“My Kids’ Dad Refuses to Meet My New Boyfriend”

I broke up with my partner of ten years over a year and a half ago. We have two children, ages seven and nine. He was heartbroken, but I was no longer in love with him and it had to end. I have since met someone else, and we intend to move in together this year. My children like my new partner; the problem is my ex will not meet him. He accepts the fact that I have moved on (even though he doesn’t like it) but he says the thought of meeting my new man makes him feel physically ill and like he’s having a panic attack.

I don’t feel I can move in with my new partner until he and my ex meet as it’s setting a weird example for the children. In general, my ex and I get on well, we share custody, and he comes to the house to pick them up/drop them off, etc.

I want him to seek counseling over this issue and have offered to go with him, but he refuses. What can I do?! — Not His Wife Anymore

Well, you certainly can’t force an ex-husband to go to therapy. What you can do is tell your ex that his unwillingness to meet the man who will essentially be a (step)father-type figure in your children’s life is a threat to the healthy co-parent relationship you have worked to create, as well as a threat to his custody share because you can’t trust him to keep his kids’ best interest at heart if he can’t bring himself to meet the person who will likely be present when the two of you pick-up and drop-off your kids. I mean, what is he going to do — refuse to come into your home when he drops off his kids because he won’t see your boyfriend? Would he compromise his kids’ safety because his fragile ego can’t handle seeing his ex-wife in the company of her boyfriend?

It’s one thing to make you pay for leaving him, but to put his kids in the middle of this, which is what he’s doing when he refuses to meet your boyfriend, is another thing altogether and it definitely warrants a meeting with a family attorney to discuss your rights. Hopefully, just the threat of jeopardizing your custody arrangement will be enough to scare your ex into manning up and acting like a goddamn adult.


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  1. You dumped him like last week’s leftovers and you are still trying to boss him around? Pffff….
    Count your blessings LW that his lawyer isn’t making your life more miserable that is already is.

  2. dinoceros says:

    My mom didn’t meet my stepmom until my college graduation, which was eight years after my dad and stepmom had gotten together. It was never a big deal, and them not meeting was never detrimental to me or my relationship with either of them. It simply never came up because my dad didn’t feel the need to stage this major meeting, and it’s not like my stepmom followed my dad to the door (or even rode with him half the time) to pick me up. Their meeting was the result of being at the same place at the same time, and because of that, it was pretty low-key. Likely would not have gone as well if my dad had made a huge deal out of it.

    I have trouble believing that your ex not meeting your new guy is going to actually create that many problems. Sure, it’s not ideal, but divorce isn’t ideal. I find it sort of strange that you feel like this needs to happen in order to move on with your life and that you’re going so far as to tell your ex to get counseling and want to attend counseling with him (as thought you’re a couple?) over it.

    Let it go for now and I’m sure they’ll end up meeting eventually.

    1. dinoceros says:

      I also would be hesitant to threaten a custody battle. That should be reserved for serious situations that actually risk kids’ well-being. Might get more than you bargain for and make things a lot worse for the kids.

  3. I personally think forcing a formal meeting is just plain weird. He will meet him more naturally when he comes over to pick up or drop off the kids in passing and that’s all the sense he needs to have of him. It is your job as the children’s mother to pick out a suitable partner for yourself.

  4. I think you are being unreasonably harsh on the ex. I think he is handling it the best way he knows how and since she dumped him and he has gone through so much, if it is reasonably possible I don’t see how they have to meet, at least formally and right away. Give him some time but make it clear you two will be together and that won’t change. As far as the kids go, they don’t want to witness a painful exchange either.

  5. I don’t think I’ve disagreed more with Wendy than this letter. There is no need for this LW to force some type of meeting with her ex and new boyfriend. Among other things it will set a precedent that if his ex starts dating she has a right to meet and check out his new girlfriend. No.

  6. How are the kids handling everything? Seems like the last year and a half has probably been full of big changes. I would drop the subject for a while and get back to it closer to when you move in. I actually know many divorced couples where the ex and new SO never have a formal meeting. It just happens during a drop off or pick up. Your ex and new bf don’t have to be buddies. They just have to learn to comunicate if and when the need arises. Until then keep focusing on providing a positive co-parenting relationship.

  7. Back off LW, there is no need at all for grand “meeting”. It sounds like you just want to run the show. Be sensitive to his feelings, you dumped him! Just let it happen organically, a chance meeting when picking up the kids at some point maybe. My ex didn’t meet my BF for several years & it really had no impact on my kids’ well-being whatsoever. That you need this to happen so that you can move on, is rather odd……

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone arranging a formal meeting between their current partner and the kids’ father. And I know a lot of divorced people. As others have said, sometimes it happens organically when picking up/dropping off kids. Sometimes it happens at an event like a graduation or a wedding. Sometimes it never happens at all.
    Unless your ex-partner has some reason to mistrust your judgement to the point that he fears you’d bring a man who was dangerous to the kids into their home, why is this even important?
    Leave the poor guy alone. If your new BF is around long enough, they’ll meet eventually.

  9. Laura Hope says:

    Wait, you dumped the father of your children, who was still madly in love with you after 10 years because you just weren’t feeling the love? Well maybe he’s not inclined to subject himself to meeting your new guy because he might not be around very long anyway. But don’t worry, if you do actually commit (wait, what?) to this guy, your ex will come around. Give him some time.

  10. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    I know this is not what the LW asked BUT… I would pump the brakes on moving in with the new guy. You just left a 10 year relationship, a little over a year ago. How are you even ready to be in a new serious long term relationship? What about your kids, are they ready for a ‘stepdad’? Have you and the new guy even talked about what this means for your relationship?
    I see so many red flags with the speed at which you are moving in with someone new that I honestly think that a meeting between your ex and new guy should be the least of your concerns right now.
    FTR, this letter feels a little too ‘See I moved on and now you need too’ instead of ‘I’m in serious relationship that I’d like to move on to the next step’ to me.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Yeah, I think the thing that will be more traumatic for the kids is moving in with mom’s boyfriend a year and a half after their parents got divorced than their dad not meeting the new guy.

    2. I agree with you, CJ: this sounds like the LW is trying to prove the relationship more than include him in their lives. Stop trying to make fetch happen, LW!

  11. Honestly I think you should back off a little an wait with moving in. It’s only been a year and a half since you separated from your ex. Obviously there are still some hurt feelings and while your ex needs to get over those in time, I feel like it’s a little much to ask him to meet your new guy at this point.

    The thing is, there’s no need for the bf to be involved in taking care of the children at this point, at least not in a way that would make it necessary for him to deal with the ex. This need is only being created by LW’s wish to move in together. If she just waited a while then ex and new guy would not have to interact at all.

    Lastly, putting the custody arrangement into question is a really aggressive move that could create instability for the children and destroy all the progress LW and her ex have made in co-parenting. It’s fine to leave and start a new life with someone you, but you have to be a little patient and put your own interests on the back burner to some extent to make it work.

  12. Laura Hope says:

    And maybe, instead of teaching your kids that one must engage in a forced relationship that makes them physically ill, you could teach them about compassion…and integrity.

  13. bittergaymark says:

    Wait. So she dumped him (HARD!) and now she is supposed to threaten his custody situation simply because he does’t want to meet some dude she wants to fucking move in with their kids after maybe (WHAT?) a year or so of dating? FUCK that. Seriously, WTF, Wendy. Your advice here is so hilariously biased towards a shallow, vapid individual who has already done nothing but put the well being of her family dead last. Frankly, I am left rather baffled by it… So, if Drew ever dumps you — you’re just gonna gleefully sitting down to lunch with the new skank that he demands your kids play house with in less than two years? Yeah, right. Suggesting she next simply play the custody card as her latest weapon is undoubtedly the worst advice you’ve ever posted on here… Period. Hey, lets weaponize the children. What the fuck?! I, too, have never disagreed with you more, Wendy.

  14. I also respectfully disagree with Wendy’s advice here. It seems to me that this insistence on a formal meeting of the men is more about validation than it is about the kids; that is, more about speeding along the milestones of legitimacy on a relationship that may be moving too fast. I live with my boyfriend and he has 50/50 custody of his kids; they live with us half the time. I met his ex incidentally, I think at one of the kids parties. Even 2 years into living together, my interaction with her is limited, although I’m very involved in the kids’ care at their dad’s house. I would have been very uncomfortable with being forced to have a formal meeting with her as a prerequisite for moving forward in a relationship with my boyfriend.
    When you break somebody’s heart, you need to be especially careful with their boundaries, just out of decent human respect. Barring some dramatic context not included in the letter, there is no reason giving old and new partner space around meeting each other should impact custody issues. Yes, it may be inconvenient to be always present at pick-up and drop-off, or take on all the parenting exchanges involving the ex. But that is part of the package when you leave a relationship with kids involved. In other words, that’s on you. It is unfair and unnecessary to insist the ex and new boyfriend hurry up and meet just so you can speed along the transition time. And it is pretty nasty to involve lawyers and threaten a father’s access to his kids unless he gets exactly on your schedule for meeting your new boyfriend. LW needs to relax; coparenting requires not manufacturing drama if things will resolve on their own with a little patience and a little personal restraint.

  15. Sorry, Wendy. I disagree, too. The LW shouldn’t bring lawyers into it and use custody as a way to threaten her ex into doing what she wants. It just makes the kids bargaining chips. Sensitivity and empathy are what’s needed here, not threats of custody disputes.
    As for the LW, I don’t think this is about your kids at all. It’s about YOU. Your whole letter is all about you. YOU ended your marriage because YOU weren’t feeling it anymore. YOU left him “heartbroken.” (Note how you don’t mention it, but you also seriously uprooted your kids here and caused a lot of turmoil for them. That’s not the important part, I guess.) Now YOU met someone new, so YOU want to move your kids and YOURSELF in with him less than 2 years after breaking up your kids’ home. But your biggest problem here is that your ex won’t do what YOU want. Oh, woe is me, my ex who just cannot get over me won’t go see a therapist and have a front row seat to my new fabulous life!
    Get over yourself, LW. You’ve hurt someone here and he does not owe it to you to get over it on your timetable because that’s what’s most convenient for you. It sounds like your ex is making a real effort to make this process as smooth as possible for your kids and its working. Respect that and leave him alone about the rest. Your ex doesn’t need to meet your new guy before you move in together. And he doesn’t need to go to therapy because he’s not that into meeting your new guy, either. Unless it negatively impacts your kids – which the lack of a formal meeting does not; these things go much, much better when they happen organically instead of forcing it – you lost all say in how your ex lives his life.

  16. I guess it depends somewhat on context. By “meet,” does she mean, “Hey, Dave, this is Bob.” [they say “Hey”, shake hands, and never have anything else to do with one another]? If so, then, the ex should get it over with. If she expects them to know each other and mutually discuss the kids’ welfare, then she is asking way too much. Not sure why it needs to happen anyway.

  17. Wow Wendy! You are WAY off base. Of course eventually they will meet but that is on her ex’s terms… not hers or her new boyfriend’s. And to advise her to run off at the mouth with accusations of how she doesnt TRUST that her ex husband has her kids best interest in mind. I cant stop shaking my head at you. Honestly. -__-

    LW- you need to let your ex have more time to become okay with this situation. Do no threaten him with your children or speak condescending to him about trust and his parenting skills. Give him time and let him know the door is open whenever he is ready.

  18. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    I would not threaten the custody arrangement over this or push the issue any more. I don’t see why your ex can’t continue to pick up and drop off the kids without a formal meet-and-greet with your new partner. And if that is a problem because your ex is still hurt and not ready to meet your new partner, could *you* do the drop off/pick up at your ex’s? It hasn’t been very long; it should not be so hard to continue the status quo without threats or forcing a meet-and-greet.

  19. I also want to add that involving lawyers over this and making it a custody issue is not a good strategic move in the long view, unless you want to be making a custody issue out of every slight difference in parenting or dating philosophies until the kids are 18. Trust; family lawyers and court time don’t come cheap, and put an enormous amount of stress on children and new partners. It also casts a dark shadow over civil, cooperative relations with your ex. Having already abruptly left him heartbroken, you need to focus on being courteous and respectful, not controlling or court-happy. Save custody threats for actual problems that affect the children’s safety and well-being, not selfish desires to get on with your life with as little personal inconvenience as possible. You may not always have thousands of dollars in disposable income to drop on lawyers; please conserve your financial and emotional resources.

  20. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

    Although I don’t agree with trying to force a meeting with this guy (which I don’t think Wendy suggested, just the LW), I do get where Wendy is coming from and maybe more what she meant is that the ex needs to man up and deal with the fact he will have to, during the course of this relationship and in their co-parenting meet this guy eventually. Maybe not some forced meeting before they move in, but he can’t just *refuse* to ever see, talk to, or acknowledge this guy, especially if he is going to be an active part in his children’s live. I do believe that meeting should happen naturally and that LW you should probably wait a bit before moving in with this guy anyways, but I don’t think where Wendy is coming from is crazy. The ex shouldn’t be having a near panic attack at the idea of eventually having to meet his ex girlfriend’s new boyfriend. At the same time, I do think that trying to force this meeting or threatening the custody arrangement if the ex doesn’t acquiesce are both extreme solutions.
    LW I think you should just accept that your ex isn’t keen on having a forced meeting, wait a bit before moving in with your new guy because that is a lot of change for your young young kids in the course of less than 2 years, and just let the meeting happen naturally. Let your ex know he will have to deal with your new partner at some point, even just in brief passing, and if he is having such issues with it, he does need to figure his shit out and grow up, for the sake of your kids. I would also just be sensitive to your ex’s feelings, you guys were together for 10 years and its understandable he is still hurt.

  21. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW I don’t understand what you hope to gain by having the two men meet? Why do you think that your relationship depends on it? What if you force a meeting and your ex obviously hates the new guy, then what? Will your kids start to not like the new guy because dad doesn’t? Do you expect your ex to approve of your choice, because he almost certainly doesn’t. I can’t think of anything positive that could come out of a forced meeting.
    I think you should go for counseling because there doesn’t seem to be much thought for your kids in all of this. You took away their stability when you left their dad, they are probably still adjusting. Now you want to move in with another guy, a guy you haven’t dated long enough to know whether it will probably last or not. Go to counseling and figure out why you feel the need to push this relationship along so fast. Go to counseling to learn how to put your kids needs up there as just as important as your own or more important than your own. Go to counseling to learn how to be a person who doesn’t try to control their ex. Go to counseling to make sure you don’t repeat the mistakes that ruined your marriage. You probably need counseling far worse than your ex does.

    1. “Do you expect your ex to approve of your choice, because he almost certainly doesn’t.”
      I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to the LW that her ex doesn’t *have* to like her new guy and think he’s the bestest, EVER. That’s what the LW wants, and from what I can tell of her letter, apparently, what the LW wants, she always gets, others be damned.

  22. Oooh, I wouldn’t pull the threat-to-custody card at all. The judge could ultimately decide that what is NOT in the best interest of the children is the mother moving in with an “outside” party, and thereby change the custody arrangements, perhaps to the LW’s detriment. (Some divorce decrees have a clause wherein a stipulation is made that “no persons of the opposite gender, other than family, may be an overnight guest.” That doesn’t seem to be the situation here though.)

    Look, you cannot force your ex to meet your new boyfriend nor should you. Or tell him to go to counseling? You are still telling him what to do in the guise of “think of the children.” No, you want to have everything how you want it–you’re still trying to call the shots. That may have worked in your previous marriage, but you are now finding out that in the divorce, you’re not the commander.

  23. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    Ok, ok. Point taken. I was way off-base on this one. We can all make mistakes sometimes, right? And I have a good excuse: zero sleep in six weeks while hosting multiple out-of-town visitors and writing this hastily in the ten minutes I had to myself at 4 am before everyone woke up. Sorry, everyone! Hope to be more on the ball soon.

    1. bittergaymark says:

      Nothing is classier than OWNING your mistakes. 😉

    2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      We love you, Wendy!

    3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      As I read through your reply I was thinking, well, she hasn’t had much sleep in a while. Sleep deprivation really does give you fuzzy thinking and it is especially hard when you know you need to get something out there for the site. Is there any way to get a day ahead and then reread before posting, although people are so impatient that they go and post in the forums immediately.

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I usually try to be a day ahead and then my mom copy-edits for me, but things just keep popping up when I sit down to work. And then my parents were in town for the last five days (they left an hour ago), so my time was occupied even more. It will all ease up when jackson starts school (in three weeks and one day!) and our sitter starts watching joanie a few mornings a week. In the meantime, bear with me and keep filling in whatever gaps my fuzzy thinking creates!

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I think you’re doing an excellent job! There is no way around it, newborns are needy day and night and you have to prioritize them. You’re being a great mom, even if exhausted.

      3. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Thank you. It’s exhausting, but rewarding and I know it will pass all too quickly, so I’m soaking up all the good moments I can!

    4. Wendy, I get where you were coming from, and I had a bit of the same reaction you did at first. After a year and a half, it’s time to pull yourself together for the sake of your kids. And if he’s still struggling so much after all that time that the thought of seeing his ex with another man gives him panic attacks, I think therapy would be a good thing, just for his own sake.
      That said, after thinking about it further, the fact that she’s approaching this in such a demanding, cold, almost punitive way really turned me off. It’s not absolutely necessary that the ex meet the new partner. Sure, it would be lovely if everyone got along wonderfully, but that’s not possible for the ex right now, and it’s not something she should be demanding, let alone threatening the custody arrangement over. A little compassion, please, especially when you’re the one that caused the pain.
      I also agree with the poster who said that if she takes him to court over this, the results may not be what she expects. Depending on the state you live in, the courts may not be on board with moving a boyfriend into the kids’ home.

    5. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      ahh, I wondered why you didn’t chew her a new one about wanting to haphazardly move in with a new dude when there were young kids involved.
      I get super annoyed at any woman who will move a man she barely knows into her home with her kids. I’ve seen & heard way too many instances of children getting abused physically and sexually by mom’s newest boyfriend. Protect your kids folks, cause that kind of damage takes a lifetime to heal.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I was thinking the same. Children are abused far more often by mom’s boyfriend than they are by their own dad. Pedophiles tend to be charming because it is necessary to get access to children. At the very least, she should do a background check to see if there is an arrest record or record of domestic violence and make sure he isn’t a registered sex offender. He’s probably fine but she owes it to her kids to be sure. I have at times been stunned to see who is on the registered offender list.

      2. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        The registered offender list is also kind of BS. Like, yes it includes people convicted of rape or child molestation – it also includes some 18 year olds who slept with their 16 year old partner and were unlucky enough to have charges pressed, people who were caught having consensual sex in public, or urinating in an alley…
        My idiotic little brother could have ended up on a sex offender list if his girlfriend’s parents had decided to pursue it, and the only thing he’s done wrong is just generally being dumb.
        To be clear – I think it’s absolutely necessary to do your due diligence if you’re moving your kids in with a partner, I’m just saying that being on that list doesn’t necessarily equal child molester/rapist

      3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        In my state you get a general idea of the type of crime. There are registration details.

  24. I don’t understand why this is even an issue. Your ex doesn’t need to meet your BF. Why should he? What impact does the two of them meeting have on anything at all? It has no impact on your relationship with your BF and it has zero impact on your custody arrangement. In fact, your ex can make a good case that YOU are being the negligent parent by moving in with a new BF after such a short time and with no formal commitment in place. So thank yourself that this hasn’t occurred to him yet. Outside of that issue, the only thing that matters in this situation are your children and how THEY feel about you and your BF living together with them. You broke up with your ex 1.5 years ago and in that 1.5 years you had time to sort your life out, date, fall in love, and decide that this new BF is your life partner forever. Take a step back and look at that for a second. Your children have had 1.5 years to adjust to this new life. What about them? Maybe instead of focusing so much on what your ex will or won’t do, you should instead be focusing on a) getting to know your BF a bit better before you move in together and b) spend some time talking to your children about how they feel about all of these life changes. Because, from where I’m sitting, you are very focused on the one person that doesn’t matter at all.

  25. Honestly the two need never meet at all. My brother’s partner and her ex had a contentious post-divorce parenting relationship and they arranged their shared custody so one parent drops the kids off at school and the other parent picks them up. They need never interact except over the phone and it’s done wonders for the situation. I don’t think my brother has ever met the guy and he’s been with the kid’s mother for about 8 years now. Granted I doubt my brother would have an issue with meeting the dad but everyone has also had plenty of time to work things out in their own way without external pressures.
    ETA: Cheers for Wendy coming through even with huge sleep deprivation!

  26. humboldthoney says:

    Whoa! First time I have really disagreed with Wendy. And I really disagree. Please don’t see this as a chance to take his kids away from him. You are putting the kids in the middle of this, not him. You left him, for your reasons. How long have you been dating this new man for? Is it really long enough to decide he is the one you want to raise your kids with because I’m assuming that you have been dating at the most for a year. I don’t see why your exhusband would have to meet him, especially at a formal meeting. It seems cruel. Like a chance for him to have to see you wutg your new bea, a chance to rub it in that you left him. And no wonder he doesn’t want that! This is time for you to respect his wishes. Give him time. Make it a little bit easy. You can’t always have everything you want.

  27. There’s nothing that you can do. No therapy, no legal action, nothing. It’s not going to teach your kids anything bad just because he doesn’t want to meet some dude that got with the girl he clearly still has feelings for. Even if your new BF turns into a psycho around the kids, that’s on you and the choice you made in a partner. Its not on him for having not met your BF. My baby’s mother and I never really spoke of meeting each others new partner until I came by to pick up our daughter and she tried getting me to come inside and see him. I just nicely said I was in a hurry. When she persisted, I just said, “Your relationships are none of my concern and business. I’m sorry but I’m here to be in Charlii’s (my daughter) life- not yours. “

  28. I’m in this situation with my ex-wife with the exception that she cheated on me with a co-worker and married him a 1-1/2 month after our divorce. I’m willing to meet her new spouse and don’t hold any grudges, but she says that he’s unwilling to ever meet me. So obviously I have concern about him watching my kids when he’s okay committing adultry, but is afraid to meet me.

  29. The Ex Husband says:

    Wendy you piece of shit. That’s terrible advice. The guy is hurting and you want to take away his parental rights? Fuck you. You are exactly the type of person who should NOT be in charge of an advice column because you side with your readers and you’re not even considering this man’s feelings.

    He was probably still in love. My situation mirrors his in some ways. I don’t love my ex anymore, but seeing a boyfriend, seeing her touch him or vice versa, that’s not a reason I should lose my kids.

    I just don’t want to see the person whom I’ve seen as my wife for a decade to be in another man’s arms, and while I’ve supported her leaving, co signed for her, given her my stimulus check, and my birthday money, and my home improvement fund, so she can be independent and provide for the kids acceptably.

    I don’t wanna meet the boyfriend because it hurts my heart, I would never endanger the kids, and if they wanted me there where the boyfriend was I would do it, but not until my kids want it.

    I literally couldn’t work, or work out yesterday, just in bed crying like a little sob piece of crap because I can’t get my feelings for the ex under wraps as fast as someone who had the time to plan an exit and start dating someone behind my back.

    You’re an awful advisor Wendy, I hope you get fired, or quit, or anything, you’re not appropriate for this job.

    1. If you’re unable to get out of bed because you are sobbing in bed over your ex, I hope you’ll consider therapy if you aren’t already seeing someone. You sound incredibly fragile, very bitter, and very angry. The way you lashed out at me is one thing – it hurts no one – but if you are projecting this kind of anger on people with whom you need to have a functional relationship – like your ex-wife as a co-parent, for example – it’s going to cause problems for you and affect your relationship with your children. Good luck to you.

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        Yeah, I understand your pain, man. But this is clearly eating you alive. Please do See a therapist about this. They will help you get past this and back on track!

  30. Is there a way the two guys could have very limited contact ie not be around when there are drop offs and pick ups. And have some where you drop the kids off at his place or meet half way. Suggest these saying you understand but also as a compromise would like him to briefly meet the new guy!

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