Updates: “Conflicted About Moving Away From My Son”

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 “Conflicted About Moving Away From My Son” who was conflicted about whether he should move away from his 15-year-old son, whom he shared joint custody of with his ex-wife (whom he said was “dead-set against his moving”), to move with his girlfriend of five years who got a job transfer to another state. Keeping reading to see what he decided.

We have decided that moving in together is the best thing to do for our relationship. I am in the process of working out a visitation schedule for my son with my ex and feel confident of the direction it is going. My son has been very understanding and is dealing with this change in a very mature manner. I have a great support system in my family that is there for my son, my girlfriend, and, of course, me. I want thank you and all of your readers for your input and opinions on how to handle this huge change in our lives. Ultimately, I had to make a choice that I felt was right for everyone involved, and I did so with the help of my son and girlfriend knowing that this would be the best thing for our future.

Thank you again, conflicted no more.

Thank you for your update. I’m sure a decision like this isn’t easy to make and, while I can certainly appreciate doing what is best for your future, I can’t help but wonder how it is, as you say, “right for everyone involved.” I’m not saying it isn’t — obviously, I don’t know the details of your lives — but I’d be so curious to hear how this decision benefits your son.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    I’m curious to know too…

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      And the answer may be that you took into consideration and weighed the pros and cons to everyone and ultimately chose to move. … Which is fine; I mean, it’s what people do every day, with everything in life, big and small, you weigh the pros and cons and make a decision, and you hopefully feel good about your decision even though others may not … But I really can’t envision any “pros” with you moving away from your son, unless you had a bad relationship with him, and your leaving will actually give him peace and comfort, or something like that. And you should own that decision and be honest about who ultimately you’re pleasing here. It sounds like you’re kidding yourself into believing this is the best for your son. But, obviously, there could be a reason why it is best for him. Just…. well what the heck is it?!

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Or maybe with the move comes a $1,000,000 raise that you’ll be able to use to support your son who has costly special needs that were going unmet before. I dunno, I’m grasping at straws. There could be SOME reason why your son benefits even though he’s losing a dad during his teenage years. There, I’ve come up with two.

      2. Maybe he’s moving to a big city from a small town? Then the son would have access to museums and activities that he wouldn’t otherwise have access to. That’s the only thing I could think of that would make this benefit the son.

      3. Oh, I thought of another possible benefit! When the son starts applying to colleges, he can apply to public schools in the dad’s new state and pay in state tuition. It’s way cheaper than out of state tuition and since he’ll be living with his dad part of the year I think he qualifies.

      4. Sorry AP, I’m gonna have to poke a hole in your costly special needs reason. My girl is 15, has extremely costly special needs (chronic medical condition) and I work like a crazy person trying to keep up. There isn’t ONE reason that could take me away from her. NOT ONE. Even money. Money that could easily pay those medical bills. I just couldn’t imagine. She is the reason I get out of bed in the mornings and put one foot in front of the other all day (total Tom Hanks reference!). The thought of it just makes me sad…not being there everyday. I know it’s LW’s choice and his life, and I don’t want to come off as judgy mcjudgerson, but just thinking about this as if it were a choice I’d have to make…I could never leave. I wish him the best of luck. I hope it all works out.

      5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I certainly don’t think costly special needs means it’s a good idea to leave per se – just thinking of those sad stories where the parent must leave to find work to provide for his/her family. … Yeah, I’m at a loss here to understand how it could be in the son’s best interest – but there could be SOME reason that makes sense. Between you and me (and ok, everyone) I highly doubt it, not here.

      6. I see where you’re coming from….and completely agree.

  2. Sunshine Brite says:

    Me four…

    I hope the visitation gets sorted out before you leave if you haven’t already so he knows what to expect.

  3. This just makes me sad….

  4. It is actually in the son’s best interest that his father have a full and happy life not based solely on his child. My father died when I was little and my mother made her whole life about me and my brother. Well we grew up and now she is alone and miserable and regrets not making a life for herself. As adults, we just don’t need our parents like we used to which is difficult on them. Compound that by having to let go of someone you love to stay physically close to that child and it is a recipe for serious resentment. A happy father will be a better one than a resentful one. And you don’t have to be physically close to have a good relationship and be part of someone’s life iMO.

    1. “And you don’t have to be physically close to have a good relationship and be part of someone’s life iMO.”

      Why isn’t that true for girlfriend?

    2. bittergaymark says:

      Right. Children be damned! Parents? Live for yourselves! Yours are the lives that truly matter. It’s all about you. You! YOU!!! Your happiness! Your fulfillment absolutely MUST come first. (Especially since most of you got knocked up with almost as much though as I put into a trip to the 99 Cent Store!) Always! Always take care of yourself first! And if that means up and abandoning your kids to get your groove on with that hot little honey you wanna make yet another semi-wanted baby with — so be it!
      Hell, just look how fucking great all the millennials turned out… 😉 And wasn’t that was the motto of most of their parents?

    3. I actually agree with this. It’s the same reason I disagree with people staying married “for the kids”. Happy parents make happy kids. There needs to be a balance. If the son were younger, I might disagree, but at 15, I think he’ll be fine.

    4. Ha ha ha! I’m pretty sure you didn’t grow up with an absentee parent. My father has put himself and his wants before me or his other child. I can tell you, damage done! Yes, parents need to be happy but kids shoukd fucking come first. They are your responsibility, they are impressionable and they will fucking remeber you choosing a girlfriend over being involved in their life. Believe me.

  5. LW, please check back in with us in 2 years and let us know how things are going for your son.

  6. I had to read the original letter and comments because I couldn’t remember if I commented on this one. If you’re happy with your decision then great for you, but in reality it is not necessarily right for your son. But that’s on you.
    When my husband and I started dating, I was packed up and ready to move to Arizona. I was accepted into ASU, had an apartment rented and was ready to go. But he had 2 kids. We briefly considered him moving with me, but really? There’s no way he could have left his kids to move across the country. But, they were also younger. Right now we live an hour away from them and its hard enough, I couldn’t imagine being in another state. Even when they’re 18 I don’t know that I’d be ready to up and move (although, I really want to move to a warmer climate).
    I feel like we need more information from you. Like, did you talk to your son? What did he say? Was he being honest or just trying not to make you feel bad? What kind of custody did you have before? What kind do you plan to have now? How far away will you be? I mean, technically you could be an hour apart and be in another state.

  7. I wish he had given more details. I just went back and read Wendy’s advice a lot of the comments and there were so many good points/suggestions. Did you take any of those, LW? Did you talk to your son? Your first sentence is so telling: “We have decided that moving in together is the best thing to do for our relationship.” Well, what about for your relationship with your son? I feel like your update would come under less attack if you helped us appreciate how you arrived at your decision.

  8. I wonder if the son is/was just trying to avoid conflict. How was the conversation started? I feel like it’s possible that it was presented as it’s happening – I already know what I’m going to do and I want you to make me feel better about it or was it truly undecided and they both actually agreed this was best.
    You know how someone asks your opinion or if you want to do x but you don’t feel comfortable saying no or disagreeing so you go along with it? Even though you really don’t agree or want it to happen?

    Your son probably won’t need or want you around all the time, but I would caution that the times he will need you, will not synch with your scheduled visits. Someday you’ll realize you want him around and he may not want it.

    Maybe the son really is fine with not seeing his father, maybe they already have a terrible relationship and the kid sees this as an out so he won’t have to fake having a good time with you, who knows. And maybe you’ve already thought of and come to terms with this.

    Good luck.

  9. It makes me sad that the fathers almost always choose their girlfriends in this situation. It’s very much a “it’s MY TURN to have fun/take care of myself” mentality.

    1. And then he has a kid with wife #2, then THAT baby becomes the priority. Hey, you already have a family… over here *points*

  10. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    I will agree with the opinion that the son was probably just trying to avoid conflict. You are leaving him at what is already a tumultuous period in his life (15 is not an easy age to be), and I’m willing to bet that there is a part of him that will not forgive you for moving away and choosing to be near your girlfriend rather than him.
    This might be best for you, and your girlfriend, but I don’t see how this could possibly be best for your son, or his mother.

  11. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    You know guys, life sucks. It sounds like this guy did think about his decision, and talked with his son. It’s just not as easy as saying that he’s ‘leaving’ his son. You work out visitation. You work on communication. I don’t remember the original letter and how his communication with his ex wife was like, but a lot of it depends on that – even if they lived close. the mother of my younger step children moved 6 hours away, quite a long distance from the father of 2 of her children. And yep, it sucks. It still sucks. And no, right now we don’t know the long term effects on them because of it. But you know what? She made the right decision for her family (which includes her husband) at the time. It’s not that my husband is unimportant in their lives. It’s not that she doesn’t want them to have a relationship. But life happens. A job opened up for her husband somewhere else, it was in their best interest to move. Of course we’re sad, and sometimes angry about it. But we also know that those kids are loved. We call, we skype, we have them on holidays when we can. Nothing is ideal. We make sure the kids know they are loved by everyone around them, and so does their mom and stepdad.

    I would be interested to hear if the dad would be open to his son moving in with him at some point. my husband and I would be thrilled if any of his kids wanted that when they were older. that to me would be more telling in the situation, how does the gf feel about all this – she needs to be feeling like she is a part of the family.

    so stop shaming this guy for doing what he thinks is the right decision. there is absolutely no perfect situation when there’s a divorce and there are kids involved, and there just aren’t enough details here to judge.

    1. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

      i also want to mention that yes we did think about moving closer to them, but financially it would not have been a good decision. and that directly relates to the child support he sends.

    2. Yeah, he shouldn’t have to justify his decision to anyone.

      1. Bittergaymark says:

        Except maybe his son, duh. Just wait. The next update shan’t be quite so rosey.

  12. With so few details in the letter and the update, it seems like you just wanted someone to validate your choice of moving away to be with your girlfriend. I don’t get it, and I think it’s quite likely your son will either act out and feel abandoned. Maybe not now, but in the future. And that will take a lot more fixing than sticking around for a few more years.

  13. Maybe the son is super excited for his dad to live in a new state? I mean, the son is in HS and starting to realize the true expanse of the world, and this would be a new place to explore, especially if it is a state that the son thinks is “cool”.

    What if the ex-wife and he don’t get along? (He did note in his original letter that he didn’t want to do what she told him to do). My parents are divorced and got along terribly until I was old enough to take control of the situation. Hard to say now, but at 15 if one of my parents had said he/she was moving I might have thought “thank goodness” their antics at times were childish at best.

    Basically, I don’t think people should be judging the LW so harshly because we honestly aren’t provided with much information in his update. I don’t think it is fair to elude to him being a terrible parent – for him this was the best decision. I actually thought I sounded like a nice update, and would wish the LW the best of luck.

  14. tbrucemom says:

    The teenage years are SO important for both boys and girls (maybe for different reasons) but so important. I’m sorry but I think the LW chose his GF over his son and is trying to make it seem like everything is ok. Unless he didn’t have a real relationship with him to begin with (and that’s equally sad) then I don’t see how either the son or the LW would feel this was the best situation. Sidenote, I wouldn’t completely disrupt my life (job, home, child, friends, family, etc.) to move for someone who wasn’t even a fiance, but that’s just me. I hate it when a man or woman chooses a romantic partner over a child, but unfortunately it happens a lot and it does seem to be more common with men. In 3 years the son will be 18. They should figure out a way for the LW to stay near the son until then.

  15. Hmm. This whole thing resonates with me; the LW, the update, the comments…

    After my parents divorced, my mom “left” for a few years and then came back to get us (from our dad). I was 9-10 at that time, my youngest sibling just 2yo. That totally destroyed any close relationship I was ever going to have with my mom, and I’m not even going to get into all the issues my youngest sibling has had over the years because of that. That said, years later, during high school/college, I always wondered (and asked) why my mom didn’t have…other things going on (no dating, that we knew of). We all started leaving the nest pretty young and she was, from what my perspective was back then, alone. She didn’t remarry until many many years after we had all left, and she’s not even that happy in that relationship (I think she just jumped the gun, but that’s another story).

    I feel for this LW. Even after the update, the tone (I get) from the comments is judgmental; questioning why he is choosing to move with his girlfriend. The way I see it, his son is 15 (not 7, 8, 11). Depending how their relationship has been up to now, his son may very well be ok with his dad’s decision. Mature enough to handle the distance. In just a few more years, his son will be (in theory) starting his own life, maybe even moving across the country himself to go to college or something. Then, where would that leave his dad (and his relationship), were he to stay now?
    I don’t even see him as “choosing” the girlfriend over the son. Those are two different types of relationships. Why can’t he have both? Nurture both relationships, whichever way possible? If they have the means, he can travel, his son can visit. Who knows, maybe his son will end up moving with him. Why not?
    There are so many possible outcomes, and not all have to be negative or have negative repercussions. Or about “choosing” one over the other, but about creating new normals for all involved.
    I don’t know. Maybe I’m jaded. Idealistic. Totally crazy. All possible! I just don’t think this LW is wrong on his decision to move; he asked for advise, he weighted the pros and cons, discussed it with all involved…and made decisions based on all of that. Why can’t he and his family have a happy ending?

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      I guess it’s because he claims it is in “everyone’s best interest” and I legitimately want to know how it is in his son’s best interest. He doesn’t say. It’s true, we don’t have the facts. I suspect, however, it’s because he’s weighing his desire to be with his girlfriend and their relationship as more important than the benefits of being there, full-time, in the same city as his son for the next 3 years. As I said above, I think when you have to make a decision, often neither choice is perfect. I mean, it’s not as if this LW had the option to live with his girlfriend + and live in the same town as his son. He had to make a sacrifice. I just think it smells of bullshit to say it’s in “everyone’s” best interest.

  16. Avatar photo juliecatharine says:

    I don’t know if moving is the right move or not. The biggest red flag (other than it being in everyone’s best interest) is that after five years together they’re just moving in together now and there’s no mention of marriage being considered. I hate the idea that someone in a five year relationship is ‘just’ a girlfriend…but she’s just a girlfriend. Moving away from a child without a defined future path seems like poor judgment to me. I hope he left out a lot of details and that this really is the best decision for his son too.

    1. Kate B.judging says:

      I may just cranky but this whole thread just smacks of judgment. Now, we’re judging his relationship with his girlfriend. Maybe you wouldn’t like to be a girlfriend after 5 years, but maybe it’s totally okay with her. I know a woman who was “just a girlfriend” for longer and it was totally okay with her. Not everybody has the same concept of how long is too long.

    2. OK, posting again as my keyboard hates me today. This whole thread smacks of judgment. Now, we’re criticizing his relationship with his girlfriend. Maybe you wouldn’t like being “just a girlfriend” for five years, but it might be totally okay with her. I know a woman who was “just a girlfriend” for longer and it was just fine with her. Not everybody has the same concept of how long is too long.

      1. Avatar photo juliecatharine says:

        My point wasn’t whether or not the gf wants to get married or even that they should. I was pointing out that moving away from a child without a commitment to be together for the long haul is a questionable choice. Like I said, hopefully there are a lot of details he left out.

      2. Maybe there are, but it seems to me that if he is moving to be with her that there is a commitment there.

      3. I agree with Kate on this. We can’t assume some level of commitment isn’t there because of the term “girlfriend.” There’s really not a good, common phrase used to describe long-term, committed relationships when two people opt not to go the marriage route. We really don’t know what the case it here.

  17. bittergaymark says:

    Eh, when the relationship tanks in a few scant years you’ll sure feel like a fucking tool for ditching your son for some semi-hot piece of ass who turned out to be but a mere flash in the pan. Just wait.

    1. TheGirlinME says:

      In all fairness, BGM, I’d hardly refer to a 5yr relationship as a “flash in the pan”. Also, the relative hotness of any piece of ass is entirely subjective.

      1. bittergaymark says:

        Eh, just wait. What’s the shelf life today for a marriage or relationship? I’d say maybe eight years, tops. Especially when one has already failed once.

      2. TheGirlinME says:

        Whose to say, really? My parents have been miserably married for 50 years. I don’t consider that to be a success.

  18. Moneypenny says:

    All I have to say is, wow, are people judgmental.

  19. pamplemousse says:

    I have to say I’m very surprised by how controversial this update is. I know lots of kid who choose to go away to boarding school in other states or countries at ages much younger than the LW’s son. As long as the LW’s son doesn’t have an issue with it (and I do believe the average 15 year old is mature enough to articulate his feelings on such a subject) then great. I assume the family has enough money to fly the son to see his dad a few times a year.

    1. pebblesntrix says:

      I agree that the average 15 year ofd is mature enough to articulate their feelings about a parent moving away and to be okay with it. However, those feelings are uninformed by experience. The average 15 has no idea the shitstorm of life that is about to rain down on them and how much they may need their parents (and in what capacity they may need them) to navigate it. Of course, not every single 15 year has insane teenage years but I think most do with the hormonal, social, physical, etc changes they’re experiencing and the big life decisions they’re beginning to be confronted with (e.g. the future, sex, peer pressure for dicey activities). Lots of teenagers are seeking a degree of independence they’ve not had before and coupled with the 15 year old’s lack of knowledge about the trying times that could be ahead, it makes sense that he might be okay with his dad leaving. But that doesn’t mean that’s really the choice in his longterm best interest. It’s his dad’s job to take that into account and figure out what’s most likely best with those things in mind.

      1. Sunshine Brite says:

        I know part of it for me was the overall outlook of this LW in the original letter. Half the letter was talking about how awesome his girlfriend is, and the other half polling his parents and ex and literally nothing about how his son was thinking about this or if he was preparing him that this may be a possibility or anything. He hadn’t brought his son to the conversation at all at that point. Plus, part of the way he phrased things made it sound like he just wanted to stick it to the ex by leaving since she wanted him to stay.
        He didn’t describe at all what his relationship with his son looked like outside of sharing joint custody. I hope he asked himself and his girlfriend some of the questions that Wendy posed in her first response because he hadn’t looked at the overall impact of the decision at all yet and thought about the overall communication patterns in his relationship that this wasn’t discussed before she accepted a job in another state.

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