“My Girlfriend’s Son Won’t Let Her Spend the Holidays With Me!”

I am in a relationship of four months. By this Christmas it will be nearly six months that we’ve been together. My girlfriend, “Rhonda,” has a son who’s 25 years old. She and her son have had ongoing Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday gatherings with her ex-husband’s family. The ex-husband is present and I understand this year he’s bringing a new girlfriend. I am not invited per Rhonda’s son’s request. I have never met him or ever talked to him, but he knows of me because she and I have visited each other throughout this long-distance relationship.

That her son dictates our relationship and her happiness is very strange to me. I have been told that she is responsible for screwing him up. From what I can tell all she tried to do is have relationships with people. She did remarry and divorce, and she did have a boyfriend whom she split a house with and that didn’t end up well either. But she is acting so guilty and letting this twenty-five-year-old run her life.

How do I tell her that excluding me from probably two of the most important days of the year does not sit well with me? Should I continue the relationship with hopes that next year I will have had enough time and enough presence and maybe the chance to meet Rhonda’s son and win him over or do I terminate our relationship, which by the way would really hurt me, and move on? — Left Out for the Holidays

You’re out of line. First of all, the timeline in a long-distance relationship is sort of like calculating dog years, except in reverse. Four months of a long-distance relationship is like one month of a regular relationship, at least in terms of face-to-face time spent together and the introduction of each other’s family and friends. Case in point: You have not met Rhonda’s son yet. So it’s understandable that he’s not jumping at the idea of you crashing his grandparents’ holiday get-togethers, especially considering that his mom has a history of bad choices in men. Throw in his dad’s new girlfriend and maybe that’s enough new energy to the family dynamic for one holiday season.

Rhonda’s son isn’t dictating shit about her relationship OR her happiness. Rhonda is a grown ass woman! If she really wanted to spend the “two most important days of the year” with you, she would. The fact is, she is prioritizing time with her extended family over time with a new boyfriend she’s probably seen all of a handful of occasions. That doesn’t mean she’s not interested in you or doesn’t think of you as important in her life. It simply means that she’s not interested in sacrificing a tradition with family to spend a holiday with you, someone who’s been in her life a teeny fraction of the time her family has.

Also, she might not think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as “the two most important days of the year.” People prioritize the holidays in different ways. For people who have kids, the holidays are most often about them and the extended family. And it sounds like Rhonda and her ex-husband have figured out a way to honor the family they still share despite having been split up for a long time. That’s obviously very important to them, and the fact that you think Rhonda’s prioritizing of this time and this long-held tradition means she lets her son run her life suggests a real lack of empathy and flexibility on your part, as well as being pretty clueless about how families work.

In all honesty, yeah, I think you should break up with Rhonda and move on — but not for your benefit. I think it would benefit Rhonda to unload a guy who seems to have so little respect for her as a capable grown-up instead of seeing her as some poor little lady who lets all the men in her life railroad her. If you think losing her would hurt too much and you aren’t ready to jump ship just yet, you need to back off and not die on the holiday hill.

Tell Rhonda you’re disappointed that you’ll be apart for Thanksgiving and Christmas but that you understand those are important family occasions for her and that you hope by next year maybe you will be integrated into her life enough to share in some of her family time. In the meantime, there are still lots of dates on the calendar that can be less family-centric and more relationship-focused. For example, why don’t you make plans to ring in the new year together? If you can manage to be more understanding and less me-me-me, the year could even be one worth celebrating.

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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. LW1….you need to respect that your girlfriend wants to spend the holidays with her family….and if they don’t want you there then you need to respect that as well, they are under no obligation to include you….you are coming across as controlling
    LW2….i was dating someone who reminds me of “Bob”….he would show me inappropriate pictures of his daughters and their friends in bikinis that he had saved on his phone….i even caught him with pictures of one of his daughters friends on his phone and he would constantly be on her instagram page (she is a 14 year old girl)….blech! cooty shivers….i dumped that guy and you should dump Bob as well

    1. Anonymous says:

      Accept it and go on a singles holiday while they’re away, after all we should ALL get our needs met ?

  2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW1 Rhonda may be using her son as an excuse to not invite you to the family Christmas. It is much easier to say my son doesn’t want you there than to say I don’t want you there. She might not be ready to ask if she can bring you along. She might be embarrassed to show up with yet another man. Her track record with men hasn’t been good and she must be super aware that the ex’s family will be analyzing any new guy she brings with her. It’s much more difficult to bring your date to your ex’s family gathering than it is to bring your date to your own family gathering. I know that is a lot of speculation but there is generally a lot going on under the surface and people try to say things in a way that doesn’t sting. Blaming the son can be a very convenient dodge.

    How important is it to you that the two of you get together for Christmas? If it is hugely important then break up. If it can slide for a year keep seeing her for now and see if the two of you are still together next Christmas. I don’t see any reason to rush the introduction of a new partner to the extended family, especially your ex’s extended family. Most relationships don’t last so why go through the introductions. Let the relationship grow and see if it will last.

    How long distance are you and Rhonda? Is there any way that she can go to her ex’s family Christmas and see you?

  3. LW1: Wow, you are so impatient! And so clingy! And so controlling! Pull yourself together. One rarely spends Thanksgiving and Christmas with a new boyfriend. I never did that, even with committed boyfriends, before being engaged. So I assume it is even less probable in middle age after several marriages. Let her spend family time with her family, that seems to be the stable part of her life (her son), and organise your holiday with your own family. You have plenty of time to get to know her. Once you know each other really well, once you are confortable with her son, then in a couple of years, maybe you can start with holiday planning as a couple. Why the hurry?
    Anyway, if you figure yourself competing with her son, a 25 years old, you are poised to add you name to the long lists of her bad exes.

  4. LW1: Rhonda picked another dud boyfriend. Her son has every right to veto his mom’s long distance boyfriend of only 4-6 months he’s never met from the family holidays. The fact that at 4 months you feel comfortable telling her how shitty of a mother she’s been is a huge red flag and she needs to run away from you. Ask her to write in please so we can let her know what’s up.

  5. Ele4phant says:

    I didn’t read the whole letter because I read “we’ve been together four months” and was like oh, six months by the holidays is too don’t o expect to spend them with your partner.

    Maybe come over for dessert after, but that’s about it.

    You may not be on the same page as her, you may have a son or an ex problem to contend with later, I don’t know.

    I do know your expectations about how fast you should be moving are too fast though. So let’s start with the things we (you) can control.

  6. I agree that LW#1 hasn’t been in a relationship with his gf long enough to expect to be included at the holidays, but… I find it strange to refer to this as Rhonda choosing to spend time with ‘her family’. Spending time with her son, sure, but this isn’t her family, this is her ex-husband’s family and the ex husband is bringing his new gf, so this isn’t even going to be a focus upon the son and his used-to-be nuclear family. For Rhonda, it is the nuclear family, plus in-laws, and new gf of the father of her son and her ex who preceded her second husband and the guy she bought a house with. It sounds like the dynamic is that son is a lot closer to father and father’s parents than to his mother and views his mother as a serial ruiner of relationships who messed up his birth family, but who can remain in his life under very specific conditions, which mother agrees with to remain in his life.

    Yes, LW is clingy. It’s strange to evaluate the duration of his long-distance relationship from Christmas day perspective, rather than from the date the invitation is extended, which is the pertinent date. Keep going as he is and the relationship will be over before Christmas. This isn’t about a rejection of him, it’s a bout a mother trying to remain in her son’s life.

    LW sounds like he can’t bear to face the possibility of facing the holidays without a gf at his side. Not the most important days of the year, but the days when the loneliness of effective singleness intrudes most. He isn’t sure enough of this LD relationship to view himself as other than effectively single and is using an insistence that Rhonda force his presence at these holiday dinners as a test of the relationship. This is beyond silly. It is clingy and why in the world would herthree-times ago ex in-laws care to invite her new short-term bf to help justify the importance of her latest relationship? They wouldn’t. Nothing Rhonda could say about inclusion of LW would sound other than stupid and selfish. But ex’s new bf is coming? Nope, ex is our son and the woman is our son’s bf, you are here on sufferance because our grandson desire’s your attendance. Work out your relationship on your own time.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      It is probably very awkward to ask the ex in-laws to invite your latest boyfriend to their Christmas gathering.

  7. I’ve walked a mile in this 25 year old son’s shoes, and I completely feel for the guy. My dad is on his fifth marriage (which of course is imploding), and I’m a product of the first. I can’t tell you how many girlfriends and wives I’ve had to deal with. It gets old very fast. In my case, it was either a new woman that I had no interest in getting to know or an established relationship that was on the rocks where we all had to pretend everything was fine. With my dad’s last wife, we all finally enacted a “leave the wife at home” ban after they had gotten back together for the umpteenth time. We were tired of the drama and just didn’t want to deal with it anymore. If this guy has had the same endless drama cycle as well, I can totally understand him saying, ugh mom, no way. You’ve only known this guy for a couple of months, and you barely know him. He’s just not coming this year. I am already dreading the holidays because of my dad’s current marriage situation. He came over two weeks ago to tell me all about how their marriage sucks and why he wants a divorce. Yesterday, it was “oh everything’s now fine.” Yeah, ok. It is not easy to play nice with someone when you know how crazy things are.

    I don’t find anything wrong with the girlfriend wanting to spend time with the ex’s family at the holidays, in fact, it sounds heavenly. It really sucks to have to try to manage to split every holiday up to make everyone happy. If the ex’s family welcomes her, that is a blessing not a curse. I sure wish all my family could come together at the holidays.

    1. Sea witch says:

      You have to wonder who would marry someone that had four previous marriages. That’s a terrible track record. I mean, one divorce could be the result of getting married too young to the wrong person, two divorces could be that the second one was on the rebound, but three or more? You have to wonder if this person is really good spouse material.

      1. Gail Morrison says:

        My husband and I had had several marriages. A few long-term ones and a couple that I call “Legal Sleepovers.” When we married I don’t really think either of us had any idea that this marriage would last either. I was told right from the beginning that I would never be accepted as part of his family. But we started out on our new adventure. That was 40 years ago and we are still together. The odds were against us, but we worked at our marriage and made it work, day by day, year by year. We have never been the “Brady Bunch.” My children introduces us as “my mother and her husband.” His daughter believes that I broke up her parents’ home, even though he was divorced when I met him and both lived in different cities. We have had difficult times, but the two of us are a family now. One can make it work, even if they both have a checkered past. Good luck to them.

  8. LW1. This is not her holiday celebration to invite people. She is a guest. She asked and was told no. She is NOT the host and can’t invite you. But giving you the benefit of the doubt, she seems to be too much drama. She should have just straight up told you that the holidays are for family and we have not been together long enough l. Sorry, maybe next year. Also, if this is the most important day of the year, why aren’t you with your family? Why do you want to spend the most important days of the year with someone that you have known for 4 months?

  9. LW1. I think it’s highly inappropriate that you think that you should be spending the holidays with her this early on. You two can celebrate Christmas together on a day that’s NOT Christmas, that’s easy. Are you alone otherwise on Thanksgiving? Do you just want her to cook you a bunch of food? Why do you think you should be invited to the family celebration?

    Even when i was with someone for FIVE YEARS we went to our own separate family celebrations and did our own thing on different days.

  10. Sea witch says:

    “From what I can tell all she tried to do is have relationships with people. She did remarry and divorce, and she did have a boyfriend whom she split a house with and that didn’t end up well either.”
    So, in his relatively short life, he’s had to deal with his parents divorce, his mother’s second divorce, and the implosion of her long relationship with a live-in boyfriend. Is it any wonder he’s reluctant to get to know Mom’s latest catch? He was probably too young to live on his own when she had these relationships.

    Divorced people certainly have a right to have relationships, but they really shouldn’t drag their children into them.

  11. Sea witch says:

    So, LW2 has been with “Bob” for six years, during which he constantly comments on her niece’s appearance. Has he really has been doing this since the kid was two years old? Yes, that’s a bit creepy.

    1. So I feel like I know people who comment about the future dates of little kids. Like “She is going to be a heart breaker”. My son is exceptionally cute. Everyone comments about how cute he is or how he is a ladies man. He is 3. We actually have behavior issues because he knows this and he will tell you no and give a huge smile and walk away. Adults just laugh and let it happen. It is bizarre because I was not treated this way growing up but the world treats my son differently because of this.

  12. dinoceros says:

    LW1: I missed the part about being long-distance and I still thought it was way too soon for you to butt your way into her holidays. Your attitude seems to be, “Her son needs to stop controlling her life so I can control it instead.” She’s an adult, and if she chooses to spend the holidays with family instead of a dude she barely knows, that’s her decision.

    I’m honestly a little surprised you don’t already have people you spend the holidays with. Maybe finding some independence or making some new friends/reconnecting with family might be good for you.

    1. dinoceros says:

      LW2: Does your family know that you bring a guy around your niece who you think could be a pedophile? Yikes. That’s pretty messed up that you hear him say this stuff, find it bizarre, and … simply keep dating him while you try to push it out of your head that maybe he’s a creep. Not just that you’re willing to expose your niece to him, but that your standards are that low. Have you ever asked him why he says that ? Told him he’s creepy? In a 6-year relationship, you should be able to speak up if you think he’s being weird.

  13. Anonymous says:

    LW1 You have never even met her son. You are only in a long distance relationship. You are not family. Sorry, but you are wrong here. It sucks, but that’s life. If you truly care about this woman you stick with her through this and you work to move near her and you also work to get to know her son and love him too. These things take time…you don’t know her or any of her family members. Why not? This is something you need to fix…get to know everyone and become a part of her family. It sounds like you don’t care much about this and you sound angry at her son who has done nothing wrong except not want a total stranger (who in his mind is most likely temporary) around over the holiday. If you knew her son and had a relationship with him and with other family members everyone would most likely feel differently.

  14. Her son is more important then you so she should spend time with her son and not you.

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