“My Boyfriend Spends Too Much Time With His Dad”

My boyfriend “Greg” and I are both in our early thirties and have been dating exclusively for a little more than a year. He’s very close with his family, which initially I liked since I’m close with my family as well. However, lately I’m growing concerned that Greg puts his relationship with his father before our relationship. He and I live about an hour apart and we work different shifts during the week, so we often only see each other on the weekends. I’ve gotten irritated before when he makes plans with his father, whom he lives 10 minutes from, on the weekends since that’s the only time we have together.

Greg’s birthday came after we had been dating about 10 months. I asked him in advance if he had plans, and he said he didn’t, so we discussed the possibility of going out to dinner, even though his birthday fell on a weeknight, which again tends to be a difficult time for us to meet up. But I love him and wanted to share his special day. Two days before his birthday I called him to discuss plans in more detail, and he told me he’d already made plans with his father, who was going to cook him dinner. I wasn’t invited. I was upset, but again I felt that I was being selfish to resent his father wanting to spend his birthday with him so I told Greg we would celebrate that weekend.

That weekend, Greg’s father invited us over for another birthday celebration. We went. Greg and I had plans to visit a local vineyard afterwards, and his dad invited himself and his stepmother along on the trip. When we got back to his parent’s house, Greg told me we would go inside for just a minute, so he could help his father with something on the computer. “Just a minute” turned into two hours of Greg and his dad upstairs working on increasing web traffic for an online business his dad started while his stepmother and I talked downstairs.

Greg and I recently went through a rough patch which lasted several weeks. We agreed to take a break until we figured out what we wanted from the relationship and if we wanted to stay together. Last weekend, we got together and talked about our issues. We agreed that we love and like each other enough to continue moving toward a future together. I was happy with the way things went, and looking forward to resuming our relationship. However, the following weekend, after returning from a work trip, he made plans with his dad instead of me and said that we’d see each other the following weekend.

I know that I’m too emotionally involved in this to see the situation objectively, so I’m asking for some guidance. Am I being unreasonable for being hurt and angry about all this? — Fed Up with Coming in Second

First of all, this isn’t an issue about Greg spending too much time with his dad; this is about Greg not spending as much time with you as you’d like and you not feeling like you’re the priority in his life you need to be at this point in your relationship. Those are the issues you need to focus on when you talk with Greg (and you HAVE to talk to him — you have to tell him how you’re feeling; you can’t expect him to read your mind). Leave his dad out of this because, if you don’t, you risk alienating the father and putting Greg in a position where he may feel pressured to defend his relationship with his dad, or prove that you’re just as important to him as his dad is, or, worse, explain why maybe you AREN’T as important to him as his dad, which is awkward.

No, this is really only about the two of you and how your needs aren’t being met. You want more time with Greg. You want to feel important to him — important enough that, say, you’d be included in birthday plans, especially if you were willing to make the commute to see him. Frankly, it’s a little odd that after after ten months together, rather than tell your boyfriend that you’d like to take him out for his birthday, you asked whether he’d made plans yet, as if you already expected him to be doing something without you.

Honestly, from everything you’ve said, it seems you need to have a state-of-the-union talk and make sure you’re on the same page. You think you’re serious, exclusive, and have a future together. You need to see if that’s what Greg thinks too, and, if it is, you have to let him know that you need him to invest a bit more in the relationship and for you that means more time.

You may also want to decide for yourself how long you’re willing to wait for things to change. A month? Two months? Six? You should have a point in the not-TOO-distant future when you reassess and decide whether, after explicitly asking for what you want, your needs are being met adequately enough to continue with the relationship.

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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. WWS. LW, the problem with relationships that are long distance but not too long distance is that you do the every weekend thing. My sister is doing this with her fiance and they are back and forth every weekend. It is hard because she wants to make her fiance the priority but she loses out on seeing anyone else over the weekend. It is such a bummer. You are expecting every weekend to be with you and maybe sometimes he wants to just hang with his family alone or see friends. Is there nowhere to meet between you during the week? I think you guys are getting bogged down in the details of this relationship and you need to shake things up.

  2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    Breaks are BS. Either bite the bullet and break up or don’t.

    1. Not only did they take a break, they got back together because “We agreed that we love and like each other enough to continue moving toward a future together.”

      Maybe it’s semantics, but if I heard “I like you well enough so hey, why not be together?” from my boyfriend, I would seriously reconsider the relationship. I kind of want someone to really want to be with me.

      LW, I think you’re selling yourself short.

      1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Right? The whole tone is so “mehhhhh.” Who wants to be in a relationship with someone they “like enough”? Personally, I want a heck of a lot more passion.

    2. lets_be_honest says:

      I think reevaluating while staying quasi-together is ok. I think it works for some couples. I don’t think it works if you have all the “rules” of being broken up (ok to see others, for example). I’d rather a couple be on a break to reevaluate than be one of those on and off all the time couples.

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        I’ve never done it but I can see how it would be helpful to some people. I often need space and it’s hard to get it when you live together – but I can imagine how it would be nice to take a break if it just involved little contact for a few weeks while each party cleared their head. It’s hard to decide what you want when you’re constantly in communication with the person. If it’s to see other people then they should just break up.

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        The way you described it is just how I was thinking it could work when I wrote my comment. I could see that working for me if I was having issues in my relationship, but wasn’t sure I wanted to call it quits.

      3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        yeah, I get what you mean. To me “break” implies that you are free to do as you please. I’m sure other people define it differently.

    3. kerrycontrary says:

      OK, it could just be me and my circle of friends (although I’ve met quite a few people through college, grad school, and work experience). But I don’t know ONE couple who have broken up/gone on a break that has lasted long-term. Everyone I know who has broken up and gotten back together has broken up again. Usually within 3 months.

      1. I agree that most “breaks” become permanent. However, I think it depends on the reasons for taking a break and the age/maturity of the couple. A college couple taking a break for the summer before their senior year can totally work (I’ve witnessed its success) versus, say, a couple 30 somethings trying to decide whether or not it’s even worth continuing. By age 30, if you need a “break” to decide if your 1+ year relationship is worth the effort, it’s probably not.

      2. AllisonExclaims says:

        Side note. Bf (now fiance) & I took a break for a month a year ago. Thanks to Dan Savage, we set very specific parameters & discussed the point of taking the break/what we wanted to get out of it. So we used it as a tool & it worked well for us. The reasons for the break all stemmed from poor communication (what we have here is a failure to communicate!) hehe. So it was a really rough time & sucks that it had to happen, but it’s something that we learned from & how to do better next time around; or rather so there won’t be a next time. Just my 2 cents on the break topic. What works for some relationships doesn’t work for everyone else though!

    4. I agree! I don’t believe in breaks…and honestly, this guy doesn’t sound that into LW.

      The issue isn’t with the dad, as Wendy pointed out–it’s with the guy himself. The “dad” character could be interchanged for anyone else; a friend, a cousin, a smurf. The point is that her boyfriend is blowing her off and it’s not likely to change. While that stinks, it’s likely just time for LW MOA and find a guy who really wants to spend a lot of time with her.

  3. kerrycontrary says:

    WWS, you need to have a come to jesus talk and see where this relationship stands and where its going. You are both in your 30s. Do you want kids? Do you want to get married in the near future? It’s time to figure that stuff out for yourself and make sure you are with someone who wants the same things. I also think that clearly one or both of you will need to move closer, which will most likely involve changing jobs. Have you discussed who will be the one to move? If you lived closer, or with each other, you could see each other all the time during the week and then he could hang out with his dad sometimes on the weekends. I think if you sort out some of these practicalities and figure out and end date for this sort-of-long-distance things would be a lot easier. You’ve been together a year, it’s not too early to bring this stuff up.

  4. WWS.

    replace greg’s dad with anything else- a video game, his job, hell even DW for some us here… his dad isnt the problem, his dad is the scapegoat you are assigning the problem to- the relationship and the manner in which you two conduct yourselves within it is the real problem.

    1. WKS. I was in a relationship a couple years ago a lot like yours LW. Everyone had priority before me: parents, friends etc.. People he saw way more often than me anyways and I was never invited to partake in those get togethers. It was “oh sorry can’t get together tonight going over to my parents for dinner” and then no invite for me to join him or “going to a party” and didn’t want me to come because I didn’t know anyone-which is because he never brought me!.

      Anyways, I felt like such a b**** complaining that he spent more time with his friends and family then me – I mean they were his friends and family. But then I realized that the problem was that he was actively choosing not to spend time with me. I always felt second fiddle and whether he believed that in his heart or not didn’t matter because that’s the way his actions made me feel. I broke up with him when we had dated approximately 9 months. And I never regretted it because now I never felt like I was second best (third/fourth best).

  5. Wendy nailed it.

    This case shows how even the most seemingly-straightforward complaints often turn out to be symptoms rather than the real problem itself.

      1. My first! Heehee! I am sooo glad it was with you, AP.


      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        It only gets better after the first. 😉

  6. Eh, WWS. Especially the first paragraph.

    LW, whenever you talk to your boyfriend, don’t make it all “you spend too much time with your dad!” He won’t know what the hell you’re talking about. “I don’t feel like a priority & I would like more one-on-one time” will just sound like “You know what, I kind of hate your dad.” So focus on the fact that you’d like your boyfriend to devote more time to you. And segue into a big-time discussion about your relationship overall, because it seems like this guy not thinking in serious terms at the moment.

    I think he’s just skating along– he’s comfortable with how his life was before you came into it, & he’s only making minimal adjustments. Before you two started dating, he probably always saw his family & hung out with them all the time. Now that you’re in the picture, he’s working YOU into his family unit instead of working his FAMILY unit around you. You are not a team.

    It’s only been a year, & I feel like you haven’t conversed much about where the relationship is going, so this isn’t a dealbreaker (in my opinion). But it’s time to have some real talk– it may only take a little nudge for him to realize he should shift his priorities.

    1. Very true. There’s no point in blaming the dad because unless he spends every waking moment with his father, he would have time for them both. I’m not even sure why making plans with his father on the weekends translates to not being able to see the LW — does he spend the entire 48 hours with his dad? Plus, most serious couples I know are willing to spend time with their families and SOs simultaneously. So, yeah, telling him that he’s spending too much time with his dad is not going to get the point across.

      1. Plus, most serious couples I know are willing to spend time with their families and SOs simultaneously.

        Absolutely. However, if the LW is feeling like she isn’t invited to spend time with her partner and her partner’s parents, that’s a problem – it’s also a problem if she is only given the option to spend every time she has available with her partner with his parents as well. Couples need alone time too, sometimes. Also, I don’t know about the LW, but with my ex-boyfriend (see my comment below) he would spend every waking moment with his mom during that particular day (excluding when he was working), therefore shutting me out if I wasn’t invited (I rarely was.) So it’s possible that’s the case here too.

  7. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but I typically see this problem as one that isn’t worth trying to fix. People communicate differently and have different lifestyles, so of course relationships require compromise. But I don’t know how you really “fix” a SO not prioritizing you high enough, particularly in the so-called Honeymoon stage of the relationship. It can work just fine for a super-casual relationship, but it doesn’t sound like the LW wants a casual relationship.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Agreed. I see a lose-lose situation here. If LW doesn’t say anything, she’ll continue to feel like 2nd choice (lose). If she says something and he doesn’t change, lose again. If he does make an effort to see her each weekend, she will always (at least I would) feel like he’s doing it out of obligation and not because he wants too (lose). I guess that’s a lose-lose-lose situation. Eh, this blows, LW. But like Desiree, I may be overly pessimistic today. I think it’s because I caught the bus late and had to stand the ENTIRE RIDE TO WORK.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        There was a category on Jeopardy last night all about Chicago. I was thinking of you! Mrs. Obama read the answers.

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Oh I’m so bummed I missed that Jeopardy! Chicago and Michelle?!

      3. I swept the category! I was so excited.

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        I always feel like a genius when I get even one right on there. Must’ve felt great to sweep!
        ps How cute were those two guys?!

      5. I’ve always enjoyed the Teen Jeopardy. Makes me feel like a genius!

      6. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        What were the Chicago-category questions (I mean answers)? I found one online: Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” & Picasso’s “Mother & Child” are highlights of this museum’s amazing collection.

      7. I don’t remember them all now. I just remember some of the answers (I mean questions). But I won’t say in case someone plans to watch it still.

      8. theattack says:

        Plans to watch it?? Is it online somewhere? I’ve been looking for Jeopardy lately.

      9. Moneypenny says:

        What is the Chicago Art Institute! I saw these while I was there!

      10. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I heard (from Wendy’s FB update about sweeping the category)! I wish I had known, I would’ve DVR’d the show. I too like feeling smart when I can answer those questions (which are few and far inbetween). I get the same kick out of completing a New York Times crossword possible (which, confession, I can only do on Mondays: thereafter it gets wayyyy too hard for me.)

  8. It just seems like there needs to be more effort on both parts here to be with each other. You need to try to find time during the week to see each other as well, living only an hour apart really isn’t that far, and sometimes you might have to bite the bullet, and have a longer commute to work one day a week. I mean what are you going to do if things get a lot more serious than this, and then you have to start thinking about moving in with each other, and stuff like that? Who’s going to be the one to move?

    On a little bit of a different note though, I think he might like this relationship so much, because he gets to tell everyone he is in a relationship but still gets to do whatever he wants because you let him. You have to sacrifice things to make a relationship work, and time with other people is usually one of those things, and he needs to understand that.

    1. I totally agree. My husband and I did this when we were dating/engaged. and we would trade off. I am not saying that the morning commute was a picnic but we made it work. Frankly, my sister and her fiance are commuting from DC to Philly. And they will wait until Monday morning and just leave at 5 am to make it to work on time. They both seem lazy.

  9. LW, is there a back-story on the relationship between Greg and his dad, like not getting to spend much time together when Greg was growing up due to divorce or something else that might make these two extra-tight now? If so, that needs to be added into your perspective and consideration.

    There are solid steps both of you could take to demonstrate growing intimacy and definite forward movement in your relationship, like switching shifts so that you can have shared time off during the week and/or moving closer to each other. It will probably mean some sacrifice – on both your parts – so what are you willing to do for your share of the effort? When you talk calmly to Greg about what you need, also bring your plan for compromise to the table and see what he does with the information.

  10. Michelle.Lea says:

    i have to say at first glance, i agree with Wendy, this has nothing to do with his dad. it does sound like you guys are having problems, but it may be coincidence that it’s his dad and not a friend etc. if he wanted to spend time with you, he would – but he’s not. something to think about..

  11. Recovering Lurker says:

    LW, one thing I noticed while reading was that you never mentioned whether the dad works/retired. Do they both work all week and only have time to see each other on the weekends or do they both have time in the week?
    Ok, I might be a little miffed at this. I would love to see my SO every other weekend .

    1. Gilda Ragazzi says:

      Hi I am having a similar issue. His dad is retired, very lonely, has no friends, not getting along with his own girlfriend. Dad has a cabin needs alot of work that needs to be done. Anyways dad calls alot and comes to his place on weekends that I am there. I work every other weekend and we have our kids on the other so we never have time alone. He never comes to my house cause it’s inconvenient for him to come. Expects me to go there to his house. I usually do laundry, cook and clean there and it doesn’t feel like we spend enough quality timr

      1. Gilda Ragazzi says:

        I have been previously married for 15 years not happy and not satisfied and I feel the same in this current relationship. I have been with him for two years. I know he has alot going on his life and single dad. His dad is needy and the guilt hurts my boyfriend he is a only child. I try to help him out but I don’t feel like this relationship is not positive and I am getting anything out of it.

  12. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

    Side discussion – has anyone ever been the scapegoat to other people’s relationship problems? Like in this case the dad? It is the most annoying and frustrating thing ever. No outside force can negatively affect your relationship – only the two people in it can control it.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      Except for pantless drunk neighbors. They will ruin all relationships.

      1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

        Oh, Ramona.

    2. Yep. When my bestie was with her emotionally abusive ex (who I begged her to leave for about 5 years until she finally decided to), he hated that she would always run to me crying when he did some jackass thing like told her she wasn’t allowed to get a job or that she should stop eating because she’s too fat. I would tell her that she’s beautiful and valuable and needs to ditch him and become an independent woman so she can be happy and actually have money to raise her kids. He was PISSED and often ranted about how I was filling her head with feminist garbage (because according to him, her place was in the home being his servant and asking him for money when she needed something). According to him, I was at fault for their relationship deteriorating.

    3. It wasn’t a romatic relationship, but it did happen to me in a friendship. We had known each other since we were six years old. The friend was very needy and demanding and self-centered, which was the reason that she was losing friends left and right. Somehow, it was all my fault, though, because I got tired of her stuff and wouldn’t let her use me any more. But I became the bad guy. She told people that I drove off the one and only man she ever loved (who was nonexistent) and it was my fault she was so miserable. I ended the friendship. Too much drama. Not quite the same situation, but this letter reminded me of it.

    4. Yes. I don’t want to get into details, but I was deemed a “bad influence” by my friend’s boyfriend once. Even though it was usually *her* who’d tip our outings into wilder territory, & she constantly complained about the guy, the boyfriend thought it was all my fault she didn’t want to spend time with him. Oh, well.

    5. Yes, my ex has made me the scapegoat for his current relationship. He and I still work together, and he used to confront me regularly about how I had to make overtures be nicer to her because she felt unwelcome when I was around.

      Turns out she’s just jealous and insecure, and he, much like the LW’s boyfriend, has a terrible time making his girlfriends feel like they’re #1 in his life.

      1. And by “her,” I mean his current gf.

    6. Recovering Lurker says:

      Yeah a friends boyfriend kept trying to feel me and another friend up while we were drunk (even while he had one arm round his girlfriend). When we told her, apparently it was all my fault that he did it

  13. Regina Chapman says:

    This all sounds so blah. “Yeah, I agree, I like you ‘enough’ to sort of, you know, diddle daddle towards a, whatchamacallit, FUTURE together.”

    LW – NO. This is not what you’re prepared to settle for or you wouldn’t have written this letter. And maybe your boyfriend won’t respond to your needs in the way you’d like, but you’ll never know until you present the situation to him again in this light.

    “I want to feel that you value me as I do you. I want you to make time for me. I want you to include me in occasions that mean something to you. I want to know if you’re willing to make me a priority, more than you have done so far.”

    If he says he can’t do that, you’ll know where you stand, but at least you will have honestly asked him. Stand up for yourself, woman! You’re thirty years old, you know what you want – go get it.

    Oh, and totally agree with Wendy, don’t make this about his dad (because it isn’t).

    1. WRCS. LW, aim higher.

  14. Wendy took the words right out of my mouth. His dad isn’t the problem. I imagine that with it being his dad, and not his buddies or alone time, that’s getting in the way, it feels like you should give him some leeway. But I have a lot of friends who are super close to their families, and none of them have ever let that get in the way of their relationships. Honestly, he could have easily included you in the birthday plans, and ditching plans with you to help his dad on the computer was extremely rude. Besides all that, if he really wanted to be in this relationship, he would want to spend as much time together as you do.

    I suppose you could try talking to him as Wendy and others have suggested, but I don’t think that there’s much hope. You’ve either got a guy who is too attached to his father to the point of killing his relationships (though I think this is unlikely) or he just is not that invested in your relationship. If someone has to be prodded into giving you their time and consideration, I just don’t see that lasting.

  15. Oh, holy hell, I know where you’re at, LW. This was me and my (now ex) boyfriend and his mom. Very much what Wendy said on this – this is about you not getting enough time with him, not about his father (unless his father is being antagonistic toward you, like my ex-bf’s mom was to me.) Now, if the bf becomes defensive and resents that you want more time, because he thinks you’re getting enough and it would take away from time with his family, THAT’S A PROBLEM because that means that a) he may not be as invested in working it out with you and/or b) he isn’t willing to understand or meet your needs. I hope that isn’t the case – it was with the ex, and, well, he broke up with me a week ago because of that.

    Be strong and have a talk with him, and remember that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be reassured that you’re a priority in his life. If nothing else, the circumstances you described leave you with little time together, alone, where you can have fun and grow your relationship… frame it that way, if it fits.

    Good luck! I hope there’s a compromise in there, because it’s awful feeling how it is now and even worse when you have to walk away because of an issue like this.

  16. Avatar photo Brown-eyed NoVA Girl says:

    LW- I also experienced this treatment from my ex, although I was maybe a fifth priority after his porsche, stereo equipment, PS3, and iPhone. I might have ranked above his parents, though, so there’s that. The feeling started after about 9 months of dating, after the ‘I love you’s and sleepovers. So, when my emails weren’t answered days later and I couldn’t get him on the phone/text, I thought I was crazy because he ‘wanted the same things,’ right? Anyhow, two more years and four come to Jesus conversations later, feeling like his fifth priority didn’t change. There’s a long dramatic story of the eventual break up, but in the end, I finally realized I could ‘do better’… first alone and hopefully with some other, better guy in the future. So, have one more conversation if you think you need to, but I’ve heard that when you’re with the right person, you don’t have to discuss you being a priority… the other person either lets you know you’re important to them everyday somehow or make you feel much more comfortable. I hear it isn’t so complicated. But then again, I’m still single and contemplating opening a business renting out kittens to single women by the hour. It’ll be huge, I swear!

    1. FWIW – I think that sometimes you do have to have the priority conversation, people can get distracted or overwhelmed or whatever over the course of a long relationship… and sometimes you purposely take a step back and communicate where you are at and what’s going on. The difference being the affirmative way in which you do it, and more importantly — how your SO responds.

      Acknowledging that you want to put your SO first but can’t for the next 3 weeks while Uncle Tony goes through chemo, so you are rescheduling your birthday to celebrate at a better time = good communication and a proper balance. Blowing off your girlfriend so you can hang out with your middle aged dad during special events… is both sad and not OK. LW – if nothing else your boyfriend is lame and you can do so much better;)

  17. I always find it interesting when people write to Wendy with a relationship problem (usually women) and they ask her, “Am I being unreasonable for feeling this way?” Or “Am I crazy because my feelings are hurt?” It’s like they’re asking permission to feel what they feel. You’re in a relationship with another human being. You’re allowed to feel what you feel, and sometimes those feelings are unpleasant. No, you’re not crazy or unreasonable. Deep down you know you’re not, you just don’t want to perceived as a “bitch.” It’s okay to ask for what you need in a relationship!
    Agree with the other commenters, this is really an issue of spending time together. You’re in your 30’s, you’ve been together over a year. Do you want marriage or kids? Has this been discussed? If I were in this person’s shoes I would want some sort of commitment and to know that one of you will be moving closer to one another.
    Letter Writer, you are worth at least that! You deserve to be a priority! It’s ok to ask for that!

  18. I don’t know, it might be a little bit about the dad. Someone mentioned wondering if there was a back story about Greg and his dad, such as not having been close in the past and sort of making up for lost time now. It’s also possibly, conversely, that this family’s culture is to spend a lot of time together, and/or that the parents still expect to see their adult children more frequently than some parents do.

    But I also wonder about Greg’s relationship history. If he hasn’t had many long-term relationships, or if he’s never had a long-distance relationship, he might not know he is being hurtful.

    And as far as “liking each other enough” – she actually said “We love and like each other enough …” I think what she meant to say was not that she was meh about this guy, but that they not only care deeply about each other, they also truly enjoy each other’s company. It’s taken as a given when you say you love someone, but sadly, it isn’t always so.

  19. I promise you, that if you stay in that relationship it will ONLY get worse. You will get married, have children and his father will give so so so so so much unwanted input that will turn to a nasty nasty mess. Empty your fucking feelings and run; for your own sanity run! DO NOT TRY BUILDING A LIFE WITH THAT MAN YOU WILL FAIL!!

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