“My Girlfriend Wants Me to Move From My Kids and Change My Custody Arrangement”

I have been dating a woman for almost a year now, and our relationship is nothing short of AMAZING! She is my best friend and the love of my life. She is 38, never married, and has no children. I am 41, was divorced five years ago, and have two incredible kids who are aged 8 and 6. My ex-wife and I have a good relationship. The only talk that we have is about the kids. She lives about 15 minutes away in the next town over with her new husband and their new baby. Her husband is a very nice guy, and we get along nicely. The problem is that now my girlfriend wants to take the next step in our relationship (as do I), but she wants me to move out of my town and closer to her. This would be about 30-45 minutes away from where I live now. The kids would have to switch schools and go to school in their mom’s town.

The current custody arrangement is a 50/50 split, but my girlfriend is asking me to only have the kids every other weekend. Even when we talked about compromising so that I could have the kids every weekend, she says that I need to be prepared to cancel if we have something going on. I have a fantastic relationship with my kids and fear that this could affect them now or some time down the road. I also think that my relationship is a tiny bit stronger with them than is their relationship with their mom right now only because she does have a new baby in her house and at times they may feel pushed aside (but not intentionally as she is a great mom).

When I ask my girlfriend about her moving closer to me, she says she can’t do that because she does not want to live in the town where I started a life with someone else. I fear that my kids will feel resentful or abandoned. My girlfriends says that the way we take them back and forth to stay with me or by their mom is too much carting around and that they need a more stable environment. She thinks they should be at their mom’s house during the week instead of spending half the week with me. My girlfriend gets upset about why I didn’t move after my divorce and why I chose this custody agreement. I told her it was because I felt that I was doing the right thing by my kids, staying close and being involved, and there was never anyone in my life after the divorce until her. I never saw myself as a weekend dad nor have I ever wanted to be. Please tell me what you think of this situation. — Devoted Dad

Your girlfriend sounds awful. I’m sorry, I know you love her and you have this amazing relationship and everything, but a good, kind person would not ask a loving father to move away from his kids without a really, really good reason (jealousy ain’t that), nor would she ask him to give up custody or suggest that young kids getting to spend equal time with both co-parents is disruptive to them or too unstable a schedule. She’s trying to manipulate you because she’s selfish and doesn’t care about your children or your relationship with them. She only cares about herself and her relationship with you, even to the detriment of your kids’ well-being. I cannot underscore enough how really fucked up that is.

Stand your ground and don’t move. Your kids are so, so lucky to have two co-parents who get along with each other and are really present and engaged in their lives. If your girlfriend sees a future with you, she has to accept that you’re a packaged deal with your kids. You aren’t a weekend dad – or, worse, an every-other-weekend dad – and if she can’t handle kids in her life more often than that, she’s not the one for you. Period.

My boyfriend “D” and I have been together for almost three years. From the beginning it was fast and hard; he moved in with me after a few weeks of dating (I know, I know, huge red flag, please don’t bite my head off). We started dating the fall before the pandemic started, so maybe it’s all the forced time together that’s stressing me out. We were both working when we got together. He had an apartment and a cushy job where he worked 2-3 days a week and made almost two times as much as I did. I was renting a room in a house with five other people, so not a lot of room on my side. That winter when the pandemic first started, he lost his job. By then he had already decided he “didn’t want” his apartment anymore. Mind you, I’ve never been there and I’ve never seen pictures or videos of this place despite it been blocks away from where I was living at the time. From the first day he slept over, he never left; he just stayed.

I didn’t mind his staying with me as he said he was “looking for a new place” (even though he had no income). But seemingly in no time, it was months and he was still jobless and penniless and I was now providing for both of us. Eventually, he got PUA insurance, but he used all of it on stupid stuff (beach trips, clothes, food delivery, weed, bars, you name it). He has spent his days playing video games and hosting his friends while I’ve been working full days and extra shifts trying to make ends meet, and this isn’t even the bulk of the issue.

He doesn’t like/respect anything I like. He shits on my taste in music, shows, movies, books, hobbies. I love to dance, paint, be out in nature, and go museums and the zoo: There’re so many things I’ve tried to show him and get him to do with me, but he acts like it’s pulling teeth and he has such a negative attitude the whole time. Yet he expects me to go to bars and clubs and ragers with his friends and smile and be friendly the whole time. We do what he wants every day, literally. I couldn’t even tell you the last time we did anything that I listed above that I love.

I’ve been literally begging him to make me feel wanted for once. Plan a day where I get to feel special; I’ve told him 100+ times what I like, so he should be able to do that, right? Nope! So, I called my ex and we went on a friend date. Yes, he was my ex, so nothing happened. I just wanted to feel like someone actually gave a damn about me for a day. I wanted a day where I wasn’t paying for and planning everything and where I didn’t have to worry about appeasing anyone. I want to be the one someone is trying to make happy. Just for a day. Is that really so wrong?

But now he’s upset and said I hurt him and need to make it up to him. Like the years of my begging him to treat me like I matter didn’t hurt, like watching him celebrate everyone but me didn’t hurt, like watching him suck me dry of resources didn’t hurt.

Should I be sorry? Should I care? Should I just leave? — Feeling Unappreciated

No, he should. Kick the motherfucker freeloader out and move on already!

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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. As the child of an every other weekend date who regularly cancelled because he had something else going on with his girlfriend I can tell you that you will emotionally harm your children. If you care about them at all you wouldn’t even be considering this. I don’t understand why a girlfriend comes first? Why can’t she bend for you slightly – you already had kids when you met.

    My biological dad (note how I call him biological now instead of dad) hasn’t been seen since I was 10, having decided that the 3 years he was an every other weekend dad was too much. And so much of what he did was at the behest of his girlfriend. Not excusing him – he’s a piece of shit but just saying that so is she.

  2. LW#1: Your girlfriend isn’t amazing. She’s jealous, insecure, manipulative and actively trying to sabotage your relationship with your kids.

    Seriously, she’s already telling you that she will not tolerate anything less than you being an every other weekend dad at most and I’d bet money that if you acquiesce to that demand, something “unexpected” will come up every single weekend you’re supposed to have them. She doesn’t love your kids and she doesn’t really love you if she’s only willing to be with you if you jettison them.

    MOA ASAP. This is not salvageable.

    LW#2: Kick this jerk out today. Change the locks if he has a key.

    1. Also, PSA:

      If you don’t want kids or don’t want kids from a relationship before you, please don’t date people with kids. Trying to destroy a kid’s relationship with their parent is a shitty thing to do to them, and they know exactly what’s going on. Don’t be shitty.

  3. Long time lurker here, finally compelled to comment. LW 1 – Your girlfriend may well be amazing to you, but she is not amazing to your kids, and you should think hard about what message you’ll send your kids if you choose her as your life partner. If you move to be with her and follow her demands, your kids will know that you picked her over them, and that will affect your relationship with them forever. They will definitely pick up on the fact that they’re not really welcome in her home. And they won’t be — she’s making it clear as day that she wants a home separate from them, not a home that’s a safe space where they’ll feel loved. I speak from experience — my dad choose a second wife who was threatened by my sister’s and my existence, and visiting him became a miserable exercise in trying not to trigger her. And, yes, we only visited, and not often — we certainly never felt at home in their house. My mom, on the other hand, married someone who took us on as his own — he already had kids of his own, but never treated us as secondary; we were all important to both of them. Guess who we’re closest to as adults and who has the closest relationship to their grandkids?
    Also, as a divorced, 40-something woman, I can tell you I would never seriously date a guy with kids who didn’t make said kids his top priority. I am always amazed that some women want a man to leave his children behind when they get together — to me, a guy who’d do that doesn’t have the kind of character I want in a partner. Your kids have no ability to shield themselves from the adults who run the house they have to live in or visit — they didn’t choose that your first marriage ended, and they don’t get to choose their stepmom. They’re entirely reliant on you making choices that protect them. Asking them to in any way shoulder your girlfriend’s insecurities is not just unfair, but makes it clear they can’t trust you to protect them.

  4. As an adult who only saw her dad on weekends because he lived an hour away –
    1. My stepdad was the parent who picked me up at in the middle of the night from wherever I was
    2. My stepdad was the guy that would stand up for me to bullies and creeps
    3. My stepdad (and my mom) taught me about cars, appliances, finances and life stuff
    4. My step dad was a bigger champion than my dad because he was around more. My dad didn’t know who I was.

    Anyone asking you to downgrade your relationship with your kids, demote them to second tier is NOT a good person. Your kids will clearly see that you’ve chosen her over them and it will break them. It will impact your relationship with them and it will have lasting impacts. Your girlfriend’s excuse that she can’t live in a town where you made a life with someone else is absolute and utter bullshit and the fact that you’re actually listening to this and not calling her out is also bullshit.

    Quit fucking around and be the good dad that you claim to be. You can have a relationship and be a good dad – but maybe not with this jealous and insecure woman.

    LW#2 – stop being a doormat. Kick him to the curb. You don’t have to stay in a relationship with someone who puts nothing positive into your life. Would you advise any friend to stick it out – and why?

  5. LW # 1 This is not a good woman. He does not have you or your kids best interests at heart. Not sure if she can or wants to have a child with you ,but if she did, I bet she would treat your kids as second best. I really think you and yours deserve much better. You sound like an awesome Dad , don’t lose that for an unworthy woman.

    LW#2 The guy is an unworthy, uncaring, using jerk. Plus, even if he was Mr. Nice Guy, you two are not compatible in interests or lifestyle or values. Tell him he is done. Good Luck…and don’t settle for crap again!

    1. Excellent point about the girlfriend and whether she plans to have children. LW1, I guarantee you that if you married and had children with this woman, she’ll expect you to drop your kids completely.

      Everyone else has pretty much covered everything.

      Choose your children. Always.

  6. A lurking mouse says:

    I’ve never been married, don’t have and don’t plan to have kids, and I think your girlfriend is horrible. Good god! What absolute gall to ask a father to basically abandon his kids. You’ll destroy your relationship with your kids if you do as she demands. Dump the woman. She’s selfish, jealous and manipulative.

  7. Reading this site over the years has moved me to the position that if I G-d forbid I ever got divorced or something happened to my wife, I wouldn’t date until my kid was out of the house. The shit I read on here is just completely fucking awful

    1. When I divorced my daughters were in their late teens and other than a couple of casual dates, I did not really see anyone until they were both off to college and that was after the youngest spent some time modeling for several years. I worked, tried to get my life on track after the ex derailed a lot of it, and waited even longer get into a relationship. My kids were always my priority and they knew it. Now, 20-plus years later, we have awesome relationships. And they’re both wonderful parents.

      I can confirm that the time you spend focusing on your kids post-divorce can be healing for all parties and leads to a fulfilling future.

    2. My parents divorced when I was young and my father got primary custody. My mother moved closer to her job and hour away and dated pretty regularly until she settled down with my stepdad (who’s a decent dude, I must say). My dad, however, had a grand total of one girlfriend during my entire childhood (lovely woman; it didn’t work out though), and didn’t end up with my stepmom until I, the youngest, was in my early 20s. Looking bad, that sacrifice probably wasn’t necessary as I have no doubt my dad would’ve dated responsibly if he had done it more, but I appreciate that he did everything he could to put us first. That will never be forgotten or minimized.

      1. It should be noted that while my mom and I have a good relationship nowadays, it’s more of sister-friend-type thing than mother-daughter. I can’t say there’s not some remaining hurt at her basically valuing a day-to-day commute than living with her children (including my oldest sister, who is technically not even my father’s bio kid).

  8. #1 — MOA, you’re being manipulated and I’ll bet your gf isn’t going to be nearly as nice to you once she gets you to abandon your kids and move in with her. She’s a fraud.

    #2 — speaking of frauds, I’m betting this guy never had a super job and never had a great apartment — all lies. You lived blocks away and never got to see the apartment? What a huge red flag. He was either living with another gf or surfing on a buddy’s couch. He’s likely been a slacker failure his entire life. Chuck him out.

    1. Yeah they’ve been together a year. Once you get around that point is when true colors come out. LW#1 should realize that what they thought about their girlfriend during the honeymoon period was wrong, and that they are insecure, vindictive, manipulative, and would ruin your relationship with your kids forever rather than face their own insecurity.

  9. anonymousse says:

    Everyone has already said it so well but she is horrible if she’s trying to take you away from your children. There’s no other perspective. Kids are not something you can opt out of guilt free. I know you know if you leave them, you will never forgive yourself.

    And yeah, another divorced kid who calls her bio-dad bio-dad because he stopped seeing us on his weekends when I was 11. I am 38 and deal with the pain of being abandoned by my father literally almost everyday. I have a 6 and 7 year old right now and I’m really wondering how you can see these things and still call this woman amazing. She sounds like a very heartless person.

  10. anonymousse says:

    And yeah, LW2- how can you believe a single thing he says if you never saw this fancy apartment and job? He’s a liar. Kick him to the curb,

  11. LW1: basically everything that everyone else has said. Plus this: remember, you are a package. You come with children. Your girlfriend does not seem to respect this and even seems to be resentful of them.

    I’m a stepmum and totally stoked to have got two wonderful “bonus” kids from my partner. He in turn has always been a terrific stepdad to my kids.

    Please put your kids first. Doing blindly what your girlfriend wants will ruin your relationship with your kids forever. It will hurt them deeply. Honestly, she is not acting like someone who truly loves you.

  12. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    You know, maybe, MAYBE, I could give LW1’s girlfriend a pass if her ask was to modify the custody agreement to allow him to have equal time but move further away (i.e., instead of being 50/50, switch it to Mom having primary placement so the kids could stay in their school district but allow him to have the same “7 out of every 14 days” setup — since courts usually look at it in a 2 week period — some other way). I mean, I’d still think she was wrong, but then the focus would at least be on trying to keep the relationship with his kids while still forging ahead in theirs. But I want you to stop and really break down what she’s asking, LW1, the way I ask my clients to consider their proposals: out of every 14 days, you’d go from 7 days with your kids to 2 days. In a 6 month period, where normally you’d have 42 days, you would now have 12. TWELVE. If your ex tried to get you to agree to this, you’d be absolutely livid, and you’d have every right to be. And not only does she want to reduce your time with your kids, she wants you to make them a secondary option to any plans she wishes to make, so in fact she’d like you to be comfortable in every 14 day period with potentially having ZERO days with your children.

    I recognize you’re in the middle of this, but if this was any of your friends with kids you would shake them and ask them if they were even remotely serious about considering this. That’s not me criticizing you for wanting to hear that position validated, but consider it done by numerous people here. She doesn’t want to be a part of your life; she wants to be YOUR LIFE, and she wants you to forget your old life, and that’s simply not something a “good person” would ever consider asking of another person they supposedly care about.

  13. LW1, some people don’t want to be parents OR stepparents. Your girlfriend is one of them. That’s her prerogative, but she shouldn’t be dating a man with kids. Any woman who is not thrilled that you spend so much time with your kids and have a good relationship with their other parent is not a good match for you. (I say this as a stepmom. Yes, it’s hard. But the kids come first, always.)

    LW2, you have not said a SINGLE positive thing about your boyfriend. It sounds like you do nothing but give to him and stuff all your own needs into a box. Kick him out, save the money you’re spending to support him, and treat yourself to all the shows, museums, zoos, books and other wonderful things that actually make you HAPPY. You deserve that. (p.s. there are guys out there who enjoy those things, too, and also have jobs. But you’ll never find one while you’re with this loser.)

  14. LW1. You are in for a world of hurt if you keep this woman as a girlfriend. Just a reminder. Your children are suppose to come first.

    LW2. This guy is NOT boyfriend material. MOA.

  15. I have been reading Dear Wendy for a long time and have never offered advice before. Your letter (#1) moved me greatly. My parents divorced when I was 10 years old and my dad moved 17 miles away. His new wife was not friendly, didn’t want us around, and my siblings and I suffered the consequences. All three of my brothers developed substance abuse problems. My sisters and I always believed it was somehow hardest on the boys. I know my father’s wife’s rejection of me was not my fault, but it still hurts to this day. I am 62. Please don’t jeopardize your current good relationship with your kids for this girlfriend. You can’t move in with a woman who doesn’t fully embrace your kids and expect the the kids to be unaffected. A step-mom is a mom.

  16. LW1, I read your letter to my husband (who has divorced parents) and he was disgusted with your GF, but he also pointed out that your GF’s request is ridiculous even without the kids. You are 40 and 38! Has she never dated before? You don’t just get to request that someone move because they previously dated someone in the town they live in. If there’s a particular restaurant you used to go to, or a song that symbolized your relationship, maybe you can avoid those things, but requesting that you move towns to be further from your ex is ridiculous. Does she move every time that a relationship doesn’t work out? And wanting you to be further from your children is really, really bad. I’m sorry, LW1, but it looks like you should throw this one back. Fortunately, if you dump her, you won’t have to worry about running into her around town – apparently she’ll move!

  17. LW1, I keep going back to your letter and getting angrier and angrier at your GF. She gives some excuse about giving the children “stability” by not being with you as much, and yet she wants you to move somewhere that would require the kids to switch schools?!?!?! Changing schools is no small thing for kids — it’s a major upheaval. And that whole thing about not being willing to live in the town where you had a life with your ex…WTH? That’s super unreasonable. She’s trying to erase the existence of your previous relationship and it will only get worse. She will continue eroding your relationship with your kids until you no longer have one. I’m sorry, I know it hurts to think about losing her, but you have to stand firm and do what’s best for your children! They don’t get any choices in all of this.

  18. allathian says:

    My parents are still married, AFAIK happily, but my husband’s parents divorced when he was 16 and his sister was 10. They divorced when my MIL found out that her husband had been maintaining a second household for 8 years (he was a traveling salesman, so his frequent absences, including weekends, didn’t raise any suspicions for a long time). My MIL was awarded sole custody, and her ex got visitation rights. My MIL was understandably angry with him, but tried her best to ensure that her kids maintained a relationship with their father. More often than not, he didn’t show up when he was supposed to, even when she made sure to absent herself for a few hours when he was supposed to visit. My husband was old enough that while he was upset with what he saw as his father’s betrayal, it didn’t affect his other relationships. My SIL has never been able to trust any man, she’s almost 40 and she’s never even kissed anyone. I think she might benefit from counseling, but we aren’t close enough for me to feel it would be appropriate to suggest it, especially as I get the impression that she thinks counseling is for people with severe mental health issues. I’m not a mental health professional, but I think that the trauma of her father’s betrayal is at least a contributing cause to her inability to trust men…

  19. Robert Fallona says:

    People reveal themselves for who they are. Fast forward a few years when your kids are older & she is gone how would you feel? How would they feel? Do the right thing & IF she loves you she won’t care. If not you escaped.

  20. LW1. There is NO circumstance where a girlfriend should suggest a divorced parent spend less time with his kids. I mean, really. You clearly love your kids and are a great dad; you’re a package deal. She’s trying to drive a wedge between you out of jealousy, no matter how she twists the phrasing to make it about you two and your relationship.

    You haven’t even been together a year, you still have that new relationship glow. It isn’t reality. And if she’s trying to break up you and your kids, (or get you to change to a take-them-to-McDonalds-every-other-weekend parent) she’s not a good person.

  21. Brian Fairbanks says:

    Dump ’em.

    That goes for both LWs.

  22. I am a stepmom to two wonderful kiddos who have their up’s and downs at both homes. Their dad is such a loving, caring father who would do anything for them. I had to work very, very hard to adjust to having kids in my life and adapting to their needs which felt oppressive and demanding early on. I do not want biological children so it was all hard, but I went to therapy and worked through my emotions during the transition, set up a “me” space to take time if I feel overwhelmed and constantly engage in relationship building with all of them individually and together as a family. That said- this was hard and awful at times to the point where I asked myself if it was worth it or the right path for me (spoiler: it was and it is). BUT I never once asked my husband to change his custody schedule or see his children less. In fact if the opportunity arises to see them more (events, family dinners with his former wife, etc.) we are always all in. When we switched weekends to accommodate plans it pained him visibly and was never worth it- even if time wasn’t technically lost in the long run the time between seeing each other tore him apart.

    That woman would dismantle his being for her own happiness, and destroy the lives of two innocent children in the process. So many red flags it’s insane. Please reconsider the relationship before you head down a path that can never be restored to what it was before!

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