Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Ex’s New Boyfriend Sleeps Over and It’s Having a Negative Effect on Our Son”

Your help and opinion with a concern I have would be greatly appreciated. Is it possible that my 14-year-old son may be exposed to some mental harm as a result of the manner in which he was introduced to his mother’s boyfriend? He tells me of the stress, the discomfort, and the anger he has experienced, but could there be worse things brewing in his 14-year-old brain?

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.

***************
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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.

32 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl October 22, 2019, 8:48 am

    Oh God not this guy again – seriously get over it. Your relationship is over, your ex has moved on, and your constant obsessing over is unhealthy. Instead of pushing your son for details – and he is undoubtedly picking up on your negative feelings – go to a therapist and work through why you think you have a right to dictate your ex’s life.

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  • avatar

    Allornone October 22, 2019, 9:03 am

    This guy scares me.

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    • avatar

      Part-time October 22, 2019, 8:36 pm

      +1

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ October 22, 2019, 9:07 am

    Dude. Quit trying to use your son to control your ex. She’s moved on. Her love life is none of your business. All you’re doing is destroying your relationship with your son. Just stop it, already.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse October 22, 2019, 9:25 am

    This is really, really alarming. It’s totally normal and fine for her to have a boyfriend now. Nothing about what she is doing is strange. But you- you are behaving incredibly weird and irrational. If there is anything here that’s affecting your son, it’s you. You need to go see a mental health professional. Make an appointment with a therapist and stop badgering your son for ammunition to use against your ex. I’m sure at this point he’s actually getting frightened of your reactions to normal stuff. You are failing to be the supportive father he needs. This is a really crucial time to step up and be a good, non judgmental dad, but you’re pushing him away. Your anger is palpable. It’s time to seek professional help.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie October 22, 2019, 9:34 am

    I’m going to leave all of the nonsense of this guy inserting himself into his ex’s relationship.

    Your son is 14. He may not be comfortable with the fact that his mother is a sexual being, but he has to accept that she will date and is not going to remain alone. If you are encouraging him to be rude or dismissive to the boyfriend, stop it. If he can’t handle the fact that his mother is romantically involved, therapy.

    He doesn’t have to like the guy, he does have to show a modicum of respect. He definitely has to respect his mother. He does not have any say in whether she dates or who she dates.

    But you really are the problem here. You are the one that is trying to create some drama. You are the one that is feeding shit into your kid’s head so that he’s trying to avoid all of this. Stop it.

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster October 22, 2019, 9:41 am

    Honestly, this kind of behavior is really alarming. And I’m talking about writing all these letters in addition to how he’s fucking up his son. If I were the ex wife, I’d want to know that this guy was acting so unhinged so I could take the proper steps to keep myself and my kid safe from this unhinged nutjob.

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  • avatar

    Donna October 22, 2019, 10:00 am

    This guy! Good catch Wendy. The two letters do sound like they were written by different people, regarding to different kids affected in two different ways in two different scenarios. Bizarre!

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  • avatar

    anonymousse October 22, 2019, 10:17 am

    The stress, discomfort and she’d your son feels is because you are putting him in the middle of this. STOP.

    Your ex’s love life is none of your business.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark October 22, 2019, 10:27 am

    This LW is clearly out to lunch. Talk about a unreliable narrator.

    That said — no parent should be so openly banging a new partner after knowing them for a whopping six weeks. A little discretion here is needed and would go a long, long way.

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    • avatar

      Vathena October 22, 2019, 10:39 am

      We don’t know how long the mom had known/been dating the boyfriend before she told her son about him (unless this information was contained in one of the previous letters, which I’m not going to dig for). It was 6 weeks after TELLING him about the boyfriend that the boyfriend slept over. They could already have been dating for months at that point. Maybe it was a little soon for sleepovers, but this kid is 14, not 4.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy October 22, 2019, 10:40 am

      No, the six weeks is in reference to the time between the mom introducing her boyfriend to her son and when the boyfriend starts sleeping over. We don’t know how long they had been dating before she introduces the boyfriend to her son as the LW doesn’t state that. He did say when he first wrote in July that he and his ex had been separated for 15 months.

      I do agree that there’s room for more discretion on the part of the mom, but I also agree that this LW isn’t the most reliable narrator and I’m taking his story of his ex’s new relationship with a man he’s never met with a great big grain of salt.

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    • avatar

      ArtsyGirl October 22, 2019, 10:41 am

      It doesn’t sound like new boyfriend started sleeping over six weeks after meeting the LW’s ex. Karen has been dating this guy since at least early spring (the LW mentioned that he heard her say “I love you” to BF back around Easter in his deranged update) and Karen gave son five or six weeks to get used to the idea of meeting the BF. So basically Karen has been with this guy for more than six months and she has been divorced from the LW for about 19 months.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark October 22, 2019, 12:08 pm

        After letter after letter after letter of people on here being absolute idiots about this — I, somehow, remain less optimistic than the rest of you that the mom here knew the guy more than eight weeks. Tops.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie October 22, 2019, 11:45 am

    Yeah, what’s not clear – and I really don’t care either way – is whether the son is home when the bf is sleeping over. When my folks were dating I’ve no doubt they were rocking and rolling when I was at my Dad’s for the weekend. The narrator is unreliable enough that I don’t believe the kid is home during all of the sleepovers.

    Eventually we moved in with step dad – before they were married. Oh the horror!/ s

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  • avatar

    Howdywiley October 22, 2019, 11:55 am

    This dudes a creep

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  • avatar

    golfer.gal October 22, 2019, 12:05 pm

    LW, please seek counseling. You’ve fixated on this in a way that is really, really unhealthy. Your ex may not be perfect but literally nothing you have described sounds egregious or worthy of you making a fuss. You need to stop putting your son in the middle. You need to stop asking him about your ex’s new boyfriend. If you’re saying your son, completely of his own accord without any influence from you, is telling you he is unable to go home due to being unsafe from abuse (which I really, really doubt) then sure, intervene away. But otherwise you need to recognize that much of this situation has been created by you, and that you are actively harming your son in the way you are handling this. Please get help. Therapy, stat.

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  • avatar

    Peggy October 22, 2019, 12:39 pm

    Makes one wonder if the marriage ended in divorce because you were a controlling guy and always suspicious. I agree with the others ,and also I think it is weird that when you talk to your 14 year old son,you refer to her as MOMMY.

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  • CurlyQue

    CurlyQue October 22, 2019, 12:50 pm

    I’d also like to point out that whether mom has a boyfriend now or not doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be supporting her parenting and reinforcing any rules. It sounds like your trying to pin your son’s teen behavior on her when it’s really just him being a moody teen. Focus on your son and stop focusing on your exwife’s love life.

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    • avatar

      Ange October 22, 2019, 3:24 pm

      I wonder why the son is having so many negative thoughts about the boyfriend? I’m sure it couldn’t have anything to do with the pressure to talk about it coming from his dad and the probable negative feelings being projected by the same.

      Your kid would be a lot more fine with this if you let tf go OP but let’s not pretend you’re at all concerned about the kid here.

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      • avatar

        LisforLeslie October 22, 2019, 3:47 pm

        No doubt the kid feels pressured by his dad to hate the boyfriend because it will prove he loves his dad. As if a person has a limited amount of care, compassion and love and having too many people in one’s life will empty the love tank.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark October 22, 2019, 4:17 pm

        Of course there are also an awful lot of truly horrible boyfriends and girlfriends out there who do — in fact — become — surprise, surprise — horrible step parents. For every kid being a brat about a new beau — another is beaten, raped and murdered.

        This fact that should give many pause, but somehow… rarely does.

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    • avatar

      Ange October 22, 2019, 3:24 pm

      I have no idea why this posted as a reply lol

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie October 23, 2019, 5:33 am

      @BGM you’re right – but as the OP hasn’t mentioned a single thing that the guy did wrong or cruel or abusive to either the kid or the mom… not the case here. I feel pretty confident that if the bf had stepped out of line at all, this guy would have been all over it.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark October 23, 2019, 10:17 am

        Awfully hard to abuse a kid you’ve only been around for roughly five minutes…

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph October 22, 2019, 1:47 pm

    Gee, can’t imagine why your wife left you.

    Even before reading Wendy’s reply it sounded to me like you were hardcore projecting your own distaste for this onto your kid. Butt all the way out of your wife’s romantic relationship and focus on how you can be a good co-parent.

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  • avatar

    Cyndi October 22, 2019, 7:19 pm

    Leave your son alone! You are putting him in an impossible position.

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  • avatar

    LadyPants October 23, 2019, 4:05 am

    1. Your ex has moved on.
    2. You can’t handle it
    3. Sleeping is an entirely innocent activity, whether it be conducted by two people together or one alone. Or dozens of people, hell, make it millions. Sleeping is okay.
    4. The 14 year-old is a real person who is going to be living 14 year-old experiences, which hopefully include priorities that do not involve his mom’s ex-husband’s girlfriend.
    5. I’m waiting for a 14 year-old to write in about his crazy mom
    6. An itemized list of your grievances? Just absolutely no.

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  • avatar

    LadyPants October 23, 2019, 4:08 am

    Crazy DAD, not mom.

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  • avatar

    Hazel October 23, 2019, 12:14 pm

    Stop using your son as a lever to control your ex. You are making yourself very unhappy and he is probably not enjoying it at all. She is now outwith your control, so just step back and think of something you could put all this energy into to enjoy with your son. Focus on good things you could do together with him, and for fricks’ sake stop using him as a weapon, being used as a weapon does way more lasting damage than any boyfriend of your ex does simply by existing. Give the boy a break, don’t make all this harder for him, kids that age are really vulnerable to manipulation and they don’t have much by way of self protection in place. Spend time with him, find something nice and bonding, and forget about your ex for the entire time you are with your son, for his sake and yours.

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  • avatar

    anon October 23, 2019, 6:55 pm

    This reads like a preview of a letter my ex will write in five years. I’ve been out for a year, have not introduced a single guy to my son, and fear doing so because I know that he’ll be in the middle of a situation not dissimilar from this.

    I’ve been dating someone for nine months, and can’t really see how to thread this needle with an ex like this.

    The reason I left?

    Because my ex was controlling. I suspect LW’s ex may have had a similar experience in her marriage. I want to reach out to her. Tell her to do what she can to protect herself and her son.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros October 23, 2019, 9:04 pm

    Umm, is your kid made up or do you actually talk to a 14-year-old like they are a toddler?

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