The problem is that I stay with him on the weekends and it becomes uncomfortable. I find their relationship odd. She sends him pictures of herself whenever she’s dressed up. I also find that he will rub her back in the same manner as when he rubs mine. It turns my stomach. I feel like I’m the other woman. I didn’t grow up with a father, so I’m not sure if it’s odd or just my insecurities. — Feeling Second To His Daughter
The details you’ve shared about your boyfriend’s relationship with his daughter don’t sound particularly odd, necessarily – family members share photos with each other from special occasions and physical affection, like hugs, a quick back rub, or peck kisses, can look the same across a variety of relationships (platonic, romantic, familial). What does seem odd and cause for your concern is your boyfriend’s insistence that he can’t bear to live alone, to the point that he’s begging his adult daughter to move in with him and enticing her with free rent. That kind of co-dependency is unhealthy and surely it affects the dynamic of your relationship, no? However, I don’t understand that, if you’ve been together for five years and up until a few months ago your boyfriend’s daughter lived with him, you are suddenly feeling uncomfortable with their relationship now. Has something changed? Have your feelings for your boyfriend changed in general and his relationship with his daughter is an easy justification for that?
Regardless, you need to be honest with yourself about what your needs are and whether this relationship is – or even can – meet them. Then communicate with your boyfriend about what you need and move on if it turns out that a grown man who needs his grown daughter to live with him because he can’t bear being alone is maybe not doing it for you anymore.
Your girlfriend may feel that you’ve enabled your sons to behave irresponsibly or that you haven’t enforced rules enough so that they’re actually followed, which, yes, would be your fault. On the other hand, you and she may simply be incompatible, which is no one’s fault, but still painful when a relationship ends (especially on a bitter or angry note). If you think there are lessons for you to be learned in the ending of this relationship, take them and apply them to your life so that a future relationship with someone you’re compatible with doesn’t suffer the same fate. And maybe as your sons hit their early 20s, it’s time to start nudging them, one by one, out of the nest and letting them fly on their own.
So, in summary: You’ve had multiple breakups with the same guy; he’s in love with another woman; he says you’re crazy and everyone hates you; he neglects you; and he makes you feel bad about yourself. And you’re honestly not sure what you should do? If a close friend of yours told you all this about her boyfriend, I would hope your advice would be to leave him because she’s so clearly unhappy and there’s obviously no future for the relationship, and that’s my advice to you. It’s beyond time to MOA.
Also, for what it’s worth, you say that any “normal, concerned girlfriend” would express to her boyfriend her unhappiness with his talking with his ex, but that isn’t true. Only a girlfriend who feels very threatened and insecure would spend hours begging her boyfriend to stop talking to such a person. By the same token, only someone afraid of being alone would keep going back to a relationship that makes her so profoundly unhappy. Whatever it is you’re trying to hide from in this dysfunctional relationship needs to be dealt with before you’ll ever have a stable and happy relationship, and as long as you keep pouring your energy into some guy who treats you like shit, you’ll continue staying hostage to your personal demons. Dump the boyfriend and slay the demons, sister. It’s the only way out of the purgatory you’ve been living in all these years.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.