Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend’s Kids Want to Kick Me Out”

Brady_Bunch

I have been in a relationship with an old high school friend, “Don,” for nearly two years now. We are both 47 years old, we have been separated from our estranged spouses for several years, and neither of us can afford to seek a divorce. Don’s wife took his son and his step-twins more than four years ago and moved out of state. The children are now 11 and 17, respectively. I left my husband a little over three years ago. My teenage daughter and I moved into Don’s house seven months ago. I was homeless. Don drives out of state every weekend to see his children and usually brings his son back for a couple of days before returning him. My problem is that Don wants me to stay somewhere else when his children come, including this entire upcoming summer, because they have decided that they do not feel comfortable staying here while my daughter and I are here. My daughter and I feel uncomfortable, too, but we have no choice.

By the way, there is a roommate who lives here, too, who makes everyone uncomfortable, but Don acts blithely unaware of this and refuses to admit that his presence in the house is an issue with our relationship. I keep trying to explain to him that this country consists mostly of divorced families and children learn to adjust and do not normally get to control the living situation! Help! — Uncomfortable, But Have No Choice

Let me get this straight: You’ve dragged your teenage daughter to a living situation where there’s one full-time roommate who makes you all feel uncomfortable and multiple kids who stay there on a regular basis who also make you feel uncomfortable? And you put yourself and your daughter in this uncomfortable position because you say you have no choice? I don’t believe you have no choice. I believe you may have limited resources and limited options, but I don’t believe that living with people who, at best, are uncomfortable to be around, and at worst could potentially harm your teenage daughter, is your only option. What about other friends? What about getting a place of your own and finding a roommate who doesn’t make you uncomfortable? What about family? What about filing for government assistance? Seeking financial assistance from your husband?

I agree that kids shouldn’t control a family’s living situation, but they also shouldn’t be forced to live among people who make them feel uncomfortable. Their comfort and safety should be a top priority. That’s a basic responsibility of a parent. It’s more important than your getting to live with your boyfriend. And you know, this country doesn’t consist “mostly of divorced families.” And even if it did, that’s not an excuse to shuck the responsibility you have to take care of your kids’ basic needs. There are lots of divorced couples with kids, sure, and many of them manage to prioritize their kids’ needs, and provide shelter that doesn’t compromise their comfort and safety. You can be among those responsible parents, too. It’s a matter of shifting your priorities.

And this — your skewed sense of priorities — is the issue in your relationship with Don, not the roommate who makes everyone crazy. Each of you seems to have an inability to meet the needs of your kids before trying to meet your own and each other’s needs. As long as you continue keeping their needs lower on your list of priorities, you will continue to be at odds with Don, your kid, his kids, and each other. Because as parents, you know something is “off.” When your kids aren’t comfortable, it’s difficult for you to be comfortable (if you’re a compassionate and empathetic parent, that is). Get right with your kids — give them all comfortable living situations — and you’ll have a much better chance of getting right with each other.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

11 comments… add one
  • avatar

    artsygirl March 7, 2016, 10:54 am

    LW – One question which you did not address in your letter is if you are paying rent, utilities, etc along with Dan and his roommate (and I am not talking about paying for food or throwing in a couple of bucks every one and while). If you are paying a proportionate amount to cover your daughter and yourself, then Dan is wrong to ask you to move out while his kids are in town. Otherwise, you are really just a guest.

    The roommate predates you and you cannot make demands that Dan make him move out. He is obviously fine with the guy and if you are uncomfortable you should find alternative housing.

    Finally, Dan’s kids and ex might be manipulative and Dan might be a pushover, but please show some empathy. It is really apparent that he is devoted to his kids and being a part of their lives after all he spends hours of each week shuttling out of state to see them. It sounds like he would do almost anything to keep everyone happy including asking his GF to not be around. Perhaps that should be telling. If he is willing to inconvenience you to such an extreme degree for the benefit of his kids, maybe you should not be living together.

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    • avatar

      blink14 March 7, 2016, 2:40 pm

      Second the advice on the rent and utilities – depending on the location, paying rent and/or utilities may actually give you legal right to live there, even if he wants you out.

      Clearly its not a good situation all around, and the kids all have a right to be upset and feel uncomfortable. You can’t just squish together families and expect every outcome to be like the Brady Bunch.

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      • avatar

        artsygirl March 7, 2016, 3:47 pm

        I was also wondering under what circumstances the LW moved in with Dan. She states that she was homeless and had no place to go. Did Dan expect this to become a permanent situation or was he just offering her and her daughter a place to stay temporarily? It is possible that he is using his summer custody of the kids as a way to passively evict her from his house.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth March 7, 2016, 11:52 am

    There are assistance programs designed for divorced families. You can file for divorce on your own and if your ex is willing to work with you, it should be inexpensive. As you have said, lots of people get divorced and afford it. Lugging around that extra baggage is not beneficial.

    If your boyfriend does not want you around his kids, that is a sign. Have you asked your daughter how she feels? Where does she want to live? Talk to your ex about child support. If you have to live in a shelter for awhile, do so until you can get your own place. Start working on finding your own ground and not being reliant upon someone who is making it fairly clear he does not want you around.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones March 7, 2016, 12:04 pm

    I suspect the advent of Facebook has brought together many divorced middle aged people who used to know each other in high school… for better or worse. And maybe it has contributed to a few divorces also…

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  • avatar

    keyblade March 7, 2016, 12:04 pm

    “You’ve dragged your teenage daughter to a living situation where there’s one full-time roommate who makes you all feel uncomfortable, and multiple kids who stay there on a regular basis, who also make you feel uncomfortable? And you put yourself and your daughter in this uncomfortable position because you say you have no choice?”

    I’d wager the “living situation” is probably better than having to stay in a shelter, car, or motel. I can understand why the letter writer would want to hold on to the security of living with her boyfriend. I would guess in her mind the destitution and stress she is anticipating for her daughter and herself outweigh the discomfort she imagines her boyfriend’s son might feel by their presence.

    But you can’t force someone else to see things the way that you do. This boyfriend is making his relationship with his son a priority over the relationship with the letter writer. Considering that they’ve been dating two years, neither are divorced, and they moved in due to financial hardship rather than necessarily being ready to live together, I can understand his point of view, too.

    Luckily summer is still a few months away. There is time to look for a landing pad. Letter writer, are you currently employed? Have you looked for your own roommate situation? Have you looked into low income housing options in the surrounding areas, yet?

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  • avatar

    dinoceros March 7, 2016, 1:12 pm

    I think this situation highlights the fact that your current situation is not sustainable. You two could break up, he could move, any number of things could happen that would mean you couldn’t live there anymore. This is the time to make a plan for how to find a way to live independently. And the fact that he’s not super concerned about whether you have a place to stay suggests to me that this relationship might not be something you can rely on for the long haul. I agree with the others that looking into other resources is helpful. Friends, family, community resources, roommates. Do you get child support? Have you reached out to any groups in the area that work with women in this situation?

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    • avatar

      SasLinna March 8, 2016, 9:26 am

      Yes, this. Obviously there are a lot of problems with her situation, and it’s understandable she’s looking for support where she can get it, but it’s simply not safe enough to rely on the boyfriend to provide shelter for her and her daughter. She should look for other options, even if they are currently just back up plans.

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  • avatar

    Ron March 7, 2016, 3:32 pm

    You say you can’t afford to divorce, but really you can’t afford not to divorce, since your separated-but-still-managed state leaves you without child support money. You are in an unworkable situation and relationship. If Don has a house, why can’t he afford a divorce?

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover March 7, 2016, 7:55 pm

      This is what I was going to say. You need child support, and you can’t get it unless you get a divorce. Do whatever it takes to get a divorce, look into free resources in your city, look into those do-it-yourself kits, etc. You need to be able to support yourself and your daughter without your boyfriend’s help. Your husband needs to be contributing to your daughter’s support, and you need to make sure that you’re making enough to support yourself on top of that. It’s not Don’s job to support you.

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  • avatar

    Lovely HB ;) March 13, 2016, 12:13 pm

    I think he needs to put his kids first and so should you. It also sounds like he is giving you plenty of time to secure a good job and find a place to live. You can still see your boyfriend and be a couple but it sounds like it would be better for everyone if you move to a healthier environment. Don’t let your self doubt trick you into thinking you are stuck in this situation.

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