Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Is Suddenly Hanging Out With His Ex’s 17-Year-Old Daughter”

I have been dating a man, “Henry,” who had a relationship over seven years ago with a woman who had three children — two sons and a daughter. They dated for eight years, so he raised the children along with his own two sons for the eight-year period they were together. Once they broke up, the mother would not let him see the children, so he was out of touch with them for seven years.

About the time we started dating (seven months ago), he said that his ex-fiance’s daughter, Loretta, had contacted him. Since then, she’s texted him prom pictures and has asked him to work on her car. He hasn’t really mentioned much about the ex or her sons, but yesterday he told me that Loretta is coming over to his home so he can work on her brakes. I asked why it was his responsibility to do this, and he said that he was a father figure to her and her real dad was useless. I asked if the mother was in another relationship and he stated, without hesitation, “No.” I would have been fine with “I don’t know,” but the definitive “no” was a surprise to me.

Loretta is now 17 years old and she came to his home by herself last night for him to work on her car. That was a bit weird to me, and I feel that maybe the mom has allowed this new relationship because she is interested again. Henry told me that the issues that caused the break-up were all children-related, and, now that they are all grown, I feel a little threatened that he is allowing this girl back into his life, which could lead to the mom getting involved with him romantically. I told him last night that I was very confused and did not understand the need to establish an adult relationship with a child he has not seen in seven years.

Since our relationship is so new, I am unsure how to handle this. I do not want him to have a relationship with this girl, let alone her mother. What is your advice? — He’s Not Really Her Dad

Well, good for you for asserting yourself and expressing your feelings about being threatened and confused. When you told Henry that you don’t understand the need for him to establish a relationship with this 17-year-old girl whom he hasn’t seen in seven years, how did he respond? Was he compassionate with you? Did he take time to try to explain why the relationship was important to him? Has he talked at all about what it was like to raise these kids for eight years and then suddenly not see them again? From my calculations, he was in Loretta’s life as a father-figure from the time she was 2 until she was 10. That’s very significant, and I can understand how he might still think of himself as a father figure.

I don’t fault him for wanting a re-connection with Loretta, and her brothers, when the bond must have been very strong. But if he’s not communicating that effectively to you and he’s not putting you at ease over his (hopefully non-existent) feelings toward their mother, then of course it makes sense that you’d be concerned. There might also be the added worry that Loretta is not a little girl anymore, but a young woman, and he may see her as such, especially since his “father figure” days are years in the past. Does he truly still feel like a father figure to her, or is his sudden interest in her less wholesome?

There’s not much you can do here but talk with Henry and hope that his responses are enough to put your concerns to rest. You certainly cannot forbid him to have a relationship with Loretta or her brothers. And if you don’t trust the guy’s motivations and there’s nothing he is saying or doing to ease your worries, that’s a pretty big red flag. It doesn’t mean he’s doing anything wrong, but it does mean that your relationship is missing a very key ingredient and won’t bake well without it. After seven months, if I were feeling this anxious, I’d probably just cut my losses and move on. Wish the guy well and tell him that this situation simply stirs too many uncomfortable feelings for you and you don’t think you can build a long-lasting, happy relationship on a foundation that suddenly feels so unstable.

35 comments… add one
  • avatar

    keyblade July 1, 2016, 8:50 am

    I disagree with the signature “he’s not really her dad”. Technically that might be true, but if he acted like her dad from the time she was 2 until she was ten, then I imagine the seventeen-year sees him as dad. It sounds like he is the only father she can remember. She was ten when he left. That is old enough to really miss him and I don’t find it odd that she would seek him out now that she is getting close to being an adult. Legally, I think some jurisdictions would consider him a father, if the mom had sought child-support.

    I wonder what is relationship is like with his two sons? I wonder if the other kids contacted him, if he would step up just as readily?

    I can understand how it would make the letter writer uncomfortable. I think many of us feel an internal flag raise when a young woman around seventeen or eighteen starts spending a lot of time with an older man. But it sounds like this has only happened once and this dad-figure was helping the seventeen-year-old with her car. I think it is a stretch to assert that the mother is suddenly the reason the daughter is trying to re-establish a relationship. It could be the mom doesn’t mind the boyfriend because fixing the car because it is saving her daughter a lot of money.
    It is good to be honest. But I wonder if the boyfriend is being put in a position where he is being tested rather than conversed with? Having feelings respected is a reasonable expectation. But I don’t necessarily think it is all on the boyfriend to make the letter writer feel okay about everything. Hopefully, he will be open-minded and amenable, but the letter-writer may need to open her mind more, too. If it is too uncomfortable for her, she probably should move on for everyone’s sake.

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    • avatar

      csp July 1, 2016, 10:38 am

      Agreed on the “not her dad” thing.

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    • avatar

      T July 1, 2016, 10:51 am

      I agree. “I told him last night that I was very confused and did not understand the need to establish an adult relationship with a child he has not seen in seven years.” Sounds like she attacked him rather than asked how he was feeling about the whole thing. No wonder it wasn’t a productive conversation.

      Also, I just saw the “I do not want him to have a relationship with this girl, let alone her mother.” Yikes. Not your call. This is a child he helped raise, and SHE reached out to HIM. Do you really want to be with the type of guy that would just totally snub and ignore a child? Would you feel differently if it was his biological kid? Because I don’t think that should make a huge difference. If you feel that strongly about it, just move on to someone without kids.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 1, 2016, 9:46 am

    This girl was effectively his daughter for eight years. That’s half her childhood. He was the dad in her life and she probably wants her dad back. Just because her mom prevented a relationship doesn’t mean that she didn’t mean her dad and want him in her life. She is now reaching the age where the mom will have trouble mandating who can she can and cannot see and the daughter is deciding to see her dad.

    Even if the girl’s mom was interested in your boyfriend it would come to nothing if he didn’t return the interest. Either you trust your boyfriend and his intentions or you don’t. If you don’t trust him shutting this girl out of his life wouldn’t make you trust him. There are loads of women in the world and if he isn’t trustworthy he will manage to end up with at least one of them.

    Ask yourself if he is acting sketchy or if you are insecure. Are you picking up on some body language from him that makes you think he has bad intentions or do you expect men in general to cheat?

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom July 1, 2016, 9:47 am

      doesn’t mean that she didn’t mean her dad = doesn’t mean that she didn’t miss her dad

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    • avatar

      Vathena July 1, 2016, 11:10 am

      “Either you trust your boyfriend and his intentions or you don’t.”

      Exactly.

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  • avatar

    T July 1, 2016, 10:41 am

    Just in the letter, I don’t see any reason to think that this has anything to do with the mom. It says the daughter was the one that contacted him. She’s probably doing this now because she’s old enough and has her own car so she can see him on her own — that actually indicates that the mom is still totally keeping her distance, because the daughter was unable to contact him until she could do it on her own without her mom. And it makes sense that this girl would be curious about him after spending a large part of her childhood with him. I’m actually surprised that the response didn’t just jump to the “you’re being jealous and insecure” bandwagon. Because it does sound like this is more a clue for yourself that you’re insecure about his long prior relationship, or the fact that he’s spending alone time with a 17 year old. Understandable feelings, but they do not mean he’s going to get back together with his ex.

    However, without more information about how the boyfriend reacted when you brought up the topic, there’s not nearly enough to go on here. My suspicion is that he was dismissive or did not react well, and that’s why the letter ends there and LW instead came here for advice. How he talks about this whole thing is your best sign as to what’s going on. I say bring this up with him, but in a non-accusatory way. This girl reaching back out to him after all these years must be a strange and emotional experience — have you even asked him how he feels about all this, because you want to be supportive and are curious how he’s doing? Why don’t you ask him about it and listen to what he says. Added bonus is that when you get him talking it will help you figure out what’s going on.

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    • avatar

      T July 1, 2016, 11:10 am

      Slightly amended. “I’m feeling a little insecure and would like more information related to all this” is a very different conversation than angrily saying “I don’t understand why you want a relationship with a child you helped raise.” Sounds like you took the wrong approach, so it would be unsurprising if he was dismissive. If you really don’t want him to have any contact with her, you should just move on. That’s not fair to ask, and a kid he helped raise probably means a lot more to him than your seven-month relationship anyway.

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  • avatar

    Ron July 1, 2016, 10:58 am

    LW seems so jealous and insecure that I don’t think there is anything her bf can say or do (apart from telling this girl that she can’t be a part of his life because his gf is uncomfortable) to make LW comfortable. She says that he broke up with his ex over kid-related issues, not issues between himself and ex directly. So, in her mind, this available woman is just a hop-skip-and-jump away from reuniting with her bf if the other kid issues are as easily and quickly resolved as the ones with this girl. LW should just MOA, she is way, way too insecure to be dating this guy and she isn’t even a year into the relationship, so cutting her losses shouldn’t be much of a problem. She obviously doesn’t trust this guy enough for their relationship to have any chance of success. That lack of trust seem wholly on her. She describes zero shadiness on her bf’s part, merely that he has strayed outside her extremely narrow comfort zone. It may be a moot point: he may well MOA, telling her he just can’t deal with someone as needy, insecure, and controlling as her.

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  • avatar

    saneinca July 1, 2016, 11:15 am

    There is a clue that had the LW worried. The BF said that is ex is not in a relationship definitively. Which means a) he was informed by the ex, b) the ex’s daughter told him c) he had been keeping track.

    LW thinks of the daughter as the messenger bringing relationship overtures from the ex or the person trying to lure him back for her mom through requests for help.

    LW, if you don’t feel comfortable with your BF’s relationship dynamics with his ex in future ( nothing particularly concerning at this time), feel free to breakup with him.

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    • avatar

      keyblade July 1, 2016, 11:38 am

      If the daughter has been communicating with the lw’s boyfriend, I almost think it would be weird for the daughter not to bring up the lack of any other step-father-figure. I think the daughter talked her dad-figure about what’s been going on in her life for the last seven years.

      I think it’s more telling the the lw wouldn’t just ask him how he found out.

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    • avatar

      ktfran July 1, 2016, 12:01 pm

      I know what most of my exes, including ex fiance are doing/whether they’re married/if they have kids or not. I don’t harbor some secret feelings for them wishing we’d get back together. I don’t really keep tabs on them either. Some we’re FB friends, others I just somehow know about through the grapevine.

      I really don’t understand why this would raise a red flag, unless you’re insecure.

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  • avatar

    Jane July 1, 2016, 11:43 am

    I’d be wary if I were the LW as well, but I don’t have enough information about the boyfriend’s reaction to say this is a dealbreaker.
    .
    Maybe it’s as innocuous as a young woman who just wants to reconnects with a father figure, or it could be the worst-case scenario where he’s romantically interested in her (I wouldn’t bet money on that just yet). The mother could be fishing to get him back, but I think there’s a better chance that she could be fishing for college money.

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    • avatar

      Jane July 1, 2016, 11:45 am

      *reconnect

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    • avatar

      saneinca July 1, 2016, 12:08 pm

      Yes. If the LW’s BF has disposable income, that is entirely possible.
      Ex’s daughter contacting him out of blue after 7 years is kind of weird. If they had been in touch all through, then such contact would not be suspect.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark July 1, 2016, 11:49 am

    Honestly? This LW is one hopelessly insecure basket case. And largely an unfeeling harpie to boot. Really, LW. REALLY? You can’t imagine why he (after raising a kid for 8 long formative years) you can’t imagine why on earth he would be interested is revisiting said relationship now that he can? Surely, you jest. Or are you just THAT fucking stupid? That fucking clueless? That fucking heartless? Oh, wait. No, I get it. You are just THIS FUCKING insecure. Honestly — NEWSFLASH! — the world would be infinitely better off if insecure people of BOTH sexes simply gave relationships a rest and instead simply masturbates by themselves although then they would probably worry that they were weren’t that into themselves as they were constantly fantasizing about somebody else…
    .
    PS: The idea floated by a very select few here that the kid is somehow an ambassador for the mom who now desperately wants him back after eight LONNNNNNNG years is simply laughable at best. Fucked up and horrible view of women at worst.
    .
    And speaking of horrible views at worst — I do feel I have to take issue with Wendy for even GOING THERE with the vague implication that this dude could somehow want to fuck the 17 year. WTF?! Sorry. Just NOT cool to go there with absolutely ZERO evidence. And to put this suggestion out there for a mind as feeble and insecure as the LW… eh, just NOT something I would do. I think it really uncalled for.
    .

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    • avatar

      S July 1, 2016, 8:05 pm

      Spot on. The only response that makes sense. LW- you need to move on. You are an immature heartless whiner.

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  • avatar

    Ron July 1, 2016, 11:52 am

    I think it a huge leap to see the bf as trying to get romantically involved with a girl for whom he was basically a step-father. He didn’t marry his ex, apparently, but his situation is not all that dissimilar to a divorced dad who has not had access to his kids for close to a decade and now does.

    Help with college tuition is a possibility.

    LW is just way to insecure and jealous. She is not a keeper.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 July 1, 2016, 1:22 pm

    Wendy was very kind. I’m less kind. LW, you honestly disgust me.

    Of course he’s her father! He raised Loretta for 8 years when she was a young girl. I was expecting you to say that they were touching or getting inappropriate, but instead he works on her car. Really? Is it so weird to you that a father works on his teenage daughter’s car and sees her prom pictures?

    You want to blow up this loving father-daughter relationship because. . . you’re really selfish. You’re thinking all about your own feelings. You don’t care that he loves his daughter, or that she loves her father. It’s all about you competing against the ex. Well it’s not about either of you! Grow the heck up.

    As for understanding why he wants Loretta in his life: it’s because he loves his daughter. If you cared at all about his feelings, it’s not confusing at all.

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  • avatar

    Ele4phant July 1, 2016, 2:51 pm

    Hmm – I’m surprised at how gentle many of the responses are here today. Before I read them, I was assuming the letter writer was about to get ripped a new one.

    Imagine if she was writing about being insecure about her boyfriend reconnecting with a long lost biological daughter. Would that make a difference to commenters – if he was genetically related to the child? In my mind it doesn’t. He was a major part of this girl’s childhood, was part of raising her, and didn’t choose to be estranged. That’s his kid – whether by blood or not.

    He’s probably thrilled she wants to be back in his life. I understand that the letter writer may be jealous of the attention the girl is suddenly taking from her, but c’mon, that’s his kid.

    And if the letter writer is (legitimately) concerned that he is sexually interested in this young woman (which I doubt) why stick around to find out if the girl reciprocates. That’s gross – I wouldn’t want to be with a middle aged guy that blatantly lusts after a teenager – regardless of whether or not the teenager returns that interest.

    And if she is worried about him connecting instead with the mom – again, assuming he’s a normal healthy adjusted adult, why would he have any interest in reconnecting with the woman who kept him away from the children he cared for and was parenting for the better part of a decade?

    Basically this situation seems really reasonable and assuming this guy is mentally healthy you have nothing to worry about. It makes sense he’d want to spend time with the kid he feels is his own.

    And if he’s not well adjusted and mentally healthy – why are you with him anyways?

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    • avatar

      keyblade July 1, 2016, 9:49 pm

      She isn’t writing about a bio child, adopted child, or step-child, though. I don’t think it really makes much on an emotional level, but I can understand how it seems unorthodox to the letter writer. I think her fears sound irrational, but I think many people would have questions and seek clarification. The boyfriend does have two kids of his own and the letter writer doesn’t seem concerned about him being a father to them. It isn’t clear that any of the other four kids involved feel as strongly towards the boyfriend or the ex-girlfriend as the seventeen-year-old does. So what does that mean? What are the expectations?

      I don’t think there is anything nefarious about the boyfriend taking in interest in this seventeen-year-old given the history he had with her. But I don’t think Wendy or the letter writer are crazy to wonder about what boundaries might be appropriate. I’m sure there are many people who feel differently towards a former step-parent than a parent.

      And I remember older guys from my twenties who told me I was “like a daughter” to them. It’s just a hop, skip, and jump away from “I could never have feelings for him! He’s like my brother” (eye roll). I don’t think it applies, at all, to this case, and I really don’t think it is a good road for this letter writer to go down with her boyfriend. This stepdaughter isn’t Celine Dion; the boyfriend isn’t Woody Allen.

      But I think Wendy has balls to acknowledge the taboo in the room.

      Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel stabbish towards this letter.

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  • avatar

    Brise July 1, 2016, 3:44 pm

    I am not with Wendy on this advice and I don’t find anything good in asserting “I do not want him to have a relationship with this girl, let alone his mother”. The only good thing here is to reveal to this poor man the true flaws of LW’s personality. In fact, this guy chose twice the same kind of mean women who tell him basically the same thing: your are not the “real dad” and -despite you have raised this kid during 8 years – you have no right to see her. The pedophile suspicion is infamant, the fear of him being in contact with an ex he has shared 8 years with and 5 children’s education, is inadequate. LW, just do a favor to this man and remove yourself of his life. If you can’t deal with exes and kids or step kids in your partner’s life, then date a virgin. This is just shocking.

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    • avatar

      Sketchee July 2, 2016, 10:26 am

      Bride, I’m liking your line of thinking in this one

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    • avatar

      saneinca July 2, 2016, 5:03 pm

      First of all, the BF does have an ex-wife and 2 sons that the LW already know about and is comfortable with. This is a second ex family that she did not realize she had to bear with. And suddenly the ex’s daughter (and only daughter so far, there are two more kids) is in the picture. If the LW does not want yet one more ex family and kids in the picture, whose motivations she is not sure about, she is not a bad person.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark July 2, 2016, 7:02 pm

        Eh, it also fails to make her a very good person either. Her whole tone is just whiney and pathetic. Its like seriously? Go fuck yourself already, LW.

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      • avatar

        Anonymousse July 3, 2016, 10:50 pm

        BGM FTW.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom July 4, 2016, 5:59 am

        I agree entirely. He raised this girl for half her childhood and then lost contact, not because he didn’t care or abandoned her but because her mother refused to allow him to see the girl. Now the girl is coming by on her own to see her dad, the only real dad she has ever had, and the girlfriend is feeling threatened. How can you feel threatened by a girl coming by to see her dad? Genetics isn’t what makes a dad. It’s being there taking care of the child that makes a dad. It’s like this LW is filled with conspiracy theories. The girl is being sent by her mom to see the ex so that the mom can get back together with him. That’s wild imagination. LW – Don’t you think the mother would try to talk to him herself if she wanted to try to get back together. Maybe talk and flirt and go for drinks, not send her daughter to get the car worked on for free. The daughter may be showing up without her mom’s knowledge. She is showing up alone. She probably wants to see her dad and needs help with her car and she knows she can turn to him for help. You need to look at yourself and work on your own insecurities that make you see threats where none exist. You are the one who is currently sabotaging this relationship, you and your insecurities.

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  • avatar

    Anonymous July 1, 2016, 4:25 pm

    I think there are a lot of situations in which I would side with the LW, but none of those seem to be the case here. So, the issue is supposedly that the LW thinks the ex is trying to worm her way back in through the daughter. But then she emphasizes that the daughter showed up alone. So, is this supposed to be some multi-step mission that starts with the daughter faking brake problems and ends with the mom somehow talking with the boyfriend? And if the LW is emphasizing that the daughter was alone, is the implication that there’s something shady going on between them? I mean, if you think that your boyfriend would have a thing with a 17-year-old girl whom he helped to raise, then why are you with him?

    What I see this as is being insecure that his past is in his life (as many people tend to be when their partner has kids or other connections to an ex) and, as many people do, finding another woman to blame it on and framing her as some sort of deceptive temptress or something. Assuming that this is some sort of strategic thing seems rather paranoid to me. I also find the inability to see how a 17-year-old might want to be reunited with her father figure she’s been kept from for years a little narrow-minded. Maybe her mom doesn’t know she’s there, but since she has a car, she has more freedom. Maybe her mom realized that her daughter is an adult and she doesn’t have a right to control her anymore. And as for the boyfriend knowing that the ex isn’t in a relationship, I’d assume that his daughter probably told him that in conversation to catch up.

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    • avatar

      saneinca July 1, 2016, 8:31 pm

      Sure. The LW’s BF was so much a father figure that both he and the ex’s children survived fine without any contact whatsoever between them for 8 years. Everybody is so melodramatic.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros July 2, 2016, 9:40 am

        First, I don’t know why my comment was anonymous. I’m not sure where you find it to be melodramatic. I find it more melodramatic that the LW thinks this is part of some larger plot for the ex to get back into his life.

        There’s a lot of middle ground between “not surviving” eight years apart and totally wiping all memory of a person away. I’m not sure what the kids were expected to do. Pack a bag and run away to see the ex-BF? They could still miss him even if it wasn’t a huge thing. Aside from trying to sue for some sort of custody, without being an actual father, I’m not sure what he could have done if the mom was not permitting them to see him. Doesn’t mean that he nor the kids don’t care about each other. Kids and teens who don’t have a mom or a dad sometimes find that sad and it’s easy to believe that she wants to feel like she had one.

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      • avatar

        Anonymousse July 2, 2016, 10:12 am

        He could have been the best parent figure in her life.

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  • avatar

    Gwyneth6 July 1, 2016, 11:32 pm

    It’s possibly concerning that he knows his ex is not seeing anyone. But he may know it from the girl telling him without being asked. If you love this person I think you should support him reconnecting with any of his children if that’s what he wants. also Its only 7 months into your relationship, some people may not be ready to share emotions about such a painful thing they’ve been through

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  • avatar

    Sketchee July 2, 2016, 10:20 am

    MOA. It’s understandable that this might be uncomfortable. If at seven months you’re not comfortable with his past (and present) and not in an empathetic place, it just doesn’t seem like it’s worth staying.

    He wants to have a relationship with a child he raised. It’s not something the LW Is interested in understanding. That’s okay!

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    • avatar

      dinoceros July 2, 2016, 12:12 pm

      Yeah, in the end, it seems like it comes down to a compatibility thing. She’s not interested in being with someone who is a father figure to someone else’s child. He can’t change that, and it’s not OK to force him to give that up just because she doesn’t like that. She’s just going to need to find someone who doesn’t have that in their life probably.

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  • findingtheearth

    Findingtheearth July 5, 2016, 12:55 pm

    So here is how he could know the relationship status of his ex:

    Hey, I know you can work on my cars and mine is having some issues. Do you think you could look at it?

    Your mom or her SO can’t?

    Oh you know moms not car savvy and she’s not dating anyone.

    So he agrees to help someone he probably had been emotionally tied too. And maybe the relationship ended badly so he feels obligated to help her out even more. Maybe he’s just a kind person who want to help someone else out.

    LW could meet the girl herself, invite her over for dinner and check out the atmosphere before demanding something is odd.

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