It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Devoted Dad,” whose girlfriend of a year was asking him to move away from his kids to her town 45 minutes from them and to change his custody arrangement from 50/50 to having his kids only every other weekend, which would require his kids to switch schools and live with their mom (and her new husband and baby) primarily. He wrote:
“When I ask my girlfriend about her moving closer to me, she says she can’t do that because she does not want to live in the town where I started a life with someone else. I fear that my kids will feel resentful or abandoned. My girlfriends says that the way we take them back and forth to stay with me or with their mom is too much carting around and that they need a more stable environment. She thinks they should be at their mom’s house during the week instead of spending half the week with me. My girlfriend gets upset about why I didn’t move after my divorce and why I chose this custody agreement. I told her it was because I felt that I was doing the right thing by my kids, staying close and being involved, and there was never anyone in my life after the divorce until her. I never saw myself as a weekend dad, nor have I ever wanted to be.”
I told him that his girlfriend sounded awful and that he should stand his ground and absolutely not move away from his kids or change a custody arrangement that is working for them, him, and his kids’ mom. Commenters, of course, agreed with that advice. Did he take it though? His update below:
My girlfriend says when it does come time to buy a house, she wants it to be in between where she lives now and where I live now. So that means I would be about 20 minutes to 30 minutes away from my kids’ mother instead of 15 minutes from her home. She says right now that I am too involved with the kids and that I’m having a hard time letting go – that I have an ego problem about letting the kids develop a stronger relationship with their stepdad. I don’t feel that is the case. My point is why would I want them to have a stronger relationship with their stepdad than me when I am still here? Why would I want to give that up?
She also said that if we bought a house together that my current custody schedule could not stand because it would be too much back-and-forth during the week, so she thinks it would be best if we either kept the every-other-weekend or one day a week plus every-other-weekend arrangement. She has made comments that I need to be prepared, if we are to be married and have a child, that I will not be able to attend certain functions, such as sports, school events, and other things because I will need to be home with her and a new child. She tells me that I keep raising my children like we are a family unit, when, in her opinion, we are not. She says they are more of a family when they’re with their mother because their mother has remarried and has a child and when they come by me, it’s just me.
For some ridiculous reason, I keep trying to think about how I can make this work between us. She refuses to move anywhere near me so that I can continue my current agreement and relationship with the children, and she refuses to see why I am so concerned. Sometimes I wonder, even if I did agree to all of her demands, would I truly be happy? Would I just be setting myself up for another divorce down the road? I don’t know why I’m struggling with this. Maybe I’m just afraid to be alone.
Your question really hasn’t changed since the first time you asked, and my response is still the same, but maybe even more emphatic: Your girlfriend is AWFUL. She really, really is. No decent person would ever want her partner to abandon his children like she’s asking you to do. I believe you when you say you’re struggling with this. I believe that you know what you’re being asked by your girlfriend to do is wrong, is unfair, is something you know would not benefit anyone but maybe your girlfriend, and would come at a great detriment to your kids’ wellbeing and the stability of your relationship with them. And you’re right: These changes would build resentment – not just in your kids, but in you, too. There’s no way you wouldn’t resent your girlfriend for the damage these changes would inflict in your relationship with your children.
Eventually, yeah, you will break up with this awful woman. Whether you do it after damaging your kids and maybe even bringing another child into this world with a woman who’s kind of a monster is 100% in your control. You know what the right answer here is. Fear of being alone is valid, it’s understandable, it’s something many folks can relate to. But it just does not justify blowing up your kids’ lives and potentially ruining your relationship with them. There are other women out there – women who will respect and even love the bond you have with your children. Please don’t settle for less. Don’t continue a relationship with a woman who essentially asks you to choose her over your kids. No good will come from this.