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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Update: “Devoted Dad” Responds

updatesIt’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:

The follow-up is that we did stay together, but we are now just recently in a state of breaking up. She is telling me that I am not ready to move forward and start another life with her. She wants me to now leave my place and move in with her so that we could save money to buy a house. That would now have me go from 50-50 custody to only seeing my kids every other weekend. She said it is no big deal because it is only temporary for about 7 to 8 months, that they would be fine because they still have their mother, and that I need to make sacrifices. She says she needs some type of stability in our relationship that shows her that I want to be with her. But I fear that: 1. My kids will feel some type of abandonment or loss, and 2. They will start to develop a stronger relationship with their stepfather than with me, their actual father. (There’s nothing wrong with their stepfather. He’s a really great guy, but I’m their dad.)

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.
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20 comments… add one
  • ktfran January 4, 2023, 9:19 am

    Holy hell. What did I just read? LW, your girlfriend is the WORST. Your children deserve better than her as a stepmom. Please break up. Until you do, please make sure you’re using protection so you’re not beholden to this person with an “oops” baby.

    Any person who wants you to abandon your children so they can have “a new life/fresh start” is a horrible human. Truly.

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  • Anonymousse January 4, 2023, 9:28 am

    She is terrible. My dad left me, I think I told you that in the comments when you first wrote in, at age 11. That deep mortal wound, as my therapist calls it- has affected me my entire life. I even tried to make nice as adult in a misguided attempt at “family” when I had kids. Big mistake. He stopped speaking to me when I told him how his abandonment hurt me.

    Don’t keep trying with her! Please, I can tell you I always knew my stepmother hated me. His entire side of the family thinks she just never wanted kids and helped push him away and still pulls the strings. I don’t wonder anymore, I don’t care. He’s gone and I need to parent my own damn children the best way possible and focus on this now and not that, but if you want to lose your kids, keep trying with her.

    I hope you choose your kids.

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  • peggy January 4, 2023, 10:37 am

    Agree with Wendy and Anonymousse…and would add to the Anonymousse quote “If you want to lose your kids,keep trying with her”..that not only will you lose your kids,they will lose you and likely develop the mortal wounds she speaks of. You and your kids deserve so much better.
    Next time you date,make any prospects know from the start that you and your kids are a package deal. Anyone that truly will love you will accept and embrace this.

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  • LisforLeslie January 4, 2023, 12:03 pm

    Please please please listen to everyone. My dad moved an hour away – and that was a compromise because my stepmother lived 3 hours away. So she dragged my stepsiblings from their home and relocated them. I saw him every other weekend. The older I got, the less I wanted to go. He and my stepmother were more like a distant aunt and uncle than parental units.

    Your girlfriend sounds like she wants to erase your past instead of accepting that you and your kids are a package deal. That if she can just nudge them out of the picture, you’ll focus on her and your “new family.” She’s made it clear as day. You just don’t want to accept it.

    My mom was dating someone who felt the same way. He would tolerate me because he loved her. I thought he was awful. She stopped dating him and starting dating the guy that would be my stepdad. He and his family accepted me immediately. He told his sisters that he was excited to get an instant family. And when my younger sister was born, I was never shoved out of the way. We were now a family of four. He was there for me when I needed help, my dad was there if it was convenient. Before my stepfather died I thanked him for being more of a father than my bio-dad.

    Believe me, your kids will know, they will be damaged and they will be happy that they have a great step dad – but it will leave a hole where their dad should have been.

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  • cyndi January 4, 2023, 12:33 pm

    Please break up. She is pushing your children out of your life. She needs stability? Really? If you have a child with her, you won’t be able to attend events for your children, because you would have to be home with her? Wake-up. She is a nightmare.

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    Moneypenny January 4, 2023, 1:33 pm

    You keep raising your kids like you are a family unit- because you ARE a family unit. Geez, this gf is really twisting everything around so much it’s almost impressive. I think the reason you’re having so much turmoil over this is because, deep down, you know what you need to do, and that is to stay put, stay in your kids lives as much as possible, and to be the best dad you can be. And this gf is bent on destroying that. What she is demanding is that you walk away and start a new life with her. Because if you move, buy a house, and have a kid with her, there’s no way that you’re going to see your kids nearly as much, not even close to what you have now. It’s going to be all about her and her needs and her new family. She’s already manipulating the situation to get things this way, it’s so clear.

    You say she’s your first relationship since your divorce… there are women out there who will respect your kids and your parenting situation. It may mean being alone for awhile, but don’t settle for what’s looking like a very lose-lose situation for everyone.

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    Copa January 4, 2023, 1:59 pm

    I missed the first letter, but if you need to hear it from another person: Your girlfriend really is awful. She’s selfish, insecure, and manipulative.

    I’ve never been divorced, but I have now heard from a couple friends who are that the first break-up after divorce was actually harder for them than their divorces. So for any sadness you feel and the struggle you are going through, I’m sorry! Everyone else is right, though, that there are other women out there who will accept your custody agreement. They will love you AND your kids and want what’s in everyone’s best interests, not just their own.

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  • Hazel January 4, 2023, 3:00 pm

    Thats just awful. Reiterate the advice to please please make sure the birth control is uppermost in your mind, and take care of it yourself.

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  • Ange January 4, 2023, 4:22 pm

    LW when you had your second child did you immediately stop attending anything for your first child? No? Then you know what she’s proposing with your kids after a baby is unrealistic, ridiculous and a clear attempt to remove you from your kid’s lives.

    If you dump her you won’t be alone, you’ll have your kids. Too many parents forget that. Don’t have them just to abandon them when they need you the most. You can’t tell me that if they’ve spent time with your GF they don’t feel her resentment towards them, don’t be that guy that makes them unhappy to serve yourself. Be stronger than that.

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  • peggy January 4, 2023, 4:58 pm

    Also, how can she not realise that if she is with the type of guy that would dump his kids for her…he could dump her/their kid for another new family…. it is like people that cheat,if they will do it with you, they will do it to you… terrible all around.

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      Copa January 5, 2023, 10:42 am

      Yeah, this occurred to me, too. You’d think a woman who wants kids of her own would think it’s a wonderful trait that the partner she sees herself having kids with, who is already a father, is an involved and loving parent!

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  • golfer.gal January 4, 2023, 9:15 pm

    She says you aren’t really a family and they’re “more of a family” when they’re with their mother. What. The. Actual. Fuck. This is sickening and incredibly cruel. You are absolutely a family, just as much with just you and your kids as with their mom. This woman is monstrous and she wants you to ditch your kids. Please, please don’t do that. Ditch her instead

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  • Talis January 4, 2023, 10:56 pm

    …is she even nice to your kids? You truly want her as a stepmother to them?

    She may be an evil monster or the most wonderful person ever, but either way she doesn’t have remotely realistic expectations for being in a relationship with someone who already had a family. It’s not even that she wants to be a priority, she wants to be the sole priority. She can’t ask that of someone with prior obligations. I’m sorry, but you’re simply not compatible, no matter how much you may like her for other reasons.

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    • Anonymousse January 5, 2023, 8:53 pm

      Maybe in front of him she’s nice, I bet she’s a monster and he believes her over the kids.

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  • Vathena January 4, 2023, 11:22 pm

    “She says right now that I am too involved with the kids and that I’m having a hard time letting go”

    Are you FUCKING kidding me??

    Letting GO?! They’re your fucking kids! I can’t believe you are still with someone who would say such horrible things about a parent’s relationship to their children that they brought into the world, raised and cherished from infancy. LW I really hope that you can find the strength to remove this awful woman from your life. I also hope she doesn’t spend much time with your kids. I can only imagine the cruel things she might say to them. And it wouldn’t shock me if she were capable of physically hurting them as well.

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    • 000 January 5, 2023, 7:13 pm

      Her saying you need to “let go” jumped out at me too. Let me add another voice yelling that your girlfriend is horrible. Strongly agree that you need to keep her away from your kids and use birth control (probably a condom, honestly, so you can be sure it’s in effect). I would not put anything past her. She does not have your best interests at heart.

      WHO asks a parent to “let go” of their children?

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  • Anonymousse January 5, 2023, 8:53 pm

    A psychopath who never wanted his kids.

    She’s winning so far, and I hope your kids are too young to notice but I don’t think they are. It’s not too late to make changes and get rid of this monster. If you are seriously considering giving up your children because she gets your rocks off the right way you like, you need a therapist. You will do incredible, irreparable them for a few decades, at least. I hope you pony up for the therapy and psychological bills.

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  • maggiegirl98 January 6, 2023, 1:41 pm

    I just married a wonderful man who lives an hour away from me in the same town as his ex-wife, her husband, his parents, and the kids. I’m moving to be with him. And the kids. Close to his parents. About 10 minutes from the ex-wife and her husband.

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  • PassingBy January 9, 2023, 1:20 pm

    She’s not even hinting it. She’s flat out saying that she doesn’t want you to be a father to your children.

    Can you list a single thing about her that is worth giving them up?

    Do you realize how harmful it is to your children to bring this person around them? Her opinions about how much time you spend with your kids have nothing to do with her welfare, and everything to do with giving her priority over them.

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  • Daisy January 10, 2023, 11:58 am

    I am a stepmother who started dating my ex-husband when his kids were 6 and 2. I recognized that those kids were his top priority, and should be. Hell, I was usually the one pushing him to spend MORE time with them, not less. It’s great that your kids have a good stepdad and that you are supportive of that relationship. But you are, and always will be, their only dad. Your girlfriend can find another boyfriend, but your kids can’t get another father.

    I share my experience so you’ll realize that there are plenty of women who will respect and encourage your relationship with your children. You can find someone who doesn’t make you choose between herself and your kids, who isn’t constantly making you feel guilty for being a good father.

    By the way, my ex-husband and I ended up divorcing, but I am still close with his daughters, who are in their 30s now. They are amazing young women and I am so proud that they still consider me family. We talk to each other and visit regularly. Find someone who sees your children as a bonus, not a burden.

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