Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Fiancé Still Cares For His Ex’s Kids”

My fiancé has an ex whom he met after she had just given birth to her second born. They dated for two years, broke up, and then she got into another relationship and gave birth to her third-born son (all her kids are from different men and she is currently a single mom). My fiancé has continued taking care of the kids to date. The mother of the kids has, on various occasions, asked my fiancé to cut off the relationship between him and the kids, but he is reluctant to do that. He says the kids call him “Dad,” because he has been in their lives since they were young and they are now 15, 11, and 5, respectively.

We are planning our wedding for next year and, while we agreed that we would have one child together, I’m not comfortable with the relationship between him and his ex’s kids, so I’m not sure if I want to bring a child into this confusion. I have discussed this with him, but he tells me he has nothing to do with the kids’ mom — he just wants to be a father-figure to the kids. His house is full of these kids’ photos, but something that irritates me more is that my fiancé has a daughter who is 25 and he acts like he cares more about these other kids than he does about his own daughter. This situation is driving me insane. Please advise me on what I should do. If they were his kids, I would understand and try to be more accommodating. — He’s Not Their Dad

There are a number of things that stick out to me from your letter. First: You’ve already agreed to have a child with your fiancé despite having reservations about bringing “a child into this confusion”? How about getting that part figured out first before agreeing to marry someone and have a child together. Second, your fiancé is already a father figure to four kids, so maybe he doesn’t need any more kids. Maybe the idea that he hasn’t been very present in his daughter’s life and is potentially using three kids who aren’t biologically his to feel better about himself is a sign that perhaps he has some issues that might prevent him from being the dad to your child that you might want? Third, his ex has asked him on several occasions to cut out being involved in her children’s lives and he continues to disregard that request? That’s so inappropriate and disrespectful and would be giving me such serious pause if I were planning a future with this person. If he can’t respect the mother of kids who AREN’T biologically his, how can you expect him to respect you in any future disagreements you might have about a child who IS biologically his?

I just… I wouldn’t be moving forward so quickly with this guy. At least, I wouldn’t be talking about having kids with him. After more than a decade of his acting like a father figure to kids who aren’t his, despite the protests of at least one biological parent of the kids, I don’t see anything changing any time soon. It’s clear he doesn’t respect boundaries. At best, his judgment seems questionable. And his relationship with the child who IS biologically his doesn’t seem like one that inspires much optimism about his potential as a father.

One more thing from your letter that made me go “huh”: You say that if the three younger kids were your fiancé’s, you “would understand and try to be more accommodating.” Well, I should hope that you would do more that try to accommodate a partner’s involvement and interest in his children’s lives. And with that language, I suspect that it isn’t just that these kids aren’t biologically your fiancé’s or that their mother has asked your fiancé to step back or that your fiancé has a weird relationship with his daughter that is “driving you insane.” I suspect that what’s truly at the root of your concern here is that your fiancé has interest and involvement in a life outside of what you have and want to create with him — that there are other people taking his focus and attention, and that, even if it were 100% appropriate for him to devote his time and attention to them, it would be an effort for you to “accommodate” that. And to that I say: Get over yourself. And if you can’t — MOA, and find someone whose attention you’re better able to share or don’t feel you have to compete for.

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

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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.

20 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MiMi December 20, 2016, 9:44 am

    Well, these children appear to love your fiance and he’s been in their lives for many years and appears to represent some stability for them so why would you want to take that away? You don’t have to be related to people to care for them. I also wouldn’t read too much into statements from the mother asking him to back off because without her complicity, he wouldn’t have access to those kids in the first place. At the end of the day, this is another scenario of a beau who comes with baggage, other people, children or whatever and if you’re going to be with him, you have to be okay with all of it. What you see now is what you’ll get and for the most part you can’t expect other people to live by your perceptions of what is right. Can you live with it or not?

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  • FireStar

    Firestar December 20, 2016, 9:50 am

    Maybe the boyfriend thinks being a stable presence in these kids’lives redeems him for being a bad dad? Though who is to say he wasn’t there for his kid too. A 25 year old has a different relationship with a parent than a 15year old. I think it actually speaks well of him to be present in their lives. I’m a little suspect of the claim that mom says she doesn’t want him involved since her kids are minors and she can absolutely end a relationship with a minor with an unrelated party. I suspect the mom doesn’t have a problem with the relationship…. Not when it’s likely convenient for her.
    The relationships aren’t convenient for the LW because she thinks the bf should only give attention to biological children. Namely the one she is planning. If the kids have different dads and men in and out of their lives then how nice for them to have a stable relationship that they value. Maybe he is best at being a quasi parent rather than the real thing. Who knows? In any case, they are now a package deal. Sign on to them all (and figure out what kind of father he plans on being) or walk away.

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie December 20, 2016, 11:52 am

      I was thinking the same thing – that when she wants to punish this guy or when she has a new bf – that’s when she starts saying “go away”.

      LW – this guy has baggage. You can’t carry it for him and you can’t make him leave it at the side of the road. If it’s too much for you – then you need to MOA

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  • avatar

    Gwyneth6 December 20, 2016, 10:21 am

    Am I reading it wrong or does the mother both use him for childcare and tell him to get out of their lives? How does he access the kids without her permission. Either way I agree with WWS. Not a good idea to get married now. Good to hear that you aren’t jumping into getting pregnant. Your hesitations are well founded. Not everyone is a good match to marry a parent of adult or young children or a person with baggage.

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    • avatar

      blink14 December 20, 2016, 10:39 am

      Yup, that’s how I’m reading it as well. She likely pulls him back in when she needs help with the kids.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark December 20, 2016, 10:25 am

    I disagree with Wendy on one point here. If you involve somebody with your kids for over a fucking decade — then, barring abuse or something similar — you don’t just get to yank that away when the relationship ends. That’s incredibly and PROFOUNDLY fucked up. And that’s part of the reason everybody is such a fucking mess today. Entire generations have been little more than handy weapons for hopeless fucked up and clueless parents.
    .
    PS — Attention those that relentless make babies… Enough doing so with and every God Damn relationship. You know what, parent’s dearest? How about you fucking make babies with ONE God Damn person and then if that goes to shit — and apparently, it ALWAYS fucking does — just focus on raising those kids that you profess to love so much and have now left in your wake… instead of rushing out to pop out a few more to validate your latest fucked up relationship. Seriously. ENOUGH fucking fucked up kids. End. Of. Rant.

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    • Cleopatra Jones

      Cleopatra Jones December 20, 2016, 5:16 pm

      Yup, WBGMS x 1,000

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  • avatar

    blink14 December 20, 2016, 10:38 am

    I see three issues here:

    1. Without further information about the fiance’s relationship to his ex’s kids, and their attachment to him, I don’t think that situation can be judged fairly and I don’t agree with Wendy’s comments on this point. If I read the letter correctly, he’s been around the younger two for their entire lives and the oldest for most of their life. Has the ex only recently started to ask him to back off? What are her reasons? Jealousy, concern that they are too attached maybe? 10-11 years is a long time to commit to someone else’s children. They most likely see him at the very least a steady, father-like figure in their lives.

    2. He has a 25 year old daughter – assuming he was fairly young when she was born, he’s got to be at least in his mid to late 40s, if not older. Maybe he just doesn’t want any more kids of his own and doesn’t want to or feels like he can’t tell you that.

    3. He is more focused on his ex’s children than his own daughter, in your view. Does have a good relationship with his daughter? Was he a more distant parent when she was younger? She’s also much older than the ex’s kids, and requires less attention at her age. That may simply be the issue.

    I think your problem is jealousy. You are jealous of the relationship he has with kids that aren’t biologically his own and who’s mother he is not in a relationship. Reading between the lines, you clearly have suspicions about his relationship to their mother, and probably wonder if more is going on. I wouldn’t get married yet. Have a serious conversation with him about his commitment to these kids, and what is realistic. The oldest is 3 years away from being a legal adult, and they will have every right at that point to continue a relationship with your fiance, even if the mother disapproves for whatever reason. Unless there is a really concerning reason the mother has asked your fiance to cut off contact (and I’m talking serious reasons that would also make you rethink the relationship and having kids with this man), don’t expect anything you say to sway him on this. The mother sounds like an unstable wackadoo who dislikes that her ex is giving her kids the stability they likely need.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph December 20, 2016, 10:58 am

      Yeah there is definitely a lot to untangle here regarding the mother occasionally asking the fiance to cut off contact with the kids. They only dated for 2 years, so the time to make a clean break was then, not sure why they didn’t. But now that he’s been involved in the older 2 kids lives for 11 years it would be pretty sad for him to drop out of their lives now– and (as others have said, barring serious safety concerns) it would be cruel for the mother to force him out. My bet is that the “various occasions” when she tells him to go away are when she’s in a new relationship and then pulls him back in for free childcare (and maybe monetary support) when she’s between boyfriends.
      Whatever is going on with that, though, from the LW’s side of things, she needs to consider this guy and those kids and the ex as a package deal. If you can’t be comfortable with it, then he’s not the guy for you.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros December 20, 2016, 11:05 am

    If you don’t like the way he lives his life, why would you get engaged to him? This is who he is. Either you deal with it or you find someone else. I’d imagine a 25-year-old requires a lot less attention than small children.

    I also disagree that him wanting to have a relationship with the kids against his ex’s wishes is some sort of red flag. I assume if he were their biological father, the answer would be different because it would be seen as appropriate for him to continue to keep a relationship with his kids. Unless he’s abusive, then it’s incredibly cruel for the ex to take away their father figure. If we’re going to tell the LW that these are *his* kids and she has to accept it, then we can’t also say that they aren’t *his* kids so he can’t try to keep a relationship with them.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover December 20, 2016, 11:27 am

      Yeah, I agree, I didn’t see it as a red flag. Obviously the ex isn’t too serious about keeping him out of their lives, or she easily could. I think it’s commendable of him to want to keep acting as a father figure.

      If anyone’s throwing up red flags, it’s the LW. If her fiance wrote in, I’d be telling him to be wary of marrying someone who’s threatened by children, and who wants to find a way to break up his relationship with the kids who he loves as if they’re his own.

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      • avatar

        dinoceros December 20, 2016, 11:54 am

        Definitely!! Totally agree with your second paragraph.

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      • avatar

        for_cutie December 20, 2016, 1:02 pm

        I agree with the second paragraph too. If he has “pictures up everywhere” of the kids, then she knew this was part of the deal from the beginning. It seems to only bother the LW now that she is thinking about starting her own family, and choosing who is in that line up. The LW needs to decide to welcome his extended family how he defines it (which is not a new definition) or MOA.

        Also has the LW even met the kids? Are the objections about their existence in principle, or how it affects her life. It’s not clear how he supports or relates to these children other than expressing a fondness.

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    • avatar

      Vathena December 20, 2016, 12:15 pm

      I agree. None of the children is biologically his; he has no legal standing to have a relationship with them. If the mom didn’t want him to spend time with them, he wouldn’t. It’s not like he can just swing by and pick them up for lunch, or take them to the zoo without her permission. That would be kidnapping. The time he spends with them, especially the younger ones, would have to be with the express knowledge of the mom. He’s not being “disrespectful”; he’s taking the time he can when she lets him.

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  • avatar

    Stilgar666 December 20, 2016, 11:06 am

    Poor kids. Their mom probably wanted him out of the picture when she meets a new man, then accepts him back when its convenient.

    And just to echo BGM, it seems like there are a lot of letters and forum questions from really horrible parents. Too many people procreating without stable lives.

    Please support your local Planned Parenthood and other providers of inexpensive contraceptives.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl December 20, 2016, 12:00 pm

    LW – As others have mentioned there is a lot of unpack regarding your relationship with your fiance and your fiance’s relationship with the four children. You do not mention how long you and your fiance have been together but my guess it is far less time than he has been in the lives of his ex’s children. If all three of them call him dad, then it seems that their biological fathers are not in their lives which is heart breaking. Your fiance stood up and took care of these kids despite not being tied to them which is commendable. They obviously have an established pattern and everyone seems to benefit from it. I would say that you should not try to change this relationship unless there is a way it is directly affecting you – say if he is financially supporting them. Also, you say he is less close with his adult biological daughter than the three non-bio children. Was that by choice? Was he a young father who maybe did not have the skills to be a good parent? Was his daughter raised in the same city or state? Does she live nearby now? Going by the timeline, your fiance is at least 40 years old (if he had his daughter at 15), and since you are discussing having a child, I am going to assume that you are far younger. Does your feelings of discomfort come from a belief that he will put the children and his ex before you? I agree with Wendy that you need to address these things before you pursue marriage and a family.

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  • avatar

    Sammi December 21, 2016, 2:04 pm

    He was divorced from his first marriage when his daughter was 2yrs they CO parented,his daughter is still in college and lives Cali while he lives in WV so they rarely see each other quite often.I’m hesitant of having kids with him but he wants us to have a child as soon as we are married.My suspicion about my fiance and his ex is caused by how he is always criticizing her choice of men saying the kids tell him their moms boyfriend is mean..l told him as long as he is in their lives he will make it difficult for their mother to move on as the kids will always be trying to compare their moms boyfriend with him(how he treats them).

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover December 21, 2016, 2:28 pm

      So it’s better for them to not have a good role model, so that they don’t realize when the mom’s boyfriends are treating them like crap? How is that going to improve their lives? Not to mention that they’ll lose a man they love and basically see as a dad. No matter how you cut it, they’re worse off without him.

      And if you’re not 100% sure about having kids with him, then don’t! So what if he wants to? It’s not up to him alone. If you don’t want them, then for god’s sake tell him that. Don’t bring a kid into it and then be all upset at him for still spending time with his other kids. Why on earth would you have a kid with him when you’re so unsure?

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    • avatar

      blink14 December 22, 2016, 8:51 am

      “My suspicion about my fiance and his ex is caused by how he is always criticizing her choice of men saying the kids tell him their moms boyfriend is mean” – this makes NO sense. You’re suspicious about your fiance’s interaction with his ex, because her kids tell him their mother’s boyfriend is mean? Maybe the guy IS mean and your fiance is the only person they can tell. Or maybe they just don’t like the guy and want him gone. The oldest clearly gets at this point that his mother can’t stick to a relationship and makes poor choices.

      Either way, your fiance is involved with these kids on a pretty deep level. As long as his intentions are positive and the kids see him as a father figure, you’re going to have to either suck it up and deal with it, or move on. If you don’t want to handle his baggage, break up with him. I think the guy is trying to do the right thing and be a steady presence for his ex’s kids. If he continues to be involved in their lives, then yes, the ex is going to be around in some manner, and if you truly can’t live with that, this relationship is never going to last long term, not to mention that you are unsure about having kids and he sounds pretty 100% on it.

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