“My Boyfriend Is Unemployed, Lives With His Parents, and Has Two Kids to Support”


I have been reading your letters for months and I appreciate and admire how much you’ve helped people and I hope you can help me. I am 23 years old and live with my parents and am currently in a relationship with the love of my life who is 28 and also lives with his parents. I truly adore my boyfriend, and I think he feels the same way. It’s just that his life is sort of a mess right now. He has two children with two different women, one of whom has passed away. He loves his kids very much, but he doesn’t have enough money to support them. He and I are both in school, and both his kids are in different states.

Our past isn’t pretty at all — he emotionally abused me, and only one time, it got physical between us. Because of all our fighting, his parents stopped allowing me to visit him at their place. But we worked hard and now we’re MUCH closer and have come a long way, and our goal is to move in together. He needs to get a job first, and find affordable housing (I wouldn’t pay rent since I wouldn’t actually live there). He will soon get into a court-ordered program that I hope will give him the help he needs, and since he was in the Navy, the VA can help him with therapy and maybe finding a job. In the meantime, we hang out in public places and he’s been sneaking me into his parents’ house. Yesterday we got caught, and now he feels like we have nowhere to go until we get a place of our own.

I want us to be living together by next year, so we can have his daughter with us, and keep moving our relationship forward. Do you see that happening? We have a strong connection, and we love each other very deeply. We have our issues, but we definitely are working on them. What do you think will happen to us? — We’ve Come a Long Way

You’re 23 years old and in love with an unemployed guy who has two kids he can’t support and a history of abusing you, and possibly a criminal past (I’m assuming, if he’s entering a “court-ordered program”) and you honestly think it’s a good idea to “move things forward” with him? No, it’s actually a terrible idea. You may think you’ve done a lot of work on your relationship and have come a long way — and maybe you have — but neither of you is anywhere near ready to play house and act as parent figures to at least one child. (And is this the child who lost her mother? If so, her emotional needs will be even greater than the average young child.)

Your boyfriend may be the love of your life (though at 23, you certainly have a lot of life left to aim a little higher…), but he comes with super heavy baggage he hasn’t even begun to unpack. And he’s abusing you on top of that? Oh, honey, no. This is not where you want to be at your age. This is not what you want your life to look like. And, frankly, he has much bigger things he should be working on than your relationship. Like, you know, finding a way to support himself and the two children he’s fathered. Once he’s able to do that, and he has his own place, and he’s held down a job for a year, and he’s finished all his court-ordered programs, and he has gotten some therapy (including addressing his anger management issues), THEN you can talk about building a future together. But… something tells me your boyfriend doesn’t even want those things. Has he shown any motivation AT ALL in taking responsibility for himself? Does he show any interest, beyond having a private place for the two of you to have sex, in actually being an adult? Nowhere in your letter do you indicate that he has.

If I were you, I’d MOA. I’d have moved on so fucking fast that I’d be seeing a chiropractor for my whiplash. This guy’s waving enough red flags that I can see them from my little block here in Brooklyn. He is not currently relationship material. He’s not father material either, for that matter. But the advantage you have that his poor kids don’t is that you can find better. I hope you will.


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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.


  1. artsygirl says:

    LW – I am sure that you did not like the advice Wendy gave you, but it is seriously completely right. Perhaps your BF is the love of your life, but neither of you are in a place to pursue this relationship. He needs to get his life straightened out – an unemployed father of two with a criminal record has WAY too much on his plate to split his attention to maintain a relationship. You do not say how long you have been in this relationship, but considering that it has been rocky (again you do not say how long ago the verbal and physical abuse happened), means that this is likely a relationship that needs to end. If you are truly meant to be with this man then you need to end the relationship and hope that you can get back together when you are both in more stable situations.

  2. What Wendy said. He is not relationship material at the moment and needs to focus on getting to a better place for his children first. Then if that is even possible, he can focus on a relationship in the future. You’re 23, focus on yourself and finishing school. Eventually you will find someone who you have an even better connection with without all of the issues this one has.

  3. “Lord, if you don’t want me to be with this man, just give me a sign….” [Lightning crashes, thunder rolls, cats and wolves howl, the earth trembles, the ground cracks open and a plague of locusts flies up out of the yawning mouth of hell. Also, her FB status supernaturally updates to “It’s complicated.”] “Just any kind of sign….” The funny part of this column was when Wendy said the LW had time left to “aim a little higher.” Um, yeah, ditto.

    1. absurdfiction says:

      Ha! Yes, all this. LW, you know this is a mess. Don’t waste your 20s on a loser. And if that sounds harsh, I meant it to be. He is a loser. If you were to sit down and write a list of the qualities of your Dream Man, would it read: “Abusive, unemployed, deadbeat dad with a criminal record”?? That’s literally what you’re working with.

  4. What….the…fuck. No. Just no. Move on, find something else to fill your time. This cannot and will not end well. You need to get out of this relationship, work on finishing school and maybe do some reflection on why you think this is even close to ok. You seem perfectly fine with the whole emotional and physical abuse and the fact that this man has 2 children he isn’t currently supporting in any way. Even his parents are trying to protect you, but you don’t see it. And since you probably either won’t follow Wendy’s advice or won’t follow it right away – MAKE SURE YOU ARE USING BIRTH CONTROL. Make it 2 forms. Just in case. The last thing you need to bring into this situation is another child.

  5. anonymousse says:

    Oh boy. Everyone has it pretty much covered. One tip: if you or your SO has to keep you a secret…it’s not good. Time to move on! And to answer your question…I think what will happen if you keep seeing him…perhaps multiple forms of abuse, possibly a restraining order win police involvement, maybe a charge of trespassing against you…no good things.

  6. dinoceros says:

    Part of being an adult is that you have to understand that love and a great connection are not always enough. Who cares if you feel warm fuzzies about him if he’s emotionally abusive and cannot function as an adult? You can have those nice feelings AND have someone who is successful and kind. Purposefully saying that you’d prefer just to have the connection and not any practical things is ridiculous.

  7. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    Everyone above is right and telling you what you need to hear. As dinoceros said you can fall in love with someone who isn’t good for you.
    You can fall in love with someone who will destroy your life. You can fall in love with someone who will emotionally and physically abuse you. You can fall in love with someone who can never support himself. You can fall in love with someone who can’t support his own children.
    Most of us have fallen in love with the wrong guy, a guy who can’t be trusted or depended on or can’t hold a job or who is too immature and irresponsible. The one thing we know is that you can break up and you can move on and you can have a much better relationship. After I broke up with my irresponsible, cheating boyfriend I met my husband. He’s a man I can respect and trust and love much more than the other love. I can also depend on him to hold down a job and pay bills and be there as a dad for his kids. If you are picky about who you choose to allow into your life you can have that, you can have everything but in order to have everything you have to run away from this disaster of a relationship. If you do, sometime you’ll thank yourself and count yourself lucky.

  8. LW, this guy’s problems are too big for you. You can’t save him.
    There’s a tendency, when you’re young, to be drawn to these crisis-every-other-week relationships. To mistake drama and fighting for “passion”, or some sort of great, epic, love. They’re not. What you have is a disastrously bad, dysfunctional relationship that’s going to screw up both of your lives.
    You haven’t met “the love of your life” yet. When you do, that relationship won’t look anything like the one you have now. It won’t be full of fighting and abuse and ‘issues’ and court-ordered programs and having to sneak around to see each other. That’s not what real love looks like.
    Cmon, you know this is bad. This isn’t how love is supposed to be. It’s so bad ever his parents are trying to protect you and keep you out of his life.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      You know it is really bad when a man who is 28 has to sneak out to meet his girlfriend as if he is 14.
      @LW When he can see you openly, like an adult man, then you could consider seeing him. He is sneaking around because he is stuck in a juvenile, boyish pattern. He hasn’t grown up. He may have children to support but he isn’t an adult yet and he probably never will be.
      A relationship where the two of you can’t be together in the same house because you can’t get along well enough to be civil is a disaster of a relationship. Take his parents word for it, the two of you don’t belong together.

    2. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      Essie, beautifully stated.
      LW, you had me at “I truly adore my boyfriend, and I think he feels the same way.” REALLY? You are willing to take on this PROJECT of a relationship- and you THINK (or hope? more likely) he feels the same way about you?!?!? Holy mother-living-h*ll, you have some wrong wrong wrong priorities. The fact that you two have this drama-rama relationship at your ages is… well, it is pretty sad. This isnt the Montagues and Capulets feuding (btw I think Romeo and Juliet WERE actually like 13-14 years old- the appropriate age that mommy and daddy can dictate who you see and dont see and let in the house). You know what is awesome? When you dont think of your relationship as something you “fight” for. When there isnt a COURT-ORDERED program involved. When there arent two children who arent being provided for. <– So, pretty much everything that this "relationship" of yours is not. Because it is not awesome, it is not fun, you dont want to be your best person because of your partner because of it. So get out of it. Like, yesterday. I guarantee you that stepping off this rollercoaster will change your life (for the better).

  9. If your boyfriend’s daughter lost her mother, why on earth is she not living with him? If that by itself was not enough to make him grow up, take responsibility, and care for his daughter, what makes you think you have any chance of ‘moving your relationship forward’?

    Sorry, your love (and the awesome sex) is not enough to make a relationship work. MOA and aim higher.

    1. RedRoverRedRover says:

      Exactly. If a child only has one parent, something has to be seriously wrong with that parent in order for him to not have custody. Clearly he didn’t sign away his rights, if he’s being required to support her. So, why doesn’t he have custody? And what’s this court-ordered program? I get the feeling he’s a drug addict, and that wasn’t mentioned because it would turn us off. Well, look at the comments. It doesn’t take drugs to see that this isn’t the right relationship for you.

      1. snoopy128 says:

        A domestic violence charge can be enough to stop him from getting custody (thank you HONY today). So if he is in a court ordered program for something, that something may be barring his custody.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      I’m assuming that she is living with him at his parent’s house. If someone other than himself had custody he wouldn’t be able to take her to live with him when/if he gets his own place.

      1. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        “He and I are both in school, and both his kids are in different states.”

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I assumed she meant different states from each other. If someone else has custody there is no way that they will allow the dad to take the girl to live with him. He is so unstable. So you are all assuming that the mother’s family has the girl. I assumed it was the dad and she was living with him at his parent’s house. It doesn’t clarify either way. I hope you’re right and she is living with her mom’s family.

      3. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        Oh geez, I didn’t even think of that. Man, I hope I am right too. That girl needs to be in a way more stable situation.

  10. wait! so his parents don’t allow YOU to be in their house? why? do they know HE is the abusive one? maybe they have your back on not allowing you in, I bet they don’t want grandchild #3

    1. Maybe they are trying to protect her. Or,they’re trying to help him get his life on track, and this trainwreck of a romance is making everything worse.
      Or, they’re just sick to death of having screaming and fighting in their home.

  11. I’ve been thinking about this all day and it just keeps pissing me off. WHY do girls/women think like this? Why is this treatment acceptable to them and its still the “love of their life”?? I don’t understand. It makes me sad and angry and I just want to shake her.

    1. It’s ‘Twilight’ syndrome. Doomed romance, star-crossed lovers, I’m the only one who can save him, etc. It’s irresistible. And a few years later, after he’s utterly crushed your spirit, you look back and wonder what the hell you were thinking.

      1. Ugh I just don’t get it. Then again, I’ve never read Twilight (but understand the basis of it). It just infuriates me. My mom taught me better than that and I guess in some naïve portion of my brain I expect everyone to have been taught the same.

    2. Cherlyn Chong says:

      It’s like this:

      A lot of women idolise and idealise love. I blame media, fairytales and all the chick flicks from ten years ago.

      You will also find that a lot of these issues stem from childhood. Issues of abandonment, negligent parenting and abuse really have an effect on the self-esteem, and some women grow up thinking that this is the best they can get.

      No one taught them how to stand up for themselves. No one taught them that love isn’t supposed to be abusive or physical. No one taught them that the relationship that they want is supposed to be much easier than this.

      You’ll find that many women stay because they think the guy can be persuaded to change, because they see the “good side” of him. A woman like this will say “He can be really loving, kind, gentle and considerate… and if he was loved enough by me, all the bad stuff will go away.”

      No one taught them that it doesn’t work like that and that people don’t change like that.

      A lot of women are not of the “independent strong” type. You just don’t hear their voices on the internet.

      It’s all well and good to tell them to “get your shit together”, but honestly, when women think so lowly of themselves like this, they more or less latch on to men who show them the slightest bit of affection.

      It’s not this girl’s fault that she got into this. She really didn’t know any better. However, if she doesn’t learn a good lesson from this, it’s going to be completely her fault.

  12. I’m suspecting that she left out the part where the boyfriend has serious problems with either mental illness or substance abuse. It would explain why, at 28, he’s unemployed, living with his parents, not able to take care of his children, is looking into getting therapy from the VA and is in some sort of court-ordered program.

  13. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    Is “Do you see us living together within a year?” really your only question?
    If so… maybe. I think a better question would be “Should I keep trying to make this clearly dysfunctional relationship work?”
    The answer to that, as everyone else has stated, would be NO. Run. Run as far away as you can from this whole situation.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      There are so many things that must happen for them to be together in one year that the answer is highly unlikely. The odds are that he will still be living with his parents in one year and in two years and in five years. Of course, if he gets arrested and spends time in jail or prison then he’ll be away from his parents

      1. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        See, that I’m not sure about. It doesn’t actually take much beyond some minor motivation and a willingness to take advantage of someone else (namely, in this case, the LW I think) to move out of your parents’ place.
        That’s why I said maybe. If they made moving in together their top priority, beyond him actually being able to support the children he fathered, or finishing school, or getting a job that could actually lead to stability and independence, they could *absolutely* be living together within a year. A couple minimum wage jobs and they could have their very own private place to have sex.
        It’s just that everything would still be terrible, he would be even less able to support his children than he is now, he would still have all existing mental health issues, etc. etc. because moving in together fixes nothing.

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I’m assuming that if he is 28 and unable to support his children and he needs mental health help and he has court orders he won’t be able to put that all in order enough to become independent of his parents. He hasn’t managed any of that to date and he seems to need to get all of that together. If he has a volatile temper he will have trouble holding a job.

      3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I agree that moving in together would fix nothing. They would be able to fight nonstop. I assume that sooner or later the police would be called because of domestic violence.

  14. laurahope says:

    If this letter is real (and I’ hoping it’s not), then you don’t need advice; you need therapy. You’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you. But if you think this is what you have to settle for, something (or someone) in your life crushed your self-esteem. Therapy can help you get to the source, rebuild and enjoy your life.

  15. “Do you see us moving in together in a year?” Sadly, yes. Yes, I can.
    Here is what it will be like: he won’t be working; he will still have anger issues; you will fight all the time; he will be verbally and eventually physically abusive to you again; slowly, you will lose all support from your family and friends because this trainwreck is too hard for them to watch; money will be tight; you will be solely responsible for paying the bills, maintaining the house and childcare – whether his kid or the one you will inevitably have; and you will be lonely, sad, resentful and miserable. And that’s the best case scenario.
    Or, you could break up, go through the mourning process, heal and by this time next year be dating someone who has a job, doesn’t live with his parents, doesn’t have 2 kids he cannot support, has never abused you, whose parents welcome you into their home, who is on the same page emotionally as you, and who makes you happy. Because, let’s face it, you aren’t happy with this guy – you’re just scared to be alone.

    1. anonymousse says:

      Your first sentence-pure gold.
      Let’s hope she chooses the second option.

      1. anonymousse says:

        Err, paragraph?

  16. Monkeysmommy says:

    I didn’t even have to finish this letter to know what my response would be, but I did anyway. Now I am just shaking my head. What is WRONG with you, OP?! Why would you even WANT this loser?? Because that’s what he is- a loser. People may disagree, but I see something terribly wrong with a man who lives at home at age 28- frankly, you’re pushing it at 23 for me. But back to him- let’s take a moment to assess- he has two kids, one who has a deceased mother. Based on what you are saying, the child whose mother passed doesn’t live with him either, so now we have this poor little girl who has no parents because her dad is a loser who can’t or won’t take care of her. This statement alone should tell you what you are working with here.
    Jobs- he has none, which means he cannot support all these kids he’s created. He’s in school, you say? Cool. Me too. Except, I work full time also, because I have kids to feed and support.
    He abuses you? Strike three, he’s done. Not that he needs three strikes, any one of these above is sufficient grounds for lacing up those Nikes and running like hell.
    Look, LW, I know you are young and think you know it all. But this guy is bad news. No, you aren’t going to live together next year; not unless you get a job, get the place, and pay allll the bills. Then he may consider it, if only to get some ass regularly without mommy walking in. His daughter is never going to live with you, either. I assume the deceased mom has family who is raising her, and I feel certain that anyone with half a brain wouldn’t surrender a child to this loser. I would be shocked if he wanted to raise her. It doesn’t sound like he is terribly motivated for anything. Do yourself a favor and get out now, before he has three kids he cannot support.

    1. anonymousse says:


      And if you did live with him, you’d probably be doing all the house chores and cooking, too! Fun!

  17. Combine this letter with the letter from the almost 21 year old earlier this week and I am depressed. Why are so many young ladies settling for such crappy dudes straight out of the gate??? It’s a big world! You have your whole life to settle for something less than you deserve. Don’t start so young, people!

    Also, WWS times a million!

    1. You should check out my similar rant/post in the advice forum where the girls and I talk all about this. -__-

  18. And here we are again; a question to which the answer to is so obvious that it is kicking LW right in the head but she is totally ignoring it.
    Leave him and work on yourself. It seems that you have some low self esteem issues since you are hanging on so tightly to a hot effing mess. Just stop! Do not date for a WHOLE year! And then when you do start to date again do not follow the same path and date men with the same characteristics or problems you did before or you will wind up right back here with another headache. Do the things you like and look for balanced, well rounded men without so much baggage and a job.

  19. NO. No no no no no no. You do NOT work on a relationship where you have been abused. You RUN.

  20. Janett Andersen says:

    At first I think this was a prank! I work for the child support agency in my state & sadly see some similiar versions of this scenario on a daily basis. When you read your own words do you not see the problems here? There must be a voice somewhere in your head that tells you to RUN! Listen to that voice. What do your friends and family say? I’m guessing/hoping they tell you to run. I’m concerned for you that you find ANYTHING about this man/situation a good idea, that your standards are so, so low. I’m guessing your own childhood was difficult, so maybe you don’t realize you deserve better. Consider meeting with a therapist to discuss why you would even consider this in any way at all a good, smart move for you and your life.

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