Stick With Love
Dear Annie: My boyfriend and I have been dating for about a year and a half. While maintaining separate homes, we spend the majority of our days and evenings together. I have three children and get along very well with my ex-husband and his girlfriend. My boyfriend has a son, "Tommy."
The problem is that my boyfriend's ex-wife creates conflict and difficulties for him. She is remarried to the man she left him for, and though my boyfriend accepted him in time, she continues to make things difficult for everyone. In fact, she goes around talking about both of us, telling people that he is not involved with Tommy and doesn't pay for anything, which is not true. They have 50/50 shared custody, and we do support Tommy.
Recently, my son came to us and said Tommy told him that my boyfriend hates Tommy and lied about several things. I assume this is likely because Tommy constantly hears negative things about his dad and was seeking attention. We often talk with Tommy about the challenges his mom presents. We have put him in counseling to help him cope with the conflict, and we feel we have done everything we can possibly do to help. But, recently, Tommy has been asking to stay with his mom more and more, and we believe she is seeking full custody.
My boyfriend is sick over this, as we've tried very hard to provide a different and more positive environment for Tommy. This hasn't been easy with three kids of my own and the challenges that split homes naturally have anyway.
We realize things will never change with my boyfriend's ex, but how do we navigate this? Things with her are always an issue, whether it is clothing Tommy has there versus here, or me helping with homework. More and more, Tommy is pulling away, and it's not only extremely hurtful to my boyfriend; we worry about the negativity he constantly encounters in his mother's home. What more can we do? Or is it simply time to let go? -- Wanting What's Best for Everyone
Dear Wanting: My heart goes out to Tommy. Divorce is always challenging for children, and the best thing you can do for his sake is continue trying to get along with your boyfriend's ex. It sounds like you do a wonderful job at that. Your boyfriend should have an open and honest conversation with his ex about his concerns. If she is seeking full custody, he might want to seek legal counsel.
The only thing you can do is be supportive and loving to Tommy. Never bad-mouth his mother, and practice the good old-fashioned rule that if you don't have anything nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all. I wish Tommy's mother would live by that, too.
Tommy might be pulling away for now, but if you and your boyfriend continue to show him unconditional love, patience and support, he will come back to you.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette - is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.