“Should I Move Away From My Son to Follow My Girlfriend?”

I’ve been in a relationship for just over five years with the most amazing woman I have ever met. We are madly in love, but she has been offered a job in another state and she wants me to come live with her. My dilemma is that I have joint custody of my 15-year-old son. I feel that he would be mature enough to understand why I would move, but I’m conflicted because I don’t want him to later feel like I abandoned him.

I’ve talked with my parents and they are saying that, “We support whatever you do,” which is not helping me. My ex is dead-set against me moving, but I don’t want to do what she says. I need some advice, please. — Conflicted About Moving Away From My Son

So, I’ve answered a variation of the “Should I move for love?” question many, many times. But yours has a bit of a twist because there’s a kid involved. And he’s not a little kid. He’s 15. In about three years, he’ll be done with high school and he could theoretically be moving away for college or some other adventure, at which point it won’t really matter where you live. Also, at 15, he’s going to be spending less and less time at home/with his parents, anyway, whether you stay nearby or not.

It’s also significant that you and your girlfriend have been together for five years. Is that a long enough time for you to endure three years of long-distance dating should you decide to stay put until your son finishes school? Like, have you developed enough of a bond and foundation to withstand distance for that amount of time? And if you have, is it enough of a bond that your girlfriend might sacrifice this job to stay with you so that you can stay with your son? If I were dating someone for five years — again, that’s significant — who had a kid, you better believe that that would be a huge consideration in any job that might require me to relocate. Did your girlfriend discuss with you how this job would affect things? Is there any chance she might not take it or is it a done deal? And if it’s a done deal, or if there wasn’t a whole lot of consideration on her part about where you (and your relationship with your son) fits into her decision, what does that say about her commitment to you and where she sees your relationship going? Something to think about . . .

Obviously, this is a very personal decision, and you’re right that your parents can’t make it for you and your ex-wife can’t make it for you. Of course, your girlfriend’s and your son’s feelings matter significantly. Have you talked to your son about this? What does he say? How does he feel about the idea of your moving? How often would you two be able to see each other if you did move?

Beyond everyone’s feelings, what are YOUR job options like where your girlfriend is moving? What kind of life, beyond your relationship, can you expect to have there?

Clearly, this is not an easy decision and there are many points to consider and discuss with the people you love. Here are two posts that might help you as you weigh different pros and cons and focus some of your upcoming conversations:

10 Signs You’re Ready to Move for Love

8 Things You Need to Do Before You Move for Love

Good luck to you and keep us posted on what you decide!


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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. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    LW, my advice is dont go. You worry that your son may feel abandoned later, and he likely will. Maybe not even later, but when you leave and for the forseeable future.
    What bothers me is your tone in this and the fact that YOU dont seem to have any blatant feelings about staying or going. You tell Wendy about what your GF wants, what your parents say, and what your ex says (also, the wording about the ex- “but I dont want to do what she says” is WEIRD). But bottom line, you have 3ish more years of your son “living at home” or until he can decide his own life path. Dont miss that. I think you would regret it.
    One more thing- if your GF is so amazing, this wont really even be an issue. Yeah, some long distance time sucks, but you will be doing it for the mental and emotional health of your child during these formative teen years. Good luck

  2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    When your child is born I think you make the commitment to be there for the next 18 years. I think your son will feel abandoned and your relationship with him will be harmed for years if not permanently.

    1. camille905 says:

      Seriously? “Your relationship will be harmed for years”? I completely disagree with this. Maybe you would feel that way but that doesn’t mean the son will. The son is getting older and in a few years when the son is somewhere far away in college, the LW will be in the same town and single, while his Gf has moved on.

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        A few years to us, as adults, is nothing. Even though it’s only a few years before the son leaves, to a 15 year old, those few years are like a lifetime. So much happens from 15-18. I can’t imagine spending those years away from a parent.

      2. That, and the fact that when you CHOOSE to be a parent by procreating, you don’t get to decide to parent only when it’s convenient to do so.
        I don’t necessarily think that co-parents need to live in the same city to raise their children. But I do think an appropriate decision needs to be that is mutually agreed upon by both parents – mom and dad – keeping the child’s best interest at the forefront.

      3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        His son will know that dad had a choice between his girlfriend and his son and if he chooses the girlfriend the son will know that he came in second. He will know that he was the one who wasn’t chosen. He won’t be thinking that he is almost grown and that he will leave home in three years. At his age three years is a long time and he will want and expect his dad to show up for his activities. Seniors in high school who are legally adults still want their parents to show up at their activities.

      4. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

        Skyblossom, THIS exactly. Perfectly stated.

    2. Avatar photo cleopatra jones says:

      The teen years are really critical for kids. This is where a lot of kids can fall off into a bad crowd or do rebellious teen stuff that lands them in trouble.
      LW, I was in a vaguely similar situation a few years ago. I was pursuing a professional degree and had planned a career in the military once I finished school. My husband was on board with it and everything. We had discussed ad nausem that he would stay in our hometown while the kids finished HS, then move to wherever I was stationed.
      Then it hit me that I really didn’t want to miss the day to day of my kid’s lives. I didn’t want to miss band concerts, football games, dance recitals, helping with homework, studying for tests, prom, homecoming, first dates, learning to drive or anything for that matter. So I scrapped that plan and have not regretted it for one.single.moment.
      You won’t be able to get that time back because before you know it…he will be off to college and living his own life.

    3. Avatar photo findingtheearth says:

      completely, this.

    4. I can speak to this personally. when i was 21 and just barely moved out on my own, my parents lost our house and their businesses, and were forced to move 2000 miles away for work. (It was a major recession in my area at the time.) Everything I had previously known was gone. I had no “home,” just a little basement apartment. I was a bit older and on my own. I totally understood the reasons why they left, and that they had no choice. But they were deep deep in debt and long distance cost a lot back then. We couldn’t talk often, and I was basically out of contact for most of the first two years, with maybe a quick call on Christmas or my birthday. I would not meet my now wife for another couple of years. Yes, I had my friends and my life, but I felt so unmoored and so alone. It was the beginning of a distance between me and my parents that has never really been closed, even though they live here now, like a cognitive dissonance between the person they last knew and who I became in their absence. There were no hard feelings, but things had changed forever. How much worse will this be for a 15 year old?

      1. I totally feel the same way. Two weeks before I left for college (admittedly 2000 miles away from ‘home’), my parents decided to move to yet another corner of the world (2000 miles from ‘home’, 1000 miles from my school). I was 17 at the time, and the idea that I had no home to come back to was scary. My parent’s house in Florida has never been home for me. They had a room for me there, and moved all of my stuff, but I never lived there. I even spent college summers in my home state, living with Othello (although if you ask my folks, I totally lived with my older brother). It was really hard, even though it was really the best for my father’s career and I was already a very independent 17 year old.

      2. I’m sure that just like me, your SO became your home. It actually caused some issues when my parents returned to my home province. They were looking to pick up relationships and dynamics where they had left off 17 years earlier. Meanwhile, my allegiance and affection was clearly to the woman I’d been with every day for fifteen years at that point. No contest. They were also looking to me to continue participating in toxic family dynamics from childhood, and I just wasn’t that person anymore. The various pressure tactics had no teeth because i just didn’t need to play along, didn’t need to knuckle under to get by in the household anymore. But that’s a whole nother ball o’ wax.

    5. I think this type of thinking is very unique to the US. This is one of the only countries where an age, 18, holds so much value. So many parents don’t have the luxury, desire or circumstances to be nearly as child-centered as you seem to expect. I don’t think parents should shirk their basic duties at all, but if he can make this move work with his son then he should not be labeled an uncommitted parent for choosing to be with his gf.

      My half-sister was separated from my dad for about 3 years when her mom and my dad divorced and then separated from her mom for decades when she moved to the US to be with my dad. Their relationship is/was just fine. I too, was separated from both of my parents for an entire year (with no choice in the matter) at a young age and I’m just fine.

      1. This! My father left when I was 10, to be with his girl friend. It was fine.
        We had many conversations – I was included in them at age appropriate levels. I’m very independent and my father and I ended up living together for my teen years anyhow.
        Americans, and moms especially, have a psychotic level of programming about never “abandoning” their children until “18” – this might be news to some people but kids (who are more independent especially) need space from their parents before 18, and need their parents for guidance and support… way past 18 – that’s a forever gig.
        As long as you talk to him, create a safe sound structure between all guardians (this is the adults job. Get on the same page), he will feel that support, safety and guidance is there.
        But yeah the American version of parenting and it’s ‘dos and don’t’ are bananas.

  3. Avatar photo something random says:

    Wendy brings up really great points. LW, In the forum I noticed you asked your “girlfriend” to marry you. Is she a fiancé? Or are things up in the air based on whether you are willing to move. You also mentioned you have four years left which leads me to believe your kid a freshman in high school or junior high and you have 50/50 custody. So really you still have four years. He’s at an age where your advice and presence might really valuable to him.

    Given your applaudably heavy involvement with your son, I do think he would feel a sense of loss and possibly that he wasn’t as important to you as your girlfriend. I think that Raccoon eyes and Wendy both make great points about your fiancé(?) being willing to wait a little longer. Is there any chance of compromise, here? Maybe if you guys got married you could set a two year timeline to move. And then you could stay back just a year? An 18 year old senior would probably be okay. Hell, it might even give him better in-state college options depending on where you’re going.

    Definitely consider your own financial well-being before moving. Also are your parents local? If so, do they rely on you for help yet? I’m not trying to mow you down with more burdens than you bare; I’m just trying to get a full picture. Do you know anybody where your girlfriend is going? If she is determined to move it might be better to wait and get a feel for the place before you sell all of your stuff. What if you hate it? Would she be willing to move back?

    1. Avatar photo something random says:

      Also, you mentioned your ex-wife is very opposed to the idea. Instead of thinking about it as coming from your ex, consider it as coming from your fellow co-parent. As stabilized as her life may seem, she is giving you feedback that she doesn’t think 100% custody is a good idea for her right now. So it might be in your kid’s best interest to give that some weight.

      1. eelliinnss says:

        I forgot about that — The ex wife was very against it. I wonder if it’s selfishness (she doesn’t want to have full or full-ish custody because she values her free time) or panic (she truly doesn’t think she can handle being a single parent or she’s not stable enough to or whatever). Either way it’s important the LW consider this, unless their relationship is very strained. He only mentioned shared custody, not whether they are friendly or even whether they are good co-parents. Maybe he feels bad leaving the son behind because he doesn’t think the mother is actually fit to be a parent, who knows.

      2. I’m not sure why the ex would be selfish if she needed help raising a son? Why does it fall solely on the woman? The child is equally the LW’s and he should be equally responsible for his well being until he’s of age, which is at least 18. The LW doesn’t say much about the ex. Maybe she’s working hard to make ends meet since the divorce. Or maybe, she too, is seeing someone? Why does the LW get a pass to do what he wants and she doesn’t?

      3. Completely agree here

      4. camille905 says:

        According to the forums- the ex has a live in boyfriend and the boyfriend has a son only a few years younger than the LW’s. So it’s not like the ex has NO help.

      5. Seriously? So, it’s ok to shirk your responsibility to your child? Why, just because this LW wants to move, should raising HIS son fall solely on the boy’s mother? When you decide to become a parent, you’re a parent. I don’t care if she has help. This boy is both of theirs, and they need to reach an agreement together, and whatever is in the best interest of the child, even if he’s 15.

    2. Avatar photo something random says:

      Okay. My reading comprehension was off today. You haven’t asked her to marry you, yet. You were planning on it. I think you need to have a long conversation with your girlfriend about a long-term future plan before you consider going from 50/50 to once a month with your kid. Even if he sounds agreeable, it sounds like a lot of people on this forum have been there and its caused long-term damage to them. Kids don’t always know what’s best for them; that’s why they’re kids. He might say all the “mature” things he thinks you want to hear. But you’re the adult. You act like loosing your girlfriend is a given if you don’t move. And you are taking it for granted that your son will always want you in his life in one shape or another. The other people on this forum are right; that’s a shitty way to parent. I hate using judging language but you did ask. Probably because deep down your conscious is telling you the same thing.

      Even if he acts like he doesn’t need you and he grows up to be a young adult who values his independence and doesn’t look back, that’s the gig. That’s parenting. It’s still your job even if it means giving up a girlfriend. But if this woman knew you were going to propose (and her life wasn’t just standing still after five years) her entire perspective might be different. I’ll be curious to see what you do. I hope you write back.

  4. Avatar photo something random says:

    I hope someone else posts something so my name isn’t under recent comments all day. Yo Kate, Lyra? What say you?

    1. Haha, I actually don’t have an opinion on this one! I don’t have kids, my parents aren’t divorced, I don’t know enough about the LW’s situation, etc. I think it’s a little weird that they’ve been dating 5 years, are madly in love, but not married yet and the girlfriend just moves away? Like, what’s going on there? That’s all I’ve got!

      1. I do come from divorced parents and my dad did live in another state, but we still saw him every other weekend (MA and RI are very close to each other). So that is another question I would ask…what’s the distance? Moving to another state can mean a flight or a car ride. I would also echo Wendy’s questions…how did your gf incorporate you into the decision making process? This is a HUGE deal if she made a unilateral decision…

  5. eelliinnss says:

    This could be because I’m not particularly attached to my parents (I love them immensely but I’m a very “on my own” kind of person and have been since at least 15), but I think the son will be fine. He’s already living apart from his father half the time, and he’s growing up. I think it’s likely the son will be completely fine with the move, especially if it’s not significantly far away (how far is “another state” and will they still be close enough for weekend visits, etc.?).
    The best person to talk to about this is the son. LW, just ask him! You were 15 once, you probably felt pretty grown up and wished the adults in your life would treat you that way. Really try to understand where your son is in life, and treat him like the adult he sees himself as. Discuss it with him! He may surprise you. Think about this, too: If you move, he’ll be able to visit and experience a whole new place, and spending time with you might become more special, something to look forward to rather than the weekly obligation of switching from parent to parent. He’ll have new places to explore, new people to meet, he can look into colleges in your new city, he can bring friends for the weekend, he can stay longer on school breaks. Fifteen-year-old me would have bee cool with it — excited even. I think your son might be cooler with it than you think, all you need to do is talk about it. Present it to him — and think if of it yourself — as an adventure/opportunity rather than abandonment.

    1. camille905 says:

      I completely agree- ask the son how he feels. I think how much actual distance there will be is also significant. If it’s a distance that can make a weekend trips at least twice a month doable, I think that’s reasonable.

    2. lonemirage14 says:

      You have a point, but I think the LW needs to be really careful in approaching the topic with his son. A conversation about it is one thing, but putting the pressure of making the decision onto his son is not appropriate. Ultimately the LW needs to make the decision on his own, taking into account his feelings and his son’s, but I wouldn’t want the son feeling like he needed to make a such a big choice for his son.

  6. lonemirage14 says:

    My gut feeling on this is no. Do not move. I have more questions about your custody situation – has it been drawn up legally or is it a more informal agreement between you and your ex? If it has been done through court, you may not be allowed to move or you may need to submit your plans to be reviewed by a judge. How much time does your son spend with you? Is it weekends, an every other week type thing, etc? Your son is 15, yes, but he is also still your son and he may well feel abandoned or very hurt if you leave.

    My parents were able to come to a custody agreement without getting into a legal battle, and my dad lived in another state but the distance was only about 2.5 hours. He turned down a transfer (and promotion) to a location that was in yet another state, further away, and ended up having to find a new job, because the entire company was making the transfer. He did that to stay within driving distance of me and was concerned about the amount of time we would be able to spend together if the drive became triple of what it was.

    If you have a good relationship with your girlfriend and she respects the relationship with your son, then she should be able to find some middle ground with you. Maybe you plan to move when your son goes to college, or your girlfriend moves first and you follow at a later time.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      My gut feeling says no, too.

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        FWIW, mine does too.

    2. My son was 13 when his dad left, not even to another state & it really messed him up for years. We are now dealing with depression, & all the stuff that goes along with that. Everyone’s situation is different & kids don’t all react the same, but LW, I would be very very reluctant to do this, think twice.

      1. lonemirage14 says:

        I am so grateful that my dad didn’t transfer to the job he was offered. I think it would’ve been devastating to both me and him.

  7. Avatar photo findingtheearth says:

    I know someone who has moved for love for not just one, but two of her children. She has been married twice and left both men to chase after some boyfriend.

    I do not think you should do this. You have 3 more years or so with your son, spend that time. Soon he will be off to college and building his own life, and you won’t have as much time together. Do not sell your time out or cut it short. Your girlfriend should understand.

  8. your kids should always come before anyone else!

  9. I’m just going to go anecdotal on this one. My mother moved to the other side of the country when I was 13- a bit younger than your son, granted, but not much younger. The shortest summation of the repercussions of this act are that I, at 29 years old, have a pretty awful relationship with her. There are other factors, of course- she is mentally ill and the emotional abusive I suffered at her hands before she abandoned my brothers and I made it so that I was relieved when she left. And also gut wrenchingly guilty over being relieved, a guilt that manifests itself in highly unpleasant ways in my interpersonal relationships, even all these years later, and after a ton of therapy. Now she has returned to my home state and expects a relationship with me.
    Here’s the thing- I know my mother is in a lot of pain. I know she left because she didn’t know what to do. She hurts other people because she is hurting all.the.time. Forgiveness is not a one time act. It’s not an a ha! moment. It’s a choice that I have to consciously and continually make in order to have any sort of relationship with her and I make it because I have no desire to live with anger in my heart. But it is not easy. Often, I am not compassionate or patient. I want the weight of it off my shoulders, but the fact is that she left us, and that can’t be undone.
    That’s my story. I don’t know your dynamic with your son, but having lived this from the child’s perspective, I have to at least posit the idea that you might do considerable damage to your child. Everyone makes mistakes with their kids. We’re humans, after all, but some mistakes are much bigger than others. Some mistakes you can’t come back from. And to be clear, I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t live your life in a way that is fulfilling to you, or that you should sacrifice your great relationship. I think there is a middle ground to be found here.

    1. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

      Taramonster, I know what you mean. My parents split up when I was about 13, and my brother and I moved in with our dad, as my mother, well, went off the rails, so to speak. She lived in our same city, but her actions made our relationship very strained at the time and they continue to be (Im 34 years old). Not having a female adult around impacted me in a lot of ways, and while I think that one parent can be more than capable in raising a teen, I was deeply affected by numerous situations. Some of these seem silly now, like having to go bra shopping with my dad (we figured out that ordering out of the Victoria’s Secret catalog alleviated a lot of that, haha) and asking him to be sure to grab some tampons in the weekly grocery shopping trip, but as a pretty typical angsty self-involved teen, a lot of things really stressed me out. So this letter kinda got to me in that aspect- that yeah, Im sure LW’s son could handle LW moving however far away, but why add that on?
      I saw some other ppl say that this might be great for the son in that it may add in-state college possibilities and just new experiences in general, etc., and I cannot disagree per se. Just from my personal experience, I would tell LW to stay put and work out the long distance for a bit with his amazing GF.

      1. I’ll add on to this. My parents split up when I was 11 and my brother and I lived with my mother and saw my dad on weekends (every weekend for a few years, then every other). My mom enlisted the help of my nana, who really helped shape who my brother and I are today. But my mom definitely did her best, even if HER best isn’t as good as some other mother’s worsts. Now, 25 years later, I have an awful relationship with my mother. She is an alcoholic and has some sort of undiagnosed mental illness. I went to therapy for months to figure out how I could change my perspective to have a relationship with her, even inviting her to sessions with me…only to have her disappoint me again and again. I am in a phase where I need space from her – a phase I know won’t last forever, but one I find necessary for my own mental well-being right now…and she was the parent I lived with full time.
        My dad on the other hand had a very passive role in our middle school/high school years. As I mentioned he lived in another state and we saw him about every other weekend. He wasn’t there for the day to day activities. There was a time where I felt like he wasn’t a present parent, for sure. But now, I have an amazing relationship with him. I understand better why he distanced himself (he also suffered emotional abuse from my mother and had to heal from that) and have decided to move past any bad feelings about the past.
        It all depends on the situation. You should really talk to your son and really understand how he would feel. Also, what is his mother like? Beyond HER feelings of raising him without you close by, how does HE feel about just having her there for the day to day??

  10. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    I’m curious about how your girlfriend approached her decision, since it’s not really explained in the letter. Did she unilaterally decide that she was moving? Was it discussed between you, and was your custody of your son ever discussed? Or, did she decide and expect you to just follow along? If it’s the latter, I’d be pretty pissed that she basically put you in this position of choosing between her and your son.

  11. Sue Jones says:

    No, you do not move away to be with your girlfriend just because your son is almost 18. The fact is, he is not 18 yet and there are still 3 formative years to come when a lot happens. If anything, you and your girlfriend are the adults and should be able to suck it up for another 3 years and go long distance during that time. If anyone should be making sacrifices in this situation, it should be the adults and not the children.

  12. Sue Jones says:

    Also, if your son has plans for college, you need to be very involved in the college tours and decisions, SAT’s, ACT’s, grades, etc. I was the youngest and in the 70’s my parents did not visit any of the colleges with me. That hurt me quite a bit as I felt that they did not care at all about my future. If they had been as involved as they should have been, I may have made different decisions. But basically, in the 70’s, the saying was “hands off, quality time, yada yada yada”. I would beg to differ that quantity time also really matters, if not more. And I also wonder why your girlfriend would make her decision without involving you if you both were so serious. To me it doesn’t bode well that she wouldn’t make the decision to move with you and just hopes you will tag along.

  13. I don’t think you should move away from your son. I left home at 16 and never looked back but I know I’m a small minority. And also, 18 is not a magical number that you can then leave and move. Especially if your son is going to go to college, those years can be just as important to be around for. At 18, I was still a kid and if I had a parent then leave, I would feel abandoned. If your relationship is so great, I think your girlfriend shouldn’t accept the job offer. Even though you are not married, she still has a step-parent role and it’s important for both of you to put your kid first in a situation like this.

  14. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    When it comes to a decision like this I think you need to ask whoyou have the greatest obligation to and who is most dependent on you. In this case I think the answer to both is your son.

    Second, you also have to realize that whichever relationship goes long distance, that relationship will probably be harmed to some extent so which relationship are you most willing to harm, which are you most willing to risk?

    Third, you don’t say whether your girlfriend discussed this move with you. If she did that is good but at the very least it sounds like she moved before you had reached any agreement. At worst, she moved without discussing the ramifications with you. If that is the case I would strongly urge you to not move for the relationship because the poor communication and lack of consensus in a long term relationship is a huge red flag and doesn’t bode well for the relationship lasting.

    The last point I’d like to make is that I think it is wrong to expect the child to do what you aren’t willing to do. By that I mean I wouldn’t ask the child to travel back and forth when you could do that instead. You could stay where you are and travel to see your girlfriend on weekends when you don’t see your son and she could travel to see you on the weekends when you do see your son. If the two of you aren’t willing to do that I don’t see how you could expect your son to be happy doing it.

  15. I think this really depends on the maturity of your 15 year old. If you ask him to tell you how he felt about moving would you trust him to tell you honestly, and not just say what he thinks you (or his mother) wants him to? If the answer is no, the safe bet is not to move. If the answer is yes, and he gives you his blessing and you can guarantee that you will be there for him, despite the distance, then move.

  16. della bala says:

    You’ve been dating your girlfriend for 5 years. That’s a long time dating. Maybe she is doing this to have you propose to her so that she won’t be dating you forever. She’ll probably come to some agreement with you if this happens. I don’t think your girlfriend is being selfish. I just think she wants to know where your relationship is going with her. She can wait 3 years until your son is 18. Your son needs you right now. Don’t abandon him. Work things out with her. Good Luck

  17. The son is now 24 and whatever happened, it happened 8 years ago. It’s easy to tell this — the comments before yours are dated.

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