Whats Appropriate When Dealing with Distance as the "New" Boyfriend of a Mother?

Updated on March 25, 2013
S.B. asks from Grand Junction, CO
26 answers

I have been dating the mother of 2 beautiful girls for about 6 months now. We have taken them to the movies and museum and hung out a few times. They are wonderful, though the yongest is still warming up, I get some pretty decent smiles now, and the oldest (5) and I get along great. We are taking it slow for obvious reasons, she must protect her children, and I must protect myself from the possibility of heart brake X 3. Though it isn't always easy I have been very patient. I met the father for coffee and though he isn't real excited about me he did his best to be civil and keep it real. Today is a tougher day than usual and I need a little advise. Today is the oldests 5th birthday. The father had them all weekend and had a celebration with his family, and then she was picking them up to take them to her parents to celebrate this evening. When she picked them up the bday girl asked if her Dad could come to her parents house with them for her bday dinner with out thinking much she said yes and imediately called me to let me know. I tried to be as cool as I could but was shaking with confusion and frustration. I understand that I should remain distant from these sorts of things to an extent, I was perfectly ok with being excluded from the family celebration and offered no protest. But I truly feel like his getting them for the whole day with his family and then getting to go to her families celebration as well is inappropriate from my aspect but also could be confusing for the children. It's not like a big party, it's her, her parents, the children, and him only. Am I off base here? I don't want to make a huge issue about this and I want to be supportive and understanding but this for me has pushed a limit and I need some expert opinions on what if anything is worth saying about it.
Lets get tis straight, I'm not asking if it is appropriate for me to be there. And I am trying to be honest and realistic while getting a feel for how to deal with the circumstances. Please don't assume you understand anything more than I have typed and don't insult me.

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answers from New York on

Have to agree with bug. Both my sons have married gals with children. They both went very SLOW. Six months is not a long time. Be patient and just roll with things for now. It sounds like you adore those little girls. If you do, you will go with what their Mom asks of you.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

I imagine there will come a time when you will all celebrate events together, perhaps it is still too soon and the girls are very young. Good luck-this must be difficult. The dad probably has an angle he's working. I might rethink my emotional investment in this one if I were you.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

Parents who are divorced or separated have to work together for the better of the kids. The birthday girl requested her father be at her 2nd celebration. While it will be awkward for Mom and the inlaws, to say no to the birthday girl would have caused tears and hurt.

Mom did the right thing. Dad should never be 'not allowed' at a family dinner, just as the Mom should be allowed to be at a dinner hosted by Dad's family, if one of the kids' requested.

Don't get me wrong, I understand YOUR hurt feelings, but its for the kids. Mom didn't make the request. She didn't put the option out there. The child asked for her father.

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

It's not about you and it's not about the dad. It's about what a very young child wants for her birthday. As much as she likes you, and as much as she enjoyed celebrating with her dad, she still wants him at ALL of her events. That's normal.
She may very well want you there TOO. Based on the wording of your question, she didn't ask for her dad INSTEAD of you, and at 5, has no idea why it would be awkward for you both to be there.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

You have to remember that those girls live in a world where the most important, beloved people to them do not live together in the same home. That's really, really tough for children to have to deal with.

Of course she wants her Dad there, she will likely ALWAYS want both her parents at important events. If they are parenting well then they will do whatever they can to make that happen as often as possible. I have the utmost respect for divorced couples who get along and co-parent well. It says something about their character and maturity.

You've only been around for 6 months. IF things work out and IF everyone involved continues to act with the kids best interest in mind maybe some day you will be included in a celebration like this. Until then DO NOT over step your boundaries or in any way second guess parenting choices that seem to be working pretty darn well.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Can I say: what a hard decision for your girlfriend.

I adore my husband, but were we divorced and my son asked to have daddy present for a family birthday celebration, I honestly cannot imagine looking into my little boy's eyes and saying "no".

Please remember that for your girlfriend, her children *need* to come before her relationship with anyone else for now. From many mothers' perspective, I think we'd feel that she's making a mature decision, not in favor of her ex-husband, but out of respect for her child, who just wanted to have her whole family there the day of her birthday.

Honestly, from what you describe, this really isn't about you. Of course, your feelings are hurt, and that is reasonable. However, if you take this personally and make this one incident the sword you decide to fall on in your relationship, this is going to be a huge red flag for your girlfriend.

Her kids will *always* come first. At least until they are adults and moved out.

Be prepared: her ex is going to likely receive a lot of what you are considering 'unfair treatment'. You might think that your girlfriend is not being consistent in her parenting of 'who is with whom and when", however, it sounds like you are just beginning a relationship with her. For the girls, what would be confusing is being told that dad can't come and then having you, whom they have spent comparatively little time with, there instead. It sounds like the only reason your girlfriend wouldn't have had her ex there is out of deference to you, at this point, and as I said, not to get personal-- this birthday isn't about you.

And I will say this from experience-- for little kids, birthdays mean a LOT.

It sounds like you really care about this woman and the possibility of having a relationship with the kids. Good. Go forward slowly, remember, you are dating a woman who has an entire family to consider. If you are constantly jealous of her ex and expect him to only be there when he is 'supposed to', it's going to be much, much harder going forward with her.

A counselor (either couples or individually) can help you with some of this. Some of this is just going to take time, too. Stepping aside tonight was kind-- and I know it was hard--- but it was the right thing to do for this time.

ETA: S., I want to add one thing, and I mean this in earnest-- Be GLAD that you are *not* with a woman who would use you as a way to exclude the girls' dad. Be really glad you are not with *that* kind of woman, the ones who will create drama and rub you in her exhusband's face and make you his 'bad guy' and 'the problem' between the two of you men. I've met women who did this and lord, the heartache these women were sowing was unbelievable. Be glad your girlfriend doesn't play that-- for everyone's sake. I hope this is the silver lining you can take away from tonight-- that she's classy enough and mature enough not to make YOU become drama for her entire family.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Yes, I think you are off base here....

This is the 5 yr old's birthday... it is only reasonable that she want BOTH parents to be at her celebrations......

With your reaction (shaking with confusion and frustration), it appears to me that you are acting possessive to the child and jealous of her biodad.

And what is confusing to the children is you even being in the picture and helping take the kids places or wanting to be part of their "family" celebrations........ they are going to get used to you, and then, what happens if you end up splitting up?

It is really best in cases like this to not even be involved with the kids at this point..... it has only been 6 months that you've been dating their M.. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be dating her, but it should just be the two of you..... not having the kids along. Of course the kids are confused!

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answers from St. Louis on

If you were not there how do you know she answered yes without thinking much and immediately called you?

Either you are reading way too much into what happened, because you can't know what happened, or this post is BS because of how this is written.

S'anyway, what will always come first is what is best for the kids and that is how it always should be. My kids used to invite their dad to things I didn't want him at. I would always shoot him a make an excuse or die look. For the most part he caught on and made an excuse, sometimes he didn't so I said something like you have already hung out with dad, this is our special time. That usually got the kids to rescind the offer. If none of this worked I sucked it up because I am not going to put my kids in the middle of adult choices.

That is the thing though, I sucked it up. Hanging out with him was not fun for me but it made the kids happy.

She probably wished he wasn't there but it made the kids happy.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

Yes, I think you are way off base and the shaking with confusion and frustration is just so extreme in my opinion.

I split with ex when my daughter was four and fortunately we co-parented so well (communication, sports, activities, school functions and holidays). It was best for our daughter but there certainly were some jealous people who couldn't handle it.

It was important to the birthday girl that she have both parents there and I'm so glad mom said yes. You are just the boyfriend, they are the parents. This isn't about you, it is about the children and their parents. They will be related forever and hopefully will continue to co-parent.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Yes, I think you're off base. See, it's a five year old's birthday. It's not really about you. It's about the kiddo, you know? It's her birthday, so of course she wants to be with her own family. In parenting, we have to put our kids first.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Yes--you're off base.
If you have a future with this woman & her girls, get used to it.
Right now, you're a boyfriend.
Even as a stepfather (someday maybe) you'll need to earn their live with a steady, understated kind of love, while demanding nothing and basically staying out of custody, visitation issues, etc.
As a stepdaughter, i can tell you it can happen.
Be forewarned; it might take years!
It's only been six months.
As a mother, I can tell you I'd have ZERO patience with a possessive, clingy boyfriend.
So step back. And take it slow.
Don't mess with the family dynamic.
Good luck!

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you post questions about being any sort of step parent or step boyfriend/girlfriend you're going to get some angry mother responses here. Just understand that these are moms who are protecting their "cubs" and that they are not in your shoes or feeling your emotions. Take it with a grain of salt.

Right now it has nothing to do with you PERSONALLY, the birthday girl asked for her bio father to be present and the mom said it was okay. Realize that your girlfriend is probably more uncomfortable than you right now--she has to "keep it together" for her daughter's sake and would probably like YOU to be there rather than her Ex. If she wanted to be with her Ex, she would be with him and not you. Instead she's just trying to do what's right for her child and fulfill her daughter's wish.

Now, she COULD have invited you as well, but it's really up to her. Since she did not, I'm sure she was thinking of her Ex and how he'd feel and she didn't want to put any more strain on an already tough day. Were you invited and then un-invited when the father decided to come? If so, I can see how you'd feel very upset. It hurts to be un-invited to anything. Don't try to bury your feeling of hurt, it's only normal. Just know that you'll have to keep it to yourself for the child's sake.

Also, just because people divorce doesn't mean they will be excluded from family events when the child is involved. My husband's father comes to family events at his ex-wives' house. It's all about being blended and just trying to get a long for the child's sake.

If you get married to this lady then it would be appropriate for you to be invite as well to a child's birthday party, even if her EX will be there. But since you're not married yet, she has no social obligation to ask you.

It seems unfair. It's just life. Just know what you're getting into ahead of time. Before you marry this lady, you should talk about how you both want to handle situations like this. But save this conversation for a day when you both feel a ring is near.

If I were you I'd buy a small gift for the birthday girl from you and give it to her when you see her next.

Good luck! It won't be an easy road. Also know there are no hard-and-fast rules to any of it. Just find out what works for your individual situation.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

No matter what, many kids of divorced parents will want both parents present at family functions - they should not always have to choose between one or the other, they already have to live with the fact that both parents don't live in the same house. This was the little girls' choice, not the mother's, or the dad's, and you should not take it personally. If you stay in this relationship, and things progress, you will be dealing with Dad being there many more times - he didn't stop being their dad just because he is no longer married to their mom. My husband didn't stop being a father to his boys just because he was no longer married to their mom, and even if it wasn't his weekend or whatever, he took every chance he got to spend time with them, since he couldn't see them every day. AND if you are in it for the long haul, you will eventually be invited to family events too. 6 months is not enough time for you to be "taking the place" of their dad.

"Shaking with frustration and confusion" and being insulted by honest responses would give me pause - you seem to be coming across as the jealous new boyfriend who can't accept that someone else was there before you, and will ALWAYS be there. Please do not overstep boundaries or assume you should be playing a bigger role than you are already. It takes a lot of maturity and patience to navigate these murky waters.

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answers from Washington DC on

take the high road here. at some point you may be in a position to muscle around what dad gets to do with his girls, but you're not nearly there yet.
your hurt is understandable, but stand down. these girls are very, very young, and he's their daddy. from their perspective your feelings of 'his turn is over' doesn't even register. it's a 5 year old's birthday, and she can have daddy all day. you need to let it be about her.
take it slow, and don't turn this into a Big Issue if you want this relationship to proceed.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

You're feelings are hurt which is understandable. But you've only been dating six months which isn't long at all especially where children are involved. Of course the little girl wanted her dad there - this is completely natural - she wants to be with both her parents. She really doesn't know you yet anyway. And this has to be hard on the mother too. How do you keep everything running smoothly and all that is what she's dealing with. And how do you know how this really came about anyway?

If you really want to be with this woman, let it take it's own course a bit and at the same time let her know how you feel. I'd ask her how it came about that the dad went to the celebration. Keep it clear and simple and loving. How she responds may tell you loads. Let her know your intentions are not to come off as needy but that you felt a little tossed to the side and had one expectation but it then became another. You wanted the time with her. But even in suggesting this to you, you have to remember to check yourself. Is this type of relationship worth the extra effort for you? Why are you there? You have to keep it honest to the best of your ability.

But ya know these things happen. I understand your position but this really is more about you and how you're handling it than her or the little one. If you plan to stick with this, you had better resolve yourself to time, because no child wants their parents to be apart, especially at age 5. Be peaceful.

What makes you think someone here would aim to insult you? And as far assuming understanding anything more than you typed - what's that about? Why are you assumming that someone would assume understanding you? Hmmmm, I wonder if you would have written that to a group of men ---- Ahh No!

How's that for assumming

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that it was inappropriate for the mom to allow the father to attend her family's birthday party if for no other reason than you were already invited. It was thoughtless on her part.

I suggest it takes time to change the way we think. I suggest that she felt that she needed to include him because her daughter asked. She hasn't learned yet, how to balance her relationship with you as her close boy friend and that with her ex, her children's father.

Be patient. Talk with her about how you felt/feel. Together decide how to handle this sort of situation in the future. Hopefully she'll be sympathetic and be willing to think thru what happened to find a way to fit you more seamlessly into her family. It sounds like you're already an important part of her family, her and the children. You're being sensitive and caring about the way you're involved.

It is very important that you talk with her about your feelings. Sharing how each of you feel will be important for the rest of your lives. An extremely important part of an intimate relationship is the ability to empathize and problem solve together

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answers from Dallas on

S., I have to say, she is a lucky woman to have such a self-aware guy. But please do not get possessive, jealous, etc. at this point. You are only 6 months in. You don't know each other, really, yet. Feeling threatened by the father's presence isn't going to help you at all. Your girlfriend's children MUST come first. At this point, you are "just the boyfriend". You have to take a deep breath and accept that. If you can't, you may need to step away, because being jealous of her ex is going to make you look like a jerk.

I will answer as the child of multiple divorces and a serial dating mom. 6 months in is VERY early. You are taking it at the right speed. Slow is very important for you, for her, and for the kids as this is delicate and a package deal. One thing that you have to realize is that if you do become a part of their lives as step-dad some time in the future, you will be CO-parenting with the mother AND the father of the children.

My parents divorced when I was 10. My dad had us on weekends, and was included in ALL holidays, birthdays, etc., at family gatherings on my mother's side. It was a very respectful relationship from them to him. It was the smart thing to do and to this day I respect my parents for "behaving" when it came to things like holidays. I had friends in high school where the divorced parents wouldn't be on the same FOOTBALL field for graduation.

The best thing that you can do is to consider yourself as possibly part of the team. This isn't confusing for the children. He is their father. They know he is their father. I am guessing that their mom talks to them and they know he is not her husband. He will not be her husband again, but he will always be their father. You need to remember that and not be threatened by it. It's hard, but it is doable. I also know this from experience. My mother was in a long term relationship with a pretty good guy. At one point, we went on vacation together - mom, me, sis, boyfriend, his daughter, and MY dad (mom's ex-husband). We had a really nice time and again, the adults were great role models for doing this.

The party was about the girl - she got to spend time with dad and his family, and mom and her family. Mom's family was nice enough to include him because his daughter ASKED for him to be included. To not include him would have hurt her very much. Don't say anything.

Understand that the deeper relationship is from parent to child in this situation. Your girlfriend's relationship with her ex is as a polite adult who happens to be the father of the child. If you can accept that as the truth, as reality, you will give off a feeling of peace to your girlfriend that will be a huge help as your relationship grows. It will only help the entire relationship, with her, with the kids, and with the dad. Be confident as the boyfriend. If things move forward to marriage, your confidence will help build a true co-parenting with everyone on the same team.

IM me if you have any questions. I can answer from the kid's point of view to some extent.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Are you trying to say that if the Dad is there you will not be there?

If you are imagining a future as a blended family, keep in mind that there are times the girls will want their Dad around and you will be around too.

If you are frustrated because you think the girls harbor a desire for their Mom to be with their own Dad, I think that is totally normal for their age. You need to give them time to work through their feelings.

If you are not going to the bday dinner, there will always be next time, especially if you see this as a long-term relationship.

It is also Ok to let your girlfriend know that you were upset about being left out.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I haven't been in your girlfriend's situation, but can only imagine....

That said, let me applaud you for being so emotionally involved w/ the kids and her and not running. Many guys would.
This is hard for you and HER and the kids. Be patient, be understanding. Its hard. If she's a good mom, which it sounds like she is. She wants to protect her babies hearts as much as she can. Its very hard to explain and live out break ups through your kids' eyes.
Its MUCH better for those kids if the parents get along. If they are friends, even better! They share children. Who are innocent, raw and at times fragile....
Hang in there. try to see things from the side of the kids, who are most important here. And again, you and your girlfriend doing right for them is awesome, and not always easy! good luck and hang in there :)

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answers from Philadelphia on

my daughter was 4 when she first met my now fiancée. 10 months in was her birthday and he was still in the beginning stages since I didn’t allow them to meet for the 1st 5 months. At her birthday my ex and my parents and his parents came. My at the time boyfriend came after everyone was gone to give her a hug and say happy birthday.

The kids should always come first. Be happy you have a woman decent enough to not change that because of new love! Her kid wanted daddy on her birthday and she probably feels guilty enough that she can’t make that happen all of the time so why not let the girl have her wish on her birthday. even though i am beyond happy with my fiancée I still get bummed that my daughter has a split home. Doesn’t mean I want to be with my ex...
As my fiancée got closer to Emmy and it was a more serious relationship his feelings counted more. As in I would take into account how his feelings were affected by my ex barging in on our time...but that was gradual, and you want it that way. you do not want her kids to associate you with the fact they don’t see their dad as much.. My fiancée loves my daughter like his own and deals with seeing my ex at events, and interacting with his parents and having them at our house for her birthday and so on because he knows that is her dad and he wouldn’t want to stand in between them
if you want to be a second dad to these girls possibly in the future you have to step aside at times and enjoy the fact they get to be super happy and see their dad (even if you're slightly uncomfortable)

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answers from Chicago on

IF you choose to bring anything up to your girlfriend far away from the girls, then keep it neutral. Ask how it went, share that you are happy the girls had a good time. If she brings up the ex, or anything like that then run with it and run with her tone. If she was happy he was there for the girls then be happy too, if she was annoyed with him then say I can see where you are coming from. You can use this as an opportunity to introduce the idea of a future together.

You see from your emotional reaction it appears that you may want more out of this relationship than you have today. It appears you may be considering this to be a forever deal - if so you can say something like, I realized when I was not there for Sarah's bday that I wanted to be, and that I want to know how you feel about it too. Now, expressing that you are INTERESTED in making a future together does not mean you want it to happen today, but that you need to start having those conversations about what is important to both of you and if you BOTH (and then all 4) want the same things. I think after 6 months you have an idea if you want to make more of this, I think if you do then it is time to bring that up.

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answers from Houston on

Fall out of love or learn that dad will be there forever...

Whatever you get now is what it will be like in the future. I could not do it.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I do think it's odd for him to say yes. That was off. He should have said "Sweetie, you go to grandma's and grandpa's house and have fun. We already had your party. Love you, bye bye". End of story.

If they have been divorced a long time and you and she were married then you could all 3 or 4, if he remarries, go to the dinner together.

I have an excellent relationship with my ex and his wife, she's the best darn thing that ever happened to him. She grew him up to be an amazing man.

I have stayed at their house overnight w/o hubby, I have gone there and stayed all day when my place got fumigated and I couldn't breath the fumes before hubby, I have take my hubby to their house for Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday parties, all sorts of celebrations. I've even gone to their family funerals because they were once my family too.

When we got stuck in a flood my ex MIL was the closest person I knew so me, my mom, hubby, and daughter all went to her house to wait out the flood until we could get back on the west side, well, west of Penn, in OKC. We hung out and played cards, watched TV, etc...had a blast for a couple of hours. Even the armory where they keep the army vehicles across the street from the bowling alley was under water. It was a serious flash flood. We had gone to Crossroads Mall and I was driving north down Sante Fe and hit water that was half way up the truck doors.

That's the kind of relationship you want to have with your ex's family. Non war front style.

So give it time, if a relationship develops between you guys then it's appropriate for you to all go to family things. But in this case it was sort of odd to me that he would say yes. He'd already done the party for the kiddo and said good bye until next time.

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answers from Salinas on

I feel for you. You sound very caring and want to be involved. Are you sure the lady is ready to totally end things with the girls' father? Could she be keeping you on a back burning while possibly working it out with the ex. I could be totally off base. It is also very likely that they wanted to make the daughter happy for the birthday and didnt want to make you (or anyone) feel awkward.

This mother should also be respected for thinking of her girls first. You may not be 'family' but you could still get your feeling hurt and are important. She obviously realized this by calling you ASAP.

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answers from San Francisco on

You have to remember that that's her dad and how would mom explain to her if she said "no." If she told daughter it was because it would hurt your feelings, guess what? She's no longer warming up to you - she's cold as a fish and you are dead to her.

Your gf did the right thing saying yes and then immediately telling you he was going to be there.

The children are very young; this is something you'll need to get used to if you want the relationship to work out. It's not a matter of fair; fair is somewhere I don't go in the summer because it's too hot. There is no such thing as fair in the real world of adulthood. It's all about what's best for the kids - and that may not always be "fair" to you.

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answers from Kansas City on

i do think mom was a little thoughtless about the birthday thing. but i am sure she didn't mean to cause waves. you know her, we don't. you say she called immediately to apologize. assuming that it was an innocent mistake, i think you have to let this go. be the bigger person. if this becomes a regular thing, then red flags will start popping up. but give her a break this time.

putting the kids first means realizing that in their world, mom and dad come first. causing a stink over it will do nothing.

ETA and can i add - the Dad should also have stepped up and bowed out. that would have been the right thing to do. mom, i can see as an honest mistake. dad? maybe innocent...but i would at least keep an eye on the situation.

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