“Should I Choose My Lover or My Kids?”

I have three beautiful kids with a man I married almost five years ago. I’ve been in a relationship with him on and off for the past 10 years. We have had an extensive history of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse. The state has been involved many times, and it’s safe to say that our whole relationship has had way more unhappy times than happy. My husband has called me a lot of names, and he has never helped me take care of the kids (he doesn’t even know who their doctor is). I have essentially been a single mom in a marriage with this man. Going out as a family to get groceries is the most family time we spend together, and even then we have to rush to get back home.

In February of this year I got a job at a local restaurant where I met a nice man. Over some time the new man and I got very very close and fell in love. Before I knew it, I had lost all feelings I had for my husband. I had been known as the woman who went crawling back to her abusive husband to give him another chance, but this time I didn’t. The new man and I had something so fiercely romantic. I was given everything my husband didn’t give to me (emotionally).

My husband’s family moved to another state and extended the offer for me, my husband, and our kids to move with them. Starting over new sounded good – but leaving my new lover didn’t. How could I cut off something so great and exciting, right? Well, I moved, but I kept in contact with my new lover. My husband wanted intimacy with me and I wanted nothing to do with him. I moved back to my home state 10 days after leaving, along with my kids.

It was an incredibly hard financial struggle to make ends meet without child support. I had to get a roommate to help alleviate the financial burden on me, which turned out to blow up in my face, a very toxic situation. I ended up homeless in September and I didn’t want to put my kids through the misery of living solely off survival mode. I allowed them to stay with their father while I got my stuff together and while I tried to find myself.

Living without them was awful, although I visited them a couple times a month (9-hour drive one way). I asked my lover what he thought of the idea of letting the kids live in his place with us, but he says he isn’t ready for that. I explained to him that I am not expecting him to play the role of father figure and that I am just in a desperate position to where I’ll do anything to get them back (no, there are no custody or child support arrangements at this time). Even with that, he still tells me he isn’t ready. I feel like he could be viewing my kids as a “problem”? He’s taken them out to have fun alone before, and he’s watched them a few times before too.

We’re in month eight of this love thing we have going on, and I have concerns about him. There are things he has done that make me wonder, but I have overlooked his flaws. Maybe this is a case of looking at him through rose-colored glasses. I have the option to go live in the other state with my family again or they’ll help me find my own apartment in their area. Why is the thought of leaving this new lover so emotional? Like, yeah, my kids come first! But the thought of going back to a potentially abusive situation again makes me nervous. Still, I’d do anything to be around my kids again! — Looking Through Rose Colored Glasses?

Really, you can’t understand why a man you met a few months ago might not be ready for his “lover’s” three children to move in with him? You’re right there’s a problem here and it isn’t your kids, it isn’t your lover’s perception of your kids, and it isn’t his flaws that you overlook because you’re seeing him through rose-colored glasses. The problem is that the last thing you need right now is a man and yet a man is exactly what apparently is standing in the way of your being with your children.

You have reasonable choices here, and they do not include living with your lover or returning to your abusive husband. Instead, all reasonable choices include NO MEN. They include filing for a divorce, getting custody and child support in order, and figuring out a way to live near your children, independent of a man (aside from any child support or alimony that may be owed you). The last thing you should be doing is trying to move your children into the home of a man you’ve known such a short while and whom you apparently have “concerns about,” who “has done things that make you wonder.”

You shouldn’t even be leaving your children alone with a man like that, let alone asking him to play some sort of father role. And don’t fool yourself — asking him to let your three children move into his home while you continue to do your “love thing” is exactly that. It’s a roundabout way of forcing him to take on a father-figure role, and not only is that totally unfair to everyone involved, but also it’s grossly inappropriate.

Look, if you didn’t have kids to think about, I’d say go ahead – do your love thing with your lover and have a great time. But you DO have kids to think about and until they are safe and secure, with their parents close by and gainfully employed and able to provide for them (and co-parent together), that should be your sole focus. Instead, you are completely diluting your focus with this dude you have concerns about, who does things that make you wonder. Seriously, what are you thinking?!

You cannot erase the hurt your estranged husband has caused you by rushing into another relationship. But you CAN begin to heal — and to help your children heal — by prioritizing their and your basic needs: a home free of drama and abuse; gainful employment; food on the table; everyone in the same town. You have family who will help you find your own apartment near your kids. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? I promise, once you get settled, and you work out custody and child support arrangements, and you get some therapy for yourself (!!), there will be other lovers down the line. Maybe even some who don’t do things that make you wonder.


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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. So you were starving for affection and now you got a taste and so you can’t imagine ever going hungry again. OK. But you brought three kids into this mess, they don’t have choices. They don’t have options. They have you and your husband. You have an obligation to care for them, not abandon them and live 9 hours away.

    This doesn’t have to be your last shot at happiness, but to be honest, you’re not good at picking out lovers and friends. Maybe you should focus on getting you and your kids into something stable and THEN decide to date.

  2. Oh lord. You were not emotionally ready to be with a new man. It is already too soon at 8 months, let alone it has already happened for him to be spending alone time with your kids let alone moving in with them, it is, for your mental sake, too soon for you to live with him. So many too soons. I totally get that a new man who treats you right would woo you and you would fall for him. That in itself is understandable and not bad, although truly, it was too soon for you. That isn’t even taking into account the children, which is a whole other novel I could write.

  3. You have already chosen your lover over your kids. In fact your kids have not come first maybe ever, what is wrong with you leaving your children alone with a man you dont really know. You are a terrible judge of character, from your choice of husband, choice of lover, choices about your kids every choice you have made in the letter is terrible. You need help, go to a women’s center today and tell them that you are making terrible decisions and putting everyone at risk and see what they can do to help you. They have classes for people who dont know how to keep their children safe. I am so worried for your children I really hope your husband’s parents are good people and helping take care of them.

    1. Judgmental much? Are you perfect, Sarah?

      1. anonymousse says:

        I think putting your own children in danger and abandoning them for some action is worthy of harsh judgement.

  4. Bittergaymark says:

    Ugh. No comment.
    (Other than the oh-so the casual mention of the fact that I am so sick and tired of stupid fucking people making more stupid fucking kids… surprise, surprise! They are ALWAYS lousy parents and it NEVER, EVER ends well.)

    1. Juliecatharine says:

      A-freaking-men. I don’t care what people do just stop bringing kids into the world with abusive partners, subjecting them to years of instability, and then abandoning them 9 hours from the place they grew up for yet another sketchy partner! Those poor children.

    2. Agreed BGM.
      The LW had not one but 3 children with an abusive partner.

  5. Stories like this make me unbelievably happy I never want to have kids

  6. You left your kids for a guy you’ve known less than a year. WTF lady. You don’t have to move back in with your husband to be near your kids, so you’re *choosing* not to be near them. THERAPY.

    1. All of whom are under 10 years old…

      LW, look, you’ve run into the same issue a lot of people who cheat run into: your “lover” doesn’t really want to be with you full time. He liked being your affair — it was fun! illicit! exciting! and a great escape/distraction/fantasy. But then you moved in and now you want your three young kids to move in, and he’s thinking “thanks, but nah.”

      This guy isn’t your knight in shining armor coming to rescue you from the mess of a marriage you have with your husband so that you can jet off to your metaphorical castle and live happily ever after. In fact, no guy is that guy. The only person who can save you from the mess you’re in is YOU. So, forget about chasing a relationship with this guy and turn the focus on you and your kids. Get a divorce. Get your finances straight. Get yourself straight. Get your kids in therapy. And, when you’re in a place where you’re 100% able to support yourself and your kids financially and emotionally, then consider dating.

  7. anonymousse says:

    “There are things he has done that make me wonder, BUT I HAVE OVERLOOKED HIS FLAWS.”

    Yes, you have. Clearly. And you have also abandoned your children for “your lover.” I want you to imagine explaining to them that this guy, who you admit had done mysterious things that make you wonder. Explain to them how he is more important than they are.

    1. anonymousse says:

      Ugh, hit submit too quickly.

  8. ele4phant says:

    WOMAN – did you leave your children with your abusive, neglectful ex?

    You need to get them out, right now.

    Find a place to live and get your life together. Put them first. If that means living somewhere less than ideal that your family can pay for, do that (unless that means you have to get back together with your ex, then definitely don’t put you and your children back in that situation). Get a new roommate. Hell, move into a women’s shelter, if need be.

    Now is not the time for romance, even if your new guy was prince charming, which it sounds like he isn’t. You need to get your life together first before you’re ready to add a partner to the mix.

  9. Honestly, you are not emotionally healthy enough to be a good partner for anybody. This means there probably is something wrong your “lover”. Healthy adults usually don’t usually put themselves in situations where on-again/ off-again married parents with small children who are recently homeless, ask to move their kids in.

    You are attributing all of your issues to your abusive husband (who you haven’t legally separated from). But you were not an emotionally mature, functioning adult when you got with him or you wouldn’t be where you are now.

    Healthy people don’t have three children in five years with spouses who are mean, abusive, and unstable. They don’t marry people after five years of abuse. Has there been substance abuse issues? I ask because so often it goes hand in hand with finances, neglect, abuse, and dysfunction in general.

    The state has been involved multiple times with your children. This is indicative of your neglect, not just his abuse.

    If you ever wish to get out of this cycle you are going to have to learn one thing at a time. You need to work, you need to figure out how to live with roommates, you have to figure out how to be whole enough without a man that you won’t equate a happiness with going from one broken situation to the next. You have to learn to parent. I applaud you for making efforts to leave your toxic marriage but it won’t be enough if you can’t sustain yourself outside of one.

    Your number one goal should be gaining and maintaining some stability and financial resources. You can do this. There isn’t much of an actual choice; you NEED to do this for yourself and for your kids.

    1. dinoceros says:

      This is spot on. And to be honest, a GOOD man would probably not want to be involved with someone who is so neglectful with their kids. I know if I were dating someone who had children, it would be a huge issue for me if I realized that they had so little concern for their kids.

  10. I was in a physically, mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. I made sure the kids were safe and got out. Then got myself into therapy to help me deal with what happened, and to figure out how to keep it all from screwing up the kids. It was almost a full DECADE after the last incident before I felt safe enough to date again. I still havent introduced any man to them, and my kids are in college, with the baby in middle school.

    Wendy is absolutely right. You need to focus on the kids first – get them stable, get them safe. Their foundation and trust is seriously shaken. Dont bring another man – ANY MAN – into their lives. Don’t disrupt their lives anymore. Work on salvaging your relationship with them.

    Even when you think kids dont see things…they do. It’s heartbreaking. They need help, and therapy would probably do them good too. They need to know you’re going to put them first. They need you to be stable and secure, and strong for them, so they can learn what it means to be strong too. All good choices here, all smart choices for the kids involve neither of these men. Be the mom you want to be, that you know you should be and put them first.

  11. Howdywiley says:

    Your poor kids. They deserve so much better then what they’ve been dealt.

  12. Monkeys mommy says:

    Everyone else has been far nicer than I will be. You are a pathetic excuse for a parent, and have behaved as shittily as your ex! I mean, you had an affair, dumped your kids completely and play house with another man like it is nothing. I even question your tale of abuse… after all, he is good enough to leave the kids with… right? And “he doesn’t even know who our pediatrician is!” Is considered neglect? Well shit, guess my husband is too, because he couldn’t begin to tell anyone that, I handle those things. I am not saying you are exaggerating, but someone who strives to make her very bad decisions look better might say things that less than accurate. Divorce your husband. Don’t. Whatever. But leave the new man (lover? Fucking really?) And thank him for being honest enough to TELL you he is not ready to play daddy, rather than moving your kids into yet more turmoil and leaving you all homeless soon.

    1. To be fair, she never claimed “neglect”. I used that word in my earlier response and maybe it isn’t accurate. It does seem neglectful to leave your kids with an abuser because that person might take their frustrations out on the children.

      She used the example of the pediatrician to convey how uninvolved and one-sided her marriage felt to her. If after five years, her husband has never been or taken his kids to a single doctor’s visit and wouldn’t even be able to name the practice from conversations, I can see how that could make her feel unsatisfied in her marriage.

  13. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    I have to be honest here: I’m not sure I’m willing to accept the narrative that the LW is using (i.e., that she is an innocent snowflake being abused and the two men are bad).

    First, I’m not saying the letter is chronologically in order or anything, but I think it’s notable that the LW doesn’t bring up the “concerns” she has with her new man until AFTER she mentions that he was uncomfortable letting the kids move in. Also — and I admit I had to read the letter a few times to catch this — the LW never actually says she moved in with her man. She infers it, but she says “I was homeless, so I sent the kids to their father while I got my act together. And when I talked to my lover about moving the kids in with us, he turned it down.” There’s a big difference in my mind between him agreeing to let her move in with him for a little while and him agreeing to be her new home, and I think if I was asked by someone I was dating to let her move not only herself but her three kids in I’d be SERIOUSLY concerned about her judgment. And that, of course, is to say nothing about the fact that she dumped the kids 9 hours away, which I think any decent guy is going to have a red flag about. Eight months is not enough time to make the kind of connection the LW wants, and the fact that she’s going “You don’t want me? Well, I didn’t want you first!” seems telling.

    Second, as to her husband: setting aside the domestic violence issues for a moment, the comment “the State has been involved” is so deliberately vague that it almost feels intentional. If he was facing criminal charges, why wouldn’t she say “the POLICE were involved”? To me, that reads as Child Protective Services were involved, and let me be clear: there’s simply no way CPS leaves kids with either parent if there’s that lengthy a history of DV, because protocol in all the states I know of is to remove the children to foster homes or relative placements and force both parents to complete DV counseling if they want to be reunified with their kids. And I’ve dealt for almost a decade with women trying to escape abusive households and families, and not a single one has ever said to me “Well, I’ll leave, and the kids will stay”; to a woman, they’ve all said they would rather take the blows than leave their kids unprotected. So the fact that this isn’t the case here makes me doubt the DV is as significant or one-sided as she is implying.

    1. This is a VERY good point. When I was back in that time and place my first and last thoughts were always protecting the kids. Always. I left when he laid hands on me when I was pregnant with my youngest, because even though I was convinced back then that *I* deserved it, had earned it, I knew the baby didnt. And that changed everything.

      I hope to hell she’s not making up or exaggerating the DV. It makes things so much harder for those of us who lived it. I have to admit to having a few rough moments after reading this and remembering being back there.

    2. dinoceros says:

      Based on her phrasing, I got the impression that they both are abusive to each other. Obviously, there can still be various power dynamics there, but it seemed purposely in the passive voice to avoid saying WHO is actually abusive.

      I gotta say that I didn’t really pay much attention to what she said about the new guy. She’s made enough poor decisions, that I’d expect she’d get someone who was so-so at best and a host of other awful things at worst. When you rush into things like this, you can’t really expect the other person is going to want to move all your kids in. That’s enough to send anyone running. It’s also pretty unsafe to try to move kids in with a guy you barely know.

  14. dinoceros says:

    It’s very common for someone in an abusive relationship to become overly attached to someone they barely know simply because that person *seems* to be a stark contrast to their abusive partner, it gives him some happiness in an otherwise miserable time, and seems like an easy “out” (it feels a lot easier to imagine moving on with someone than alone, right?). But those things don’t have to do with the actual situation and are really just about how you see it (which I think you realize, as you mention the rose-colored glasses). It doesn’t make it any more reasonable for you to get so overly invested with a guy you barely know simply because it feels nice and exciting with him.

    I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they are in an abusive relationship, but there are limits to that when you have kids. Unfortunately, you have to find a balance between making yourself happy and doing what’s best for your kids.

    I think that you’ve made a lot of poor choices that have not been in your kids’ best interests. There were ways that you could have left your husband that didn’t involve being homeless or leaving your children with him or trying to move them in with a near stranger, but you didn’t pursue those routes. You chose to be sort of reckless and impatient and that resulted in the situation you’re in.

    I think that you need to spend a lot less time worrying about your romantic life and start worrying about your kids. Them having a home that is not with an abusive person and where there is money to buy their necessities should be your first priority. Not finding excitement with a new man.

    1. I tend to believe someone believes they’ve been abused when they write:

      “We have had an extensive history of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse. The state has been involved many times, and it’s safe to say that our whole relationship has had way more unhappy times than happy.”

      But I think abuse includes more than a man punching a woman in the face. I think smacking, threatening, screaming, manipulating, throwing things, lying are abusive behaviors, which impact people but probably don’t amount to much as far as legal rights and custody arrangements are concerned, but as a snowflake, I still think of these as forms of attempting to control someone.

      But I respect Guyfriday’s unique experience and perspective.

      1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

        Oh, I totally agree with you about abuse being more than just physical acts. And, to be fair, those non-physical actions may have, as recently as 2 or 3 years ago, not carried a lot of weight in family court, but they certainly do now that judges are being better trained on identifying and recognizing trauma in families, particularly as children come into play.

        But, most importantly, I don’t doubt that there is SOME abuse to her. I don’t doubt that SHE believes there is significant abuse to her. I only doubt whether, objectively speaking, the abuse is as one-sided as she tends to imply based on the fact that (a) the kids are still with the father without CPS intervening, and (b) the mom felt comfortable leaving the kids with the father despite what she describes as his propensity toward violence. If I were to believe what she’s telling us, I’d also have to believe that she left her children to fend for themselves with someone that violent, and I think it speaks better of her if he isn’t AS violent as she claims but is toxic to her, because otherwise, leaving the kids there . . . geez, I don’t know about that.

      2. To be fair, you only got a snippet of this woman’s life. You don’t know her. It’s so so easy to assume.

      3. anonymousse says:

        She wrote out enough. None of it good.

    2. dinoceros says:

      Were you intending on replying to Guy Friday? Because I definitely didn’t cast any doubt on the abuse. I do think it’s possible they have both been abusive to each other, since some of the references don’t really say, but I don’t think she’s lying that he is abusive.

      1. I didn’t read it as you doing that at all! Guy Friday’s reply was just above your own response (which I agree with) and because his reply did question the nature of abuse and you subsequently replied with a response describing how a victim of abuse could find themselves in the the letter writer’s situation, I responded to you because I was validating that I tend to believe this was an unhealthy marriage.

        I probably should have not muddied my responses, by replying to you because your comment may have been completely independent from Guy Friday’s. I presumed we had similar trains of thought. I could have organized my comment, better.

      2. dinoceros says:

        Okay, makes sense! I just wanted to make sure because I knew I was being sort of harsh on the LW, but I was hoping that I was taking into consideration what she’s been through at the same time.

  15. From the LW:

    “Things are going better now. I will be moving in the same town as my children. Totally dedicated to providing the best future possible for my children. Their father and I are communicating better regarding all needs for our children. My focus and his focus are on what’s best for them. “

    1. That is such an interesting and quick turn around in an a few hours.
      When did she send the letter Wendy ?

      1. She sent it over a week ago, actually, but I was slower to respond than usual bc of Thanksgiving.

      2. Got it Wendy. Happy holidays.

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