Seven years ago I decided I wanted a better life, and I’ve worked every single day to make it happen. I was a stay-at-home mom, but I went back to school and earned my teaching degree during the past five and a half years. I have worked seven years to establish my credit. And now I have finally received a teaching position at my son’s school. And I found a house after months of searching, only to tell the landlord today I wouldn’t be renting because Bob wants us to “work things out.” Four weeks ago I told him I was done, and since that day he has stopped drinking, helps with everything, and is finally being the father both my children should have always had. But it’s way too late. He has been begging for a chance and I’m trying. But, I don’t want to….at all. I made my mind up seven years ago. My daughter has known and is excited about the change. She has begged me for four years to leave. On the other hand, my son found out a few days ago. While I was at work, he overheard his dad on the phone to the loan company explaining our split. My son was devastated. He already suffers from anxiety and has obsessive compulsive tendencies. When I came home, my little boy begged me to stay. There was no reasoning. He said he wanted to die, he’d never be happy again, and he’d give me all his money he has saved for months if “I tried to be happy and stay.” I caved in and told him I would try but I couldn’t promise him I could be happy.
Bob knows I’m only staying for our son and he’s using him as a weapon. For instance, tonight he had our son ask me if he could sleep in my bed (after 12 years!). He shouldn’t send his child to ask if he can sleep with me.
I guess my question is, if this doesn’t work, how do I prepare my son to tell him that his mom and dad are splitting without permanently causing damage? I am devastated by how difficult this is. Bob told me today he’d rather die or have his parents pass away than for me to leave. The things that are being said and done are making me feel guilty. I am absolutely at a loss for how I can build up the courage to do what needs to be done if this doesn’t work out. — Feeling Guilty
There’s no “if this doesn’t work out.” This – your relationship with Bob – is not going to suddenly “work out” after 15 years of it not working out simply because you’ve threatened to move. Bob might play nice for a few weeks and act like a father, but it won’t last, and as soon as he feels confident and comfortable that you’ve been manipulated to give up everything you’ve worked so hard and so long to attain, he will go back to being a deadbeat, leaving you lonely and solely responsibly to meet your children’s needs. How does this benefit your son? And why are you letting an 11-year-old call the shots here?
I understand that you love your kids, that it’s heartbreaking to see them upset and sad, and that when they say things like they want to die, the maternal instinct is to remove whatever obstacle is standing in the way of their happiness. But in staying with Bob, you aren’t removing the obstacle. BOB is the obstacle. Your relationship with Bob is the obstacle. It’s depleting you of your humanity and keeping you from living to your potential and being the best version of yourself that you can be. Continuing to share a home with a man you don’t love and who has shown no interest in being a father for the past 15 years will create far more long-lasting damage than moving yourself and your kids out and modeling for them independence, setting goals, and being a strong and loving mother.
You’ve worked so hard to move to the next step – a step you know in your heart is best for you and your kids. If you’re struggling in the face of resistance from your son, who mistakenly believes his fantasy of a happy family can only be met if you stay with his deadbeat dad, I urge you to seek counseling for both of you to get you through this transition. With the help and guidance of a trained professional, any life-long effects of your move out will be only positive, the short-term challenges will be manageable, and the damage from years of neglect by an emotionally-absent father can begin to be healed. Please, please continue on the path you set off on seven years ago. See if the house you found is still available for rent, and if it’s not, look for another. You’re so close to reaching your goal; don’t let Bob’s manipulation set you off-course.
The trouble is that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Tony and that comment. Tony is not someone I’d typically be attracted to, but I think I might have developed a small crush on him. Rationally, I know that I wouldn’t want to ever be in a relationship with Tony and that I’m very happy with my relationship with Brad. But I feel guilty about how much I think about it. Brad knows I am insecure about my physical appearance, and he tells me I’m beautiful, but…
Should I take this as a sign that something is off with my current relationship? Do you have advice for how to get something like this out of my head and behind me? — Crushing on Tony
Ew, who makes a comment about a friend’s girlfriend’s appearance to someone else in front of her? Tony sounds like a cad. He was disrespectful to you and disrespectful to your boyfriend. But look, if you’re still thinking about a comment like that made a whole year ago and you’re still feeling insecure about your appearance and you feel like you’ve lost some fire in the intimacy department in your relationship, then you know, yeah, maybe there is something here worth exploring (NOT Tony, though). It sounds like you’re not feeling very sexy, so what can you do to improve that? You could work on spicing up your sex life (there are tons of tips and books you can Google), you can communicate with your boyfriend that this is something you’d like to work on together, you could experiment with different clothing and makeup and hairstyling that makes you feel confident, and you could work out to release feel-good endorphins. All of this takes effort. You know what doesn’t take any effort? Nursing a year-old crush on a guy you know you have zero interest in having a relationship with. Maybe the real issue here is that you’ve gotten lazy. Lucky for you, there’s a pretty easy fix for that.