying anything about dating. He doesn't need to necessarily say he has a girlfriend, but maybe indicating that he is dating casually would help her to move on a little. She sent him flowers to his new apartment with a note that said I love you. She asked him recently why he never touches her anymore. I just don't think he is being clear, which is unfair to her and to me. Nobody likes hearing voicemails from another woman telling your man that they love them. It is just weird. I guess, besides venting, what I need to know is how much should I push for him to seek legal counsel. I know it is not my child, so I am trying to stay out of it and leave everything between the parents. But I think he is being taken advantage of monetarily and with his visitation. And they constantly are screaming at each other which I think is terrible for their son to witness. My feelings have certainly gotten hurt along the way and like another poster said it is difficult to always take a back seat to the ex. I am fine taking a back seat to the baby, but for her ever whim it is tough to take. The thing I want most is for my boyfriend to not have to take such abuse from her and for him to actually be able to see his son without her hovering. And more importantly, I want them to do what is best for that sweet innocent little boy. She constantly uses him as a pawn in her sick twisted attempts to get what she wants out of my boyfriend and it makes me physically ill. He shouldn't have to be anymore of a victim in her sick games.

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Hi, Erin,

You wrote: The thing I want most is for my boyfriend to not have to take such abuse from her and for him to actually be able to see his son without her hovering. And more importantly, I want them to do what is best for that sweet innocent little boy... He shouldn't have to be anymore of a victim in her sick games.

Thing is, your boyfriend has to want these things for himself and for his child--enough to draw clear boundaries and enough to seek legal counsel as needed. I don't think you should push anymore for him to get a lawyer; he's heard you, and yet he's making the decision to co-parent in this fashion. He has to want things to change as much as you do. He may complain, but until he does something different, he's choosing this state of affairs. His ex isn't doing anything to him (or their child) that he's not allowing her to do.

Best to you,
~Deesha

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I've been with my boyfriend for eight months now. He had been seperated for a year when we got together. He definitely moved way to quickly in introducing me to his son, but I don't think either of us realized that at the time. When he did introduce me to his three year old son, he didn't want to tell him my name. He called me "Daddy's friend" I was okay with this at first until we were in a restaurant and he does it in front of the waitress and she just gives me this look. The look you give the other woman.

Now , he did this because he didn't want his ex-wife to figure out he had a girl around his son. He thought it would hurt her feelings. I thought this would be a temporary thing, but it still persists. She still has no idea he is seeing someone, and he has given me every reason in the book as to why. He (finally) just filed for divorce this past week, and originally he had said once it was final he would talk to her, but until then he didn't want to stir the pot. Now, that that day looms, his story has changed. Now it's "oh, you know, we've talked about dating and we've both agreed that we feel we are great parents and we trust each other's judgement..."

So, I am still left on the sidelines, leaving if she is coming over, having to be quiet when she is on the phone, and still being "daddy's friend" to his son.

One thing I have figured out about the man, is he is very slow to make these sorts of moves. Some of his closest friends are just now being told he is getting divorced, and he has been separated for a year and a half.

The other thing I am running into is his constant interaction with his ex-wife. I do believe that is over between them, but he is still so friendly with her it is disconcerting. almost He does things with her and his son a lot. I think I could accept this a little easier if she even knew I existed, but sitting at home alone while he is out playing house is a little strange for me. A few great examples of this: one weekend his family rented a lakehouse for a four day weekend. He did invite me to come out and I actually stayed for two nights. What I didn't like is he also invited her out. Of course, not on the nights I was there, but for dinner another night. And he took her and his son out on a canoe. Just a little too intimate for my tastes.

Then, because she (his not-quite-ex) didn't get to see his little nephew, he also invited her out to dinner with his family again three nights later. Two weeks later, he is taking his son to the fair, with her. Granted, they drove seperate, bought their own tickets, and didn't actually ride rides together, just with their son (her and son then him and son, never all three) but it still left me at home, stressing over what was happening.

And, of course, the details all came from him, so I don't know if it's actually the case.

We've went around and around about this, and essentially, what it comes down to him, or what he tells me, is he invites her because he wants to make sure he can be parts of things that he normally wouldn't want to be a part of because they don't fall on his weekend. He gave next Christmas as an example. It will be his son's fifth Christmas, a very exciting one so he tells me he wants his son to be able to be there when he opens his gifts. (at her house), so this year, he will let her come to his house Christmas morning. Oh, and I'm more than welcome to come up that afternoon, but Christmas morning I will be spending alone.

Am I being selfish here in not liking this setup?

August 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdianna

my boyfriend and I have been together for a year now. He has a son who is 6. He was engaged to his sons mother but they never got married. That was over 7 years ago. He hasn't really dated anyone serious until me. When we first stared dating she was like "omg I'm so happy you've founded someone..please don't mess it up". Everything was going great. but as our relationship got more serious the more she started tripping. She started calling all times of the day and night. I have 3 kids. She told him he was stupid for dating someone with 3 kids. I don't see why that's any concern to her. She ask for favors like (picking her up from work, taking her to school, using his computer). I wouldn't mind him doing any favors from her but I feel she doesn't respect or relationship. We were all friends on Facebook, then she started making bad comments about us on his page. I ask him to delete her and he said he couldn't because it would just start a fight. He use to post on him page how much he loved me and if we we're out what a wonderful time we was having and how he has never felt like this about anyone. She would call or text him bad mouthing our relationship based on what she read on Facebook. Just when I thought all was kinda getting a little better. She ask him if after 7 years could they get back together. He told her he was happy in our relationship, she went crazy. We planned to take the kids to a waterpark in Ohio. She said the son couldn't go. She told him she's doesn't want to see him so happy while she has no one. He's a good guy and I love him. But i cant handle this baby mama drama. He acts like he has to give in to her so he doesn't have to hear her mouth or have his fight with him. She has never said he couldn't see his son. He does everything for his son, I mean she doesn't even have to buy lunch for him during school. He is a very good father. I told him he need to start by not letting her bad mouth our relationship just because life isn't going well for her. That's not his problem. I also told him he needs to set some boundaries with her. All the calling all day and night for nothing or talking about things that could wait like (the sons needs a new bookbag or the sons just told a joke) that kind of stuff. Not one time has the call been a emergency. I sometimes feel i'm in this relationship with her in the middle. What do i do?

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStacia

Hi, Stacia! Whew! I can certainly understand why you feel like your boyfriend's ex is in the middle of your relationship: She's not only in the middle; she's sitting in a chaise lounge, fanning herself. Seriously, I offer that imagery on purpose because she has placed herself in the middle of your relationship (her consolation prize for not having your boyfriend to herself) and your boyfriend seems content not to make waves and let her stay there. But you're not content. What to do? Depends. What can you live with?

You mentioned that your boyfriend hasn't dated seriously before you, and it sounds like he was unprepared for his ex going "crazy" because he's deeply involved with someone else. At some point, however, he needs to recover from the shock and realize that being in a healthy intimate relationship--with you or anyone else- comes with expectations that he'll need to balance vis a vis his co-parenting situation.

That said, what you find acceptable and necessary in a relationship may differ from what your boyfriend finds acceptable and necessary. You both are entitled to live your lives accordingly. Where you disagree, though, you'll have to decide if you are willing to adjust and make peace with what he's offering (e.g., little or no boundaries with his ex, no formal shared parenting agreement in place), or if these things just aren't acceptable to you. Similarly, your boyfriend has a decision to make. Is he willing to put some boundaries in place in his co-parenting relationship with his ex? If he's compelled to choose between meeting your expectations and meeting his ex's, how will he choose? If he chooses to maintain the status quo to keep the peace with her, will you stick around?

None of those questions have easy or even right answers. Both you and your boyfriend both have to do whatever it is you deem best for yourselves.

Best to you,
~Deesha

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Dianna,

Both you and your boyfriend are entitled to make choices and have expectations that work best for you. What he's doing right now is working...for him. So to answer your question: No, I don't think you're being selfish at all by looking at this situation and saying you don't like it because your needs and expectations aren't being met.

Best,
~Deesha

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Wow, my situation is unique but similar all at once. My boyfriend, whom I met very young,(18) carried our realtionship for about 2 years when I got a call from a girl - his 1 year old son's mother. This event caused a downward sporal of feelings and him and I started arguing constantly(over paternity claims) The kid was never his. I feel we went through all the drama for nothing other than 2 adults acting stupidly. A paternity test wasn't taken until a whole year from the date she confronted me, making me more and more apart from my BF meanwhile. I only stayed with him beacuse he denied the kid was his. Though it turned out it wasn't his child, I felt the wedge the situation put between us will always remain. The problem today is that I still hurt over this situation and don't want any kids for lack of trust/security in us. It's been 3 years since the paternity test and we still aren't as close and I still get angry over the whole situation...any pointers or should I have really left this one and moved on?

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternisi

Hi, nisi...

I wonder if the lack of trust/security that you are experience stems solely from the paternity situation, or if something else is making you doubtful about this relationship. In the years since the paternity situation, have you found your boyfriend to be trustworthy? What is his response when you discuss your hurt and lack of trust? Is there something you'd like him to do to make amends, something that would help restore your trust? Is he willing to do this? That said, if you decide to remain in this relationship, you'll need to take charge of your own healing as well, forgive your boyfriend, and commit to moving forward with him. If you can't move past this, then perhaps it is time to move on. There's no right or wrong here, just what you decide is right for you.

Best,
~Deesha

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My boyfriend of 1.5 years and his soon to be ex wife. Have a co-parenting agreement, but he was tricked into agreeing to things. They went to see this mediator and she wrote this agreement up. And my boyfriend is a guy who does not want to fight so he will just agree to anything his ex wants just so he doesn't make her mad and it starts a fight. She has always been mentally and sometimes physically abusive to him. She walks all over him and gets her way everytime. In the mean time it is controlling my life as well and I is very hard on my relationship with him. How can I get him to have more of a back bone about things and stop letting her control everything?

August 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermother of 5

Hi, Mother of 5,

You asked...How can I get him to have more of a back bone about things and stop letting her control everything? Hard but true answer? You can't.

Your boyfriend has to want to step up in his co-parenting relationship. It sounds like he's decided to not rock the boat. It also sounds like he wasn't so much tricked into signing his parenting agreement as he signed to avoid conflict. Your boyfriend has to take ownership of his part of the co-parenting arrangement...and take responsibility for the choices he's making with regard to how he deals with his ex.

It may be difficult, but instead of trying to get him to have a backbone where his ex is concerned, you may need to step back. Avoiding conflict is a choice. A passive one, but a choice nonetheless. His choices are not ones that you or I would make, but the choice is still his to make.

That his choice negatively impacts his relationship with you and, as you say, is controlling your life--well, that adds another layer. You're fed up with his ex's antics, but it doesn't sound as if your boyfriend has reached that point--and he may not ever. So, you have a choice to make. Can you remain in the relationship if nothing changes? Both you and your boyfriend have to do what you feel is right and best. And you'll need to decide what it means for you if he believes continuing on his current path with regard to his ex is what's right for him.

Peace to you,
~Deesha

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha i have a slightly different question, but yes i do have small problems where the kids mom iof my boyfriend is very manipulative and tries to stay very involved in our lives. well we are about to expect our first child in about 5 weeks and i have two sons of my own as well, my boyfriend doesnt interact with them at all doesnt let my oldest play with anything that belongs to my boyfriend or his kids, he gets upset when me and my son are in my room plaing with a puzzle when he gets home from work and just tells me he is nto happy and basically we are together because im pregnant, isnt he wrong for being this way with my kids no interaction with them at all and ofcourse when the ex calls and invites him somewhere to be with his kids he is ready to go. do you think its better to just end the relationship and let him go and be a single mom of three boys ?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Garcia

As a father himself, he should know how important a role model is. He is modeling rude behavior and he is unkind. Your boys should not have to deal with this. Frankly, doesn't sound like he deserves to have you or your children in his life. He sounds very selfish. Personally, I would move on. Make sure you get child support set up ASAP. He still needs to be a father to your unborn child. But your children need to be in a home with love - not a pecking order. I think your boys will always feel second rate with him around. Find some one with a heart big enough for all of you :)

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermomsthoughts

Anna,

I have nothing to add to MomsThoughts sage advice except to wish you peace, wisdom, and safety as you act in the best interest of yourself and your children, including your unborn child. Not that you need undue stress at any time, but now is certainly not the time for you to be stressed out. I also hope that you have a support system of family and friends to help you make this transition.

Peace,
~Deesha

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha,
Have read many posts, you are wise and I hope you have some words for me.
I'm 52 , boyfriend of 18 months is 61. He has a daughter from his second marriage who has been ill for 6 years with ME (chronic fatigue). She is 19, and stays in bed most of the time, playing on the computer. He visits her a few times a week, she is often asleep. She is like an only child, and no one has ever said no to her. That is demanding enough - he is preoccupied with her and despairs that she will never get well. They give her every treatment you can think of - but resist her doing any kind of exercise, apparently this makes it worse....I could go on and on.
so he is a great and dedicated Dad. He also has a bedroom there (it's a v long distance from his home), is Mr Fixit., etc . What annoys me is that the ex wife benefits - he pays the whole mortgage, all the bills, for her clothes, food, everything.
It is none of my business, sure, but the other thing is that she does this knowing that he is struggling financially, seriously, She gets a pretty generous pension in this country, as does his daughter. He is so kind, and doesn't care about money, while he gets deeper into debt.
I'm also sidelined - I've met his daughter 3 times in 19 months - she can't really leave the house, and he does not make it happen . He says he's not deliberately doing it, I'd be welcome there,but I've not heard that from his ex. the daughter calls and he runs, I wish he would say no, just once, because he needs to be with me.
The daughter is in pain a lot, and lately has been saying she wants to die. But they won't get a counsellor to her, saying they've tried all that before.
He's a wonderful man, I love him and his principles, but he has so much baggage and he won't lighten it.

Any advice - am I being controlling? I said last week he had to stop supporting the ex, that maybe he should just pay the mortgage and the medical bills (HUGE) and give his daughter an allowance (on top of her pension ) if he wanted. He can't even afford that.
He separated about 5 years ago, so she's had a pretty good run. the problem is that the longer it continues, the harder it gets to stop. He didn't think it was a bad thing. I feel he is in a marriage like relationship except I know he definitely has no feelings for her - she's gay but no partner.
they have put the house up for sale a few times, but apparently the daughter has anxiety about it, has a crisis and they take it off again.
thanks for listening, and for feedback.
Vee

September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVee

Hi, Vee! It's been a bit hectic around here, but we will respond in detail to your comment soon! Thanks for connecting!

Best,
~Deesha

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Vee:

You wrote: Any advice – am I being controlling? I don't think so. You want what anyone would want: A partner who has clear boundaries in his co-parenting arrangement, which will allow him to be financially stable and committed to your relationship. My only advice is to trust your instincts. You said: "He has so much baggage and he won’t lighten it." Until he chooses to lighten it--and he does have choices--he can't be the kind of partner you want him to be, and reasonably so.

Your boyfriend has no incentive to change; he's struggling financially but that hasn't been sufficient to make him re-examine his choices. He's meeting his ex's and his daughter's demands, however unreasonable, and he's got you on the sidelines. He's doing what works for him (albeit with consequences, but no one is putting a gun to his head; sounds like divorce guilt to me). You have to do what works for you, and this situation, where for all intents and purposes he still has one foot in his old marriage, doesn't sound like it's working for you. Life is short. Decide if this is how you want to spend yours.

Best to you,
~Deesha

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Deesha,

I am hoping you can help me with some issues I am having related to this topic. I am young, only 23 and my boyfriend is 25. I have never been in this type of situation, but when I met him the sparks started flying. The problem (or so I thought) was that he had just recently had a baby with his girlfriend he was living with at the time. At first we just had a good time together and were not intimate with one another. He had been spending alot of time away from home for a few months before I met him, there were clearly issues there but I did not press for information. Slowly over the course of a few months he began spending less time from her and eventually moved out. He told me they were no longer together and that he wanted to be with me. Although she tried on several occasions to win him back, she never prevailed. He stayed true to me for several months. The problem was that she would use their son against him to the point where he felt very guilty and we argued alot because I defended her and I would do the same thing if in her situation. I didn't think it was right for him to leave her, even if he wanted to do his part regarding their son. I made this pretty clear. He said there just wasn't any feelings there with her, and it would never happen. He dated her for 3 weeks before she got pregnant. They were never married, but he stayed with her all throughout the pregnancy. He is a really good guy and I try to justify it by thinking that he tried his best, but I feel he could have tried harder. On one occasion, after we had been fighting for some time, he did go back to her. About a month went by and we did not talk at all. Eventually he contacted me and told me that he just couldn't do it and that he had given it his last attempt to "do the right thing". At that time, he told her that he loved me and that it wasn't my fault, because I had always felt that it was. He told her that he had lied to her about me in the beginning and he felt real remorse for his actions I believe. It has been 6 months since that occasion and things seem to be going pretty good. He seems very faithful, but I am very scared. Another thing is that the last time she used their son as leverage against him he had a mediation with court personell to arrange a custody argreement. This was never completed. It is arranged that he has his son two nights a week and every other weekend, so far this arrangement has stayed true by their agreement alone, but I would feel more comfortable if something were set that could not easily be changed. How do I go about telling him that is what I want him to do? His mother seems to be the mediator and communication between the two of them. She only provides info to him through text message and they don't cross paths. Also, he is not paying a set amount of child support, he covers daycare costs and buys "supplies" every so often. She has a decent job and seems to do ok without demanding more from him very often. She also seems like a pretty good person and I still am not completely clear on why he couldn't make it work with her. I almost feel I could be friends with her if this situation wasn't the way it was. She has another child with another man that she had before she met him. As far as I know she is still single, even though I think this would be easier if she had a boyfriend too. She is 30 and I think she feels her biological clock is ticking and looking for a man to help her care for her two children and be with her. To me it almost feels like the deal has not been met and he always could have the backup plan of going back to her--which I wouldn't say is a "bad" thing except for my heart being broken because I can't control the man I fell in love with. She seems that she doesn't want him anymore, and why would she after what he put her through? Of course I want him to have his son in his life which includes me too. His son is only 1 and a half yrs old, so the road is long ahead but he really is a good dad even if he could be doing more in my opinion. He doesn't have his own place and when we got back together I told him it was something he needed to do, he just lives with family. He promised he would. I told him to do it for himself and his son, not for me. He had a good job for awhile and then was laid off, but immediately found new work. He is very sensitive and I know he wishes he could be doing more, but its like it just kind of goes by the wayside over time. I just need some advice on anything that I can do to push things along. I love him and want to be with him. I think I someway sympathize with him because of impregnating a girl he barely knew (which I realize is his fault) but he has to deal with it the best he can. I just don't want to be in the same situation as her, and I'm not sure what is so different about me. He says he just didn't love her the way he does me; in my opinion there wasn't enough time to tell. I realize this is a complex situation, but any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

September 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLizzy

Hi, Lizzy:

Thanks for reaching out. A few things come to mind:

1. You can't--or rather, you shouldn't even try to--control another adult.

2. If by "move things along" you mean get him to be more stable and consistent, faster--you can't do that either. He has to take control of his own life.

3. It sounds like you have some very valid concerns about his personal stability and commitment to your relationship, given his employment and past relationship experiences. I believe you should listen to your instincts if you are concerned about him getting his act together. If you take a break from him until such time, what do you really have to lose? You can certainly champion and encourage his progress as a friend if he's not at a station in life that makes him suitable mate material for you, at the moment.

4. Never, ever hesitate to have high, reasonable standards for yourself and for those whom you allow into your life.

Best to you,
~Deesha

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Im trying to help the ex appreciate his time with our sons and allow my sons to trust dad again. What do you think?

Hi, Jenn:

Thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad to hear that you and your children's father are working to bring greater peace and stability to your children's lives. Their dad will have to come to appreciate his time with his children on his own terms, in his own time, but it sounds like you are supporting their relationships by honoring and putting in place a regular parenting time schedule.

You do, however, have a great deal of influence as to how your sons see their father. Ultimately, he's responsible for the quality of those relationships, but by not bad-mouthing him, encouraging your sons to have a good time when they're with him, being willing to listen when they want to tell you about their time with him and their extended family--these are all ways you can give your sons the freedom to love their dad without feeling conflicted about it. Even if dad becomes inconsistent or disappoints, you can affirm your children's feelings of anger or disappointment without throwing their dad under the bus.

Best to you and your family,
~Deesha

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hello,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year now. We are expecting a little one of our own soon. I am 25 years old, and I have a 2 year old little girl with my ex husband. He is 34, and has a 7 year old son with his ex wife. I have my daughter full-time, and he has his son on a 50/50 basis with his ex wife. None of us bash the other adults, or make any sort of snide comment. In front of the kids, we all get along famously. However, I think it must be known that I'm not particularly a fan of my boyfriend's ex wife, and if I had to guess, I'm certain she's not of me, either. In the beginning of our relationship, there were MANY problems. Dating someone who is a co-parent was new to the both of us. Since then, we've managed to step back, and really take a look at where the problems came from, and have managed to fix them - for the most part. However, we both get a little un-nerved when the other is on the phone with the ex, and anything other than a topic about the kids comes up. Now, my ex and I don't talk a whole lot, but when we do, I try my hardest to keep the conversation about my daughter. I have expressed to my ex that I think it would be a little on the disrespectful side if we talk like we're friends, and that I believe we should keep our conversations about our child. My boyfriend, however, has not had that conversation with his ex wife. Since our conversation, he told me that he would talk to her about not having personal conversations. He told me that he DID have that conversation with her, but it turns out he did not. He says that he thought he did, but he guesses he forgot to. She, to this day, calls and giggles about things that do not have to do with their son. It bothers me, because up until this point, we've changed our lives on behalf of her's. We originally lived in Tennessee. One day, she decided that she wasn't happy in Tennessee any longer, and moved to Arkansas. We had two options: Take her to court, or move as well. Long story short, we decided to move. We wanted to continue to be a part of the boy's life, without making him go through a court battle that he's old enough to remember. So, is it too much to ask of him to talk to her, and set his boudaries?? He's afraid she will get upset with him, and therefore quit giving him information about their child when he calls, or just alltogether ignore his calls. Help me out?

Thank you,

Krista

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKrista

I have a problem, my boyfriend and I have a great relationship, he's divorced and has two kids in the beginning of our relationship his ex wouldn't let him see the kids she then decided to let him see the kids every Thursday and for the past month she calls him every Friday saying that the kids want to see him for the weekend so now I have to stay home every weekend because she wants him to have the kids what can I do I want to talk to him and tell him how I feel about this but I don't want him to think that I don't want him to see his kids...help!

November 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Hi, Melissa,

All you can do is tell your boyfriend straight out that you understand and respect how important it is for him to see his children, that you would never want to stand in the way of that, but that you do have concerns about his availability--and hopes he believes you and can see the situation from your perspective. It sounds like your boyfriend feels that this arrangement dictated by his ex is his only option for seeing his children. Why is that? It's not uncommon for co-parents to have an informal, mutually agreed upon parenting time schedule, or a formal, mutually agreed upon parenting time schedule on file with family court. If he has shared custody, why does he allow his ex to set the parenting time schedule without his input? If he doesn't currently have a right to parenting time (i.e., his ex was awarded sole custody with no stipulations for parenting time aka visitation for him), is he willing to go to court to try and have this changed?

Court may sound drastic, but if his ex is unwilling to work out a schedule that isn't dictated by her whims, then your boyfriend will need to go the court route...IF he wants things to change. And that's the million dollar question: Who has a problem with the current state of affairs? Both of you, or just you? As long as he's willing to let his ex set the schedule, there's really not much you can do.

Best toy you,
~Deesha

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi, Krista,

You wrote: She, to this day, calls and giggles about things that do not have to do with their son. It bothers me, because up until this point, we’ve changed our lives on behalf of hers.

Two things: The nature of their phone conversations and your agreeing to move so that your boyfriend could be physically close to his child need to be 2 separate issues, unless you made it clear to your boyfriend that the condition of your moving was that he would "owe" you in the future where his ex is concerned. Though it was a sacrifice and a tough decision on your part, it is still one that was yours to make, freely. At what point does your boyfriend stop "owing" you, especially when he may not see the connection between your agreeing to move and the expectations you have of him where his ex is concerned?

Which brings me to the second thing: Why do the calls and giggles bother you? You say it's because you've had to change your lives because of her. You resent the fact that you've changed your life because of her (which is understandable), so she's the last person on Earth you want to giggle on the phone with...but your boyfriend either doesn't resent her, or his resentment is outweighed by the pressure (desire?) he feels to "play nice" with her. Whether he wants to engage in these calls, or he feels like he has to, it bothers you that he does it. Remember that what feels like a huge sacrifice to you, may not feel so huge to him. After all, he didn't move for his ex...he moved to stay close to his son. I don't know if you were pregnant at the time of the move or not, but if so, presumably part of your decision to move was for your in utero child to be close to his/her father as well. At the very least, you moved to stay close to your boyfriend. So when you think it about it, the two of you didn't really move "for" his ex. It's a hard pill to swallow that she would just up and move, and her decision was indeed the catalyst for your move, but your reasons for following have to do with the child your boyfriend has now as well as the child you are expecting. What's done is done, so at this point, you'll need to find a way to make peace with your decision, whether he keeps having personal conversations with her or not.

Do these phone calls make you feel like he's taking your sacrifice for granted? If so, definitely let him know...but on your own, you need to make peace with the decision you made to move.

Boundaries are very important in a co-parenting arrangement, as you noted. But it seems that you have more of a problem than your boyfriend does with being at the mercy of his ex's whims and threats, and as a result, you and your boyfriend don't agree as to where those boundaries should be drawn. He's more motivated by his fears of losing contact with his child than he is about setting strict boundaries with her. Is there a reason he hasn't gone to court to establish a formal parenting time schedule and agreement so that he's not at her whim? This is not the same thing as a court battle over something major like her moving. He'd simply be asking for a regular, agreed upon time to see his son that his ex can't violate over something as silly as whether or not he takes her personal calls. You can encourage him in this direction, but ultimately, the decision is his as to whether or not he's willing to change the dynamic in his co-parenting relationship.

Best to you and your family,
~Deesha

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

First I want to thank you for putting together such and informative and honest format. A lot of what I read above has truly enlightened me and made me aware of some things that I hadnt considered previous to visiting the site. My current boyfriend (with whom we began as just friends) is going through the sterotypical situation with his Ex. It is driving a wedge between us and I am afraid for the future of our relationship if things don't change. I am aware of the fact that his son comes first, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Should I view that as he will never fully commit to me? His Ex refuses to let him see his son and this time is been prolonged for an extended amount of time, and she'll call and have her boyfriend playing with their son in the background to rub it in his face. Which causes problems between us because I get upset that he's treated that way, and he then shuts down and cant be around me because he is distraught. He is litterally falling apart before my eyes. I do not know how to be supportive or what my role could/shoud be. He is consumed with anger, hurt, desperation, and fear. All understandalbe because his son is his world. He is an amazing man that would his last to help anyone in need. I knew coming into the relationship that is wasnt going to be a walk in the park, and he is worth the bumps along the way. I wish there was more I can do but I know that there isn't. How can I be there for him through this?

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterashley

Hi, Ashley:

I think you can be there for him as a friend, a sounding board, but because he's so deeply troubled by the lack of access to his son and because his means of coping is to withdraw from you...he has very little to offer in terms of being whole and healthy for a relationship at this time. One thing you didn't mention is his ex's reasons, if any, for not letting him see his son, and what efforts, if any, he's made to have parenting time mandated via family court. While the courts offer no guarantees (and again, I don't know the circumstances), if he's not using the resources available to him to see his son, then he's resigning himself not to seeing him or only seeing him at his ex's whim. Until he's willing to help himself, there's really not much you can do to help him.

You mentioned that when he gets upset over the situation, you get upset too...and that's understandable. But perhaps instead of continuing the cycle of both of you reacting to his ex, perhaps you can disengage on that level. Listen to him, offer comfort and advice (if he'll take it), but otherwise stay neutral. Show empathy and concern without venting about the ex (or vent to someone besides him, because I know these situations can be frustrating). Remember that this is his fight...if he chooses to fight. You can let him know that you'll be there for him, but first search yourself to determine if you are able to commit to the ongoing drama and the uncertainty of how present he's able to be as a partner to you.

Best,
~Deesha

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My ex has a new girlfriend. He refused to take the kids during his placement time (New Years weekend) because of her. He told me he didn't want the kids to know about her until and unless he thought it was going to be serious. Suddenly, less than one week later (and less than a month after they started dating) the kids came to me stating that they met dad's new girlfriend and "she stayed the night in his room". I was understandably upset. I checked into her background and found that duringher own divorce, she lost custody ofher own son because she left him home alone for 6 hours to go get drunk, came home and passed ou on the floor. Then her son called 911. Se had also had a disorderly conduct charge against her where she slapped er ex boyfriend and when he locked himself in a bedroom to get away from her, she tried to use a screwdriver to get in after him. Her son was there during that incident and called 911 too. Contained in that police report was her stating to the officer that she is also a self mutilator and had grabbed a knife to hurt herself.
I am worried about my kids living in the same home as this woman (she has stayed there every night since the first night my kids were there). I asked my ex about her history and he blatanly lied to me (I have documents to prove he lied).
I have filed aMotion to modify placement and custody based on her history and the fact that he ignores my custody rights and just does whatever he wants, he lies to me about everything (which is not cooperative and effectively communicating),
He ridiculed me for filing it.
He has been a good liar throughou this divorce ad continues to be emotionally abusive. The biggest example is hm pushing my buttons on purpose because he knows he will incite an angry response from me and will succeed in making me look like the jerk.
I have two questions:
1. How do I prove her histry and that it will have a negative effect on my children's emotional health?
2. How do I stop the cycle of emotional abuse?

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSky Kott

Hi, Sky:

It sounds like you've documented some things from her past, but there's no guarantee that a judge will accept this a grounds for modifying custody. Are you requesting sole physical custody? Supervised parenting time for your ex? The judge may honor your request, deny it and change nothing, or order an evaluation. Does your state require mediation first before heading straight to court?

One of the toughest things to deal with in co-parenting is a lying parent. However, when presenting your case for modification, you'll want to keep your comments focused on the best interests of your children. You should certainly raise the concerns you have about your ex and his girlfriend, but if you come across as too fixated on them (and not the kids' well-being), you risk being viewed as just another angry ex with an ax to grind.

Be as matter of fact and measured as you can. When you mention emotional abuse, are you talking about your ex's behavior towards you or towards the kids? You'll need to be clear about that, and again, the judge will only be concerned about what the kids are exposed to.

As for stopping the cycle of abuse, you can request as part of your motion that you all go to family counseling, or barring that, that the kids go to deal with issues that are emerging as a result of the conflict and disagreement between you and their dad, and the way he's chosen to incorporate his girlfriend into their lives.

I wish you peace through all of this, and I hope that sanity and the best interests of your children prevail in court.

Best,
~Deesha

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

I am in a coparenting nightmare! I have three children and my live-in boyfriend has 2. We both have joint custody and are the non-custodial parent of our children, AND we both experience interference and maliciousness from our exes. Both of our exes are acting spiteful and using the children as pawns. We keep the upper hand, but it has gotten ugly! I recently tried to arrange a public meeting with my boyfriends ex-wife so she could meet me and I could answer any questions she had (she was accusing me of being a drunk and a bad mom for not having my kids. Not true in the slightest) My hopes were to get on a civil ground with her, since she uses me as a reason to not send the kids here. She told me I was harrassing her and that I am never to talk to her again. She then looked up my court records, found MY ex's name, and contacted him through social media. They have since been exchanging lies and hate back and forth, and further muddying our attempts to what is important... our relationship with our children. We are at a loss of what to do at this point.

February 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Hi, Angela:

As hard as it is, try to sort through all the mess being directed at you and your boyfriend, separating those things which directly impact the 5 children, and those which, however problematic and bothersome, don't impact them. For example, if your exes are "comparing notes" on you, let them. If it's not impacting the kids, let it go. Disengage to the extent that you can. Limit your direct communication with your exes, and seek out counseling (via the courts if your exes won't agree to it) to help your kids manage the stress of being used as pawns.

You can't control how these adults behave, but http://coparenting101.org/2010/07/co-parents-are-you-reacting-or-responding-know-the-difference/" rel="nofollow">you can control your responses to them, and in doing so, minimize the drama that your kids are exposed to. Ideally, your kids wouldn't be exposed to maliciousness from either "side"--and ideally, there would be only one "side", the kids'--but it's better that they see http://coparenting101.org/2011/02/you-said-it-all-my-ex-and-his-new-girlfriend-want-to-do-is-fight/" rel="nofollow">you keeping the peace and refusing to act out than be exposed to constant barbs from both sides. It's not fair and not easy, but short of a court's intervention, it really does sound like you and your boyfriend are going to have to be the http://coparenting101.org/2010/07/new-series-makes-me-wanna-holler-bigger-co-parent-fatigue-syndrome/" rel="nofollow">Bigger Co-Parents in this situation.

It's admirable of you to want to meet with her and reassure her that her kids will be safe in your home. However, if she's in violation of their parenting agreement and denying your boyfriend's ex his mandated parenting time, he should file a motion with the court to have her held in contempt and to restore the parenting time schedule.

Please check out the links above for some specific strategies for coping and managing these high-conflict people. You and your boyfriend may also wish to seek counseling for yourselves to help in this regard as well. I wish you and your family the best.

~Deesha

February 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha,
Thanks so much for this amazing website. It really has helped me see how complex these situations can be and how many women get sucked in. Here is my story so far:
my boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. I have no children yet and am in my early 30’s. He has 2 boys (aged 6 and almost 3) with his ex. They got married very young, for a greencard but there must have been love as they stayed married for 13 years. I understand that she was often jealous of other women and when my boyfriend and I met- as friends through work, she was apparently jealous of me too. Nothing ever even crossed our minds- I was not interested in married men! But after he left her and moved out our friendship grew into a relationship and after a year we moved in together. During all our time together I have been very involved with his boys and honestly I love them like my own. I made a decision after the first few months that I couldn't 'half-love' a child... it was all-or-nothing, so I let myself fall in love with them too, even though I knew the risks. My boyfriend has always been wonderful at including me and ensuring that they respect me and that we have fun together as a family, and I have always reinforced their mother’s position in discussion with them. They are happy little boys despite all the poison in the background.
The problem is that the ex believes that we had an affair or that we ‘fell-in-love’ before they split and thinks I stole him, so as far as I can tell she hates my guts. She has always known about me, and made it clear that she didn’t like me, but we carried on and there have been sports events and prize-givings etc where I have attended and she has been civil (although not friendly). I have always tried to take the high road and be friendly- which is hard when I know she is slagging me off to everyone- all the school moms and all the common friends (to the point where they don’t even see my boyfriend anymore). We have had a few blow-outs, but mostly she deals with my ex and I carry-on trying not to care.
The boys spend one night a week and every second weekend with us, and the rest of the time with her, but my ex is still trying to negotiate for half-half. She is refusing (I believe out of bitterness) which is why their divorce is still not finalised... This bothers me although he assures me it means nothing.
He works from home and has done for many years and is used to 100% access to his kids. As a result, his heart truly breaks when he has to say goodbye to them an he has always been unhappy at this part-time parenting arrangement. About a 2 months ago he finally cracked and said to me that he needed a change. After considering all sorts of options he finally decided that since he has flexi-time he wants to see his kids every day. He decided to start visiting them at her house in the afternoons. I was unhappy with this as she is also not working at the moment and so this involves spending time with her. I made it clear that I was unhappy and he insists that he is visiting the kids only... But after interrogation it seems that they actually spend that time playing as a family- swimming together... playing sports and chatting whilst the kids eat dinner. I work, so this is all before I get home, but it eats me up. I know she wants him back. I know she wants me to disappear. I am worried that this time together is a step towards rekindling their relationship. I was never afraid of that before.
Now on top of that: last year I chose not to attend either of the boys’ birthday parties so as not to create a scene and out of respect for her pain, and my ex made it clear to her then that this year I would be attending. A week ago she sent an invite to my ex to his eldest’s party (signed and delivered by the little boy). My name was obviously not on it and then she specifically spoke to him saying that I will not be welcome and that if I come she will make a scene and it will ruin his party. She says it is only a few hours and I should do my own thing with him later.... I’ll be honest here and my feelings are maybe not correct but here goes.... What a $&*@#*@$#&ing cheek. I change nappies, read bedtime stories, help with homework, play with them the whole time they are with us. I have welcomed them into my heart and love them. I want them to be a part of our future family (even if it means she comes with the package). When they are with us it is ALWAYS 100% about them,,, and then I get treated like this. This disrespect,,, this slap in the face... She is making it clear that I will be left out of everything -always. I suppose I am angry with my ex too, because his response is that I should just go to the party anyway.... But I don’t want to ruin it and I firmly believe that I should be invited. If I can put my feelings for her aside for a few hours and make it about him, then why can’t she....? These boys love me. I know that, but she cannot accept it.
I suppose I always knew this was going to be a bit messy- but I am so tired of the pain.

May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I'm dating a man with 2 kids. This is my 3rd relationship where kids are involved. My 1st one went well for the 1st 3 yrs but when the kids moved 8 hrs away and learned I was the reason their father wasn't moving, the kids set out to ruin our relationship. I found letters from them saying mean things about me, was being disrespected, etc. It got so bad that I completely stopped going with him to see his kids. We were 2 completely different families when his kids were around. Eventually, we split because of it.
My 2nd relationship went great as far as the kids were concern.
I'm now in another relationship with kids involved. He goes on vacation and spends the holidays with his ex and their kids. In the 10 months of seeing him, I've never met or spoken to his ex or his daughter who's 15. I was told his ex is violent by 2 people and he doesn't have me around when his daughter is there because she's close to the mother and tends to ignore her father when she's mad at him so he's afraid of her reaction. I have spent time with his son (age 10). My boyfriend, his ex and kids have gone on vacation to a cabin for a weekend and are now camping together. Last week, I got upset over it (he spent two days there than came home to due to work). I told him about my past relationship and the problems it caused. The next day he apparently arranged to go back to the campsite for 4 days. I tried to talk to him about it but it's a closed subject to him. His view is "am I suppose to not see my kids for the 15 days they are gone". I keep thinking it's funny how she planned a camping trip around Father's day weekend. I truly don't think anything sexual is going on between them but I do think she wants him back and I do feel like things are being kept from me. I also feel like he went behind my back without caring about how I felt. I just don't want to go through this again especially after knowing a relationship with kids doesn't have to mean he goes running off with the ex to play the "happy family on vacation". The sad part is that we talked about going to the cabin together but instead of us going, he went with his ex and kids. We had plans to go skiing but I was told 2 days before that his daughter found out so I couldn't go (because he's not telling her about us). He knows that I wanted to go camping and he's now camping with her. Yes, I'm jealous and I've very hurt. We rarely do anything together. I keep thinking how long is this going to continue? Until the kids are adults? Family vacations and holidays don't end when kids become adults so I see this never ending. I'm hurt because he knows kids have broken up a past relationship that I was in and he knew that I was worried and hurt by him going camping the first time. What sucks is that I feel in love with him and now I'm thinking of ending things. I want to share my life with someone who wants to share their life completely with me. I don't want to live a life where he goes off and does his thing while I run off and do my own vacation, etc. It's lonely and lacks the closeness that I had in my 2nd relationship--closeness with the boyfriend and closeness with the kids. And it sets kids into wanting their parents back especially when they are hiding the relationship from a child. I kept going back to I want to share my life with someone and be a part of their life. I have a small child who lives with my ex and I couldn't imagine going camping with him or spending Christmas with him. Though I believe ex's need to get along for the children, I just think there should be boundaries. Maybe it would be different if the new partner was involved in the outings but I could never have my ex and him together and he'll never involve me with things around his ex and daughter. I decided I was just going to start doing things with my friends and exclude him from them and if I can't get over what I'm feeling inside than I will end the relationship.

June 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaDonna

Leave him now! The fact that he is still seeing his ex shows what little respect he has for you. You should not be wasting your time on a man that clearly puts another women before you. My dad and mom still go on vacation, almost five years bee divorced, and on each vacation they act like they're wife and husband even though he's remarried. My dad has no respect for his new wife and the fact that he does everything my mom asks of him shows that she still has him rapped around her finger. Why any woman would put up with their husband/boyfriend still having a relationship with the ex amazes me. Me and my husband share our son with this biological mom, we have full custody with her having visitation. My husband has not spoken to that woman in about 6 years, and since I have raised him since baby he has both mom and dad at one home and another mom when he visits her. No communication between my husband and her is EVER needed, let alone spending time together.

June 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdsmith

Hi, LaDonna:

Every family and every co-parenting situation is different. Some exes, like Mike and me, can interact and do things together, like vacations, with their kids while maintaining platonic boundaries. Others have difficulty even being in the same room together. If the way your boyfriend is choosing to interact with his ex isn't comfortable for you, then you should do what's best for you, and that may mean ending the relationship.

Best,
~Deesha

June 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Hi Deesha,

Just had a couple of concerns which I'm hoping you might have some advice on. I've been dating a wonderful man for just about a year now and he has an adorable 9 year old son. Due to my career I was living abroad and in the US for the last few months and flying back and forth regularly. Given the irregular work and living schedule we thought it best to wait until I was permanently back in the US before meeting his son. Well that time has finally arrived now and I'm a bit panicked. While the dissolution was fairly amicable, he was the one who left her. Most time she is happy and cooperates easily with my boyfriend, but other times she is intentionally malicious. His ex-wife does not know we're dating yet or the seriousness of our relationship. He's never brought any other girlfriends around but his ex-wife has made previous derogatory statements about not wanting his son to be around another woman. Now that the time has come to meet his son, how do you recommend we proceed? We're afraid that regardless of how we go about this she's probably going to be callous and uncooperative to both my boyfriend and I. I've dated men with children before and met them and had very healthy and long-lasting relationships with their children. But the ex-wives/biological mothers were happily married and moved on from the situation so these circumstances are unchartered territories. Please steer me in the right direction. Thanks a million.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

HI,
I have been dating a guy wonderful man and father for 10 months now. But his ex is always in my thoughts her stuff is still at his home and it has been a year since she moved out and she always has something to say about how I arrange thing even if they are not hers even though shje doesnt live there i have stress my opinon to him on several occasions but he doesnt seem to have the nerve to tewll her the truth he always lets it go. I moved in a few months ago he said he talked with her and that it wasnt going to continue to happen I am selling my home and giving up everything moved to another state everything. He has 4 girls and I have two kids there is not enough room here for us all and they have joint custody but he has the 90 percent of the time. I think he should set boundries and he is scared to because he doesnt want to lose his girls. But she has no home of her own she is living with a man and a few other people and no full time job. What else can I say to him to get him to understand? I have began looking for another place because i got a new job where I moved to with him and am thinking of moving outr until he can get it straight to what I want and need done.

August 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

Hi, Paula:

There's not much you can say to a parent who is motivated by fear of losing his children. You see the boundaries, but your boyfriend does not; there's no way to make him see. He has to get tired of his ex's stuff in his place and living his fear. He has to decided to pursue available legal remedies, if his ex were to try to take his children away.

As far as the comments his ex makes about arranging things in the house, is she making these comments to you? Can you let the comments roll off your back? I agree that you shouldn't have to deal with her on this level, but by not setting boundaries, your boyfriend is making it clear that his home is not your home together. His ex knows this, and as a result, you're pretty much at her whim as long as you're living there. I think it's a good thing that you're getting your own place. There's no reason why you can't continue to date him while living in your own place. In this way, you set your own boundaries.

Best,
~Deesha

August 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

My boyfriend has been divorced since Feb. 2011, she filed for divorce in May 2010 after having an internet fling, but they drug the divorce out until 2011. They had been together for 16 years. We have been dating since Aug. 2010 and we both have children around the same age. Mine are 6 and 7 and their kids are 7 and 9. Me and my kids father rarely call each other or do things together. (Maybe 3 phone calls a year and we all go out to dinner together once a year when the kids spend a week with him during the summer and our significant others are always welcome to join; I actually like his girlfriend better than I do him :) )

So I find it hard to deal with my boyfriend and his ex-wife texting, calling, visiting or whatever constantly. I understand that there are times when you need to talk to the other parent, but it feels like she communicates with him more than I do some weeks. She really doesn't, but that is the way it feels sometimes.

He tends to be really firm with me and gets defensive or hurts my feeling at times, but when it comes to his ex-wife he lays down and lets her walk all over him. She alters the parenting plan whenever it suits her needs, she shows up when the kids are at his house and she has him feeling sorry for her that her internet relationship didn't work out.

I just don't get it. Why does he baby her and her feelings (the one that did him wrong), but then get defensive with me and doesn't seem to mind hurting my feelings?

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee

Hi, Lee:

My first guess is that, like more than a few co-parenting dads, your boyfriend might feel compelled to go along to get along, as the saying goes. He may feel that he has to "baby" his ex, in order to continue to have uninterrupted access to his children. It shouldn't be this way, but that's the reality for some co-parents. The threat of losing his kids or seeing them less, regardless of what the parenting plan says, may be very real to your boyfriend, even if his ex doesn't make this threat explicitly.

On the other hand, he may not view his interactions with his ex as being walked all over. He may genuinely not mind her stopping by or calling whenever. He may genuinely feel sorry for her. Just because she cheated and they divorced doesn't mean that he doesn't still have soft feelings toward her, even if those feelings are no longer romantic. Sixteen years and two kids are lot to share. Remember, some couples work things out after far worse than an internet fling, so it stands to reason that he might want to have more than minimal contact with her. She's the one who did him wrong, but he may have forgiven her. Does he have a problem with her calling, texting, and visiting as she does? He also may not have had time to process all of the fallout of their relationship, and now he's processing it in the context of being in a new relationship. That's a lot to do. So things may be a bit awkward for a while, if he's figuring out the boundaries in his co-parenting situation while also dealing with your expectations of him. Ultimately, both of you have to do what works best for you.

As for comparing how he treats you vs. his ex...I wouldn't. I know it smarts to feel that he's been less sensitive toward you than he is toward his ex. In many ways, though, it's easier to be gracious to someone that you don't have to be intimate with. But by all means, tell him how you feel about how he interacts with you, that you'd like him to be more sensitive, less defensive, etc. But I think he'll hear you better if you don't make comparisons with his ex. Let him know what you expect of him as a partner, period.

Best,
~Deesha

August 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

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