Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Treats His Daughter Like SHE is His Girlfriend”

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My partner,”Bob,” has an 18-year-old daughter from his previous marriage. Bob and I are not married, but we are aiming to live together along with with my 12-year-old son with whom Bob has an amazing relationship. The problem here is Bob’s daughter. First of all, Bob and I were in abusive marriages prior to our relationship. We were both emotionally manipulated and physically beaten by our spouses. Yes, he is a male and I’m a female, but the same story happened to both of us. For the past ten years, I have carefully avoided a relationship and have done extensive therapy. I recognized all the signs in my partner of having gone through the same history (he also told me his story), and having met his ex, I could see similarities to my ex. Bob’s daughter has the same dominating temperament as the ex and plays her father into emotional blackmail in very subtle ways. But this is the least of my troubles. Bob has a very traditional conservative religious background and believes he failed family values by divorcing. He never had a true attachment to his ex-wife (she mocks him by saying the last time they kissed was on their honeymoon) and therefore he has invested all his life and love in the daughter whom he adores as if she were a goddess.

“I Don’t Like My Boyfriend’s Daughter. Should I Break Up With Him?”

The real trouble is this: Whenever the daughter calls him, Bob withdraws from me completely. He goes to the point of not talking to me at all for days. His libido falls flat. He needs to see the girl immediatly. He keeps little secrets with her (such as buying her presents, having meetings which he could very well tell me about, messaging, exchanging lovey-dovey pictures). He broke down in tears one day confessing he was not “cheating on me, he was with her.” This is his quote, not mine, and it’s important to say I had NOT questioned him about “cheating” at all; I had merely asked what was going on because he seemed rather stressed. This pattern comes around about a week per month. She calls and he goes off for about a week, withdrawing from me and drawing toward the girl like a thirsty man in the desert to water. Then he comes back, very sorry. He will even visits his ex’s house (and he has been abused again while there), just because the girl asked that he go there.

When Bob goes through a very emotional situation, he is torn between calling me or calling his daughter. Upon making a decision for one or the other (and I’m not always the chosen one), he declares the other one cannot know, because he is being disloyal to the first one. So, he is either in the me phase or in the daughter phase. In short, he treats his 18-year-old daughter like a girlfriend (minus the sexual side of it, which he doesn’t feel – believe me, I checked all the signs). I confronted him about this, and he went to therapy. But the therapist blah-blah-blah’d about dealing with divorce and didn’t grasp how this relationship with the daughter was unhealthy, so my partner told me I’m seeing things that are not there. But there’re there.

This week I decided to give Bob a sort of ultimatum to sort out his life; I told him we need to take a “time off” from our relationship. My son hates me for it, which makes me deeply unhappy. Sure enough, rather than finding therapy, Bob ran to his daughter and posted on social media about it. He has not contacted me at all this week except for a very lofty message in which he said “my love will always be here for you” and “I will guide you to me,” which is the emptiest thing I have ever heard. I don’t mean to be arrogant, but I’m not the one who needs guidance.

Bob is a very good man, but I think the issues are far too big for me to handle. I am hurting quite a bit, especially because of my son and because this was my healing relationship after the devastating one. I am not sure what to do about this man. Also, if he loved me, this infatuation with the daughter wouldn’t be there, right? — Tired of Competing with the Daughter

You didn’t give Bob an ultimatum and you know it. You gave him a test to “prove” his love to you, and he failed your test. You wanted to see if he’d come running to you, begging that you end the “time off” from your relationship, promising to always prioritize you over his daughter, declaring loyalty to you and only you, all his other relationships – including with his teenage daughter! – be damned. It was a highly manipulative tactic, and it backfired on you. Your problem is not with Bob’s daughter. It’s not even really with Bob. The problem you have is YOU. You have not healed from your painful past. You said it yourself that this relationship with Bob was supposed to be your “healing relationship,” which was a surefire way to guarantee that not only would you not heal, but also that you’d regress and try to pull everyone in your path down with you (in this case, at least Bob, his daughter, and your son).

You need a reckoning with yourself and, until you open yourself to that, there’s nothing I can say that will resonate with you. You are probably already drafting an email to me demanding I take this post down. You are already crafting a response in your head about how I don’t understand, how it was a mistake that you reached out to me, how you’ve suffered so much pain in your life that you’ve simply created boundaries to protect yourself from more pain and that Bob has failed to honor those boundaries by daring to continue a relationship with his teenage daughter which you WILL NOT TOLERATE, and how anyone who doesn’t see that just doesn’t understand the full scope of the situation. What I understand from the information you’ve provided is that you decided that, in order for Bob to be a good partner to you, he had to change fundamental relationships in his life, and to that I say: If someone has to change in order for you to be satisfied, he is not the right match for you.

We could debate all day whether Bob’s relationship with his daughter is healthy or whether his daughter is truly manipulative. We could debate whether his “very traditional conservative religious background” is influencing how he navigates relationships in his life, but it would be a waste of time to do so because it doesn’t matter. What actually matters is that you KNEW – you knew and you know – about these things that you find problematic and you decided to pursue a serious relationship with him anyway. You’ve dragged your son into a relationship that was doomed from the start, allowing him to bond with someone you had such fundamental issues with, and if you are “deeply unhappy” now, you have only yourself to blame. You are a grown-up who knew exactly what she was getting into. How do you think your son feels?!

I can’t help a grown woman who pits herself against a teenage girl and demands her partner choose sides, as if he can only love and be loyal to one person. I can’t help a woman who seeks healing not from within herself but in a relationship with someone who has to change in order to meet her needs. Contrary to your argument, you DO need guidance, and you clearly need help to see how dysfunctional your tools of manipulation are – how they are hurting your son and keeping you from the kind of love and healthy relationship you want. With humility and the guidance of a great therapist, there’s hope for you, but you have to be willing to take responsibility. Are you?

How can I get my husband to stop eating us out of house and home? He eats EVERYTHING. I have to shop two to four times per week and spend between $100-$200 each trip just to have something at home to eat for the kids – I have two kids from a previous marriage who live with us 70% of the time – and myself. Things that would last me weeks will last him a couple days. When I cook huge meals (about three times per week), he eats all the leftovers for lunch plus all the snacks at home. If there aren’t leftovers, he’ll buy takeout for lunch instead. Before he moved in, I spent roughly 1/3 of what I’m paying now for groceries for myself and the kids, and he doesn’t see this as an issue at all. He says that he doesn’t “need” any of the groceries and that he’s fine with tuna and eggs every day, but then he still won’t make the tuna or the eggs and will eat everything else in the kitchen. He swears he spends money at the grocery store – he picks up a few things throughout the week like dog food, dish soap, and milk when we run out — but it’s not even a small fraction of what I’m spending. He feels the quarterly car maintenance he takes care of makes up for some of this, but car maintenance never cost me more than my mortgage per month. He is twice my size and needs twice the calories, but do I need to pay for all of those extra calories or should he be considering the rest of us when he grocery shops to even out the grocery bill that is costing me more than the mortgage? Do I stop shopping, lock up food, label it, bite him?

On top of the groceries, I pay my own personal bills, most of our household bills, mortgages on two rental properties, and household necessities. He pays his personal bills, mortgage for one rental property, and overhead for his business (he is a mechanic). He makes a little more than I do, but with my rental income and child support it evens out. I pay everything for my two kids. I should also add: While this has been a major issue for years before I was pregnant, now that I’m five months pregnant, he is risking his life (or at least his fingers) eating all the low fat cream cheese and apples. I really need advice. — A Wife Who is Also Freakin’ Hungry

The short answer is to make a family/household budget and decide, based on income, an equitable amount for each of you to contribute to the expenses. It’s absurd that you’re paying the mortgage of the home you live in plus all the household expenses and an average of $400 a week on groceries while he’s contributing nothing to your household. The longer answer is fuck that noise – why did you marry someone who is so thoughtless and has such a seemingly nonexistent sense of responsibility to you and your family?! He doesn’t financially contribute to the household, he doesn’t grocery shop for you, he doesn’t cook any meals. What the fuck DOES he do? Maintain your car? Big whoop!

Obviously, this is bigger than your husband eating all the snacks. This is about equitable contributions to the family, respecting the needs of each other, and making some self sacrifices for the good of the whole. This is about your husband stepping up as an equal partner and not just being another mouth in the house you are responsible for feeding (literally, in every way). Putting a lock on your snack cabinet isn’t going to fix this. Setting a can of tuna at his spot at the dinner table isn’t going to fix this. Sending him to the grocery store once or twice a week with a big list and his own debit card to pay for everything isn’t going to fix this (though all of these actions certainly might offer some short-term help while you address the larger issue). What you need is a relationship overhaul – with the help of a therapist and maybe a financial advisor – to ensure that you are both contributing equally and equitably to the household in a way that feels right across the board. Not every contribution needs to be financial, but every contribution needs to add up to equal value from each of you so that neither one of you is taken advantage of. You’ve got four months to figure this out and put it into practice before a newborn will undoubtedly throw any equilibrium out of balance and demand you re-adjust. Good luck!

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

38 comments… add one
  • brise June 8, 2020, 8:54 am

    LW1: your mistake is to compete with his daughter. He is clearly not ready for a relationship. He is conflicted about his divorce. That is what his relationship with his daughter is about. Your spying and testing him about a potential “girlfriend” role for his daughter is just so wrong and sick. You are meddling here. You can’t solve someone else’s life. This is his drama, his divorce, his family. Your business is that he is not a partner for you, he withdraws every 3 weeks away of you. Renounce this relationship, give up. And let him deal with his daughter how he feels like to.
    Your rejection of the therapist’s perspective shows a lot about your own blindness. And your reading of his message is funnily litteral : it was clearly a romantic metaphor. But indeed you do need guidance. Give up and explain to your son that this man, though a good person, is not ready for a romantic relationship. This is the exact truth.

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  • GertietheDino June 8, 2020, 9:02 am

    Aim higher ladies.

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  • brise June 8, 2020, 9:03 am

    LW2: As he has an other property, you could send him live there. Frankly, I don’t see the advantage of living with this lazy cheap ogre. He is completely taking advantage of you. He also acts like an enormous child. You won’t need that when you have a baby.
    Anyway, meanwhile: just stop making groceries and stop cooking for him. Make a list, give it to him and ask him to shop and to pay. Meanwhile, store your/your kids’ food in a fridge in a closed room.
    But this seems so pathetic that the first solution seems the only and best.
    Just get angry! Push him out!

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  • golfer.gal June 8, 2020, 9:29 am

    LW1: You need to accept this as an actual break up and move on. I agree with Wendy that you knew early on this was his MO, and yet you chose to move ahead and involve your son with him. He cuts you completely out of his life 25% of the time. He lies to you, and encourages his daughter to lie to you. Why would think moving in together is a good idea? Help your son through his grieving and aim higher next time – don’t introduce him to someone who has obvious red flags waving.

    LW2: You need to set up appointments with a financial planner and a therapist. Each of you needs to track what you spend for a month that benefits the household. Every penny. This will eliminate any vague “well I pay for this sometimes so it evens out” and puts it in hard dollars and cents. Then agree on a dollar amount that gets put into a joint account from each of you, and all joint expenses get paid out of that. You also need a chore chart that is split fairly and a system where you track your expenses from now on. I agree with Wendy that I’m not sure what benefits exactly you’re getting out of this relationship- he seems like another child in your household, and you’re doing all the cooking, shopping, parenting, and paying the vast majority of the bills while pregnant. Fix this now before you’ve got a newborn to contend with.

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  • brise June 8, 2020, 9:33 am

    LW2: For your information, during the lockdown, my husband had his lunches at home instead of in town on week days (home office). I charged him every of these additional lunches on a fixed rate, as it wasn’t in the family budget. Plus, he also went regularly shopping expensive stuff on his credit card. He comes back with more things, stuff he fancies. Why are you the only one who shops and pay?
    There is a transactional dimension in a couple: you must be able to negociate a fair share of expenses and chores. Stop being nice, be tough and mind business: I noticed that when you start doing so, men (good men?) don’t mind. They even like it and respect you more. If you become really really red with anger and have the walls of your home shaking when you say “STOP”, maybe your selfish husband might start listening to you and stop eating your kids’ food! That seems so basic.

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  • ron June 8, 2020, 10:51 am

    On LW#2 —
    All very alien to me. Virtually all the married couples I know work on all the money goes into one pot. I think second marriages are easily destroyed by the mentality of trying to hoard as many $ as possible to pass on to ‘your’ kids from a prior marriage. More often than not, it seems that despite this drive, if the couple remains together, by the time they die there is almost no money left and the kids don’t really need $ and have know interest in their parents’ accumulated ‘stuff’.

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    • Phoebe June 8, 2020, 12:28 pm

      Me too…except for my parents. They have separate funds. My father covers the mortgage, and my mother everything else, and it has mostly worked equitably for them for 50+ years. I think it’s bizarre. But there are people out there.

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    • ktfran June 8, 2020, 1:58 pm

      Our money is not combined. We don’t even have a joint account that we both contribute to. The difference between us and this LW is that we talked about equitable distribution and came to a mutual agreement. We revisit a few times a year to make sure it’s still working.

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      • Kate June 9, 2020, 8:48 am

        Me too KT. Our retirement money is under one umbrella though most of the accounts are separate. Our personal finances are separate and we do our own taxes. He needs an accountant for all the business stuff, and I have my own nuances. It works fine, we both contribute equitably and spend 10 minutes a month settling up. We married later in life like you did. In my first marriage everything was pooled.

  • Bittergaymark June 8, 2020, 11:08 am

    LW1). You are a mess and clearly need to be single for a good while longer. Therapy — stat! But the competition you see here is simply fucking bizarre.

    LW2). Are you married to Shrek? He sounds like a real prize.

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  • FYI June 8, 2020, 11:17 am

    Surprised at the answer to LW1. I didn’t see her as manipulative or competing at all.
    Bob sounds like he doesn’t know how to handle his life, that’s all. He sounds extremely immature. LW, like many people, got confused or blinded with hope when getting into a relationship. She didn’t grok to what a big issue this is. I don’t think that makes her a manipulative harpy?!! LW, don’t move in, and don’t get back together with a man-child who can’t simply say, “Gonna go hang with daughter. Call ya later.” It’s weird that he’s treating that relationship like a big honking deal.

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    • Bittergaymark June 8, 2020, 11:24 am

      FYI — I suspect he can’t say that as the LW simply flips the fuck out.

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    • Ange1 June 8, 2020, 7:29 pm

      All I can say is when my awful SIL dragged my brother to therapy she too stopped because several therapists told her she was the problem. And guess what: she was! She was just shocked she couldn’t manipulate a professional to agree with her like she could everyone else. People like that don’t actually want help they want validation and someone else on their side against the target. Whatever is going on with the BF I’ll just finish by saying it sounds like the LW has her own list of issues as well.

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  • Phoebe June 8, 2020, 12:39 pm

    Are we missing some info from LW1? Because it’s the first time my head did a ~boing~ when I read a DW answer. While the writer definitely seems wacky and controlling, I also thought the boyfriend had screws loose. Looses his libido and won’t talk to her for days after he sees his daughter? That’s weird. We’re missing something, I think.

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    • Phoebe June 8, 2020, 12:41 pm

      Darn it, we can’t edit typos? *Loses.

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    • katmich15 June 8, 2020, 1:27 pm

      I agree, his behavior with his daughter is very strange, not normal at all.

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    • Dear Wendy June 8, 2020, 1:38 pm

      It doesn’t matter what we’re missing. In my response I said that we could debate all kinds of stuff, including whether there’s something missing and what that is, but it doesn’t matter bc the LW knew the deal with the boyfriend (and his relationship with his daughter) and expected/wanted/needed him to change in order to feel satisfied and happy and that was never going to work. Most of us can see there’s something not normal happening. The LW could, too. The difference is the LW pursued a relationship anyway and is now upset that the thing that isn’t normal didn’t go away. That’s the part that matters here, not what the not-normal thing is.

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      • Dear Wendy June 8, 2020, 1:51 pm

        In fact, I’m thinking I should do a post about this: the danger in wasting time trying to figure out WHY someone has qualities that make him/her not a match instead of moving on before pursuing.a relationship with this person. It’s not our jobs to fix or heal someone to make them ready for a relationship with us or to make them meet our criteria for a partner.

      • katmich15 June 8, 2020, 2:43 pm

        I agree with all of this, the reason I mentioned that his relationship with his daughter is really strange is because in the last paragraph of your answer it sounded as if you were blaming the LW for having a problem with the boyfriend and daughter relationship, as if there wasn’t a good reason. I wouldn’t put up with that crap for a minute. But the bottom line is that she HAS been putting up with it so if she doesn’t like it she needs to get out. Her signature is telling actually, why compete at all, just walk away.

      • Dear Wendy June 8, 2020, 3:00 pm

        No, I’m not blaming the LW for having a problem with the boyfriend and daughter relationship; I am blaming her for blaming the boyfriend’s teenager for the boyfriend’s behavior. And I stand by everything I state in that last paragraph – that the LW is looking outside herself for healing, she’s pursuing someone who needs to change in order to meet her needs, and she dragged her son into a relationship that was mismatched and doomed from the beginning.

      • Phoebe June 10, 2020, 12:25 pm

        Got it, and I’m especially with you on the pursuing someone who needs to change, and dragging her son into this. These are actually huge pet peeves of mine! So thanks for explaining.

  • Layla June 8, 2020, 4:16 pm

    The ex wife mocks him by saying that the last time they kissed was on their honeymoon? Hmmm… pay attention to that statement. Lacking libido destroys marriages when the issue is not addressed. I know.

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  • Sea Witch June 8, 2020, 8:40 pm

    LW2: Does he have a tapeworm, or is he about 400 pounds? Perhaps you should get a lock for the ‘fridge. At the very least insist on getting money from him to buy groceries.

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  • dinoceros June 8, 2020, 8:46 pm

    LW1: “Bob is a very good man, but I think the issues are far too big for me to handle. … Also, if he loved me, this infatuation with the daughter wouldn’t be there, right? ”

    These two things are contradictory. You realize that, right? You’re acknowledging that he has big personal issues, but at the same time, you’re assuming that his love for you would somehow make all his issues go away?

    Maybe you just mean that you can’t handle the relationship issues and aren’t acknowledging his own issues. If that’s the case, you need to accept that he has a lot of issues, likely stemming from his past abuse. I’m curious about how much therapy and healing he’s done since his relationship, since you only mention yours. If he’s like most men, then I’d suspect very little, at least with a professional.

    While you’re going on and on about all his issues, I hope you realize that you hanging on to someone whose way of living and being in your relationship makes you so unhappy is a sign of your own issues. I don’t say this to be rude, but I think a lot of people would have moved on by now. Your romantic relationship with him is not going to totally change him as a person and remove all his attachment issues and make him want a physical relationship. Just as you knew that getting into a relationship wasn’t going to solve all your issues after your marriage.

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    • dinoceros June 8, 2020, 8:50 pm

      LW2: I just don’t really know what to say. You spend $200 to $800 a week on groceries? Just …. why. How much does he weigh? How long have you been married? Did you notice that he ate that much more than a regular human? Did y’all talk about sharing of chores (including groceries) and budgeting? I’m just confused about how you end up in this situation.

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      • Bittergaymark June 8, 2020, 9:24 pm

        Yeah, that’s A LOT of food.

  • LW1 June 9, 2020, 4:12 am

    Hi Wendy,
    Thank you for taking the time to answer. Contrary to your opinion, I’m not demanding you to take anything down (although I do find that the madeup signature was a bit off, since I didn’t use those words).
    Updates and/or answers:
    – I didn’t drag my son to the relationship. “Bob” was my son’s teacher for 2 years previously to the relationship happening and that is how we met. My son was already deeply attached to him and in fact wanted me to meet him. Perhaps you should have not been so hasty to jump to a conclusion there. “Bob” actively pursued me after that encounter for one year before I finally gave in. I would never drag my son to anything.
    – I am still on therapy. It was my therapist who suggested I should “give in to a healing relationship” (her quote) and recommended me to read Judith Hermann’s book on “Trauma and Recovery” on which that factor is exactly mentioned for people who suffer from Complex PTSD. Such people need to have a healing relationship to fully recover. If you’d like to discuss this with Judith Hermann and a bunch of therapists who deal with complex PTSD, you are welcome to do so, but that’s beyond me.
    – I never said “I” didn’t have a problem. I believe that people who were in abusive relationships have issues (me included, “Bob” included) , but let’s not keep hitting the same piano key. I wrote to you about a different issue on my current relationship, which you did not answer at all
    – It was interesting reading about your perspective that I didn’t give him an ultimatum, but a test. If a “test” includes some hope and an “ultimatum” doesn’t include hope, then you are right in your choice of words. Thank you for your view.
    – other than that,there was no real reply to my situation at all. You didn’t address the real issue here which is a man with a very unusual emotional partner like attachment to a grown up daughter which prevents him from having relationships.
    – As for me being to blame for expecting someone to change because he is with me or for the sake of a relationship… I didn’t know he had this issue when the relationship started. No one knows partners have deep ingrown issues of this level when relationships take off! If people are aware of such things, I commend them for their psychic abilities.
    The update: I have not contacted “Bob” again. And I thought a lot about posting any answers in here because I don’t feel I need to justify myself to anyone on the internet really. However, I am pretty sure “Bob” is a good man with a huge issue to solve. And I am pretty sure I was not in the wrong here telling him to sort his life out.
    I think you were very quick to judge or perhaps the answer was one you were not comfortably addressing. Sometimes we pull people’s triggers without knowing.
    Best wishes, LW1

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    • Dear Wendy June 9, 2020, 7:03 am

      I’m not sure whom you’re referring to about triggers – me or you? I mean than genuinely as I’m not sure. If it’s me, no, I didn’t feel triggered by anything in your letter. And I didn’t feel uncomfortable addressing it. You say that I didn’t address “the real issue here which is a man with a very unusual emotional partner like attachment to a grown up daughter which prevents him from having relationships.” What were you looking for in that regard? Advice on how to change him? Validation that you’re right and that his relationship with his daughter sounds unusual? You can’t change someone. And what would validation get you? How is that of any help? It just sounds like you wanted to explore the situation, unpack your relationship, and analyze Bob’s issues and his relationship with his daughter (and possibly with his ex and how that informs his behavior). These are good topics for you to address with your therapist. I’m not a therapist; I’m an advice columnist. It’s not my business an I’m not qualified to do deep psychological excavating. I help people figure out the best response to a dilemma they’re facing. Your dilemma to me sounded like you felt sad about breaking up with Bob and wondered if you made the right decision. I hoped to point out that you did – that bob didn’t sound like a good match for you.

      There are what sounds like a lot of red flags in regard to Bob – as someone pointed out, a big one is that his ex-wife mocks him for only kissing her on their honeymoon and he libido drops for days every time he talks to his daughter. That in itself would be enough for most women to talk away. I’d also be extremely put off by my son’s teacher actively pursuing me for a whole year after one single encounter, apparently? Talk about crossing boundaries. But it sounds like you, with the guidance of your therapist, decided this was going to be your healing relationship, and I suspect that’s part of why you didn’t walk away sooner and, instead, wanted to figure out how to get Bob to change to meet your needs. You didn’t need to be psychic to make a decision when you realized how unusual Bob was and how many red flags he was presenting to move on.

      And then you did move on and that’s when you wrote to me for – for what? To be told you made the right decision? You did. To get an explanation for why Bob is the way he is? I have no idea. Again, I’m not sure what you were seeking from me, and I’m sorry you feel I didn’t give you what you asked for.

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      • Dear Wendy June 9, 2020, 7:33 am

        Also, I’ve never heard of Judith Hermann before and it seems strange to me that a psychologist would advocate for seeking a relationship with someone else in order to fully heal yourself. I did a quick google search and see that she lists three stages of healing after trauma with stage three being the reconnecting with others. “In this phase there must now be a creation a new sense of self and a new future. This final task involves redefining oneself in the context of meaningful relationships.” I don’t take that to mean romantic relationships, though it certainly could. The few passages I read actually don’t mention anything about romantic relationships and, instead, focus on reconnecting with old friends, support circles, community, with the idea of redefining one’s self in these familiar relationships in a role that is new (“Stepping into a new role, not as victim or child, but as autonomous adult, carries with it not just the difficulties of adjusting to a role never before experienced, but can also carry the traumatic reminders and injunctions, embedded in procedural memory, that it is dangerous to step up and make choices, to be independent and not to hide in the shadows. It is therefore important that clients are helped to reassess the role they have played in life, frame it in terms of survival necessity, but then be empowered to take on the most adaptive role for their current and future circumstances.” take from here: https://information.pods-online.org.uk/the-three-phase-approach-part-three/).

        Again, it seems like you were really look for an extension of the work you do with your therapist? I’m not a therapist, but I do encourage you to continue working with yours and think about how you can have those healing relationships outside the context of a romantic relationship.

      • Sea Witch June 9, 2020, 7:51 am

        When I did a search on the name Judith Hermann, I only came up with a fiction writer. She has a degree in philosophy, but nothing in psychology.

      • Dear Wendy June 9, 2020, 8:31 am

        Apparently, she’s a professor of psychiatry at Harvard. Maybe you found a different person with the same name, not sure.

      • Dear Wendy June 9, 2020, 8:32 am

        It’s Herman with one N; the LW gave her two Ns but that’s wrong, FYI.

      • Rebecca June 9, 2020, 8:12 am

        ““Bob” was my son’s teacher for 2 years previously to the relationship happening and that is how we met. My son was already deeply attached to him and in fact wanted me to meet him…. “Bob” actively pursued me after that encounter for one year before I finally gave in. I would never drag my son to anything.”

        Oh, honey, no…that’s a red flag factory. This should have been over before it started. Your life isn’t a rom-com.

  • Jolie Moore June 9, 2020, 1:12 pm

    Wendy, please, please do a post on asking ‘why?’ And why that’s not the right question.

    It was my biggest eye-opening lesson last year and saves me time. It doesn’t at ALL matter why. What matters is the behavior and the reaction to the behavior, that’s all.

    I no longer ask why and it saves so much time and energy that can be best directed at choosing how to react.

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  • Leo June 9, 2020, 1:41 pm

    LW1: I think you are in blame for aiming too low, but I don’t think you are an harpy as some of the comments seem to imply. There is certainly something weird between your ex and his daughter, but the good news is that nothing of this is your business now. Feel released!

    LW2: What a parasite. Stop procrastinating decision making, and take measures.

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  • Reality Check June 11, 2020, 1:25 am

    Cringing at all that I´m reading here. So many things came up on that first letter. A woman writes stating she was on an extremely abusive first relationship and btw so was her current partner. Nobody picked on either of those very relevant things. She then proceeds to talk about healing and is completely bashed. I am appalled. She confides about the partner’s extremely unhealthy pattern of attachment to an abusive relationship of his past in the form of an adult daughter, a very interesting yet pitiful form of trauma that prohibits their relationship to take place. But what do we choose to talk about? We chose to say it’s HER fault for not choosing the right partner once more and for aiming low. Wow! Talk about turning tables AND victim blaming. Talk about always pointing the finger at women who are already down and clearly heartbroken. No wonder this country and this world are seeing revolutions where the underdogs are fighting for their rights and tired of being told they are to blame for whatever happens and doesn’t happen. Hey, people, I’ve got news for you! If you all had perfect love lives and made perfect choices, you wouldn’t be here on a relationship advice column… you’d be somewhere else. Ta ta!

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    • Dear Wendy June 11, 2020, 6:49 am

      Yeah, no, reminding adults to pay attention to glaring red flags in potential partners is most definitely NOT the reason this county is seeing revolutions.

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  • ExplorationZone June 11, 2020, 2:15 pm

    To be honest I think both of you were not and are not ready to be in a relationship. You cannot expect him to treatyou better over his daughter. Yes, a girlfriend and daughter relationship should be completely different BUT he’s still attracted to that sort of personality as you said that his ex-wife and daughter are basically the same sort of people. He’s still living in the past. For him to be this withdrawn from you when his daughter calls should say something. That there’s a possibility that the daughter might not be find of you and that he’s trying to keep both lives separate; a life with you and a life with her. For your son to be upset with you makes sense because you’re asking your boyfriend to do something that possibly one day your son’s girlfriend might ask him to do. Never give a parent an ultimatum to choose between yourself and child/children.
    It’s pretty obvious that this won’t change so it’s time to move on. Keep doing your therapy and pray to God. Don’t depend on a similarity between you and another such as past abuse to help you make a good healthy relationship. When the time is right you’ll find someone and everything will be agreed upon and a ultimatum like that won’t even have to be brought up. It’s time to leave him because nothing will change.
    Good day.

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