Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend’s Child is 18, but He Still Won’t Move out of the Family House”

I’m 38 and have been with my boyfriend for six years. I have a house, but because he had 100% custody of his kids and a larger house, I moved to be with him (into his family home he used to share with his ex). His house is far from my work, family, and friends but close to his parents and extended family. Now that his youngest child is 18, I thought my boyfriend would consider moving into my smaller house or a new place where we could both start a new life together. He says he can’t leave his adult son as he still needs him, and it doesn’t make sense moving to a smaller place. I miss being close to my family, friends, and work, and I also want to start my own family – and feel unenthusiastic about starting a family in his family home that he shared with his ex. Also, I don’t want to be living with his adult son (in part because his adult son swears and plays video games all day and I don’t want to have a child that’s exposed to that and in part because we still do the cooking, cleaning, and washing for the adult son). I don’t know what to do or if I’m being selfish asking him to leave his home and adult son to start a fresh family with me. Please help. — Ready to Move

It sounds like you made the mistake of making a lot of assumptions without discussing them with your boyfriend years ago. You assumed that, once his youngest child was 18, your boyfriend would be ready and willing to move out of his family home and into your smaller house. You assumed that, at some point, he would be ready to let go of his house. It sounds like you even assumed that, after raising his children into adulthood, he’d be open and eager to having a second family with you and that he would want to do so not in the house that he raised his first set of kids in and that is close to his parents and extended family, but in a smaller house, far from his parents and extended family. And, really, these are pretty crazy assumptions to make! Why would a man who had already raised children (close to his parents and extended family, in a big house) want to start all over again with new babies, this time in a small house far from his family? It makes no sense.

It’s not going to happen. I suspect you already know that and that’s why you’ve avoided actually discussing it extensively with your boyfriend. You’ve been spinning out on hope fumes all these years, keeping your fingers crossed it would somehow work out in your favor. Well, it’s not going to. Your boyfriend is not going to move into your small house and start having a second set of babies with you. He’s not even going to sell his house to buy a different house so that the new family you raise together is brought up in a home he never shared with his ex-wife. He has no interest in doing that because he doesn’t want to move and he probably does not want to have more babies. Infantilizing his 18-year-old is a convenient way of avoiding the topic of having a baby, too. As long as he has to cook and clean and support a kid — even if that kid is old enough to vote (which I hope he does next week!) — he can tell you he doesn’t have time/energy/money for a baby. I bet if you asked him about having a baby, that’s what he’d tell you, too. But I’m guessing you haven’t talked to him about having a baby because you know what his response will be (NOT an enthusiastic “hell yeah”) and you’re avoiding that answer because as long as you avoid reality, you can keep spinning out on hope fumes.

I’m sorry to be the one to deliver this message to you: You will never have the family you think you want with this guy. That doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t get you pregnant, but he’s not going to do so eagerly and he’s not going to sell his house and he’s not going to move from his kid and parents and other family closer to your people and set up a new family house with you. He’s already done that. And at 38, if you want to have a biological baby of your own, you better end things with this guy asap and get serious about that goal. You’ve still got a little time left to find a new partner who shares that goal, or you can think about single motherhood and the steps you can take to make that a reality.

It’s not selfish to pursue your own dreams. But it’s stupid to try to pursue them with a partner who doesn’t share the same dreams. Doing so sets you up for disappointment and heartache down the road.

I was going through personal struggles when I decided to move from Los Angeles (where I was born and raised) to Israel. This move never seemed like a forever move, just for the time being. I met my now-husband while living in Israel, and things escalated quickly. I got pregnant after eight months of dating and shortly after we got married. Every time I brought up the topic of moving to LA, he would string me along saying “anything is possible,” which in hindsight I realize he said to change the topic.

Fast forward to today, my daughter is one month old and my desire to move back home is stronger than ever. I miss my family terribly and feel that I only want to raise my daughter in LA. He absolutely refuses to move. We fight like crazy about it, and he always tells me he will never move and I know where the door is if I want to go. Besides this issue (which I’m conflicted as to whether it is a dealbreaker or not), our relationship is great and we love each other. I just can’t imagine myself living here forever while he will never move. I don’t want to sacrifice a better life for my daughter to stay here. What do you recommend I should do? — LA or Bust

I am posting your letter mostly as a cautionary tale to this LW and to anyone else who has a partner who avoids discussing a move or won’t give a straight answer about moving or seems convinced you only need more time in the area where s/he wants to live before you’re sold on it too. If you have a partner like that and you can’t agree on where to live, DO NOT MARRY THAT PERSON and, for the love of God, DO NOT HAVE A BABY WITH THAT PERSON!!! While there’s no guarantee that even a person with whom you agree at one point won’t change his or her mind later, there’s almost a 100% guarantee that if you and your partner disagree about where to live in the beginning of your relationship, and he or she either avoids the topic or flat-out tells you they’re never moving, that means exactly that: they’re not gonna move. And if that’s a dealbreaker for you, let it break the deal early, before your lives are entangled together and it’s harder to break up.

As for you, LA or Bust, because you didn’t seriously consider this potential dealbreaker before you had a baby and got married, you are forced to make some really, really difficult decisions now. You feel that LA is best for you, and you think it’s best for your baby too (you say you don’t want to sacrifice a “better life” for your daughter to stay in Israel). But your husband refuses to move to LA, so your moving there with your daughter (if you can even legally do that) would mean her growing up on the other side of the world from her father. I’m not sure that is “best” for her. Moving home may be best for you, but you’re a mom now. You have to prioritize your child’s needs — sometimes even above your own — and taking her so, so far away from her dad may not be the best for her.

On the other hand, if living in Israel for the rest of your child’s childhood is going to make you miserable and depressed, that isn’t in her best interest either. Kids fare better when their parents are happy. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a middle ground here. You can’t live in two places at once. It’s possible, depending on your career and financial status, that you spend big chunks of time in LA while keeping Israel as your home base. While your daughter is super young, you don’t have to work around school schedules and you can go to LA whenever you want, theoretically (and, again, depending on your career and financial status), and stay for a while if you have a place to stay. Once she starts school, you still have summers and school breaks to travel. This could be a wonderful way of giving your daughter the best of both worlds and a deep appreciation for cultural differences. (As a side note, this is exactly how I was raised: abroad during the school year and in the states during the summers. I would not want to raise my own children like that, but I did learn so much about the world that way, and I developed a deep bond with my grandparents, whom I lived with for two months every year for over 20 years.)

If it’s not possible for you to be away from Israel that much, and doing so wouldn’t satisfy you anyway, you really do have to make a gut-wrenching choice about moving or staying, and, unfortunately, I cannot help you with that. You’ll need to first speak with a lawyer about your custody rights, and you’ll have to do a lot of soul-searching about what will make you happy and about how your happiness or unhappiness will affect your child vs. how living far away from one of her parents will affect her. It’s not going to be an easy decision at all. And it’s something that really should have been decided long before you had a child in a country you knew you didn’t want to live in forever, with a man who never told you he was willing to move.


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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.

25 comments… add one
  • Zahav November 1, 2018, 10:31 am

    LW 2- If you got married through the rabbinate, you will need your husband to divorce you through the rabbinate.
    He and they can make it incredibly difficult for you to remove your daughter from the country if he wants.
    If this is the route you’re planning, get a lawyer.
    Otherwise, it seems that you’re stuck and depending on where in the country you are, isolated . Do you live near a large Anglo center? Do you speak Hebrew? Do you have other mom friends?
    There are several Anglo
    -Israeli parent Facebook groups, and depending on the city/town you’re in, weekly drop-in mommy-baby groups for newborn-6 months that are very welcoming. Many local malls have “mommy-baby Gymboree” which is more often than not free and just an hour a week (sometimes twice a week) to chill on a mat in the air conditioning with your squirmy babe and build up the courage to ask fellow moms for coffee after the class.

    I have a friend who was exactly like you, only substitute a different home state – a one month old is overwhelming and can ramp up other overwhelming feelings, especially if you don’t have a full command if the language.
    It gets better, but I can’t emphasize enough how much a support system helps
    A fellow expat Anglo mom in Northern Israel

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  • Mimi November 1, 2018, 10:35 am

    LW1, I shudder to think of what life has been like for that 18 year old these last few years with you in the house, keeping a watch on the calendar and waiting for the day his father kicks him to the curb because he is technically an adult. Decent, loving dads don’t give their kids a handshake and wish them luck and move away at the first legal opportunity. A man who would do what you want him to do is probably not one worth having…

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    TaraMonster November 1, 2018, 11:12 am

    LW1, you have been sitting there waiting for your boyfriend’s kid to turn 18 so you can start your “real” family away from the remnants of the one that came before you. That is pretty fucking gross. I’m glad your boyfriend understands that fatherhood doesn’t end on a child’s 18th birthday. Without going into great detail about my own childhood, I was essentially left to figure life out on my own at 17 because my parents are shitty, selfish people. I was glad to be on my own without them calling the shots anymore and attempting to torpedo my future, but the reality is that it was very, very hard and I made a lot of mistakes and ran into some pretty desperate situations in my first few years of adulthood because I had no real safety net–not even an emotional one. I was extremely lucky that other people’s parents took me under their wing in various ways. So maybe this kid curses and plays video games a lot- he’s friggen 18 years old!- that doesn’t mean that you get to erase him from your boyfriend’s life. I’m glad your boyfriend isn’t allowing that to happen. He’s a good father for it. Get your empathy in order before you bring your own child into the world- a child who I doubt you’d want to boot out the door the moment they’re old enough to vote.

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      TaraMonster November 1, 2018, 11:19 am

      FTR, I do think the kid should be working and/or going to school and contributing to the household in some way/given responsibilities (like doing his own laundry FFS). I’m not saying he should be coddled and allowed to take advantage. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to insist he does those things, but not as a way to prove to your boyfriend that his kid needs to be shoved out the door.

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  • Essie November 1, 2018, 11:19 am

    I replied to LW2 in the forum, but I’ll paraphrase here.

    Being a parent is forever. A parent can find a new partner, have more children with that partner, but it’s all one family. After 8 years, you should be considering your boyfriend’s son to be part of YOUR family, and you definitely should be realizing that he will be a major part of your life for as long as you’re with your boyfriend.

    If you can’t accept that…if you can’t love his son and see him as family…you need to seriously reconsider this relationship.

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  • Fyodor November 1, 2018, 12:12 pm

    To the LW1, this is not to any way trivialize or minimize your concerns, which sound very real, but is it possible that you are going through some kind of post partum depression? It sounds like this became a much more severe problem really quickly.

    Even if not, having a one month old, especially without your support network, is pretty overwhelming. I would strongly suggest seeing a doctor and doing what you can to find some additional support with the kid. I don’t think that you are necessarily in a place to evaluate this issue in a strategic way.

    It may very well be the case that you end up in the same place in terms of your decisionmaking but I don’t know if now is the time to come to important conclusions.

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  • Artsygirl November 1, 2018, 12:21 pm

    Both these LWs seem to have failed at communication.
    LW1 – did your BF agree to selling his house, moving closer to your work, and starting a family after his children had grown up? No where in your letter does it say that this was a plan you both agreed to. You need to sit him down and talk to him. If you want to move and start a family, you need to explicitly explain your wants and needs. Like Wendy said, don’t be surprised if this is not the future he is envisioning, but better to discover this now rather than resenting your BF’s son who is behaving like a typical teenager.

    LW2 – Marry (and procreate) in haste and repent at leisure. I am not sure why you are shocked your husband does not want to locate to another country (that he has possibly never been to). It sounds like you brought up moving back to the states as vague plans in the distant future and he didn’t take them as concrete. I would suggest you seek out professional counseling to try to save your marriage especially since if you break up, one of you will keep custody (and it will possibly not be you) and the other will live across the world.

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    Skyblossom November 1, 2018, 12:59 pm

    LW2 Your daughter has been born in Israel and is living there. You won’t be able to take her out of the country without her father’s permission. The International Child Custody Law protects parents from having their child taken to another country to live without their permission. It would be considered an international child abduction if you took your daughter to LA to live without your husband’s permission. At the same time he isn’t allowed to take your daughter to live in another country without your permission. This is the law.


    Both the United States and Israel have signed their agreement.


    You are in this situation because you’ve made some poor decisions. You will probably have to choose between staying in Israel with your daughter or living in LA without her. There is the possibility that her dad would agree to let you take her to LA to live.

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      Bittergaymark November 1, 2018, 6:05 pm

      Yep. You made your baby. Now raise it in Israel. PS – as a LA resident of over 20 years, I can’t think of a worse place to raise a kid. Seriously.

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        Skyblossom November 1, 2018, 8:14 pm

        Yep. Born in Israel and going to live there. The LW probably stayed long enough to have the baby for free or cheap compared to giving birth in LA. Now she’s stuck. She could have left several months ago but she didn’t.

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        Bittergaymark November 1, 2018, 10:44 pm

        It’s also a DICK move to plop down in a foreign land, seduce a local, have their baby and then demand that you all relocate to Hell-A simply because you suddenly demand it. Sorry, it just is.

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        Skyblossom November 2, 2018, 10:46 am

        Definitely a dick move and I say that as someone in an international marriage. My husband came here, we dated here and we married here and we live here and raised both of our kids here. If you don’t want to live where you are living you need to be upfront about that from the beginning and definitely before marriage and before children.

        She wasn’t happy in LA either. She’d be better off figuring out why she isn’t happy instead of trying to make herself happy by moving.

    • LisforLeslie November 2, 2018, 10:27 am

      Part of me thinks there’s some romanticizing of LA and allll that it offers… like traffic.

      Good tacos though. Probably better tacos in LA than Israel. Would be interested to know whether the bagels are better though.

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      • ron November 2, 2018, 10:42 am

        I don’t think it’s romanticizing LA so much as an inability to live away from her parents, as the majority of adults do. It is an inability to launch as an independent adult. She fled LA to escape personal issues and then almost immediately latched on to husband and a very quick pregnancy and then marriage. It sounds like she isn’t able to either live alone or be independent. If you don’t see moving to Israel as more than a temporary move, you don’t get pregnant and marry an Israeli, who never agreed to a move back to LA. “Anything is possible” isn’t even close to agreeing to move back. It is still possible. It is also extremely unlikely.

        You need to grow up. I’m not sure why you expect your daughter to have a better life in LA. Your husband’s job is in Israel. How will your family support itself if you move?

        It is always a flight of fantasy to assume you can marry a foreigner in another country and have a child and move back to raise that child close to your parents in America. Unless the foreign man expresses a STRONG desire to move to America and agrees to do so, you have to be a complete fool to assume he will. Even if he does say all the right things, it isn’t necessarily going to happen. You moved into his life. You violated the cardinal view of serious dating/marriage: it can’t work if you can’t accept your SO almost exactly as they are today. A person’s home city/town and especially their country is a HUGE part of who they are. A lot of people aren’t going to magically decide they want to move to your home country. And you stormed ahead, for whatever reason, with nothing close to an agreement on future place of residence.

  • MsVader November 1, 2018, 5:18 pm

    L1 – the child is 18 years old. It’s a bit much to just shove them off to the hinterland and go off on your merry sunset. Likely they are in university or college or just starting to find work. People still need support from their parents at that age. You seem selfish. I’d really think about whether that is a relationship you want.

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    • JD November 2, 2018, 6:39 am

      I agree. Our son knows, although perhaps does not grasp that after he graduates he will be in college or have a full time job and contribute. That doesn’t mean he is being shoved out the door, just that he can’t be lazy and expect us to support his laziness forever. My son also doesn’t help much, plays video games all day. I truly do with hed be more motivated but he’s also a teenager and this is pretty common behavior. He is however expected to clean up after himself in all manners. Father for sure should teach son to do some housework, although it’s quite possible he does in fact do some, perhaps his own, but girlfriend needs to understand you don’t just boot your kid on graduation day.

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      • LisforLeslie November 2, 2018, 10:24 am

        JD –
        1. That’s the most you can do with an 18 year old.
        2. This is technically your step son? If so – I truly appreciate that you call him your son. Because he is. And I love that. Keep doing that.

      • JD November 2, 2018, 10:53 am

        He is my stepson. He is with us full time though with occasional visits to mom when she feels like it, although per the agreement she has much more time.

    • LisforLeslie November 2, 2018, 10:23 am

      Such a kind kind gesture: you’re legally an adult now get out and go so I can start a new family with your father.

      WTF woman? Seriously? How is this kid going to take care of himself? Have you tried to get a job with just a high school education in this economy? It’s not like this kid can walk to the local factor, get a job that affords him rent and car and everything else.

      What is wrong with you?

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    Skyblossom November 2, 2018, 11:09 am

    LW2 If you want to be a part of your daughter’s life you make peace with the idea that you will continue to live in Israel. You chose this life for her, whether you knew it or not, when you remained in Israel after getting pregnant. Try to make friends and find a job that adds value to your life. Give yourself some time to settle in and try to see the good side of where you live. There was a reason you went to Israel. Try to think about it and make your life as positive as possible.

    Even if you went back to LA there is no guarantee that you would be happy there. There is no guarantee that your parents would help you raise your daughter. There is no guarantee that you could afford LA. For now, LA will be a place you visit with your daughter or it will be a place where you live without your daughter. As a mother I hope you choose your daughter over LA. Right now you are focusing outward from the marriage. You think you would be happier in LA and you want to drag your family along. Have you considered whether your husband would be happy in LA? Does that matter to you? You need to look inward with the marriage. Look at making it a better marriage. Look to discuss things that are important before you find yourself trapped in a decision you didn’t know you were making. Taking the time to look up facts so that you make an informed decision. Accept that you made a decision to live in Israel and look for happiness in Israel. Once your daughter is grown you can move back to LA.

    Besides, look at the situation here. We are trending fascist here. Living in Israel may be the best choice you could make for your daughter.

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  • Beth November 2, 2018, 12:52 pm

    LW 1: I cannot fathom assuming I would get to start a “new” family with someone. Your boyfriend’s son is your family. Why would he want to raise a whole new set of kids once he is done? Did you even discuss this plan with him at all or think he would just go along with it? It sounds like a major discussion on expectations needs to be had and soon. I feel bad for the son. He’s probably known you have it out for him the entire time and is tired of being the seen as such a roadblock.

    LW2: Having a kid sometimes means you don’t get to move until they are an adult. It’s a sacrifice many of us make. If no concrete plan was ever discussed, I don’t know how you can expect your partner to read your mind.

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    • SpaceySteph November 2, 2018, 1:21 pm

      Yeah I feel so bad for the son here. I had a friend growing up whose mom married a new guy and started a new family with him while she was a younger teenager (like 13, 14 ish). They moved to a new house, zoned for a new school, etc. In one particularly egregious incident they punished her for poor grades by leaving her home while going on a family vacation to Disney World. Basically did everything to indicate that she was the leftover and not part of the new family.

      What a horrible thing to do to someone. She moved away for college and never looked back, totally don’t blame her.

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  • Anonymous November 2, 2018, 2:22 pm

    LW1) Gag. Vomit. Barf. Men who have litters of kids with each and every significant other are but a pox upon an already plagued world…

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  • dmarie November 2, 2018, 3:31 pm

    18 isn’t like a magic get-out-of-parenting age. I was the first of my close group of friends (whom most people would have considered very responsible college kids/young adults) to move out when I was 21. I would expect my children to attend college or get a job and in both cases to contribute to the household at least by helping with housework but I mean seriously!? An 18 year old can’t even rent an apartment most of the time even if they are lucky enough to get a job the moment they turn 18 with, probably, not even a high school diploma. And given that my ILs have my husband’s siblings living with them in their 30’s and it is causing a lot of problems, I take a pretty hard stance on overstaying at your parents.

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  • H September 18, 2022, 9:05 am

    LW1. I’ll say to you exactly what I said to my dad when he announced that he and his girlfriend had decided that she would move in with him, leaving her 17 year old son to move in with his aunt.

    Ok, I won’t say exactly what I said to my dad, because I swore at him a lot and called him an imbecile.

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