Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Fiancé Doesn’t Want to Help Raise My Son”

Father and son

My fiancé and I have been together for just over three years. I’m 29, and he is 37. We have both been married previously. I have one son from my previous marriage; he has no children. My ex-husband and I are very civil towards each other, and, for the most part, get along fairly well.

Problem #1:
My son is 7. For the most part, he and my fiancé get along well. However, there are times when they will argue about useless stuff. My son is very bright, and he likes to over-explain things to make sure people understand what he’s talking about. My fiancé takes that as arguing, so he gets mad. Example: This past weekend my son came up with the idea, “What if they made a Batman video game that was like Mortal Kombat, but only with Batman characters and less violent?” My fiancé then proceeded to pick apart my son’s idea and told him that there were already games that were similar to that and that his “Batman only” game wouldn’t do well in the market. My son didn’t think he understood what he was trying to say, so he explained it again, to which my fiancé, once again, picked apart his idea.

I turned to my fiancé and simply said, “Let him have his idea. The only thing that needs to be said in this situation is ‘That’s a great idea!’ and leave it at that; even if you think it wouldn’t actually work.” My fiancé then got mad at me for “jumping on him and not taking his side.” Later that evening, we talked about it. That talk turned into a huge argument, and the words “I don’t feel like I’m a father… hell, I don’t even know if I WANT to be a dad” came out of my fiancé’s mouth. I was shocked. I asked him what he meant, and he said that he doesn’t have that “fatherly feeling” when he looks at my son. He just sees a “buddy” and thinks he doesn’t have to take a part in helping raise him. Granted, my son’s biological dad is in his life (we switch off every other week), but for my fiancé to just say that he doesn’t feel like he needs to help raise him is, in my opinion, pretty shitty.

He feels like he shouldn’t have any part of that since he’s not his “real” dad, but he continues to argue with my son and get mad at him when he doesn’t do something right. He says that my son is a “spoiled brat who always gets what he wants at his dad’s and grandparents’ houses.” I tried to tell him that I cannot control what goes on when he’s not here and that I don’t spoil him. He told me that the way I raise my son isn’t the same way he would raise a kid. I tried to explain that it’s rare when two parents have the exact same parenting styles. He replied with, “Well, then I just won’t say or do anything.” I tried to tell him that, if we get married, it becomes even more of a partnership and that there is a happy medium but I need him to be involved. I don’t know what to do.

Problem #2:

During this argument (and I should say that this isn’t the first time this topic has been brought up), my fiancé brings up the fact that he’s had anger problems since he was a teen. He refuses to get help, and he can hold a grudge worse than my mother (who once refused to speak to my brother and my dad for eight months when my brother was still in high school). He said that he’s always had an anger issue. But he handles it by leaving the room, or leaving the house completely for hours, and then, when he comes back, he STILL won’t say a word to my son or me. He treats his parents the same way. His parents say that he’s “changed a lot” since he met me, but they don’t see what’s really happening. Most days are good, but the days that are bad are BAD. He went to see a psychologist ONE time, and he refuses to ever go back. He didn’t like the person he had the appointment with and so refuses to ever see someone similar again. He admits that the way he handles his anger is childish, but he refuses to even CONSIDER changing how he handles it even if it is negatively affecting everyone else. I do everything I can to help with his levels of stress (his job is extremely stressful), but it doesn’t seem to be enough.

I just want my son and fiancé to get along and like each other. My son LOVES him — he even started calling him “Dad” after we told him we were getting married (my son even ASKED my fiancé if it would be ok to call him that and my fiancé said yes), but my fiancé seems like he doesn’t want anything to do with him. He said, “Maybe we shouldn’t get married. Your son will get over it after a while.”

I feel like shit. I will ALWAYS choose my son’s side if I think he’s right. I will ALWAYS choose my fiancé’s side if I think HE’S right. I feel stuck. Do I give up? Do I try to go to family counseling? Do I leave the relationship? I love him, but I can’t continue feeling that, if I stick up for my son, I’ll have to spend the next 3-4 days walking on eggshells because my fiancé will be mad at me. I’m desperate for help. — Caught in the Middle

You’re engaged to a man who has told you (repeatedly, it sounds like) that he doesn’t agree with the way you parent your child, that he thinks your son is a “spoiled brat,” that he doesn’t think he wants to be a father, that he definitely doesn’t think he should have to help raise your child, and that, oh yeah, he has serious and life-long anger issues, ones even his parents have commented on, for which he refuses to seek help despite your asking him to. When he does interact with your son, it’s in a disparaging way, shitting all over his (cool) ideas. And! He has even suggested that you two not get married and that your son will get over it eventually. And your biggest worry in all of this is that, if you stick up for your son, your fiancé will get mad and you’ll have to walk on eggshells for a few days?

The thing you should be worried about here is not about pissing off your fiancé; the thing you should be worried about is the irreparable emotional, psychological, and potentially physical harm you are exposing your son to every day by continuing to engage (in all its definitions) with a person who is… well, abusive, really. Unloving. Unsupportive. Inflexible. Intolerant. These are not qualities you want in a life mate, let alone in a stepfather for your son.

Your fiancé is telling you over and over and over who he is, and that person is one of the last people you should want as a parent figure for your child. And, like it or not, when you HAVE a young child that you have partial or full custody of, the person you marry WILL be a parent figure to that child. If he doesn’t want that role — and he is literally telling you every chance he has that he DOESN’T — you cannot in good conscience marry him. You cannot. Frankly, you shouldn’t even be exposing your child to him at all. That your son has developed what he thinks is a relationship with this person–enough to call him “dad”–is very sad. But your fiancé is right about two things: you shouldn’t get married, and your son will get over it eventually. (And the broken heart he suffers when you end the relationship will be nothing compared to the damage he could potentially suffer if you don’t).

There must be qualities you love about this man, and I’m sure it will be hard to walk away. But when you are a single parent to a young child, one of the qualities you have to make a top priority in a partner you are seeking is the ability to be loving and nurturing to your son. This man does not have that quality. In the future, don’t agree to marry someone who hasn’t proven himself to be worthy of your son’s love. It’s one thing to risk your own broken heart, but to introduce your son to someone you haven’t fully vetted–to tell him you’re going to marry him and that he can call him “dad”–is so irresponsible.

If you won’t do better by yourself, do better by your son. When you think about what “side” you’re going to be on and whom you’re going to stick up for, the answer isn’t whoever you think is right. The answer is always your son. When your son makes mistakes, you guide him to the right direction; when he’s wrong, you explain why and tell him how to correct himself. But as his mother, you must never, ever NOT be on your son’s side. You must never, ever NOT stick up for him.

Pick your son’s side. Aim higher. Make better choices. And kick this guy, with his anger issues he refuses to get help for–this guy who calls your son a spoiled brat and says he has no interest in helping to raise him–kick him to the curb. Even if you don’t think you deserve better, you have to believe your son does.

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

Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

114 comments… add one
  • dizziej

    Jennifer June 25, 2014, 10:18 am

    WWS!!! This man should not have even considered dating a single mom, and the second you noticed he was not completely loving and nurturing to your son you should have kicked his sorry ass to the curb!! He has told you repeatedly in both words and actions he is not the right choice for you. MOA, cut your losses, explain to your son that he is #1 and anyone who would shoot down a great idea like a Batman version of Mortal Kombat (my husband would go APE for a game like that!!) just is not the right choice for you two. You realize that leaving this man may hurt your son for the short term, but you promise to find someone who will love him as much as you do and will be worthy of the title Dad.

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    • avatar

      cakemonster June 25, 2014, 11:31 am

      Sort of off topic, but since it was mentioned by the LW and Jennifer (and I can’t help but spread the video game love)… LW, it sounds like your son would enjoy the game “Injustice: Gods Among Us”, which came out last year. It’s a fighting game with Batman characters (including a surprisingly not-lame Aquaman…) The developers wanted to make a fighting game similar to the Mortal Kombat series (which they also create) but wanted to replace the bloody violence with crazy exaggerated action. It’s a lot of fun.

      There is also Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, which I think speaks for itself.

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      • avatar

        cakemonster June 25, 2014, 11:37 am

        (After re-reading the letter, I may have misunderstood, since Injustice isn’t only Batman characters. But it’s still awesome!)

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      • Cymepkee

        Cymepkee June 25, 2014, 5:37 pm

        I was thinking about Injustice as soon as I read it. It’s not exactly the same, since the story itself is pretty violent, but it’s definitely similar.

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  • avatar

    joanna June 25, 2014, 10:20 am

    Wendy, there’s a typo in your first sentence of the second paragraph of your response. It should say “The thing you shouldN’T be worried about here is not pissing off your fiancé.”

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy June 25, 2014, 10:34 am

      Oops, thank you.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 25, 2014, 10:38 am

        Wait, obviously my coffee is just kicking in. It was right the first way!

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      • avatar

        joanna June 25, 2014, 10:41 am

        Sorry, I missed the “not” towards the end that you have now emphasized. I’ve reread it and it makes sense now.

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  • avatar

    peachy June 25, 2014, 10:22 am

    Like the letter earlier this week where the guy wasn’t into his girlfriend or her child, your fiance is not into your child, for sure. He obviously knows (and cares to know) nothing about kids if his response to your son’s video game idea was to piss all over it repeatedly and then fly into a rage when you very reasonably corrected him. Imagine for a moment if the two of you had a child together… now “not my son” would be even more unloved since your fiance would have a “real” son or daughter to care for. Please take Wendy’s words to heart and upgrade your and your son’s lives by telling Mr. Not Feelin’ It to scram.

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  • avatar

    ktfran June 25, 2014, 10:23 am

    This letter made my incredibly sad for your son, LW.
    .
    WWS!
    .
    Even if you don’t like children – my god he’s only 7 – you can fake enthusiasm for them when they’re excited about something. I mean, wow. Even if I didn’t want kids, I’m not sure I would want to date someone who treated a 7 year old this way.

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 25, 2014, 10:45 am

      Edit. I KNOW I would not date someone who treated a child this way. In fact, I went on a date with a guy I kind of liked, until he said something disparaging about his niece. That was the only date we ever went on.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet June 25, 2014, 10:27 am

    This is really sad. A grown man arguing with a 7 year old boy about whether or not his video game idea would be successful is the most pathetic thing I’ve heard in awhile. What a miserable, miserable man.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes June 25, 2014, 10:56 am

      Yes! Dude is 37 going on 14.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes June 25, 2014, 10:32 am

    WWS. Totally.

    At 33 I am still not a parent, but geez, you don’t discuss (argue, according to your fiance) w a kid the same way you do with an adult. You nurture their ideas, right? Yeesh.

    One of my earliest solid memories as a kid, I was probably like 4. My dad and I walked to the end of our neighborhood, following a rainbow. I was young enough that I was convinced we’d find the leprechaun’s pot of gold. We carried trick or treat bags and talked about where we could stuff the extra gold (like our socks and stuff) when we got to the end of the rainbow. This is a great memory, and I mentioned it to my dad recently and thanked him for letting me believe in that. He was surprised I recalled it, but said something like, “of course I let you keep believing.”

    Maybe this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the point I’m trying to make is that your fiance is not capable of doing something like that. Just shitting on your son’s ideas. Not cool. At all.

    AIM HiGHER

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    • avatar

      Marcie June 25, 2014, 10:38 am

      That is so very sweet of your dad. Makes me want to cry.

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    • avatar

      joanna June 25, 2014, 10:39 am

      That is adorable! Kudos to your dad!

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    • avatar

      Jennylou June 25, 2014, 10:49 am

      Your post made me tear up a bit. That was so sweet and amazing of your dad and exactly what a dad should be!
      My dad would write notes to me from the Tooth Fairy and hide them under my pillow with the dollar. He wrote them with an extra fine-tip pen and a magnifying glass – they were seriously tiny, fairy-sized. I wrote and illustrated the silliest little fairy tales in the world and he would read them and say we should make a real book out of them!
      Any adult in a child’s life should let the child imagine and create. Not argue over whether the idea is feasible; just let them dream. I hope the LW dumps this jerk and finds a man who can actually treat children well.

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    • Moneypenny

      Moneypenny June 25, 2014, 1:37 pm

      Aw, that is so sweet! I have many good memories about the tooth fairy (I had a tooth fairy doll my mom made), santa, and the easter bunny. (The easter bunny managed to find us when we were on vacation in Washington DC, how cool was that!) Letting kids be kids and dream and believe and imagine is one of the best things I think.

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    • avatar

      Daphnia June 25, 2014, 4:24 pm

      awww… what a great story! Totally agree with nurturing kids’ ideas.
      My kids believed in Santa for a long time, even until they were old enough to set up and program a motion-activiated video to catch Santa in the act. Happily, they *did* capture Santa on video, so they could keep believing 🙂

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet June 25, 2014, 10:33 am

    It’s about power and control. It’s like the people who yell at fast food workers and are mean to retail employees. I bet those people argue with small children about video games, too.

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  • avatar

    Amanda June 25, 2014, 10:33 am

    Seriously, WWS.

    LW, your son is #1 in your life. Repeat this to yourself as many times as needed for it to sink in. Since he is #1, it is your responsibility not to fuck up his life. Your fiance is a dick. Don’t marry a dick. This action will fuck up your son’s life because your fiance will have considerable influence over your son as his stepfather.

    FFS, please aim higher. If not for you, then for your son, who is #1 in your life LW.

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  • avatar

    Taylor June 25, 2014, 10:40 am

    WWS! When someone tells you who they are, believe them.

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  • shanshantastic

    shanshantastic June 25, 2014, 10:45 am

    Don’t marry him, LW, and don’t stay with him another day. Nobody who is so willing to crush your child’s dreams and ideas out of their own immaturity deserves to be in the same space with you and your precious boy. Leave him with his anger issues and show your son that he is ALWAYS the #1 guy in your life – as he should be.

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    • shanshantastic

      shanshantastic June 25, 2014, 10:47 am

      Another thought – have you considered *why* your fiance thinks your son is a spoiled brat? Because given his behavior I wouldn’t really trust his assessment of the situation. Your fiance sounds like the spoiled brat to me.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki June 25, 2014, 11:46 am

        And it seems like he’s focused on the fact that her son is spoiled at his dad’s and grandparents… not at the home that she could actually have any control over it. So what does he want her to do? I can tell you when one parent tries to tell another parent they are no longer with what they can/can’t/should/shouldn’t do in their home, it never goes well.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 June 25, 2014, 11:46 am

        It actually sounds like the LW’s fiancé was a spoiled brat, and his parent’s probably let him get away with everything including his temper tantrums. He probably can’t handle not being somebody’s only priority, and sharing his fiancée with somebody else is probably killing him.

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      • avatar

        MsMisery June 25, 2014, 12:37 pm

        Exactly. My step-dad also disagreed with the “way I was raised” and it caused many arguments with my mom. It’s like, hey you got me at 13, so you just have to deal with me “now.” Can’t go back and re-raise me. But I had a completely different upbringing. He quit school and started drinking/drugs YOUNG. I think there was a lot of resentment (even aside from my teen angst/attitude, which we all have at that age).

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes June 25, 2014, 10:53 am

      Yeah, I totally agree.
      The example about the video game idea is just…wrong. That wasn’t the LW not taking fiance’s side. That was sticking up for her son and his idea. This kid wasn’t asking for permission to run to the patent office, or advice on how to market such an idea, or WHATEVER. He was being a kid.

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      • avatar

        Vathena June 25, 2014, 2:47 pm

        Yeah, and what would taking the fiance’s “side” look like anyway? Saying to your own kid, “I agree with Dick, that’s a stupid idea and it would never work”? Sounds like a great way to nurture a positive relationship with your kid… *sarcasm*

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  • Diablo

    Diablo June 25, 2014, 10:57 am

    Also, I’d say it’s a bad idea for anyone in any situation to have too much to do with a person who defends himself as “having serious anger issues.” That isn’t ever an excuse for anything. Look, I get angry, often enough, and usually not for a good enough reason. I’m only human (or possibly barely human). But when i realize what I’m being like, my defense is not “well, I got issues (which by the way I’m not gonna be doing anything about).” My defense is “I was being a jerk, and i apologize.” Then I DON’T hold a grudge, because I was in the wrong. “I got issues” is a standard abuser tactic.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark June 25, 2014, 11:12 am

    If you marry this man you thus forever ensure that you will be a far, far worse mother than the bad stepfather this jerk will ever be on his very worst day. Think about it. Think about it long and hard…

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki June 25, 2014, 12:00 pm

      This is exactly what I was thinking, but far more succinct. So I won’t be typing out the same thing with a lot more words.

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  • avatar

    John June 25, 2014, 11:12 am

    Kids are perceptive. If the guy was a douchebag wouldn’t the kid be withdrawn from him? I don’t know- just a thought.

    OK so maybe the video game comment was stupid. But this is all new to the guy. Are you ladies going to tell me that when it was new to you, that you always said and did the right thing around your kid? Isnt the guy entitled to have a learning curve the same way you did? I am sure there were times that other parents saw the way you interacted or disciplined your kid and didn’t approve either.

    I am sure when you had your kid you may have read books about parenting or bounced ideas off other Moms about how they handled situations. This guy doesn’t have any of those resources.

    Now maybe the right thing to do is to dump him, but give this guy a bit of a break. Living with a woman and a child is different than just dating them. He is probably overwhelmed and didn’t react well. I am sure when parenting was new to you, that you became overwhelmed and didn’t do the right thing at all times either. But nobody wrote a letter about it so it was forgotten.

    Yes I don’t think they are a good match given the facts. But to make this guy out to be the antichrist the way all of you are doing is really over the top.

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    • avatar

      zombeyonce June 25, 2014, 11:19 am

      This is most definitely not “all new to the guy”. This man has been around this child for three years and engaged to the boy’s mom. Even if LW was very cautious and didn’t introduce them until they were serious (~1 year), that would still give the fiance two years to get to know the child and learn about parenting.

      “I am sure when you had your kid you may have read books about parenting or bounced ideas off other Moms about how they handled situations.”
      The fiance could easily read some parenting books and talk to parents about it if he still feels unsure after two years. I don’t think there’s any excuse for his behavior. They shouldn’t be in this relationship at all.

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      • avatar

        John June 25, 2014, 11:37 am

        Yes it is new to the guy. Living in the same household on a daily basis with a child when you never did that before most certainly is new. Dating someone with a child and actually living with them are 2 different things.

        Most intelligent people would be able to know the difference.

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      • avatar

        zombeyonce June 25, 2014, 12:14 pm

        Was implying I’m not intelligent really necessary simply because we have a difference of opinion?

        Where in the letter does it say they just started living in the same household? I couldn’t find anything saying they just moved in together. Even if they did just move in together, wouldn’t being serious enough to get engaged to someone mean that you were around them and their child for a significant enough amount of time to get to know the kid and how to parent them?

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      • avatar

        DesiDad June 25, 2014, 12:50 pm

        But even if it is new, being gentle to a child of 7 should not be a slog! It should come naturally. If the man is also saying he has “anger issues” I think it is better for the LW to not date him, let alone marry him.

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    • avatar

      ktfran June 25, 2014, 11:31 am

      Did we read the same letter? I get not being comfortable around kids if you’re not use to them. Believe me, I do. And I get that sometimes a person who is not a “kid person” might need to warm up to one. But this man has told her he doesn’t like her child. He told her that he doesn’t want kids. He told her he has anger issues.
      .
      Why in the fuck did he propose and why in the fuck did she say yes? I’m holding them both at fault.
      .
      But the reason we’re, or at least I am, concentrating on his actions is because she needs to realize this is not a good situation for her child. This man should not be a father figure to her child. 1. He doesn’t want to be. And 2. Again, even if you you’re not “kid person”, any decent human being would not sit there and argue with a seven-year-old, and then get mad when someone tried to explain that the kid was hurt. I mean, come the fuck on.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 25, 2014, 11:35 am

        Sorry I used the f word so many times, but one thing that gets completely under my skin is people treating children poorly.

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      • avatar

        John June 25, 2014, 11:39 am

        Someone who throws around F bombs just because an anonymous internet letter rubs her the wrong way is the one with the anger management problems.

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      • avatar

        2_J June 25, 2014, 1:45 pm

        ^^ Troll

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 25, 2014, 1:56 pm

        Which is basically why I decided not to engage further.

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      • Cassie

        Cassie June 25, 2014, 3:02 pm

        Are you just pissy because we all responded so negatively to your letter yesterday? It’s fine to have differences of opinions and advice (and even to strongly support your opinions and advice), but the ad hominem attacks are unnecessary.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 25, 2014, 12:50 pm

        Also, ktfran, it was only three times, which is not that many fucks to give. When M and i saw Macy Gray, she said it about 100,000 times, and she wasn’t even mad at anyone.

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      • avatar

        ktfran June 25, 2014, 12:55 pm

        Haha. Thanks. You’re awesome.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 25, 2014, 12:41 pm

        I’m not a kid person, particularly. I don’t have any and am not often around them. Doesn’t mean I would stomp on a kid’s idea, repeatedly. Probably because i wouldn’t do that to anyone, especially if it had no impact on me personally. I mean, come on, how much experience with children do you need to know that it serves no purpose of yours to argue with a 7 year old about a video game?

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    • Miel

      Miel June 25, 2014, 11:38 am

      A lot of kids love their abusive parents… I don’t think the LW or her fiance are abusive, but to say “this guy can’t be that bad since the kid likes him”, it doesn’t mean anything.
      Yes, some people read books about parenting and learn tricks on how to handle this or that. But I do not believe a book would be responsible for a switch in between “I do not want to be a dad” to “I’m going to be an amazing parent to this kid”. Yes, parents do make mistakes sometimes, they will say something that hurt the kid or start a useless arguments. But in the end, they should admit “I’m trying to be a great parent but sometimes it’s hard.” They should never say “I’m not sure I want to be a parent in the first place”.
      I do not think this guy is the antichrist. He’s probably a fine person to date. But he’s very probably not the person the LW should marry. That’s all what we are trying to stress.

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    • honeybeenicki

      honeybeenicki June 25, 2014, 12:02 pm

      I think many kids will be more likely to do the opposite of withdraw with someone who obviously doesn’t like them or want to be around them. Kids will often try even harder to get that person to like them. Often that’s all a kid wants – the people (especially adults) in their lives to approve of them and love them.

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    • avatar

      csp June 25, 2014, 1:25 pm

      John, I sort of agree with you. I would have some follow up questions for the LW:
      1.) was the conversation with the son a Typical example or a one time even that rubbed you the wrong way? I guess, is this normal?
      2.) Do you allow your fiancé to be a parental figure? So you have an involved ex and you. Do you allow him to be a caretaker or is he cut out of all decisions?

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      • avatar

        zombeyonce June 25, 2014, 4:10 pm

        I just want to say that I don’t get why you have so many downvotes. While I don’t agree with John (and I guess you, then), I think the two questions you asked are totally valid.

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      • avatar

        csp June 25, 2014, 4:45 pm

        Thanks 🙂

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    • Cassie

      Cassie June 25, 2014, 2:47 pm

      Actually, no. Kids at this age (he’s 7) tend to want to please the adults in their lives. Even if the adult is cruel to them, they typically don’t have that perception of, “He was mean to me, so I won’t waste my time on him.” More often, the child will try harder to make the adult ‘like’ him. The attachment is very usual.

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      • Cassie

        Cassie June 25, 2014, 2:57 pm

        Also, “This guy doesn’t have any of those resources.” There are thousands of books and articles about parenting, step-parenting, and child development out there. You can get them online, at a book store, or even the local library. I would bet there’s even videos online he can find. So if he doesn’t know what in the world he’s doing, his lack of understanding and education in that department is no one’s fault but his own. Yes, people make mistakes and yes it’s part of growing and learning as a parent/step-parent, but what he’s doing is beyond making parenting errors with good intentions. He’s doing things like consistently belittling the child, and refusing to speak to the child for hours when he (the adult) gets angry. Those aren’t, “Oops, I made a parenting mistake, but I’m trying my best and will do better next time.” Those are, “I have Issues with a Capital ‘I’ and should not be a parental figure until I get myself sorted out.”

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      • avatar

        AmyP June 25, 2014, 3:11 pm

        Also, he’s a late 30-something.

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    • Astronomer

      Astronomer June 25, 2014, 4:07 pm

      Gosh, it’s such a shame that only women are allowed to buy parenting books at the women-only bookstores and on the women-only internet. It’s also a tragedy that only women can possibly know other people with children. Poor, poor clueless men who are so naturally bad at parenting and have no resources to help guide them. We should absolutely give them years and years to figure out how to be nice to small children.

      /sarcasm

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  • avatar

    zombeyonce June 25, 2014, 11:15 am

    After reading the letter, I immediately wondered why LW was even with the boyfriend if only for the anger problem (which is enough reason to dump someone even without all the kid stuff). Then I reread it and realized they’ve been TOGETHER 3 YEARS. ?!?

    LW, it sounds like he’s always been this angry, but is the not-wanting-to-be-a-father thing new? You’ve definitely been together long enough to have figured out that he doesn’t want to be a parent unless he just started saying that. How in the heck did you two even get engaged if this is where he’s at with parenting? I’m having a hard time understanding how this could all suddenly change. It seems like LW should have left or asked someone for advice at least a year ago.

    And of course your son wants to call him “Dad”, he’s been around almost half the kid’s life! It’s time to step up and get your child away from this man. He’s been exposed to him for far too long as it is.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. June 25, 2014, 11:20 am

    End this relationship immediately. You may think what your fiance said about not wanting to be a dad is pretty shitty, but I think it’s pretty honest. I’m surprised it’s gone on as long as it has. If you marry him, he will be father figure to your son, even if his biological dad is still in the picture. And as for his “anger issues”, it’s nice that he recognizes he has them, but he doesn’t seem to want to address them. I dated a man with anger issues and they do not go away on their own. It takes work on his part. (This guy went through three years of therapy and that wasn’t enough, based on what I saw.) His parents say that he’s changed since he’s been with you? He was worse before? Well, it’s not your responsibility to save him, that’s his job. You can, however, save yourself and your son. Please walk away from him. To commit yourself and your son to a man with these issues is unthinkable. You will regret it.

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  • veritek33

    veritek33 June 25, 2014, 11:30 am

    Sigh. Silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. Refusing to talk about the issue and just refusing to talk at all – emotional abuse and a way of controlling you.

    Engaging in a n argument with a 7 year old is just not cool. He’s 7! Let him think it’s awesome. He’s engaging in a power struggle with a child. He’s not mature enough to be a parent to a child that adores him.

    I agree with Wendy, this might be a case where you need to walk away and find someone that will love you and your child the way you deserve.

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    • avatar

      Kate June 25, 2014, 11:37 am

      Silent treatment = stonewalling (refusing to talk about an issue) which is one of Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse. Criticism is another one (also evident here).

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  • avatar

    Oyster June 25, 2014, 11:39 am

    Wendy, as usual, you nailed your reply. I don’t have anything to add, except that in the 3rd paragraph of your answer, I think you mean conscience instead of conscious. Great column!

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy June 25, 2014, 12:02 pm

      Yes, thank you! I usually write my columns ahead of time so my mom (who acts as my copy editor) has time to correct my typos and mistakes, but I wrote this one early this morning (before coffee!).

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  • avatar

    Amanda June 25, 2014, 11:41 am

    LW, I’ve been pondering your letter and you mentioned that your fiance can hold a grudge worse than your mother. Is it possible that you have developed a pattern of dating narcissists because of your (likely) narcissistic mother? I may be projecting, but I too have a narcissistic mother who hit me or gave me the silent treatment whenever she was upset with me (which was often) and my parents divorced, so it took me close to a decade to learn what a truly loving relationship was like. Your relationship is not a loving one. I implore you to end it so that your son can grow up surrounded by love.

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    • avatar

      Marcie June 25, 2014, 1:06 pm

      Good catch Amanda! Makes sense now.

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  • Amybelle

    Amybelle June 25, 2014, 11:44 am

    You don’t have to be a parent to know that only the douchiest of douches would belittle a 7 year old kid’s video game idea. This guy sounds like an abuser as well, they’re great at “improving” their anger issues until after the wedding, then they escalate.

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  • Amybelle

    Amybelle June 25, 2014, 11:47 am

    What Amanda said about the narcissist x 100

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth June 25, 2014, 12:21 pm

    As a single mom, I would not tolerate anyone belittling my child or their ideas. I am an overexplainer and an overthinker. I know some children like that, and their brain just works a little bit faster and they are so excited and want you to share in that excitement! Even if you think the idea is garbage, why in the hell would tell a 7 year old that? It’s not like his idea was to hurt animals or something.

    I think the LW knows what she needs to do. This is not going to be a good person to raise your son with, even if he was willing to help. He is a child himself, and has no goals to better himself or take responsibility for his anger or his actions. That’s not good.

    As a side note, i almost typed …”or take responsibility for his hanger.” I am obviously hangry.

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  • Crochet.Ninja

    Crochet.Ninja June 25, 2014, 11:40 am

    Move the F on. your fiance even suggested NOT getting married. he doesn’t want to be a father. unacceptable in your situation. even with your son’s actual dad involved, your fiance still needs to support you and be your teammate in parenting. there will be some situations and decisions that are made between you and your ex, as it should be, but your fiance knew when he got together with you that you had a son.

    let him go. find someone that can love you and your son as a family.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones June 25, 2014, 12:46 pm

    WWS. Do not marry this man or live with him. If you still want to date him, then go ahead and date him but do so only when your son is at his Dad’s house. He doesn’t want to help raise your child and so don’t expect him to change. If you want an equal partner who would gladly help parent your son in a positive, loving way, then MOA and find someone more suitable. Honestly, if anything ever happened with my marriage and I found myself single (divorce or death) I have firmly decided that I would either not date until my son is grown and out of the house (if there was no dad in the picture) or would only date when my son was with his dad unless the man was good dad material. The child always should come first. Always.

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    • avatar

      Marcie June 25, 2014, 1:12 pm

      I have a friend whose son hasn’t met a single one of her suitors. Her son always comes first when he’s at her house.

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    • gigi

      gigi June 25, 2014, 1:45 pm

      Very Good advice Sue, thats kind of the arrangement I have with my BF, not becuz he is a douche, but I don’t really want anyone else involved with my kids & raising them. And he has a teen full time himself that he is busy with. So we date occasionally during the week, & once in awhile all of us have dinner together, & then on weekends when my kids are at their dad’s house I will stay with him. Kids should always come first, so if you just can’t seem to tear yourself away from this guy, then at the very least, keep him out of your child’s life.

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    • avatar

      Stillrunning June 25, 2014, 4:45 pm

      Don’t even date. He’s immature and at 37, is not apt to change unless he makes an effort, which he essentially told her he’s not going to do.

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  • avatar

    AKchic June 25, 2014, 12:47 pm

    Jesus H. Criminitely. Dump this guy to the curb, get him out of your house and your life. He isn’t going to change magically because the two of you get married. He refuses help, that should be enough to move you to do something. He doesn’t really like your son, that should be the frakking clincher.

    As Wendy said – Aim higher. However, I’m taking this one step further – AIM A HELLUVA LOT HIGHER. Our kids are worth it.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo June 25, 2014, 1:34 pm

      After ktfran’s apology for the “f word” above, I have decided I should be the one to police swearing on the site, and i definitely have to take issue with your fake swearing, AK. First off, that one word is definitely spelled frickin’, and the apostrophe is important. Only repressed suburbians actually pronounce the “g” in frickin’. Also, if you’re going to fake blaspheme, the only acceptable variants are “Gee whiz” or “Cheese crackers.” Sorry to be harsh and judgey, but someone’s gotta watch out for our standards here. I now hereby sentence you to two hours of George Carlin. Repeat until your street cred returns. You’re welcome.

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      • avatar

        Jennylou June 25, 2014, 3:07 pm

        Diablo, you need to watch Battlestar Galactica! – you will forevermore love the term “frakking” and use it every day. Also, watch Firefly – “gorram” and “shiny.”

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 25, 2014, 3:36 pm

        Caught on the wrong side of a cultural divide again! But I ain’t usin’ no space swears.

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      • avatar

        Jennylou June 25, 2014, 7:01 pm

        Cheese crackers, Diablo, your response made me LOL at my desk.

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  • avatar

    csp June 25, 2014, 1:29 pm

    SO, I am going to throw something out there and it may or may not be a bomb. Should the child come first? So I read this letter and while this guy does sound like a jerk, I have to wonder about some of the lines at the end about always putting the son first. When I was growing up, the main relationship was my parents’. When we went on vacation it was their vacation and we were allowed to tag along. They were always a united front and I believed that they loved each other madly and loved us a lot. So with this LW, it seems like her and her son is a team and the fiancé is the third wheel. Thoughts?

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    • Miel

      Miel June 25, 2014, 1:49 pm

      Well, the best solution would be for the mom, fiance and kid to all be on the same team. And that team would be “how to raise this kid the best way”. So in a simple situation, let’s say the kid wants to have extra dessert even though he didn’t eat his vegetables, the fiance could say “sorry, you won’t have more dessert” and the kid would look to his mom and she would also say “sorry, fiance is right, you won’t have more dessert”. This wouldn’t be “the mom is on the fiance’s team and the kid is the third wheel”, because both parents took a decision together for the well-being of the kid. A bad situation would be for the fiance to allow the dessert and for the mom to not allow it, because then the kid would start having a “favorite parent” and the two parental figures would not be on the same team anymore.
      .
      However this is not at all what (I believe) most people mean when they say “the child comes first”. I remember my sister saying the the person she loves the most in the entire world is her son, and then right after is her husband. I think that’s how the priority should be. The mom should love her son much more than she loves her fiance and she should act this way. Loving her son means that she wants him to grow up in a nurturing environment. She wants him to live in a stable and loving house. And if the price to pay for that loving house is to ask to fiance to leave, then that’s what should happen. The fiance will stop being the third wheel only when he joins the team already formed by the mom and the son. The well-being of the fiance should not trump the well-being of the son.

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    • gigi

      gigi June 25, 2014, 1:51 pm

      Yes I agree with Tax Geek, in a traditional family the primary relationship is between husband & wife. Once dating & step families are involved, it is different. Nobody I date is going to love my kids like me & have their best interests at heart like I will as their mom. They didn’t ask to be born, they didn’t ask for their parents’ marriage to end, so it’s up to me to ensure that their needs are being met first, before my own. My kids don’t move to the back burner just because I decide to date someone who may or may not like my kids.

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    • Cassie

      Cassie June 25, 2014, 3:18 pm

      When it’s said, “Put the child first,” I understand it as, “Put the child’s well-being first,” and not, “Put the child’s every whim first.” In this situation, the child’s well-being is not being put first.

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    • Kate B.

      Kate B. June 25, 2014, 4:27 pm

      OK, time for me to get flamed. I think the priorities should be: spouse (or other biological parent) first, kid second. Because theoretically, you choose your child-rearing partner, while children come. You want to make sure they come to you with the right person. I also think that a healthy relationship between two parents is the best thing you can do for your child. This does however mean that you must put some thought into picking the right person. But not every situation is black and white. In this situation, the child’s needs must be considered because this man is not the child’s father but will be acting as one, at least figuratively. But, the LW needs to really think about anyone she is considering bringing into the household. First, she needs to make sure the man is right for her FIRST, and once that is determined, that he is right for her son. And as a parent, I would assume that being right for her would include wanting to help raise her son, since they are a package deal. I don’t think he’s right for either one of them.

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  • avatar

    Tax Geek June 25, 2014, 1:40 pm

    If you are talking about a “traditional” family where it is a first marriage for both and the kids are children of the two married persons, white pickett fence, etc, etc, then I agree with you.

    But when you get into blended families and single parents who are dating, it gets much more complicated.

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    • avatar

      csp June 25, 2014, 4:31 pm

      you are right with that. I just wonder how this guy feels knowing that he will never be the number one or how he fits into a family that was formed before him.

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  • avatar

    Tippytoo June 25, 2014, 1:54 pm

    Long, long, long time lurker, and first time commenter. LW, I wanted to comment and give you the perspective of someone who was in the same situation as your son. My dad has been married four times, and every time it was to someone was not interested in kids and/or parenting, and some of the step moms were emotionally abusive to myself and my brothers. In fact, I distinctly remember my step-mother arguing until she was blue in the face with my five year old brother about whether my hair was red or orange. He said it was orange (which to be fair red hair is typically more orange in color), but she had to be right and said that no, it was red and I was a red head. And she would start arguments like that with us all the time. As I got older, I never wanted to go to my dad’s because I didn’t feel wanted there and I resented the hell out of my dad for always choosing my step-mom over me. And to this day I have zero relationship with him and I will always feel that he prioritized whoever he was with over his own children. LW, do not put your son in that position. Your son has undoubtedly picked up on the fact that your fiance only merely tolerates him. Please put your son first, always and forever, as Wendy said, because he depends on you and has no say otherwise.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo June 25, 2014, 3:43 pm

      Hi Tippy, welcome. Y’know, i think we have to ditch this term “lurker.” It’s so negative! Maybe more people would “come out” if they weren’t being slurred by this exclusionist language. You’re not admitting to a fault! So what’s the new term? “Emergent commenter” is a bit too clinical or sociological or something. “Noob” has its own slurry baggage. “Silent supporter” is kind of patronizing. How bout it, gang? Should we replace “lurker” with something else? I’m gonna start a pointless forum on this.

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      • avatar

        DesiDad June 25, 2014, 3:49 pm

        Bet it draws hundreds of fun comments…

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      • avatar

        Tippytoo June 25, 2014, 4:28 pm

        Thanks for the welcome! It can be/was fairly intimidating to come out from hiding, but I’m glad I did. All these recent posts from parents who are putting their significant others before the well being of their children are getting to me. And I’m looking forward to your forum thread.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray June 25, 2014, 4:34 pm

      I’m loving all the lurkers and new voices out these days! And the old voices – yes, yours Diablo. 🙂

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 25, 2014, 4:38 pm

        I’m not THAT old…. barely middle-aged, especially if you factor in my infantile views. And my bad complexion.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy June 25, 2014, 5:05 pm

        Me too!!

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  • avatar

    thatgirl June 25, 2014, 2:32 pm

    WWS all the way. Don’t let this man make your child feel rejected. Please, just don’t.

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  • avatar

    Caught June 25, 2014, 3:36 pm

    LW here… (even though I have no idea what LW means….) First off, there is some really great advice on here. I do have to say, that when I wrote this email to Wendy, I was pissed beyond belief. I generally do not send emails when I’m upset… and if I do, I wait 24 hours before sending, in order to re-read them, and make the necessary changes. Now, to the nitty-gritty:

    Topic #1
    When I said that they get along “most of the time,” I meant it. 99.9% of the time, they are FANTASTIC together. They play games, play basketball, and, when my son is in school, he helps him with his homework. I was talking to my fiance last night, and he decided he needed to clarify his statement. He told me he doesn’t “Feel like a dad.” He explained that he doesn’t have that paternal instinct that he feels like he should have. He said that he loves my son, and wants to be a part of his life, but doesn’t know HOW to be a dad, and doesn’t feel like it’s “his place” to raise him since my son’s dad is still very active in his life. I’ve tried to explain to him that if/when we get married, that we become a team, and that I know this is difficult for him. I explained to him that even though my son’s dad is in his life, HE, himself, is in the lives of both me and my son as well. My fiance doesn’t feel comfortable disciplining my son, and stated that no matter what he says, my son will always look to me for the final answer (which has happened on several occasions.) I told him that it’s something we all need to sit down and discuss, and that they both need to come to the understanding that he (fiance) is just as much as an authority figure as I am. I am guilty of over-riding my fiance’s “ruling” on a few occasions. The “spoiled Brat” part comes from the fact that when I get him back from his dad’s house, he comes back thinking that he gets everything he wants because that’s how it is when he’s at his dad’s house, or with his dad’s sisters’ house (which is practically every other weekend.) I then explained that while he may come back and act spoiled for about 24 hours, once he gets used to our rules again, he’s fine. The first 24 hours my son comes back to our place is always the most stressful for the both of us… but after that, my son is fine. Most of the arguments between him and my son occur in that 24 hours. Generally, it’s over trivial things like – my son getting mad because he’s not winning in a game, or my fiance getting mad when my son is trying to over explain something, and he sees it a arguing…. both of them, I should mention, are very stubborn. I explained to my fiance that he’s just trying to over explain things, because he doesn’t think he understands, or is asking a LOT of questions about why he can’t do a certain activity because he genuinely wants to know why… not to be argumentative, and my fiance understood that. I know that it’s going to take some work on everyone’s part. My fiance agreed. I know that this is going to be difficult at times, but this *is* new for him. My son wasn’t introduced to him until we had been together for almost 2 years. With the new clarification of what my fiance was/is feeling, I now need to know how to help him “feel” like dad.

    #2

    His anger. Again, 95% of the time, it’s under control. Shows no signs of being angry, and it’s great. It’s that 5% that gets me. When he does get mad, he will literally walk away, and give everyone within a 30 mile radius the silent treatment. Most of the anger (since I’ve known him) comes from the stress at his job. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but his job is extremely stressful. He’s been working 50-90 hrs week since we’ve been together for a job that he doesn’t even know if he’ll have in the next next year. We knew this job thing was coming to a head this year, and have both been stressed out about it. He admitted that the way he handles his anger is wrong. He understands that it does effect those around him. The reason he won’t get help, is due to a terrible experience with a psychologist in the past. My fiance is the “burn-me-once-and-I’m-never-trying-again” type. It’s the same reason he REFUSES to eat sushi… one bad experience, and he’s done with it forever. Last night, I suggest family counseling. I think it would be a way for all of us to get a little guidance, and maybe, slowly get him to open up about his anger issues.

    Anyway, I hope this clears some things up. I’m interested and open to advice now that there’s been some clarity.

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    • avatar

      Caught June 25, 2014, 4:00 pm

      Also, what does “WWS” stand for?

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 25, 2014, 4:07 pm

        What Wendy Said. WEES is what everyone else said. There are many variants using commenters’ initials.

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    • Diablo

      Diablo June 25, 2014, 4:01 pm

      LW is letter writer, OP is original poster, just for reference. FFS is something you use to reply to my comments. Your comment here points out the challenge for Wendy and for us others. If the letter is slanted, the comments respond to that slant. But everything in life is about proportion. We all act like jerks sometimes. My wife could use 100% true details to paint a monstrous picture of me. The issue is whether that is the whole picture and whether the truth of it is in proportions you can live with. From your comment here, I’d still say that the behaviour (arguing about the batman game) was out of line and that 5% anger can lead to a lot of issues. After all, most murderers only murder one person, but, well, duh. So, going forward, i would gauge this based on a willingness to be flexible and open to change and growth. That’s important for everyone. You know if you marry him, you’ll need to grow together as parents and as people. Not changing is actually not an option for anyone. So the question is how are you going to manage change and get a good and satisfying life? How will he be a part of this? Good luck.

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    • sobriquet

      sobriquet June 25, 2014, 6:41 pm

      I don’t really think the main problem is that he doesn’t “feel” like a dad. That’s A problem, sure, but not THE problem. Even if you wrote your letter in the heat of the moment, it is full of resentment and contempt for your fiance and I think you should strongly consider moving on from this relationship, but I know it’s rarely that easy.

      Most anyone who has experienced an abusive relationship of any kind (and I’ll say that if you have to walk on eggshells for days simply for siding with your own child- this is low-grade abuse) will tell you that things are good MOST of the time, it’s just that when they’re bad, they’re really bad.

      Keep in mind that children learn behaviors from their parental figures, so if your husband has anger issues, your son is likely to develop the same. If your husband treats you poorly- even if only 5% of the time- your son will learn to do that to women himself one day.

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      • avatar

        zombeyonce June 26, 2014, 12:53 am

        “If your husband treats you poorly- even if only 5% of the time- your son will learn to do that to women himself one day.”
        .
        This. So much this. LW, just imagine how you’ll feel the first time your son gets angry and walks away giving you the silent treatment for days. Sure, some kids will do that on their own, but accepting it from your partner is showing your son that it’s an acceptable way to treat people. You don’t want your son treating you (or anyone else!) this way. You have to stop accepting this behavior from your fiance, not just for your son but for yourself. You both deserve better.
        .
        Even if your fiance won’t go to therapy again and if you’re determined to stay with him, you have to stop putting up with his childish reaction to getting angry. Being stressed doesn’t give him the right to be disrespectful. I’m guessing you would never accept this behavior from your son, so why take it from someone you choose to have in your life?

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    • avatar

      Amanda June 26, 2014, 9:46 am

      Thanks for the clarification, but my advice doesn’t change. You are definitely dating a narcissist and these people will always come up with excuses to justify their poor behavior: “I work 90 hours a week, I’m unemployed, I’m stressed out, I don’t know how to be a dad”, etc, etc.

      LW, what you need to realize is that there are people who work more than your fiance, are under more stress, etc. and they manage not to treat the people in their lives like shit. They don’t give the people in their lives the silent treatment when they are angry because they know that they aren’t entitled to treat people so disrespectfully. A narcissist, however, does feel entitled to treat people like garbage at times because they don’t consider the feelings of others or how their actions affect them. A narcissist isn’t self aware. Consequently, a narcissist is not someone that you can ever have a truly open and loving relationship with because they will not consider your feelings on the same level as your own.

      Again LW, I implore you to end this relationship or have your fiance move out of your residence. If you cannot do it for yourself, please do it for your son. He does not deserve to dread going to your house and hate the majority of his time with you because of your poor choice of a husband.

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  • avatar

    Kate June 25, 2014, 4:06 pm

    I didn’t comment before, but this part of your update/clarification stood out to me: “I’ve tried to explain to him that if/when we get married, that we become a team…”
    .
    You don’t become a team when you get married. You marry a guy because you work great together as a team.
    .
    Also, he’s telling you that he doesn’t feel like a dad, doesn’t have any paternal instinct, doesn’t want to discipline, etc. Loudly and clearly. If you want him to pay a traditional dad role, it sounds like that’s not going to happen. If, as you say, 99.9% of the time they get along great, as buddies, then maybe they’re just buddies. It sounds like that may be all he can or is willing to be for your son. If he wanted to be his dad, he’d already be doing it.
    .
    What I’m saying is, I think that how things are right now, is probably how they’re going to be. They’re not going to change once you get married, or because you sit down and have a talk with your fiancé and your son about discipline.

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    • avatar

      Caught June 25, 2014, 4:15 pm

      I think that he *wants* to be that dad role, but just doesn’t know how. We are a team already, and he knows that. I was more referring to a parenting team… if that makes sense lol

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      • avatar

        Sue Jones June 25, 2014, 4:39 pm

        I am a stepmother as well as a bio mother. I was a stepmom long before I was a bio-mom. It is probably a good thing too because there is a different level of responsibility that I feel for my stepson (who is now in his 20’s) and my bio son. We had my stepson less than 1/2 the time and I was clear that my husband would be the discipliner and I would be “the nice lady”. And whatever my husband said went. We made sure that I was never in charge of disciplining my stepson so I was not put in that situation. While I love my stepson, I was not the one deciding which extracurriculars or camps he went to, how he should study for homework, etc. As it turned out my stepson had some serious psychiatric disorders develop in his late teens (as they are wont to do) and then I definitely was not in charge of his care or it would have been handled much differently (we disagreed with his mother on many fronts). But we all tried to work together. Now that he is a young adult going to a nearby college, we are even more hands off. But even when I did not feel pure love for my stepson, I pretended I did. And I eventually did. This is a “fake it till you make it” situation. It takes time to develop those feelings but the child should never for one instant feel the absence of those feelings. So tell your fiance to fake it until he makes it.

        My bio-son, that is a completely different story. I am the mom and I am responsible for so much more and my feelings are different towards him. They just are. I carried this one in my womb. It is just a different bond. And if I screw up as a parent, it is all on me. I would go to the ends of the earth if it would make his life and opportunities better. That is just how it is for me with my son. And I would choose his well being over my relationships any day if it ever came to that…

        Just my perspective from my own experience…

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  • avatar

    Kate June 25, 2014, 4:22 pm

    I don’t know you guys, but you originally wrote: ““I don’t feel like I’m a father… hell, I don’t even know if I WANT to be a dad” came out of my fiancé’s mouth. I was shocked. I asked him what he meant, and he said that he doesn’t have that “fatherly feeling” when he looks at my son. He just sees a “buddy” and thinks he doesn’t have to take a part in helping raise him. ”

    Those were his raw feelings. It sounds like even after you told him you were upset and asked for clarification, he still said he doesn’t feel like a dad or have paternal instinct. I really do think that if he wanted to and was capable of being “dad,” that you would have seen him step into that role over the past year. It sounds like “buddy” is what he’s capable of being. Maybe things could evolve, but I wouldn’t get married if you’re not seeing progress in that direction and it’s what you want/need him to be.

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      ktfran June 25, 2014, 4:29 pm

      That, and regardless of whether or not your letter was in the heat of the moment, your last paragraph to Wendy, LW, is troublesome. You wrote:
      .
      “I feel like shit. I will ALWAYS choose my son’s side if I think he’s right. I will ALWAYS choose my fiancé’s side if I think HE’S right. I feel stuck. Do I give up? Do I try to go to family counselling? Do I leave the relationship? I love him, but I can’t continue feeling like if I stick up for my son, I’ll have to spend the next 3-4 days walking on eggshells because my fiancé will be mad at me. I’m desperate for help.”
      .
      I don’t know what to tell you, but before I took the marriage plunge, I would work out some issues. You, and especially your son, should not have to walk on eggshells for several days after a disagreement.

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      Caught June 25, 2014, 4:31 pm

      He has shown signs/put in effort to be in that role (helping with homework, stepping in to discipline, etc.) I feel like he’s scared. Like I said, this is pretty new to him. Of the three years we’ve been together, he’s only been in this position for almost a year….keep in mind that we don’t have him every day. His dad and I have joint custody, and share him every-other week. From our last conversation, I understand that it’s not like he doesn’t *want* to be a dad; he just doesn’t know how to feel like one, or what it feels like to be one, or even how to effectively be a dad. I think he’s a little scared because he realizes that he’s going to be responsible for another person’s life, and that doesn’t deter him from wanting to move forward, but he doesn’t know how to go about achieving his end goal; which is being a dad. I know it’s scary for him.. realizing that all of a sudden, you’re going to be responsible for how someone turns out can be down right terrifying…. I hope that makes sense too.

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      • Cassie

        Cassie June 25, 2014, 5:34 pm

        I had mentioned it in a response to someone else, but if he isn’t sure about how to ‘be a dad’ then I’d suggest he start looking up books and articles about child development and parenting/step-parenting. Also, he can have conversations with other fathers and step fathers. It’s not all that he will need of course, but it sure is a heck of a good start. And, much more effective than him clutching his hair and saying, “I don’t know! I just don’t know.”

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        Kate June 26, 2014, 10:15 am

        Agree, Cassie. If someone wants to do something, they’ll do it, or try to do it. See the forum post today from a woman whose boyfriend has a baby daughter – she’s already done a ton of reading on parenting methods.

        Not the same thing, but I have a dog… my husband had never had a dog before he met me, but he’s become really attached to the dog, and several times he’s proactively looked up information on dog training, care, etc.

        And finally, I’m still not reading *wants to be a dad* even in the update where the fiancé clarified his feelings: “He explained that he doesn’t have that paternal instinct that he feels like he should have. He said that he loves my son, and wants to be a part of his life, but doesn’t know HOW to be a dad, and doesn’t feel like it’s “his place” to raise him since my son’s dad is still very active in his life.”

        He loves the kid and wants to be a part of his life. He’s not saying he wants to be a dad, he’s giving reasons for why he can’t be. Again, if he wanted to be a dad, he’d take action in that direction. LW, you can take some time to see if he does so now that you’ve clarified things, but if he doesn’t, I think you have your answer: Buddy, yes, Dad, no. And if it’s buddy, then you shouldn’t get married, because that’s not what you want out of this relationship.

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        Kate June 26, 2014, 10:18 am

        That said, the anger, silent treatment, walking on eggshells, etc., even if it’s 5% of the time, is still troubling.

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      • Cassie

        Cassie June 26, 2014, 2:38 pm

        Yup.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra June 25, 2014, 8:48 pm

    What has stuck out to me in this is the fact that this guy basically quashes every idea/dream that your son has. He’s still at an age where his imagination runs wild — don’t you want him to be a kid who is innovative and imaginative? He’s going to eliminate that entirely from your son’s life if you stay with him.
    .
    I will say that my boyfriend has a 4-year-old niece and she likes to play “Pirate”. She takes all the kitchen chairs, drapes a blanket over them, and that’s her ship. She will grab something to steer it with and she even has an eyepatch. There was once when she got her dad (22), my boyfriend (27), and their other brother (25) to be part of her ship with her. Seeing 3 grown men huddled under the blanket fort as her “crew” was probably the cutest thing I’ve EVER seen. They all encourage her creativity and they play along too. She LOVES it. And I love watching my boyfriend doing things like that just to make her happy because that tells me if we ever get married and have kids he is going to be a phenomenal dad.

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  • Monkeysmommy

    monkey's mommy June 25, 2014, 11:42 pm

    OP, honestly it just sounds like you painted an honest picture the first time, didn’t like the response of being told to move on and put your kid first, then started back peddling to slant the story to a more favorable light.

    For your son, do it. Move on. This relationship is bad for him. Put his needs over yours. I speak from experience. It only gets harder.

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  • avatar

    Rachel @ Reality Chick June 25, 2014, 11:30 pm

    WWS x 100. Hard to walk away when you’re in love with someone, but absolutely necessary in this case.

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    Caught June 26, 2014, 4:39 pm

    Look, I realize that none of you know my fiance and I personally, so I can understand where some of you are coming from. With that being said, I’d like to say that he has agreed to go to family counseling, and even brought home books on how to be a step-dad that he and my dad went shopping for.

    To Monkey’s Mommy – I wasn’t “back-peddling,” although, I can see why you would think that. Like I said before, we’ve only been engaged for 2 months, he’s only been around my son for less than a year, and it’s not like he’s not trying; I just think he was lost… but he’s making some serious effort to find his way.

    He’s actually even started the process of helping me find a good family counselor. To Lyra – he doesn’t “basically quashes every idea/dream that your son has.” They have a lot of fun together. They have light saber battles with sticks at the park, play basketball, and color together. He’s also very encouraging to my son. My son has shown interest in wanting to become a police officer. My fiance’s dad was a cop for 40 years. He talked to his dad, and had his dad gets some officer buddies together to spend some time with my son and answer questions he has about becoming an officer. My son also wants to be a scientist, so he went out and bought him several different science kits for kids, and went through ALL of the experiments with him. They play, they laugh, they joke, and they have a secret handshake that even I’m not allowed to see.

    In my first letter to Wendy, I was undoubtedly angry at the situation, and angry at him. After we had both had a day or so to calm down, we were able to talk logically and calmly about the entire thing (which I explained in the first response here.) From that discussion, I posted the outcomes; again, in the first response (and some in the responses following.)

    A lot of you took that as me trying to make make shit smell like roses… which isn’t the case. Again, I can see how it may seem that way to some, but I can assure you, that wasn’t what I was trying to accomplish. I was trying to explain the next conversation he and I had in order to provide clarity, and get new advice. Some of you had excellent advice, and I thank you for that.

    There isn’t one single person out there who can honestly say that they’ve never said/texted/written something while angry. When you do that, your words, both spoken and written, reflect your current attitude and emotions – whether you want them to or not. I was obviously angry when I wrote the first one, and it clearly shows. No one can say that you’re a perfect parent, or a perfect partner. It’s all trial and error, whether you want to admit it or not. You try something- it doesn’t work… You learn from your mistake, and keep going. Eventually, you learn what works, and what doesn’t work for you and your family. You do what you feel is best for your child. You pull skills, judgments, parenting tricks, what to do, and what not to do from past experience, and hope – in the end- that the decisions you’re making are the right ones. As parents, we do everything we can to ensure our children grow up to become successful and happy. There is no manual. There is no “How to” guide… just books with general guidelines. There are websites and blogs (much like this one) with ideas and tips from people much like you, that are available for guidance and support for other parents to other parents. Every piece of advice is subjective. What works for a majority of families, won’t work for all.

    My fiance has made some major effort in order to get where he needs to be… where WE need to be. We’re being PROactive instead of REactive, and it’s awesome. If both people are honestly trying and putting forth major effort, and taking action to correct a situation, isn’t that a good thing? Really, when it comes down to it, what more can you ask for? I know of a lot of people who wouldn’t even TRY to make something work. They’d throw in the towel, say “Fuck it. It isn’t worth it,” and walk away; which neither one of us have done. Downvote me if you want. Criticize me for staying if you want. But if my fiance isn’t giving up on my son and me, and is actually TRYING- then I’m not giving up either. If, by small chance, it all goes to hell in a hand-basket, then I’ll learn from it, brush myself off, and move on. Life revolves around risk and risk mitigation. Every relationship, every encounter, every small and seemingly meaningless decision you have EVER made has been a risk. Some of those risks turn out to be train wrecks, while others end up being amazingly wonderful. If everything were to blow up in my face tomorrow, at least I can say I gave it my all… and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    Thank you all for your advice. If something happens, good or bad, I’ll update.

    Until Then-

    No Longer Caught

    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

    “Until we have seen someone’s darkness – we really don’t know who they are.
    Until we have forgiven someones’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.”

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    Emily June 26, 2014, 5:20 pm

    Ugh, this is sad. I get the feeling she thinks she can’t do better because she has a son and is therefor sticking with this shitty dude because he’s there. That’s not enough reason! You’re twenty nine, LW! Life is long! Make good choices for you and your son, that’s what really matters right now.

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    Rochelle June 26, 2014, 5:56 pm

    I’ve just ran across this thread. I don’t know how you all can be so negative! She came in here wanting SUPPORT and advice on HOW to help her fiance…. the only thing you all have done is told her to leave, and belittled her for wanting to try. Whatever happened to the days when if something was broken, your first instinct was to fix it; not throw it away? From what I’ve read, she’s sincere. He’s honestly trying, and so is she. Good for them. My own parents have been through similar problems. They’ve had fights that lasted as long as an entire month! And yet, they’re still together. They’ve been married for 47 years, and couldn’t be happier. Could you imagine if they had just given up because things got hard? When will people start to realize that throwing away something because it’s broken isn’t a solution.. It’s giving up. It seems to me that her fiance had a 24 hour freak-out, and then calmed down enough to think things through and realized that he needed to step up more. As for the anger stuff – I think, and I could be wrong, that she brought this into light due to HER anger with him… and after realizing her mistake, DID try to back-peddle some because she didn’t want that to be the focus. She wanted to focus to be the step-dad issue, and how to help him get through this. People fight. Relationships have problems… ALL OF THEM. You shouldn’t just walk away from someone if you have a problem…. ESPECIALLY if they’re trying to fix it!!!! Good Grief people! If both people are willing to work to make things better, then more power to them.

    Good luck, LW.

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