Shortcuts: “My Boyfriend Doesn’t Want to Be My Kids’ Stepdad”

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It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great that being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

Broken heart

I met my 33-year-old boyfriend three and a half years ago; I’m 48 and have two boys, 14 and 10. My boyfriend made it clear from the start that he didn’t want the role of stepfather, and I kept both parts of my life very separate as my children’s dad was very much involved at that point in their lives and I was able to see my boyfriend without the children. Moving forward, their dad has moved out of their lives, and gradually I introduced them to my boyfriend. He struggled a bit, but eventually we sort of got into a routine and the four of us did more together — holidays, days out, etc. Now that my children’s dad has pretty much removed himself completely, I feel very much alone in parenthood, and since I also had to stop working because of a long-term health issue, things are hard financially. So, I recently asked my boyfriend, whom I still don’t live with, if he was ok being a step-parent now, and he said that if I’m looking for somebody to take them them to the doctor, go on family holidays, and support them financially then, no, he didn’t want that. He then went on to say he has his own life to live and seeing me every weekend is too much. I feel totally confused, let down, and really hurt that for all this time I thought we were evolving into a family when he was actually still sticking by his “I don’t want to be a stepdad” line. We do love each other very much and are truly best friends, but I feel this has to be the end… but then I am totally without support. What should I do? — Needing a Stepdad For My Kids

I’m not sure what’s so confusing about this. Your boyfriend told you from the very beginning that he had no interest in being a stepdad. Now, three and a half years later, it turns out he was being upfront and honest all along. I’ve heard a lot of relationship stories that are confusing; this is not one of them. This is about as clear-cut as it gets. You want a co-parent and your boyfriend doesn’t want to be one. MOA. Sue your kids’ dad for child support, look into what kind of government assistance you qualify for, and do some research into employment that might work around whatever longterm health issue you think precludes you from working.

I am engaged and living with my fiancé. His female friend does not like me very much, but we have both been invited to her wedding which is in six months. I have also found out that my cousin’s baby is due the same day, so what do I do?! — Two Events, One Date

The female friend will like you a lot less if you skip her wedding because you know someone who has a baby due on her wedding day. Not only would you not be expected (or likely even wanted) at the hospital for your cousin’s labor, most women don’t actually have their babies on their due dates. Go the wedding, be gracious, and have fun. Then visit the baby once the vernix has been washed off.

I am 19 years old and in my first year of college. I have been with my boyfriend for a year and a half, and his mother absolutely hates me. She won’t talk to me when I’m around her and she kicks me out of the house whenever she is mad. She claims I use her son for money even though I started dating him when he didn’t have any. He has been doing well at work lately and he spoils me with dinners out and gifts, but I never ask for any of it. His mother says that I am a snob because I avoid her whenever I am at his house. I literally walk straight to his room, close the door, and crawl under the covers because I am not comfortable around her. She is rude and calls me a bitch and a whore. Can our relationship work? I want to marry him! — Not a Bitch

If you don’t want to have a horrible relationship with your potential future mother-in-law, you need to stop acting like a little shit every time you walk into her home. Bypassing her when you’re in her home and going straight to your boyfriend’s room where you shut the door and crawl under the covers is rude, bizarre, and troubling. Are you ill? Extremely cold? Bring a sweater and start sitting with the mother for five minutes before escaping to your boyfriend’s bedroom. And instead of your boyfriend spending his money on gifts for you and dinners out, perhaps you should suggest he spend it on rent for his own place where you won’t be forced to be decent to his mother every time you visit.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Unwanted_Truth says:

    LW1 – Face palm…..Work from home if you must due to your health issues. Let the boyfriend go, focus on you and your kids and do exactly what Wendy suggested, sue for child support like yesterday!! I am curious though, WHY did your children’s father drop out of their lives?

    LW3 – You’re 19, and in your first year of college, trust me, you’re NOT going to marry this guy, and you need to accept some responsibility in the way the relationship is between you and his mother. I’d cut the cord and focus on school and on yourself.

  2. LW’s 1-3: Do what Wendy says. She’s exactly right.

    Now I’m going back to bed, because these letters make me doubt the future survival of humanity.

  3. WWS really across the board on this one, LW3 its time to learn the age old technique of having him come to your place if you can’t get along with his roomates/family, for future reference it is always in your best interest to try to get along with his roomates/family this skill will help you endlessly throughout your college career. you never know what can happen and its always better to have people around who at least respect you. I highly recommend the bringing over cookies to share method when dealing with a boyfriend who lives in a shared house, it might even work on moms, it definitely works on roomates.

  4. “Then visit the baby once the vernix has been washed off.” made me laugh out loud and I’m home alone.

    1. jilliebean says:

      Same!! I scared my dog. And so did Wendy asking LW3 if she was cold. Love Snarky Wendy!!!

  5. Yeah, LW1, if I were your boyfriend I’d feel pretty confused that you asked me to be a stepfather to your kids when I clearly told you I didn’t want to. True, he could have put his foot down earlier and stopped the “evolving into a family” thing earlier, but maybe he thought you heard him when he said what he said. Dating someone with kids does not necessarily mean financially supporting them. I think this is a classic case of selective hearing: not hearing what you don’t want to hear. Boyfriend isn’t blameless, either. If things were getting too uncomfortable for him, he should have said so. You are not a good fit and you should MOA.

  6. I laughed out loud at several points. First with LW2 when I read the “conflict” with the wedding is her cousin’s baby’s due date…like, wtf? Then with Wendy’s response about visiting when the vernix is washed off. And also Wendy’s advice to LW3 about bringing a sweater so the LW can spend some time with the mom. It’s comedy Friday!!

  7. LW1: “We do love each other very much and are truly best friends” You’ve been dating 3 1/2 years, and only see each other on the weekends, I don’t know if this is true in his eyes. You definitely need to move on, and try to get the support you need for your kids from their father.

    LW2: Did you just make up a ridiculous excuse to not go to this woman’s wedding, because you hater her? You can’t really think that is a good excuse right? I mean I don’t care how close you are with your cousin, she doesn’t need you there during the birth of her child, if she were to even have the kid that day. I hope you haven’t started any arguments with you fiance over this. Honestly, just go to the wedding, invite her to yours, and I willing to bet there is going to be a fade out over the next couple of years, and you wont have to deal with her anymore.

    LW3: WWS, you are looking for an excuse to help you figure out how to deal with this women that you put no effort into now. Sometimes moms are pretty smart.

  8. WWS all the way.

    Alright. I have a similar situation to letter writer #2. I’m invited to my good friend’s wedding Labor Day weekend. The wedding is in Victoria, BC. and will no doubt be gorgeous. My sis who lives in the same City as me is pregnant with her first. She’s due the week before Labor Day weekend. She married a Jewish fella and they’re raising their children Jewish. He’s pretty traditional and so will have a Bris 8 days after baby is born. Or a baby naming ceremony if it’s a girl. The rest of my family will be coming to Chicago shortly after baby is born. So, do I go to the wedding? Or stay here? I was kind of excited to finally be in the same city as one of my sister’s when she has her baby. I know I won’t be in the delivery room, but I was going to wait at the hospital. And I’ll likely never have a baby myself. But is it selfish of me not to go to the wedding because of a baby that’s not mine? I suppose I prioritize my sister over my friend.

    1. In your case I’d say it’s less about your sister’s due date specifically than the likelihood that you’ll have family in town that weekend. If you haven’t already told your friend the while situation, you could just RSVP your regrets and say you’re already committed to a family event.

      1. Rangerchic says:

        I’d say since it’s your sister to prioritize family since that sounds like what you really want to do anyway. But, like Wendy said, babies have a mind of their own when it comes to being born. The baby could even be late by a couple of week or early by a couple of weeks. You could talk to your friend and see if she’d be okay with you on the fence the entire time (if she doesn’t have to have an exact head count for something or other). I’d be understanding if it were my friend and I was the one getting married!

      2. I haven’t confirmed one way or the other with my friend. I received a saved the date. Unfortunately, I’d have to buy a plane ticket. I live in Chicago, so it’s pretty much a destination wedding for me. If it were a lot closer, I’d go in a heartbeat.

        I was actually planning on going to the wedding until my sister told me about the baby festivities a few days after baby is born. I think I would feel more horrible missing those than the wedding. Wendy did bring up a good point about people can’t really predict when the baby will come though. Ugh. Decisions.

      3. I’d recommend thinking the opposite way: which would you be more sad to miss.

        Imagine it’s Labor Day weekend and you stayed home from the wedding, only your sister’s baby is late (as first babies often are) so there’s no birth, no bris, no family in town. Are you sad you missed the wedding just in case?
        Imagine it’s Labor Day weekend and you’re at a lovely wedding in Canada but your whole family is snacking on bagels and meeting your new nephew at his bris. Are you sad you went to the wedding?
        Or worse, would you feel compelled a few days before the wedding in this case to cancel your ticket and bow out of the wedding? If that’s the case then I think it would be much more polite to your friend to RSVP no initially rather than cancel last minute.

      4. That’s an awesome way to think about it. I’d be most sad to miss the birth and festivities. We have an extremely close family. She’s due the Aug 23, so I guess really 9-10 days before I’d have to leave for the wedding. I think I have my answer. I already kind of had it. But after the advice to LW2, I felt that it might be a dumb reason to skip a wedding. In the end, I need to do what feels right.

      5. I don’t think that is at all a dumb reason to skip a wedding. I’ve never been to one, but I’m Jewish and it seems like a bris/baby naming is an important event (and time-sensitive). From what I can tell, it’s not just a party, it’s welcoming the baby into the family. If it were my sister, I’d skip the wedding too.

      6. Then again, if it were a cousin, I’d skip it unless we were exceptionally close.

      7. Sorry, meant to say, if it were my cousin, I’d choose the friend’s wedding over the cousin’s bris/baby naming unless me and the cousin were exceptionally close.

      8. Yeah, if it were a cousin, I’d choose wedding. Hands down. Actually, she was originally getting married in June around the same time as a cousin’s wedding. I’m not close to that cousin so I was going to go to the friend’s.

      9. I’ve been to a few of them and often the actual cutting is done behind closed doors with only a few people there and takes only a few minutes, but it is more about the social aspect of welcoming the baby into the community and seeing relatives (which is sounds like you’re expecting some relatives to travel in for the occasion, ktfran?) and snacking on bagels. So I definitely think it’s worth going to for those aspects.
        (In a way it’s like a wedding– the ceremony is a short part at the beginning that is mostly just important to the couple and close relatives, but everyone else is really there for the celebration!)

      10. That’s good to know! About the celebration that is. I honestly have no idea about such matters. I should do some research. It’s interesting learning about a different religion and the traditions surrounding them.

      11. I think your scenario is different than the LW’s, based on the little bit of info the LW gave.
        That said, if the LW is worried about being out of town the day of her cousin’s baby’s bris, I would change my advice. I definitely wouldn’t miss a family bris for a girl I don’t even like’s destination wedding.

      12. Maybe you can give your friend a heads-up about the situation, and buy a refundable ticket? (Extra $$, I know) For hotels and rental cars, you can generally cancel 48+ hours out without penalty. Then if the baby is born on time, you can decide to stay home for the baby party. No baby yet, go to the wedding. I think a good friend would understand.

  9. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    LW3 You are being rude when you walk up to her house and go in, I’m assuming without knocking, and walk past her to get to her son’s room, which actually belongs to her. You never go into a house that isn’t yours without knocking and waiting for someone on the inside to open the door and invite you in. Your boyfriend may live in his mom’s house but it is her house and he is rude to tell you to walk up to the door and just come on in. Your boyfriend should be meeting you at the door and letting you in. Is he too lazy to climb out from under the covers on his bed and go to the door and open it? Your boyfriend isn’t much of a catch. Throw him back and next time build a better relationship with the parent, even if they aren’t warm and welcoming. You can’t control the way that they act but you have full control over the way you act. From now on stop at her door, knock and wait until someone opens the door and invites you to come in. If she ignores you and he can’t be bothered to climb out of his bed, which him mom probably bought and owns along with the mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets, then you don’t belong in that house and you go away and you know where you stand with both your boyfriend and his mom. Remember, the way he is treating his mom is the way he treats people, sooner or later you included. The boyfriend who would tell him girlfriend to just walk into his mom’s house is the boyfriend that will tell his friends to just walk into the apartment or home that the two of you share. When you are walking into her house you don’t know how dressed she is or what she is doing. When his friends walk into your apartment they won’t know how dressed you are or what you may be doing. Avoid guys who treat anyone with this much discourtesy because sooner or later that is the way they will treat you.

  10. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    WWS for LW #1 and 2 but I’m going to disagree with the advice for LW #3.

    I dunno, if someone’s mom kept calling me a bitch, a whore, and a gold digger, I wouldn’t feel especially cordial to her either. Who wants to be constantly subjected that nonsense? Yeah, it’s her house but that shouldn’t mean it’s acceptable to treat the LW in this manner. TBH, if the Mother wants the son to stop spending his money on LW then that’s a conversation she should have with him. She shouldn’t resort to raging on LW, that’s unacceptable behavior from the mom.
    Honestly, it kinda disappoints me that you are telling a 19 year old, who is just learning about herself in the world, that she should essentially kow-tow to a grown ass woman who should know better. 🙁 Yes, avoid her house but no, don’t go try to make nice with her while she heaps abuse on you.

    1. I agree. I’ve been in this situation (though he didn’t live with her for much longer) so I can understand why she would just make a beeline to his room. It came off to me like she started doing that after all the insults.
      My question would be, does he stick up for you, LW? If he just lets his mother talk about you like that, I would say def MOA.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      She shouldn’t let someone treat her badly but she herself isn’t acting appropriately either. There is a very good chance that they both haven’t acted nicely to each other and descended into this mess together. The relationship with his mom is pretty toxic and so instead of walking past his mom in her own home and climbing into bed with him they should be meeting somewhere else. She can’t control what his mom does but she can control her own actions and choices. It is a choice to walk into someone’s home and pass them by as if they aren’t there and go get into bed with their son. It is a rude choice. The problem is probably between mother and son and neither of those two are addressing the issues between them. The mom should say that he can’t have someone walk into her home and she should have other rules that prevent her from being walked all over. The son should be more considerate of his mom just because it is her home. I’m not assuming that they have a great mother son relationship because i think it is obvious that they don’t. I think he needs to be courteous because it is her home and he is an adult living in her home with her probably paying all of his major expenses. He probably has money to spend on nice dinners out and gifts for the girlfriend because he isn’t paying for rent and utilities and food at home. Maybe his mom should charge him rent and have him pay half the utilities and food and for his own phone, etc. She needs to address that with the son rather than make passive/aggressive comments to the girlfriend. In the end I think the LW needs to be aware that the way he treats his mom is probably the way she can expect him to treat her in the future. You don’t have to like someone to be courteous. You need to be polite because that is who you are and who you want to be. The last thing the LW should do is be more like his mom.

  11. findingtheearth says:

    For LW2- are you and your cousin very close? Do you need to be at the hospital all day? I know my cousin is due in April and I plan on being available that day if she needs me, since we are very close. But she has her step mom, her aunts, and such there as well. I think you should attend the wedding, and if the baby has been born, then go see the baby.

    For LW1: The phrase ” …that might work around whatever longterm health issue you think precludes you from working,” irks me. There are people with long term health issues who cannot work. However, if this is true for LW1 she needs to look into applying for disability. There are work programs through Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Initiative Act programs that can also help you pick up costs while looking for employment or deciding future plans. But you need to dump the guy. He doesn’t want to be a dad. Plain and simple.

  12. dinoceros says:

    LW1: Unfortunately, the person who duped you was you. He told you he didn’t want to be a stepdad. If you are a parent and you are interested in something other than casual dating, you should not date someone who doesn’t want to be a parent. You also should not rely on whoever you’re dating in order to support your family. Even if you were seeing someone who DID want to be a dad, it doesn’t mean the relationship will last.
    LW2: Unless you are the father, most people don’t want you there on the day they give birth. Not to mention that she will likely not give birth that day. I’m not sure if you were actually expecting to be needed on that day, but it’s pretty safe to say that you won’t. I think you’re making (bad) excuses.

  13. girltuesday says:

    I would agree with the advice for #3, but I feel like I’m not getting the whole picture. Did the mom start calling her a bitch, whore, gold digger FIRST? Or was the LW avoiding the mom first and then subjected to the name-calling? Honestly, if I were LW3 and my SO’s mom was calling me a whore on a regular basis, I would probably avoid her, too.

    LW3 is not making it any better by continuing to go over to her house and keep bypassing her to go to her SO’s room. It just keeps them both in a nasty cycle. I would suggest LW3 talk to her SO and say, “Hey, it’s clear that me and your mom don’t get along. I don’t think it’s right for me to come over anymore,” and hopefully that will spur a convo that he needs to either A. move out, or B. plan things with LW outside of his mother’s house.

  14. SpaceySteph says:

    Ah, facepalm Friday.
    LW1- When someone tells you who they are and what they want, believe them. I don’t really blame this guy, who was up front from day one, for not wanting to support his unable to work girlfriend and her kids. Do what you have to do to support your own kids rather than look for a stepfather-figure to support you– that means getting a job, getting the father to help support his kids using pro-bono legal aid if necessary, going on government assistance, asking parents/relatives/church/friends for help. It is unfortunate that you can’t just be free to date your “best friend,” but you have to look out for your kids first.
    LW2: WWS. It’s weird for you to rearrange your life around your cousin’s due date.
    and LW3: Yeah you sound kind of like a brat. If you think your relationship with your boyfriend will last a long time, then his mother is in your life. And he even lives with her, so even more so. Imagine if you got married, she might hold your 19-year-old-snottery against you forever.
    If you can’t be nice to her, then find places to hang out with your boyfriend other than in his mother’s house, and when you do have to interact with her be cordial. Or, break up. There’s an idea.

  15. wobster109 says:

    LW3 – I’m not so sure about this one. A 19yo ignoring you is no reason to call her a whore. Which came first? Because, if SO invited me to his house, and I walk in thinking it’s a normal house, and the first thing SO’s mother says is “so this is the money grabbing bitch whore”, then I’d avoid making eye contact forever. Granted, I wouldn’t go back to that house either.
    If you must go back, I agree that talking to her is the way to go. Be prepared to say “Good afternoon Mrs. Lucy”, and “please don’t call me that, it really hurts my feelings”.

  16. LW3 — I think your bf’s mother is blaming you for his behavior and redirecting her anger at you. Your actions aren’t helping the situation, but at root this is a battle between mother and son. He is now earning significant money and he is spending a ton of it on you, while she thinks he needs to make a bigger (any?) contribution to household expenses now that he is earning significant $. Now that he has money she is pissed about still supporting him financially, while she watches him lavish money on you.

  17. LW1: It is difficult to rise children alone, but don’t treat your boyfriend as a financial and parental support. It isn’t his responsibility. It would be nice to see him embrace this role, but you can’t request it. The problem is on the father. And on your own independence.
    Enjoy this life with your kids, which is nice in itself: see the positive side of the family! My best wishes to you!

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