Here are the steps taken that seem to be a reckless way to add a new adult — mother’s boyfriend — to his life:
1. Mother verbally informs son she has a boyfriend she wants him to meet soon.
2. Son makes clear numerous times he does not want to meet her boyfriend.
3. Three weeks after son is made aware his mother has a boyfriend, mother informs son that her boyfriend will be coming to the house to meet him.
4. Son argues again he does not want to meet him.
5. Four weeks after mother informs her son she has a boyfriend, mother and boyfriend come in the house and ask son to come upstairs.
6. Son shakes his hand, says “hi,’ and goes back downstairs.
7. Later when boyfriend is gone, mother shows anger toward son for being rude to her boyfriend and then shows admiration toward her boyfriend suggesting son should like him because he’s a good guy.
8. Boyfriend begins visiting the house weekly.
9 Six weeks after mother informs son she has a boyfriend, mother allows boyfriend to sleep over with no communication about sleepover to son.
9. Son stops having friends to house, leaves house before mother is home, goes to friends’ homes, hangs in parks or fast food places where other teens gather, refuses coming home for dinner, goes to fast food place to eat, or asks dad if he can order Uber Eats.
So, Wendy, would you provide me your thoughts and opinions regarding the sequence of events here that seem to have produced negative behavioural changes in my son? Your feedback to this matter would be greatly appreciated. — Concerned Dad
Why are you writing as if this is the first time you’re telling me all this? You sent a letter in July to complain that your ex, whom you’d been separated from for 15 months, broke your “loose” agreement to introduce new significant others to one another before introducing them to your son. Then you sent a disturbing update two weeks later in which you explained how you found out your son had met your ex’s new boyfriend: “I asked our son if Mommy had introduced him to a guy. He said no. I let it go, but two weeks later I asked again, a little more meaningfully, telling him lying will hurt and no matter what I won’t be mad. He then said yes, accidentally, he’s met him a few times now. I was not the slightest bit mad and have not brought it up again.” You end the update wondering if your son was introduced to the new boyfriend before you were to hurt you and to get some kind of revenge. “Or is it maybe that her SO has her convinced to be mean and hateful to me?” Finally, you write: “I do have to move on. Yesterday is gone and all the money in the world can’t change it. So moving on more each day is the goal.”
Then you wrote to me again in September – a letter similar to the one I’ve posted today (I didn’t respond to that one). Again, you laid out – as if for the first time – how your ex informed your 14-year-old son she had a boyfriend, how only two weeks later she introduced them, and then how only a few weeks after that the new boyfriend was sleeping over. You asked if this could have negative effects on your 14-year-old son and whether there were better ways to handle such a transition. You said: “I have seen articles that strongly suggest getting the other parent involved up front by introducing the new partner to the other parent first, before the children are introduced. Along with this it is suggested that both parents inform the children that the other parent is dating a person they really like and will be introducing this new person to them soon. Having the children see that their parents are cool with each other dating and like any new partners all bodes well for everyone — most importantly the children — to get along.”
All of this, in addition to today’s letter, still suggests what I — and readers — have suspected all along: YOU are the one who is having a really negative reaction to your ex moving on. YOU are the one who is struggling with the idea of her having a new boyfriend. And you are projecting all your shit onto your 14-year-old son. You’ve badgered him for information, you’ve admitted to putting him in the middle, and you are looking for any signs you can grasp onto that he isn’t doing well in order to support your argument that you should be involved in your ex’s personal life when your desire to be involved has nothing to do with your son and everything to do with YOUR not being able to leave your ex alone and move the fuck on.
For the record, it is normal for a 14-year-old to decrease time spent at home with parents and to increase time spent out with friends. And if that kid is being constantly badgered by his dad about his mom’s actions and whereabouts, it would also make sense that that kid might say he doesn’t know because he’s not home, whether that’s true or not. It would make sense that he might even avoid being home just to avoid having to answer his nosy dad’s nosy questions about everything. It would make sense that he WOULD feel discomfort, stress, and anger like you say he’s expressed, but, quite frankly, it may be a bigger result of YOUR behavior than his mother’s.
You need to quit using your son as a pawn in a game you have zero chance of winning. Rather than focus everything on your ex-wife’s new boyfriend, you need to spend your time with your son talking about HIM. At 14, he’s changing so much – physically, emotionally, hormonally. What are his interests, who are his friends, what are some of his dreams and goals and fears? When you shift the focus to his life instead of your wife’s life, you will better be able to find the source of his anger, stress, and discomfort. But you also have to be willing to follow that source to a place that may not be comfortable for you, and I’m not sure you are. I really hope you’re getting therapy regularly – a lot of it. And I hope you will step up and be the dad that your son needs and deserves. No matter what happens in your ex’s love life, YOU will always be your son’s father. Your relationship with him is between the two of you. Please, please, please focus on that relationship and not the one your ex is having with another man. Your relationship with her is over, and if you continue behaving the way you are, your relationship with your son may suffer the same fate.