“After Two Years, His Kids Still Don’t Know About Me”

My boyfriend of two years and I have been discussing moving in together in a couple months, yet he still denies my existence to his ex. His children have gone through his phone and seen pictures of me and asked him outright if I was his girlfriend, and he has said: “Oh, she’s just my friend.” His ex asks him if he is dating me and he says no. He is not divorced yet but is legally separated, as am I. He still pays all the bills at his ex’s house and she is still on a joint bank account.My boyfriend has met my family and even spent Thanksgiving with us, but his children don’t know my name. I have expressed the pain I feel and that I don’t want to be a dirty little secret, and he gets mad that I bring it up. I don’t see why we can’t all get ice cream together or go to the mall. I also cannot in good conscience move into a home with this man until his kids know about me. It’s fair to the kids to meet me after it’s become so serious that we are buying a home and planning a wedding.

It’s not just the kids, either. My boyfriend has told his siblings about me, but I haven’t met anyone in his family and am not allowed to meet them. Aside from this issue, he makes me so unbelievably happy. I don’t want to lose what we have, but I also can’t be his dirty little secret. I’m so lost! — His Dirty Little Secret

You may be unbelievably happy with your boyfriend “aside from this issue,” but when the issue is feeling like “a dirty little secret,” you’re setting the bar pretty low for happiness. The truth is, your boyfriend is the secret. And he wants to keep it that way. He wants you to be separate from his real life so that you can function as an escape for him – from whatever it is he’s hiding you from. This isn’t what love looks like.

In a happy, functional relationship, your partner would want to share his life with you, not hide it from you, not hide you from it. Take a step back here and look through a wider lens. You can’t possibly be considering moving in with someone – marrying someone! – who doesn’t want to introduce you to his kids? How can you feel like you even know him when you don’t know him as a father to his kids? This isn’t what love looks like.

You deserve more than you’re getting from this relationship, and your boyfriend doesn’t even pretend that you’ll ever get anything more than this from him. I hope you will reconsider the future you’re dreaming of with this man, expand your idea of what happiness can look like, and then give yourself the gift of space to pursue it.

I am an 87-year-old woman. My daughter’s son and daughter-in-law had their firstborn son’s Bris last week, and I was not able to make it. I always feel quite shaky and have lack of stamina, so I really only leave my house for an occasional doctor’s appointment. My grandson knows that I am not functioning well. When the baby – my third great-grandchild – was born, I phoned the parents to wish them good luck. I then wrote two beautiful, well-intentioned emails to my grandson, telling him and his wife that I would not attend the Bris. He ignored them.I phoned my daughter to wish her and her husband Mazel Tov after the Bris, and I told her I was going to call my grandson and wish his family good luck, too. Her response was that I should hold off calling because my grandson was very upset with me. So I did not phone. I sent a very generous gift after my daughter told me the baby’s name.

My question: Should my grandson have behaved in that manner? — Well-Intentioned Great-Grandma

No, your grandson should not have behaved in the manner that he did. He’s being a jerk to you. Things happen and sometimes people have to miss important occasions no matter how much they might like to be there. My own parents couldn’t attend my son’s bris twelve years ago not because they didn’t want to but because they were living in a different country and had scheduling conflicts. (They were able to meet their grandson a couple months later over the holidays.) My grandparents, whom I adored, weren’t able to make my wedding a couple years before that because it was a long distance from them and they were no longer able to travel. While I missed them, it didn’t even occur to me to be offended about these absences. We figured out different ways for them to be included in the happy occasions and all was fine.

These aren’t rare scenarios. Life gets in the way of even our best intentions, and sometimes we cannot be physically present for important events. When that happens, we hope that the people who love us will understand, extend compassion, and maybe even, if we’re lucky, reaffirm our connection through kind words or gestures. Physical presence is just one way to support someone. I’m sorry your grandson seems to be ignoring the other ways you’ve expressed your love and support. But I hope, if only for your own heart, you will cut him some slack this time and remember how exhausting parenting a newborn is and how jarring that overnight transition can be from expecting a baby to suddenly raising one.

Hopefully, in time, as sleep becomes less rare for your grandson, he will remember his manners and reach out to you with an apology or at least a phone call to say hello. In the meantime, Mazel Tov on your third great-grandchild, and best wishes for a peaceful Hanukkah.

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


  1. LisforLeslie says:

    LW #1
    I see two huge problems that aren’t being addressed:
    1. You are planning a wedding but he isn’t divorced.
    2. He has outright lied to his children. How do you think they’ll react when they finally get the truth?
    You deserve better.

    When was the last time you saw your grandson? Is he aware that you are more frail and have more health challenges now? There is a difference between knowing that you have health issues and really understanding it. Ask your daughter to intercede on your behalf and explain that the grandma he grew up with is has balance issues and you were very worried about falling or having a health event that would take one moment away from the bris. See if someone can help you video chat to see the baby and send a nice Hannukah gift. Also, see if your daughter can bring you over for some together time that is less busy.

  2. It’s not just LW1’s BF that isn’t divorced yet. LW1 isn’t, either. This relationship is going nowhere good, LW1. Cut your losses before you sink even more time into this mess.

    LW2, I’m sorry your grandson is being a jerk to you. If this is an aberration, then chalk it up to the newborn haze and reach out again. If this is a pattern, though, then maybe you should rethink how generous and close you want to be with your grandson. Ignoring your emails congratulating them and expressing you’re unable to attend the Bris is rude. But did they also ignore your gift? You don’t say, but if so, that’s even more rude.

  3. LW#1 — Please don’t move in with him. That will make everything even more awkward — will his kids never visit or will you be asked to absent yourself when they do? He is behaving like a man who wants to reconcile with his wife, knows he has small chance, but doesn’t want to burn that hope by making you visible. You don’t seem like his #1 non-kid priority. Are you sure that he is actively moving along in a legal process toward divorce? Are you in the actual legal process of divorce and pushing forward. Consider complete MOA but if that is too extreme for you, at least don’t tie yourself closer to him until you are visible in his other world.

  4. To see the baby and receive a lovely Hannukah gift, see if someone can assist you with a video chat. Additionally, ask your daughter to bring you over for a less hectic time spent together.

  5. LW1: He LIES to his kids. If he lies to avoid something uncomfortable THAT is his MO. He will lie to you to avoid something uncomfortable like maybe he isn’t as separated as you think he is. Refuse to be someone’s dirty little secrete. Also make a clean break with your husband and get that divorce finalized before you get so heavily involved with someone going forward.

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