“My Ex’s New Boyfriend is Sleeping Over at The House I Still Pay For!”

My ex, “Karen,” and I had a “loose” agreement that we would introduce new significant others to each other before introducing them to our 14-year-old son. However, she did not do that; my son has met Karen’s new boyfriend a few times and now she is having him sleep over.

I am not hurt over the fact she has a boyfriend as I somewhat prepared myself for that. What hurts, disappoints, and surprises me is that, first off, I pretty much had to force her to tell me she has a boyfriend and she did not honor our agreement; my son has met him a few times, but I have not even been asked to do so. I’m upset that she’s having him sleep in the matrimonial home that I owned before I met her and still, per our pre-nup, have to pay all expenses for until it’s sold. She is trying to break the pre-nup and stay one more year past what the pre-nup says, and all of this adds up to anger.

It now makes me uncomfortable and I feel I will remain that way if I am offered a chance to meet him. This also goes against what we talked about and what I envisioned, which was to have three adults working together to support our boy. The opposite has happened as the disrespect I have experienced seems to have burned the bridge to being amicable since my trust of them has taken a hit. I am not certain but it is possible that this was planned to hurt me like she has hurt and disrespected me in the past in other ways.

Of course, I am supportive and cool with my son, but it feels to me that a big peice is absent, leaving me confused, hurt, and concerned for my boy. Also, he did not tell me that he had met his mom’s new boyfriend as he thought I would be hurt and mad. I found out from another person who knows both of us.

I am not sure what to do and have asked to meet the new boyfriend with no reply, so I don’t want to look like I am begging or something and I don’t want to approach it with anger as anger makes people do and say things they normally don’t do or say. Suggesting we go to counseling would be the only other idea I have, but it is likely she will refuse as she has in the past on other important issues.

Why would she do this? It puts our son in the middle, little positive is in it, and and the negative could remain for years to come, unfortunately.

Do you see anything I am missing? Anything you can suggest? A new approach? — Agreement Broached!

Much like Monday’s column wasn’t actually about a bed, your problem isn’t actually about a “loose” agreement being breached. What even is a “loose” agreement anyway? Certainly not something that warrants that kind of reaction you’re giving here, fostering negativity that “could remain for years to come.” Come on, that’s nuts. You talk a good talk about wanting to be an adult who supports your son with your co-parent and whatever new significant others enter the picture, but the walk you’re walking gives a far different impression. You are hurting that your wife left you, that you’re paying for a house that she (and your son) live in (per a legal contract that you apparently agreed to before you married), and that she has a boyfriend and has moved on from you. Everyone — well, your ex-wife and your son — know how hurt and angry you are and so they are walking around on eggshells in order to not set you off.

I want you to think about that: You have – unintentionally – tasked your 14-year-old son with prioritizing YOUR emotional well-being above his own. Your ex-wife didn’t do this; YOU did it. The reason why the “loose” agreement wasn’t honored is because your ex-wife feared you would not react well to meeting her new boyfriend and she wanted to avoid the kind of confrontation she was worried might take place. And here you are: absolutely seething — to the point of declaring the negativity so damaging that it may last for years – because said new boyfriend will be sleeping over in the house that your ex and son live in. Honestly, what did you think would happen? That your ex wouldn’t date again? That if she did date, she wouldn’t invite her new significant other to her home? That she wouldn’t hold you to a prenup that you agreed to before you married in which you pay household expenses for the home your ex is raising your son in? (Think about that: You are pissed that a legal agreement is being upheld and a non-legal/”loose” one isn’t.) You are so livid about how things have turned out, most of which have little to do with this loose agreement being breached, that you’ve convinced yourself that maybe your wife’s dating someone new and not introducing you as quickly as you’d like was all a plan to hurt you and that any bridge to being amicable co-partners has thus been burned.

All this anger and bitterness doesn’t make you sound committed to “supporting your boy” at all. It just makes you sound in serious need of therapy. On your own, not with your ex-wife. You need to deal with the hurt and betrayal you feel in order to move past it and be a truly supportive dad who doesn’t make your kid pay for the decisions made by the adults in his life. There’s no reason bridges to amicable co-parenting should be burned over anything you’ve described in this letter, and saying as much, let alone actually burning the bridges, and martyring yourself in this post-divorce/split reality, is juvenile. Pull up your big boy pants, get the help you need, and quit pitting your son in the middle of all this. He’s 14, his parents have recently split, and his mom’s got a new boyfriend. That’s more than enough for him to deal with without his dad throwing a big hissy fit over his mom dating someone new.


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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. LW – I think the hardest part about the transition with divorce is now you aren’t parenting partners anymore but coparent. You are looking at the fear that the choices for your son are going to be made independently of you.

    I do agree with Wendy that your anger and pain need to be worked through. But more importantly, you want your son to be able to talk to you. So if he feels uncomfortable with this new man or other men in your ex’s life, that he can come to you and not worry about you flying off the handle. I am sure this new man is fine, but if it was me, I would hate to have my son not want to talk to me if the man wasn’t.

    I am sorry this transition is so hard on you and I hope it will go better in the future.

  2. LW, I certainly must agree with what Wendy has said here. The key part that you MUST pay attention to is 1. that your son knew you would be angry about the boyfriend so didn’t tell you and 2. that you apparently discussed this topic with your son, maybe even to asking why he didn’t report his mother’s activities to you? This is a huge misstep on your part, please please please don’t make your son pay for the poor relationship you have with his mother, don’t discuss your issues with him, and don’t make him play referee or spy.
    You want your son to feel cared for and safe? How about reconfirming the prenup living arrangements via your lawyer and making sure your son knows where and how he will be living after the house is sold? What do you have to do so he can stay at the same school with his friends when the house is sold? Will you be stepping up as the custodial parent? Your care can’t be only in your head, you have to actually and usually put his needs above your own. Dad, you have some planning and prioritizing to do for his benefit in the short time you have left with him as a minor. That’s what you should be focused on. Good luck!

  3. I can’t fathom why you think you have a right to meet your ex’s new bf. Her love life is her private business. You don’t get to vet her new SOs. Nor do you get to decide when and how she introduces them to your son, although I do agree that she has rushed this process. It sounds like she has primary custody, so this is her decision, unless she does something outrageous enough that there is a legal remedy. This isn’t even approaching outrageous. It seems you are unable to let go of your ex romantically. Wendy gets a lot of letters like yours, from both men and women, who are butt hurt because their ex moved on romantically before they did. Please recognize your reaction for what it is.

  4. Yeah, I have to pile on with everyone else. YOU have put your son in the middle. All of this could have been handled without involving him. The fact that at 14, he’s editing what he tells you because he knows you’ll react angrily is a very, very bad sign for your future relationship with him. Unless you change your ways, he’ll keep doing that. He won’t see you as someone he can confide in about tough stuff. And your relationship will be superficial, at best.

    Now, as for what’s going on with your ex. Sure, you get to be disappointed that she didn’t stick to a vague promise to introduce you to any new boyfriends. But you know what? Outside of formal custody agreements that were done through a court, you have no say in how she conducts her life. That ended when you divorced. And this “lifetime negativity” silliness is just….silly.

    Get therapy if you need to, but get your emotions under control, for your son’s sake.

  5. Divorce with kids sucks and it can be emotional and hard. I get your fear and pain. But your “loose agreement” wasn’t realistic. Your ex doesn’t owe it to you to present someone she is dating for your controlling approval, which is ultimately what you want, even if in your mind you aren’t dressing it up that way. You aren’t parenting partners anymore and as tough as it is, you need to learn to trust her judgement on who, and how, she introduces people into your son’s life. The check and balance isn’t in demanding the right to preview her partners and authorize their fitness. It’s through establishing a relationship with your son where he feels safe expressing concerns, and establishing a respectful relationship with your ex where the two of you can interact with healthy boundaries. You aren’t going to be able to do any of this until you acknowledge to yourself that you aren’t healed from the divorce yet.

    You need to do this alone, not by placing expectations on your ex and kid to help you feel better. She doesn’t owe you an introduction to her boyfriend, you don’t get to make that demand. It would be ideal and healthier if you can all know each other and get along, but you have work to do before you are anywhere close to pulling that off.

  6. I sincerely hope your son doesn’t know how bitter you are about paying for the roof over his head.

  7. I find it somewhat telling that you didn’t say how long ago you and your ex split up, and when your divorce was final, and how long she has been dating the “new” boyfriend and how long she actually did wait to introduce him to your son. If you wanted your ex to stick to an arrangement on how to handle the introduction of any new significant other, it should have been put in writing in your custody agreement. It wasn’t, so you apparently didn’t push very hard for it, so you don’t really have standing to be so enraged about it now. (And what would be the purpose of introducing the new SO to the ex BEFORE introducing to the kid? It’s not like you have veto power, just as your ex-wife wouldn’t be able to control who you date in the future.)

    I also think it’s really sad that you are angry about your son being able to stay in the only home he’s ever known.

  8. anonymousse says:

    I have to agree that you are the person who put your son in the middle. You’re angry and bitter to the point where you’re blaming him for not telling you, and also blaming her and wondering if she did this just to spite you. What’s more realistic- that she didn’t tell you JUST to spite you or she was worried you’d get angry exactly as you have? That’s really not cool as a father. You need to keep the personal politics out of your relationship with your son and your ex. No one is going to want to tell you things or introduce you to the new bf if you act so angrily about things that are no longer your business. Vent to a professional about your feelings, not your son, not your ex, not people that know you both and apparently tell you her private business. I know and can completely understand that you have emotion and a lot of big feelings attached to this subject, but you have to swallow that as much as you can to try and have a cordial conparenting relationship.

    Have you moved on? Have you seen a counselor? It seems like there’s been a few things you’ve wanted to take your ex to counseling for. Have you gone on your own? It really sounds like it could be useful for you to have a impartial third party to vent to and help you figure out your goals as a parent and a coparent and how to get those to be the healthy relationships you need.

  9. She should refuse to go to counseling with you because she is not your wife anymore and doesn’t owe you working through your issues. You can and should go to counseling on your own to talk about the anger you’re feeling and what are reasonable boundaries.
    You say you’ve accepted she’d have a boyfriend but it doesn’t sound true. I get that there are emotions tied up in the house and your broken marriage, but that house is no longer your marital house it is your wife’s home and she has every right to treat it like her home which includes having gentleman callers.

    1. Agreed! Reasons you would request your ex attend counseling sessions:
      1. Your child is struggling and the child’s therapist has suggested that sessions together would benefit the child

      That’s it. Your ex doesn’t owe you her time because you don’t like how she’s handling her love life. The child is having issues because you made this an issue.

  10. dinoceros says:

    I think you need to separate out what are issues that actually impact your son and what are issues that are you being a normal human who is feeling negative emotions surrounding a divorce. The latter are things that you need to learn how to process on your own, perhaps through a therapist. There’s no sense in creating more drama or burdening your son with this simply because you are feeling the anger/irritation that someone feels when their ex gets a new guy or whatever, or because you feel slighted. The part of this that you do need to act on is stuff that you actually think is a problem for your son.

    You haven’t really indicated whether any of the things you are mad about actually impact him. You don’t like the guy in your old home because you don’t like him there. But you didn’t say that you feel this is negatively impacting your son.

    It’s fine to be upset and angry about your divorce. But creating conflict with your ex over it when it will directly harm the type of co-parenting you can do for your son is a bad idea. You didn’t list anything that seems particularly important aside from how it affects your ego.

  11. If I were you, I would address the house question with my lawyer. If her boyfriend lives with her and your son, this changes her capacity to pay the house expenses, in case her stay is extended beyond the prenup’s term. He can pay a part of the costs (or they can pay all?) if he lives there. Negociate that with a lawyer advice .
    Then let go of the emotional part of your letter. You are divorced. What she does isn’t your business anymore. All what matter is your son and the functioning co-parenting.
    The “loose agreement” was not possible. Nobody wants to have to get the green light of an ex for a new partner. If this was meant to protect the child, then it should have been in the divorce settlement. You should have a better lawyer.
    Anyway, it would be in your interest, and in the interest of your son, to meet this guy and be introduced as the father. This would seem normal to me.
    If the tension deflates, it will be easier for your relationship with your son. It is too bad he had to hide the truth, not only because you are angry, but also because his mother didn’t let you know. I think both of you co-parents have to be more matter-of-fact.
    Fix the house-payment according to the change in her situation and just accept the new guy in your son’ life – unless he is abusive, but to know this, you have to restore the trust with your son, that is, to act more like a responsible adult he can talk to.

    1. I don’t think the ex’s bf lives with the ex and LW’s son. As I read the post, he just sometimes stays the night. Her financial situation isn’t changed by her bf spending the night sometimes.

      I also don’t think LW meeting the new bf will reduce tension. I think he’s jealous and thinks he rather than this dude should be in bed with his ex.

  12. Speak to your lawyer and enforce the prenup. Control what you can control.

  13. Of course, enforce the prenup and don’t agree to an extra year before sale of the house, if that bothers him so much. However, I get a very controlling vibe from this guy. He clearly is the one who demanded a prenup to protect his assets, so we know he’s a person who legally protects his interests. If he’s divorced now, there must be a custody agreement. He may even be paying alimony. It is beyond strange that he would have an unenforceable ‘loose’ agreement on a custody matter which is important to him. His whole letter reeks of jealousy and upset at his inability to continue controlling his ex. His attitude is ‘she fucked another man in MY house!’. Of course it’s effectively her house until sold, according to the prenup he wanted. So, until it actually becomes the legally required time to sell the house, he’s just a guy letting his emotions, and not very pleasant emotions, run amok.

  14. This was not some conspiracy between your son and his mom. These were 2 people worried how you would react. What a terrible burden to put on your son.
    I have a feeling I know why these 2 are divorced. It’s a scary unsafe feeling to be afraid of your husband and father.

  15. Ruby Tuesday says:

    I imagine the wife only entered into the loose agreement because she did not want to deal with his reaction if she said no. Otherwise, why wouldn’t this stipulation be in your custody agreement? When it comes to your child, the only agreement that matters is your custody agreement.

  16. Bittergaymark says:

    Everybody is WRONG in this letter — except the 14 year old. But my the LW is fucking crazy sounding and wound wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too tight. I simply can’t imagine why the marriage failed… ?

  17. Wendy’s response to this is so callous and uncaring it’s hard to see why she has a column at all. Divorce is complicated. Informal agreements matter just as much as legal ones do from a trust perspective and the writer is hurt because his ex went back on what she said. He is right to be upset by that. Relationships of any form all rely on trust and respect. If someone breaches that trust – it’s hard. There is no legal requirement for a friend to not try and date the person you are – but you’d be hurt if they did and it would be a violation. In fact it’s frequently more disturbing when someone violates a non-legal agreement because there is no consequence for it – it’s just a choice to violate someone and there is nothing they can do about. Legal agreements aren’t about trust, they’re about following a document. Personal agreements are entirely about trust.

    The writer has no right to complain about the pre-nup – he agreed to it – but he does have the right to express his discomfort about having someone who is not him sleep in the same home as his child. I’m making an assumption of shared custody here, but it feels inappropriate for someone to extend their personal relationships into the time they should be using to be a parent to their child. She could have her new boyfriend sleep over on non-custodial nights. We typically don’t take our kids on dates or tell them we’re having sex with someone, but a new partner sleeping over makes that obvious and is essentially an extension of a date.

    I hate how Wendy says it’s the writer’s fault because his ex just didn’t want to tell him because she was worried about a confrontation. Obviously she was right to be, but that is part of the choice she made when she agreed that he would meet this person first. You don’t get to break an agreement because it’s inconvenient for you – at least not ethically. It wasn’t the writer’s fault, it was hers. She put her desire not to feel awkward over keeping her word and it cost a tremendous amount of trust. When someone agrees to a thing you can’t make them do it, but if they don’t, do you continue to trust them? Is the person who agreed to the thing they didn’t do acting like a “good” person? Just because there are no consequences doesn’t make it okay. Is a legal document the only criteria for acting like a decent person? If there is no legal document is it wrong to expect someone to hold to their word?

    It’s so mean to be so callous when someone reaches out in their vulnerability with someone they are struggling with – whether you agree with what they’re saying or not. The writer was obviously hurting and while I think some of what he says is misguided, he deserves a response that isn’t just going after him because his judgement is skewed by his pain. Surely Wendy herself has done things that are driven by difficult emotions and aren’t necessarily rational or right. When someone is struggling to understand something and are emotionally raw you can just yell at them and tell them how it’s all their fault or try to be a bit more understanding.

    1. This LW ended. up being a real head case. Wrote me at least five times in a seven month period all about how his ex was moving on and he needed to save his son from that. Spare me the lecture, dude. It’s drenched in misogyny and fragile masculinity; we don’t coddle that here, bye.

    2. If someone has a deeply misguided view of a situation and deeply off priorities you are not doing them any favors by snuggling them and telling them that their unreasonable position is justified. He is divorced and has no say over his wife’s personal life and he is choosing to put his son in the middle. There is no path forward until he gets that.

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