“My Fiancé Doesn’t Want My Kids to Use Our Bathroom”

I have been with my fiancé, “Dick,” for three and a half years. I have four kids from previous relationships. Only two – ages 9 and 6 – are home now; the other two have graduated high school and are in college.
I have always allowed my kids to be in my room, use my bathroom, etc. My youngest son still bathes in my bathroom because he doesn’t like showers yet and our other bathroom doesn’t have a tub. Dick hates that I allow the kids in “our space” and it is really causing a fight.

The kids were here before him and it has always been their home before he ever moved in. I don’t ever want them to feel like they can’t come to me or come downstairs to get me. Dick says I just let them do whatever they want. They are good kids and follow the rules and get good grades. I don’t see the issue. Yes, sometimes they have to be told a few times to do something, but they are little kids. I recently started a job as a substitute teacher and it has made me very sensitive to how people talk to kids. I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling unloved like, sadly, so many do.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t like feeling like the kids and I can’t relax and just be ourselves. Am I wrong for not being willing to respect his wishes about our bedroom and bathroom? — My Space is Their Space

If you’re feeling like you can’t relax and be yourself around your fiancé, you need to re-think whether marrying him – or even having him live in your home with you and your kids – is a good move. When did this behavior start? In the three and a half years that you’ve been together, has he always been this way? When did he move in with you, and is that when your parenting incompatibility became apparent? Or is it possible that he’s never been a match in terms of expectations around your kids but it’s only recently that you’ve been bothered by it? Sometimes, when we’re in the honeymoon period of a relationship, like you maybe have been for the first couple years, it’s hard to see the flaws that might be deal-breakers.

I think it’s reasonable and fair for a person to feel like there is space in his or her home that is private, and Dick is entitled to that. A lock on a bathroom door, for example, is good to have in a home with kids. But when you have a home with children under ten, there’s only so much privacy and quiet space you’re going to get. Kids have nightmares, kids get sick, there are lots of reasons a young child might want to come into his or her parent’s bedroom. Maybe Dick never lived with young children until now and wasn’t aware of the realities. Well, now he is. And now it’s time to have a conversation about this reality he’s found himself in and see if he’s willing to conform to it. Because, yes, he’s the one who needs to conform. You don’t ask children under ten years old to stay away from their mother’s room because her fiancé didn’t realize before he moved in that kids sometimes need access to their mother or the bathroom with a tub.

If it sounds like I’m saying it might be time to kick ol’ Dick to the curb… well, I can’t deny that my sympathies lie with your kids here and it’s hard to feel empathy for the grown man who has full agency in this scenario but is acting like a baby. At the very least, I hope you’ll put marriage plans on hold until you can feel confident that Dick is able to make the sacrifices needed to raise young kids in a home where they feel loved and safe and prioritized.

My boyfriend and I have been doing long-distance for three years now. He wants to move to my state and has been applying for jobs. He is putting his current state as his permanent residence on his resume even though he spends half his time in my state and using my address on his resume would get him more traction. He told me, “If I change my address to yours, that would be too much pressure because I’ll have to book flights super last minute for interviews. I also don’t want to lie.”

That upset me because he knows he’ll get a job way faster using my address, but he refuses. He’s had a bunch of really good interviews, and as soon as he says he’s not in my state, they are no longer interested. The word “pressure” also was crazy to me because interviews that might land him a job should be exciting even though he’d have to pack up a bag and fly in. That makes me feel like his answer of “not wanting to lie” is just an excuse and he isn’t ready to make that leap. It’s really not a lie; he’s here 50% of the time.

Anyway, he’s been applying in areas an hour away from me as well. It’s a more fun, lively area and his best friend lives there. He has an interview set up with a company in that area next week. He said that if he gets the job, he’s going to take it and we can still do long- distance and see each other every weekend.

I’m upset because the reason for him to search for a new job is for us to be together and move to this next chapter. It doesn’t make sense that he’d move an hour away, have his own place, and only see me on weekends. To me, he’s coming down to start his own life, not our life together. What are your thoughts? Am I wrong for being upset by this? — Ready to Start the Next Chapter

It sounds like you two are on different pages in terms of your relationship and your expectations and goals around it. You’re ready to start your lives together, living in the same home (yours) in the same city. Your boyfriend clearly isn’t ready for that as evidenced by his hesitation to claim your address as his as he pursues jobs. He seems more eager to live near his best friend, an hour from you, than in your town, in your home. This might simply mean he’s not ready to share a home with you. It might mean he wants to take smaller steps on the path to forever after. It doesn’t have to necessarily mean he doesn’t want or see a future with you.

You need to have a heart-to-heart with him about what he wants from your relationship, where he sees it going, and what steps he is comfortable taking now to move your relationship forward. Here are two older columns that might help you frame your discussion and give you some points you haven’t considered (but should!): 8 Things You Need to Do Before You Move For Love, and 8 Tips For Transitioning out of a Long Distance Relationship. You might find that your boyfriend’s moving an hour away from you, after living far enough away that he needs a plane to get to you, is a great step before moving in together. He’d be close enough to see your frequently and to better pursue job leads in your area eventually. You might also find that the livelier, more fun town where he’s looking for jobs might be a better place to start your next chapter together. Perhaps a double move is in the future for you both?

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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. Comment from LW1:

    “We have been friends for 11 years and we got together after my divorce from my little kids’ Dad. He moved in about a year in to the romantic relationship. He didn’t ever (try to) set these hard boundaries until about a year ago. Obviously, I will choose my kids 100% of the time and have said that over and over. He left once over the “lack of boundaries that the kids have ” before, and made the choice to come back home with the understanding that this was my home with my kids long before he was ever involved. I don’t feel we should all have to change and conform due to his beliefs due to the way he was raised by his single Dad. Which when I say that, he says that his feelings just don’t matter to me then. Shrug

    The wedding plans are on pause for now. I need to take time to clearly see if this is just the beginning of a pattern of controlling behavior or if it is just this bedroom issue.

    I wrote in to you pretty much needing to calibrate my thoughts vs someone not involved to see if I am as far off as he believes I am. To see if someone not involved feels I have an unhealthy attachment to my kids like he says. I genuinely feel like its MY JOB as their Mom to be there like you said, bad dreams, leg aches, all the things. As a compromise for now, I bought amazon dots for all of our bedrooms and they can “drop in” to reach me no matter what. I felt that was a reasonable solution for now. Thoughts on that?

    I can’t help but get resentful. I am a damn good mom and have raised my kids 90% alone. My older girls are phenominally good kids and doing so well in collage. I don’t need him to “parent” me in the way that I parent my kids. Does that make sense?”

  2. LisforLeslie says:

    I think your boyfriend is out of line. If he needs some kind of personal space, then let him set up a workshop in the garage or the basement or get a shed for the backyard. And while I understand having a space that belongs to just the two of you, that’s not realistic with two elementary school aged kids for whom this space has always been available to them. If he wants to create a barrier between him and them, this is a great way to make sure they understand that he may care for them, but he doesn’t want to share you. And if he wants to create a barrier between you and him… he should keep whining about this.

    He seems to have very clear ideas about parenting and rules; that he expects you, the parent, to conform to his, the stepparent’s, rules is troubling at best, alarming at worst.

    Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, you know that by establishing these bonds with them now, and making sure they feel loved, safe and important will encourage them to come to you when they feel “too old” to need a parent. Your youngest will eventually want privacy and eventually use the other bathroom, and you know that you’ll miss those little bits of time that you had. Don’t give up those opportunities to spend time with your kids because they’ll be fewer and fewer soon enough.

    1. Yesssss! All of this! He is being very pushy and it needs to stop.

  3. Anonymousse says:

    How are amazon dots going to fix this?

    It sounds like you’re doing a great job at parenting those kids. Your children need you, and really this is his issue to solve, not yours. Tell him you have two children that are going to need you for some more years. Literally, their time as children is finite and you are going to parent your children as you wish to.

    If he is talking down to them you should kick him to the curb.

  4. LW1: I think Wendy’s advice is sound, with one caveat. Do you let your kids just walk into your bedroom any time of the day or night? 6 and 9 are old enough to learn that when a bedroom or bathroom door is closed, you MUST knock before entering and wait to get the okay to come in. I don’t think it’s reasonable for a him to say, “The kids can never enter our bedroom/bathroom at all.” I do think it’s perfectly reasonable for a grown man who is unrelated to your children to say, “I am not comfortable with the possibility of children walking into the room when I might be having sex/changing clothes/taking a bath/checking out that weird mole in my nether regions…etc.” As important as it is for kids to know they can come get their mom any time they need her, it’s also important for them to learn how to respect other people’s privacy. Unless it’s a life-or-death emergency, they can knock.

    LW2: Does your boyfriend realize no one expects you to put your address on a resume anymore? A phone number and email address is sufficient. And I’ve had plenty of applicants tell me, either on their cover letter or in an interview, “I live in [other state] now, but I’m planning a move to [state where job is] for separate reasons.” Neither of those options requires him to “lie.” It seems like he’s almost deliberately shooting himself in the foot so he can get out of moving in with you. An honest conversation is a must.

  5. Anonymousse says:

    He says you have an unhealthy attachment to your children, who are 6 and 9. I’m surprised you’re still chatting with him. Mine are 8 and 9. They aren’t even in their preteens. What is wrong with him to be this way? If he has a problem with the fact that you are a good mother, he should move out. It’s not like they stay this age forever. Something is going on with him, and I doubt it really has to do with the kids or the boundaries.

    This man is crazy.

  6. So, I get where LW1’s boyfriend is coming from – it’d bother me to have small kids in my bathroom and bedroom whenever, even though I get that they might need mom at times. Those are what I consider personal, private spaces and, growing up, we didn’t spend time in my parents’ bedrooms or my friends’ parents’ bedrooms or bathrooms. They were off-limits. But I don’t have kids, so it’s not something I have to deal with now as an adult and I also get where y’all are coming from, as well. I think it might be time for LW1 to have a look at the bigger picture and see just how well her boyfriend’s idea of living together with her kids gels with the reality of doing so. This may be a larger compatibility issue, not just a mis-matched expectations regarding privacy one.

    1. I agree, though again I don’t have kids. I wonder if it might be to do with the ages the kids are now. As a non parent I’d help with bath and bed time with my siblings kids and my god son when they were little, but now they’re getting older it doesn’t seem right to be there. I think both adults and children need some privacy.

      LW is certainly right that it’s her home he has come into and her kids should always come first. Maybe he thought things would change as the kids got older or after the 2 eldest moved out, but it hasn’t and he’s getting more resentful. If they have very different views on how to live and he’s accusing LW of unhealthy attachment to her children, then it’s not going to work longterm.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “My Space,” look at it this way. There are women who would kill for a man who thinks of the bedroom as a private, cozy space just for the two of you as a couple. I get it. Totally. In fact, I cringe at the thought of a noisy kid bouncing into my bedroom, my sanctuary, my safe and sometimes “adult” space. You have four children from previous relationships. That’s a lot to put up with. You didn’t say he was mean to the kids or objected to their presence anywhere else in the house, so why not respect his need for one little peaceful, private, intimate space? Your kids are young, but plenty old enough to bathe in their own bathroom (the youngest needs to learn how to take a shower at some point) and leave your bathroom and bedroom to you and your fiance.

    1. “There are women who would kill for a man who thinks of the bedroom as a private, cozy space just for the two of you as a couple.”
      – Speaking as a lady shaped person, and I mean this genuinely, what? There are women who would kill for a man who thinks of a bedroom like this? Huh? I am so serious. Also, just because she had 4 children does not mean she should have to put up with nonsense from a guy. He’s with a woman who has 4 children and living in her house. Her kids come first.

  8. Is this the fiance? All of this is just cringe to the highest degree.

  9. I don’t see why 6 (let alone 9) is too young to learn about privacy. I know I understood as a kid that a closed bedroom door meant “don’t come in without knocking” and that I was expected to use “my” bathroom if my parents’ bathroom or bedroom door(s) were closed. I don’t understand why it’s unreasonable to compromise here, with mom teaching the kids to knock and setting a fairly standard bath time for 6 so stepdad knows the schedule, and stepdad agreeing that he’s OK with the kids coming in when the door(s) are open as long as he has a reasonable expectation of privacy behind a closed door. I know if I was a dude I wouldn’t want to have to worry that a stepkid is gonna burst in when I’m taking a shit or walking around the bedroom with my dick out after a shower or having sex.

    1. (Oops, hit enter by accident.) I wouldn’t want that for myself either. If LW is truly not willing to make what seems to me a relatively simple and sane compromise here, I wonder how much she has integrated him into the household at all. Is that the overarching issue? “I’m an amazing mom who accommodates my kids when they need me” and “I’m a stepdad who wants a modicum of privacy in my own bedroom & bathroom” are not mutually exclusive. What am I missing here?

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