“My Ex-Husband’s Girlfriend is Trying to Control My Son”

I have an amazing 10-year-old son, “John.” He’s smart, creative and a really empathetic child. My ex-husband Mike and I have been divorced for three years. Although we share custody, my ex has not been very present in my son’s life. However, since he has moved in with his girlfriend “Sam,” he seems to be showing more interest in our son. I work seven days a week to keep us afloat, so John now spends most weekends with John and Sam.

I’m happy that John finally has a healthy relationship with his father, and it’s good to see them spending quality time together. However, I’m beginning to grow concerned about Sam’s influence in John’s life. Sam has been texting John constantly, and he has been lying to me about who is texting him. She wants to know what he’s doing every day, and a few times she has said things like, “I’m sorry I yelled at you last night.” Or she’ll put undue pressure on him by asking questions like, “Well, why can’t you spend the night on Sunday?” Additionally, Sam has been buying clothes or gifts for John but insisting that he cannot take them home with him and must leave them at her house.

The straw that broke the camel’s back here happened when John had to write an essay to read aloud at an awards ceremony. He wrote the essay at Mike and Sam’s house and had asked for my opinion on it, but, when he requested that Sam print the essay so that he could show me, she refused and told him I had to wait to hear it just like everyone else and that she would print him a copy only when he really needed it.

My heart is breaking. I love my little boy and I feel like I am being pushed out of his life. At first, I thought I was just jealous, but my parents as well as Mike’s parents seem to share my concern. Mike’s parents recently told me that they were afraid that Sam was too controlling with John and that she has a very short temper. I don’t know what to do in this situation. Mike and I aren’t exactly close, so I don’t feel like it would be appropriate to critique his girlfriend. But I feel like we need to start setting some boundaries. Is this normal? Am I overreacting? How should I proceed? — Tired Mom

Um, it is COMPLETELY appropriate for you to critique your ex’s girlfriend as her behavior relates to your son. You are John’s mother and, as uncomfortable as it may feel to go to your ex and discuss the way his girlfriend is acting, it’s your job to protect your son. Please, please express your concerns to Mike and demand that some rules be set in place. (Examples: no more texting John — if Sam needs to contact him, she can call him through your phone; John is free to bring lightweight items, such as clothes and books, etc., freely between both of his parents’ homes despite who purchased them for him; HIS MOTHER IS ALLOWED TO LOOK AT HIS HOMEWORK, Jesus). While you’re talking with Mike, it might be a good time to revisit your child support arrangement as well as your (and John’s) personal expenses. If you have to work seven days a week to keep you and John afloat, it seems like his father could/should be helping out a little more financially. You may also want to meet with a financial advisor to formulate a financial plan. You can’t sustain a 7-days-a-week work schedule AND be a present mother. As much as John needs time with his dad, he needs time with you, too. And if you had even had a day a week to devote to him, your anxiety about his well-being would likely ease up a bit.

If Mike won’t work with you to set some boundaries, or if the boundaries don’t work, I’d suggest meeting with a family attorney to discuss your rights. You say both sets of grandparents have mentioned concerns about Sam. If you don’t have these comments in writing (maybe through an email), try soliciting them so that you can share them with a judge should it come to that. You may also want to talk to John’s teachers, or any other adults who are in regular contact with him, about any changes they’ve noticed since he began spending more time with his father and Sam. Any documentation you can get in writing will help your case.

Above all, know that you are NOT overreacting and that this is NOT normal. Sam is way out of bounds and she needs to be stopped. Perhaps she really does have the best intentions at heart and simply needs some direction (and boundaries). But there may also be other issues at play that you aren’t aware of because you don’t know her well and aren’t privy to the inner-workings of her mind and relationships. John is YOUR son. Sam isn’t even a stepmother. You have every right and every reason to do whatever you need to do to protect your son, keep him safe, and remove from his (and your) life anything that interferes with your ability to parent him to the best of your ability.


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@dearwendy.com.


  1. Oh yikes, this isn’t good. I totally agree with Wendy, especially in terms of your work schedule and how you need to work out your child support agreements with Mike. For now, until you work out your child support stuff is there a way that you and John can move in with a friend or family member to get your feet back under you? Rent can be a killer sometimes, so if you can even move in with someone for 6 months, I think that would help a lot.

  2. Sounds a bit like she’s creeping into psycho step mom territory. Maybe I’m biased because my dad married a lunatic. When my brother and I were little and visiting at our Dad’s house, psycho step mother BLOCKED my mom’s phone number so she couldn’t call us. Then she says to my brother and I, “I guess your mother doesn’t love you. She never calls you, does she.”

    1. That’s completely insane. It makes me so sad that someone would do that.

      1. Yep and when my mom tried to call from the neighbour’s house, crazy step mother blocked the neighbour’s number too (this was before the days of cell phones). For crazy people like this, it’s all about control. They want ultimate control and they want to feel like they are in a position of power over the ex. We had a happy custody arrangement too and then my step mother demanded that my father sue my mom for full custody. Not because she wanted us kids, but because she wanted to do whatever the fuck it took to be in a position of power over her new husband’s ex-wife.

      2. I’m not one really to swear all the time but I have been saying what the fuck to my computer all morning. I hate your step mother and I hate this fucking girlfriend. There are children involved – how the hell can you be so fucking selfish and evil.

    2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      That’s terrible! What did your dad do when he found out (assuming he found out)? Are they still married to each other?

      1. My dad didn’t do anything. He just went along with whatever his wife said. They did eventually divorce but many years later and I actually think that she left him.

    3. That is horrible 🙁 How is that even ok? My dad married the wicked step mother who admitted she was jealous of me (WTF?) and once threatened to break my fingers but at least I got to talk to my mom if I wanted to.

  3. “I’m sorry I yelled at you last night”? What the ever loving fuck? NOT OKAY. No one should be yelling at the child really. Not okay for someone who is not a parent to even discipline a child- not unless step parents are in the picture and the parameters of how they discipline has been discussed and agreed to by ALL parents. Not okay that she is trying to restrict your input in YOUR child’s life or his homework; Not Okay that she pressures your son in any way regarding adult decisions about when a 10 year old visits; Not any of it is okay. You need to talk to Mike and then to an attorney. Something is off with the girlfriend and you cannot let her come between you and your son. It is disheartening that Mike wasn’t around in John’s life until she showed up on the scene – and who knows what her agenda is – but your job is to protect John. He shouldn’t have to feel in the middle and that is exactly where this woman is putting him with her crazy rules about what happens at her house vs. what happens at your house. I take it back – have the conversation with the lawyer first. Formulate a game plan of what you need to address with Mike (including support obligations) and go from there. What Wendy says is true – your son needs you – way more than he could ever need this stupid woman putting all this undue pressure on him. What changes can you make in your life so you aren’t working 7 days a week? Are you getting child support? If not – you need it now and you need all of the back support too. Your ex’s girlfriend should not be texting your child – especially since she is so fucking volatile she yells at him. No communication with that woman should be unmonitored…who are these fucking people? You aren’t anything to the child – not a parent, not even a step parent and you want to call shots? Unbelievable. Where is your ex in all of this? It is nice that John has a relationship with his father but that does not take priority over everything else. His job is to protect your son from any and all abuse – and yes some fucking strange woman yelling at your child counts as abuse.
    Where are you? Does your jurisdiction have free legal clinics? Is there a law school nearby – law schools usually work with free clinics. You need to formalize the visitation schedule (so that you have time with him too) and child support obligations and that can include rules for what happens at each house so their is some continuity in your child’s life. You aren’t critiquing his girlfriend you are setting rules for EVERYONE to follow regarding your son. I’m so sorry you are feeling like you are being pushed out of his life – no mother should even feel like that – but you need to fight for the best interests of your child now. This is not the time to be passive.

    1. Totally agree. I wonder with the texting communication….could the LW block crazy lunatic woman’s number on John’s phone or iPod or whatever? There has to be a way. As his mom, the LW has the right to step in and do that.

  4. Coming from divorced parents, I know that in a majority of states you aren’t allowed to have your child stay at your place if you are cohabitating with an unrelated male/female ie unmarried. I wasn’t allowed to stay at my father’s until he married my now stepmom. Even if it’s not expressly spelled out in the decree it still may not be allowed. Again something to look into with a lawyer.

  5. It took us a lot of time and work to get a nice balance in how our kids would be raised with 4 parents. I think I have a lot more responsibility/leeway than most step parents, but that’s just how it worked for our family. But this is crazy. What in the hell is wrong with this girlfriend? Especially with the not printing off her speech?! Are you kidding me? Not ok. I’ll admit I have a short temper and sometimes raise my voice, but I do my best not to yell at the kids. I wouldn’t want to be yelled at, so why should they be?
    The only thing I will somewhat agree with is the clothes/toys/etc staying at one house for the most part. When my husband and I first were together, we would get them clothes and toys and stuff for our house because their mom often didn’t send them with anything to do and inadequate clothes for whatever we were doing. They would then take that stuff to their moms and we’d never see it again and it would start all over. So we instituted a rule that if they wanted to bring things back and forth, that’s fine but we did not want to hear “I’m bored, there’s no toys” or anything like that because they brought everything to their mom’s place. Ultimately my husband instituted a rule that things bought for our house stayed there because it continued to be a problem. I think the difference here is that it was 1) Not for a controlling reason (like it sounds like with this girlfriend); 2) instituted by HIM, not just me and 3) It seemed unfair that we often cancelled plans because the kids didn’t have something they needed (good walking shoes, long pants, etc) even if we told their mom in advance to pack those things because everything we bought ended up at her house. These days they just kinda bring things back and forth and that’s fine with us because we’ve established enough stuff in our home that a few things won’t matter.

    1. This whole letter just keeps bothering me and I re-read it and saw that it is SAM specifically buying the clothes or gifts and not letting him take them home? Not like a joint financial purchase, but her doing it? No. That’s not ok. I must have misread it the first time because I read it as both Sam and Mike making this decision, but that’s not it at all.

  6. Laura Hope says:

    MissDre— How awful! Is your father still married to her?

  7. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    What Wendy said times a hundred!

  8. RedroverRedrover says:

    I know a woman just like this, but unfortunately she’s the kid’s mom, not just a girlfriend. She’s horrible. She only wanted girls, so she ignores her son completely and focuses on her daughter. That’s fucking her son right up. But I kind of think the daughter is getting it worse, because she’s getting all the poison shot right at her. The mom gets angry if the daughter talks about loving her stepmom, or wanting to spend time with her. It’s awful. The little girl is only 7 or 8, and she doesn’t know what to do. She’s like, she asks me, and when I answer, I get in trouble. I’m not supposed to lie, right? It’s heartbreaking.

    You don’t want your son to end up in this kind of situation, where he’s so afraid to be himself around her that he doesn’t know what to do. If she’s already yelling at him, that’s not a good sign. I’m sure he’s afraid of doing something wrong around her already. You need to do whatever you can to put a stop to it, as soon as possible. It’s great that the grandparents have noticed too, please do what Wendy said and see if you can get it in writing, particularly from Mike’s parents. Do Mike’s parents have much influence over him? Can they say something? I guess maybe not, if they’re coming to you with it. But maybe you could present a united front with them when talking with Mike. Just so he knows it’s not jealousy of the girlfriend on your part, but an issue that everyone can see.

    By the way, the family I mentioned does the same thing where clothes and toys don’t go back and forth. But it’s because the mom will purposely keep everything that comes to her house, and send the kids back in second-hand, ill-fitting clothes, so the dad had to institute that rule or else he’s constantly buying new stuff for them.

  9. LW, I do think you need to have a conversation but I am not as concerned as everyone else. I feel like there can be innocent explanations of everything. I mean, you have proof that she lost her cool once. Everyone has done that. As far as the clothes thing, maybe she is just trying to make their place a welcoming place so he has things there to be excited to see. I am not saying there doesn’t need to be a conversation but just realize that this woman might have good intentions. I feel like this is a defining co-parenting moment. To be able to calmly bring things up and see how you and your ex can deal with a conflict. I feel like this can be easily resolved depending on how you approach this.

  10. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    So here’s my take on the situation –
    Your ex has never really been involved with his son. He gets this new girlfriend and she’s completely shocked that the man she’s dating has a son that he barely has a relationship with. So she sets about trying to change that – encouraging him to spend time at their house, buying him things to keep there, trying to basically force a space in her boyfriend’s life for his son. Maybe one of her own parents wasn’t really involved in her life and she feels some kind of personal stake in the situation. Maybe she just doesn’t want to be the girlfriend who doesn’t want anything to do with her SO’s kid and she’s going overboard.
    And I think that she’s just a little overzealous about it. I’m thinking there are probably good intentions badly implemented, and that everyone probably just needs to talk about boundaries. Since there hasn’t really been any communication with the girlfriend about her behavior for her to respond to, it seems a little unfair to immediately paint her as a ‘Loon’.

  11. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    Two words: documentation and lawyer.
    This whole thing could boil down to simple miscommunication, or it might not. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. This woman could become John’s stepmother someday, and it’s best to take care of these issues now than later. Plus, definitely see if you can get your child support payments readjusted- you can’t work 7 days a week indefinitely! The best thing to do is get documentation of all of this just in case you need it. Then talk to a lawyer to see what you can do. It might sound excessive to go to a lawyer right now, but you never know if things could escalate down the road and it’s best to be prepared!

  12. tbrucemom says:

    This makes me so sad and so thankful at the same time. My husband is such a wonderful stepdad and my daughter loves him like her own. She introduces him as her “dad” not her stepdad. My grown son has a stepson and loves him like his own too. There are WONDERFUL stepparents out there and hopefully they’re the majority not like the example here. She’s not even a stepparent, just a girlfriend, which makes it even worse!

  13. Avatar photo possumgirl says:

    I strongly recommend reading the book “Divorce Poison” as she is trying many of the tactics mentioned in the book (despite not even being remotely related to your son!). Her behavior sounds dangerous and as if she is “grooming” him for something. Please reach out to an attorney and a child psychologist (to help counteract her brainwashing). Very sorry for your troubles, OP; this must be devastating.

  14. I am in a situation where the dad’s girlfriend texts my teens every single day. She says she wants to know what’s going on in their life. What bothers me is that she says things to them like, I miss you so much and it hurts so bad when we are apart. She is young and acts more like a friend than anything else. I told her that if she wants to know how they are then checking on them every couple of days is appropriate, however what she is doing now is not. Since then she has only communicated with them more. I have not spoken to the kids because I do not want to put them in the middle. Not sure what’s acceptable here.

  15. Jennifer Gutierrez says:

    You mean to tell me this is wrong?
    My ex husband cheated with now the current girlfriend. He didn’t even want to have the baby once he got her pregnant. ?
    This has been going on for years in my life.
    She straight up told me in the beginning that she was going to be in their lives, etc.
    This past summer was the worst. I heard her telling my daughter basically it was okay to cheat. Saying the marriage wasn’t real and she was in the middle.
    I have her making my kids doctors appointments without my consent or my ex’s apparently. My kids have told me that I have no voice basically at the dad’s house.
    I think I do need to hire a lawyer because I’ve been pushed aside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *