What Do I Do with a Boyfriend Who Lets His Daughter Exclude Me?

What Do I Do with a Boyfriend Who Lets His Daughter Exclude Me
I’m 38, single and no children. My boyfriend of 18 months has his 12-yr-old daughter’s birthday this weekend. She doesn’t want me to attend. I wasn’t invited last year either (because it was at his ex’s home). I told him last year that if we are to move in together and have more children together, we need to share all family events. He and I need to build that up and teach the kids how to be together.

I asked him to make sure that this year I was invited. I reminded him a month ago, last weekend, and we were planning for me to come – until Tuesday night when his ex threw a wrench into it. (I think she can’t handle me being there. She speaks poorly of me, even though we have never met).

The ex spoke to her daughter and they agreed the daughter would be happier if her mom’s boyfriend and I weren’t there. They wanted it to feel like “old times”. The party is hosted at my boyfriend’s and both sets of grandparents are coming as well as her friends, so it’s a family affair.

My boyfriend is not happy about his ex’s manipulative behavior, but is leaving the decision up to his daughter as he feel it’s her birthday and she should decide who will attend. He’s planning to discuss with her about how “old times” are not realistic or appropriate any longer.

I don’t know how we build a life or even think about future children or living under one roof if I’m not allowed to attend family events.

This sort of back-seat treatment happens a lot. For example he focuses entirely on the kids when I am there, and the kids focus on their dad which makes it hard for me to develop bonds with them. When we hang out with kids, we barely talk, touch, or sit beside each other. I feel like an outsider all the time, and this birthday event exacerbates it. He’s a great boyfriend otherwise, but this family division makes me feel like I’d be happier alone.

Thanks,
Sonja

Appreciate your question, Sonja. I’ve heard many variations on it before from clients over the phone, but have never tackled it in print, so thank you for the opportunity to shed some light on your situation.

In order to do so, we have to look at both sides of the argument. You know your side. You have a boyfriend who is very loving, except around his old family. You envision starting a blended family. But given the resistance of his daughter and his capitulation to her needs, it’s hard to feel optimistic.

I’m with you.

From his perspective, his relationship with his daughter (and his ex-wife) is permanent. It’s not that he doesn’t love you; it’s that you didn’t exist to him 18 months ago. His family predated you and, if you push too hard, it will post-date you as well. I’ve seen way too many anxious girlfriends try to force their way into men’s families, and they almost always fail to get what they want: a blended family. So, continue to try to empathize and put yourself in his shoes. He’s a divorced dad. He’s paying alimony. He’s paying child support. It’s his only child. She’s a moody pre-teen. He sees her every other week. He wants to keep up good relations. And if keeping his girlfriend away from his twelve-year-old’s birthday party is enough to keep the peace with his daughter, that’s a sacrifice he’s more than willing to make.

If this guy wants to get married and start a new family with you, he’s going to have to take his balls back from his daughter.

In other words, he’s been practical. He’s been conflict averse. He’s been taking the slow and steady, “whenever my daughter’s ready” approach to relationship integration.

I’m not defending him or agreeing with him. I’m just trying to explain what he’s probably thinking.

That makes sense for six months. Maybe even one year. But if this guy wants to get married and start a new family with you, he’s going to have to take his balls back from his daughter.

It’s much easier said than done, but it’s imperative if you two are going to have a chance.

I’ve written about parents not approving of relationships many times; I’ve never addressed the angle the child didn’t approve of the parents, but my advice remains the same.

When I became a Dad, I read a book that taught about the dangers of “child-centered” parenting, which is to say “doing whatever the child wants to keep him/her happy.” I take a parent-centered approach: Mom and Dad had a life before you existed; we’re still going to have a life as you grow up.

Instead of giving him a fiery ultimatum, how about you figure out how to support him as he summons up the courage to be the bad cop?

As a parent, you can’t let the inmates run the asylum, no matter how much you want to be liked. Your boyfriend has given control of his life to his daughter, who has a completely different set of self-interests than her father. Unless he chooses to take it back, I agree with you: you’d be better off with someone with the guts to stand up to his little girl. But instead of giving him a fiery ultimatum, how about you figure out how to support him as he summons up the courage to be the bad cop? Don’t play the “It’s her vs. me” game. You’ll probably lose that. Let him know that for HIS own happiness, he has to be more assertive in setting boundaries with his daughter.

What was okay early in your relationship is not okay anymore. Good luck.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    AMT

    That was great advice, Evan. My mom introduced me to her dating partner when I was 17, and they were engaged, married, and he was moving into our house with his teenage son 6 months after I met him. It was a difficult time, to say the least. My stepdad is a great guy, and they are still married almost 18 years later, but I was angry that I wasn’t given much time to adjust to the situation. Had they waited a year or two to get married, I probably would have been much more supportive. Coming from that perspective, it makes me happy to hear that the dad/boyfriend was taking things slowly for his daughter. However, 18 months is plenty of time, and now he needs to stand up to her and let her know that Sonja is a part of the family now. Period.

  2. 2
    Stacy2

    What do you do with a boyfriend who lets his daughter exclude you? How about, you count your blessings?? Why do you even feel the need to be involved in the life of the child that is not yours, given all the drama and baggage that will inevitably follow? Besides, a 12 yo? She’s about to enter her teenage years – seriously you’re better off letting her parents handle 100% of the B/S that will start flowing there. The current and the last b/f i had both had kids in the 12-16 age range. And i really have been enjoying not having to deal with them – at all. If and when you and your b/f create a family of your own, this merger will happen. Until then.. a brunch with adults friends beats a kids party any day.

    1. 2.1
      Adrian

      Hi Stacy2,

      I currently can not remember what blog post heading it was but it dealt with women having a need to feel connected with a man, his life, and his world.

      We men (and apparently you Stacy2) only look at the outward context (willingness to sharing with you their child,  bank account & income information, very personal details about their past, a willingness to allow you to meet parents & friends, etc..) but it is not about any of those things, it is about what they represent to him and his willingness to trust a woman enough to share something so important to him with her.

      I think you are an outlier but the majority of women see being included in something that is very important to a man as a way of him fully accepting her into his life-it is a sign that instead of only having one foot in the relationship with her he is fully invested in a future with her .

      …   …   …

      Stacy2 I could not find a way to word this comment better so I hope that you take this as a conversational tone and not as a judgmental or attacking tone. (^_^)

      1. 2.1.1
        Stacy2

        I get that. But the OP is an adult, in her 30ies, and should be acting rationally, not based purely on “feelings”. That’s the realm of the 12  year olds, you know?

        This isn’t really about her, is it? This is about the 12 yo girl who does not want a relationship  with the OP at this point. The OP is not entitled to this relationship. She should let it go and focus on the positive side – which is what I highlighted, the lack of grief that comes from dealing with teens/pre-teens.

  3. 3
    Elemental

    The OP is not a parent of this pre-teen and cannot force a relationship with the boyfriends daughter, nor should she even try (to force one that is). A relationship may develop over time, but only if the OP is flexible.

    The boyfriend going along with trying to recreate “old times” is questionable behaviour and is more dangerous to his daughter than to anyone else. Having been through a divorce myself, it took my kids a while to get past holding onto hope we’d get back together and the advice I received from a family councillor was to avoid getting the entire family together (our pre-separation circumstance) for holidays or birthdays. This sort of thing only makes the grieving process longer and more difficult for the children.

    The guiding principle for all the adults in this situation must be “the best interests of the child”. That does not imply child-centred parenting (I’m with Evan on that one). From the information provided in the OP’s question, sounds to me like the adults are more focussed on what they want than what’s best for the daughter.

  4. 4
    Barbara

    After watching her parents divorce and continue to have a strained relationship, one thing that’s in the best interest of this child is to see what a healthy romantic relationship functions like. It isn’t what she grew up with and it isn’t what she’s witnessing her father do with the OP. If I were the OP, I’d put it to him like this since his driving concern is what’s best for his daughter.

    If his daughter is to have better relationships than her parents had together, this is an opportunity for dad to set a great example for her. To do that, he has to treat his current significant other with love and respect. He may think he’s doing that already. But it’s extremely disrespectful for him to date her all this time yet treat her like she isn’t really part of his whole life.

    His daughter is taking mental notes. If he doesn’t want to provide her with a negative role model of how men should treat her, she needs to see him consistently do the right thing by the woman he’s been with for a year and half. An important way for him to do that is to not cave in to the daughter’s needs when her needs are damaging to everyone concerned–the daughter; the OP; and the ex-wife who uses catering to the daughter’s needs as a cover for sticking it to the dad, which really harms the ex (because of karma), even though she probably doesn’t think it does.

    My kids are always in the forefront of my mind as I seek a significant other. My parents provided a great example of a healthy marriage. So do two of my ex-husbands other children, my kids’ step siblings who they don’t see often. But, while my kids were growing up, they witnessed an extremely dysfunctional marriage on a daily basis.

    One of my greatest desires is that they will have the opportunity to see me, their mother, in a healthy relationship. I think this will provide a powerful positive example for them as they look toward getting into their own relationships and possibly marriage.

    1. 4.1
      Barbara

      I said:

      An important way for him to do that is to not cave in to the daughter’s needs when her needs are damaging to everyone concerned–the daughter; the OP; and the ex-wife

      The daughter’s behavior is causing self harm because children don’t want to have no boundaries. When that happens they feel insecure because nothing stops them when they are going way off base into harmful territory. So it’s never a good idea to let a child have their way all the time. Until they are totally responsible for all of the consequences of their actions, parents need to step in and take the reins sometimes. This is one of those times.

      This child has way more control over her family than is good for her. It can’t feel great to be her right now, even though she may act like all is perfect while she gets to play “life like it used to be.” Hopefully, the OP will open dad’s eyes.

      1. 4.1.1
        Robert

        This is the correct stance. Children do not and never should be allowed to run the home. Too many parents give in to this and end up with dysfunctional young adults with an incredible sense of entitlement.

        Nor should he/she be allowed to control who the divorced parents see or get involved with. I disagree with living together out of wedlock with children involved. It’s simply wrong.

        After 18 months this woman has a right to be put on a higher level than this child’s whims–if he isn’t willing to do so, she needs to withdraw from the relationship. Pure BS.

  5. 5
    ScottH

    This has to be a tough situation for all involved.  Kids that age want nothing more than for their parents to be together, or get back together, and as the dad’s gf, you’re a threat to that ever happening, not that it would happen if you weren’t there but daugther doesn’t see it that way.  As my shrink said, he’s giving his kid too much power when she declares that you aren’t to do something but nevertheless, she will make her will known and I can understand the father having a hard time going against her will. Sometimes (manytimes?) doing the right thing can be very hard.  I do like Evan’s advice for Sonja to be supportive of the dad- that’s what a secure woman would do.  Now the dad needs to get some advice on how to deal with the daughter in this type of situation.  It’s tough.

    Adrian- I really liked how you put this:  “the majority of women see being included in something that is very important to a man as a way of him fully accepting her into his life-it is a sign that instead of only having one foot in the relationship with her he is fully invested in a future with her “

  6. 6
    Nissa

    The OP’s letter left me wondering if in fact the boyfriend has informed his ex and child that he sees you as a permanent part of his life. If he hasn’t, then their keeping the girlfriend out of ‘family’ events is perfectly reasonable. Once the girlfriend has a ring and a date, then she should be included in ‘family’ events. And frankly, if the boyfriend does not yet know that this woman is the right one for him, that he sees in his life permanently, he should leave her out of family events without having to be asked. It’s unreasonable to ask his child to give more of a commitment to the girlfriend, than the boyfriend in question does.

    1. 6.1
      Jools

      Good thinking! Very wise

       

    2. 6.2
      Jools

      True..very wise

  7. 7
    Morris

    She’s 38. If she really wants kids and her biggest issues are being invited to her boyfriends daughters bday party.(Or at least the one she wants advice for.) Her priorities are a bit off.

     

    They don’t live together. They are not engaged. At this point she’s just a girlfriend. Not saying 18 months is insignificant. But she should probably concentrate on moving in together. Then getting engaged before thinking about blended families and forcing these kinds of issues.

  8. 8
    Emily, the original

    Sonja,

    I think you need to make an effort to see this from his daughter’s perspective. Your presence at family events, to her, is putting the final nail in the coffin of her nuclear family. However irrational that may sound. If you aren’t there, she gets to keep up the illusion that things haven’t changed. You see your relationship with her father as something good, and it sounds like it is. But to her, it’s anything but good.

  9. 9
    KK

    The child isn’t the problem. His ex is the problem and the only reason she’s a problem is because he is allowing it.

    Sonja said, “I asked him to make sure that this year I was invited. I reminded him a month ago, last weekend, and we were planning for me to come – until Tuesday night when his ex threw a wrench into it”.

    The birthday party is at HIS house. His ex has no right to demand that his current girlfriend not attend. She has every right to explain her concerns and he has every right to counter her concerns with facts regarding what he feels is best for their daughter. He could have also made sure to let her know her current boyfriend was welcome in his home for their daughter’s birthday party.

    My boyfriend is not happy about his ex’s manipulative behavior, but is leaving the decision up to his daughter as he feel it’s her birthday and she should decide who will attend. He’s planning to discuss with her about how “old times” are not realistic or appropriate any longer”.

    This conversation should have taken place as soon as his ex brought it up. So far, after 18 months together, it appears this guy is still allowing his ex to run the show. He needs to stand up to her. One of two things will happen. If she’s reasonable and truly has her child’s best interests in mind, she will work with him to continue a peaceful co-parenting relationship. If she’s unreasonable (which may be the reason why he’s hesitant to stand up to her), she might tell him to stick it and decide they’ll do separate birthday parties, etc. This may be what he’s trying to avoid. However, whether he’s in a relationship or not, he will eventually have to face the inevitable.

    If I were Sonja, I would see this as a huge yellow flag. It’s entirely appropriate for a parent to put their child’s needs first. What’s innapropriate is putting his ex-wife’s desires over the desires of his current girlfriend. There is no good reason for her not to be there and I don’t think her being there is him choosing his girlfriend over his daughter.

    The other part that she’s bothered by with him giving all his attention to his kids when she’s there, she’s going to either have to accept or move on. She also needs to accept that his kids may not ever accept her and if she can’t handle that possibility, that’s a deal breaker as well. Personally, I think if she can accept that he’s going to give his children all his attention when he has them without any resentment, which is probably only every other weekend, and continues to gently try to make a connection with his children, there’s a good chance they will eventually come around.

    The way things stand right now, she’d be a fool to move forward with marriage and children. If nothing changes, there’s a huge chance she’s going to end up resenting her step children and be stuck with them every other weekend when she would rather be focused solely on her husband and her own children.

     

    1. 9.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @KK

      For the life of me, I cannot understand why divorced people who have  young children seek relationships.  Anyone who has children younger than high school-age is not truly available to date, especially someone who has a tween girl.   Middle school is the period at which a girl is most likely to go off of the rails.  I held my marriage together until my girls were mature enough to handle the split.   There were times when I thought that I could not survive another day in my marriage, but my kids truly came first.

      1. 9.1.1
        L

        My ex husband cheated on me and I was single at 32 with 3 kids under 6.  I didn’t choose to end up in that position but I did.  Now that I am in this situation, I have no desire to be single until I am in my late 40s.  So yes, I date and I make time for relationships.  And horror of horrors, two of my kids are tweens.  I don’t think I’m ruining their lives by being a human being and having a life. I go out when my kids are with their dad.  I am also far more attractive in my 30s than I will be at 50.  Waiting until kids are grown will make it much harder for me to remake my life.  I support my kids financially, I give them a loving home and one day I would like to remarry if it makes sense.

      2. 9.1.2
        KK

        YAG,

        Agreed. When I divorced, I decided I would only go out on dates when my kids were with their dad and that I wouldn’t get seriously involved with anyone until they’re out of high school.

        They’ve endured enough changes that they had no say in. Surely, one of their parents can sacrifice until they’re grown, and I do it willingly with no regrets.

        There’s no need for me to tell anyone my children come first unless they ask. You’d have to be a fool if you can’t put two and two together by the fact I’m only willing to see them every other weekend. People that haven’t been divorced don’t understand just how much the entire family dynamic changes. No matter how great a guy is that I end up with, he will never love my children like their father and vise versa and that’s the major issue I see in blended families. This is also where the issues like Sonja’s come in. Going back to family dynamics when you’re married, you know your spouse is equally (hopefully) invested as you are in your children. Once that marriage is over, you will never have that same dynamic again. This is one of the reasons why I strongly encourage people I know to try really hard to work out their marriage issues if possible. I realize some marriages can’t be saved. Mine was one of them. But no matter how crappy it might be, it’s still a loss, even if it’s just losing that intact family for your kids (and I don’t mean that to imply that I’m minimizing their loss. I’m just saying sometimes the actual marriage is dead and kids suffer a loss much more so than the parents in some cases).

        I think by the time my kids are grown it will be a non issue. There would be no reason at that point, to have to choose between a man I love and my children. My kids will always be a priority but I want to prioritize a man in my life too and I want him to make me a priority as well.

      3. 9.1.3
        Racheal

        You sound very perceptive.

        I’m curious, now that your kids are (presumably) grown, is it still the case that they come first (before your partner)?

        I don’t ask this in a judgemental way, only out of sincere interest.  I don’t have my own children and years ago made the choice not to  date man w/minor children, for the very reason that you bring up in the last sentence of your comment.  I’m wondering if that ever changes, regardless of the children’s ages.

        1. KK

          Hi Racheal,

          No, my children aren’t grown yet. This post was made recently.

          Like I said, my children will always be a huge priority. But I believe that day to day life will be much different when they’re no longer living at home with me. I’ll be able to spend my free time however I want without taking any time away from them, simply because they won’t be here. Of course, I can go see them and they will always be welcome to come home whenever they want.

  10. 10
    Treifalicious

    I feel like people are not really considering the perspective of the child here. It’s not that she has fantasies of her parents getting back together. It’s likely that she sees the father’s girlfriend as a fly-by-night outsider who may or may not be around a year from now.

     

    My mother was a so how parent I tended to view her boyfriends as strangers who came around to entertain (and have sex with) my mother. My view of them was neutral leaning negative. It annoyed me that they used their tired Tremors to connect to with me as brownie points to help score with my mother. It’s like I was just a tool for the furtherance of their romantic relationship.

    This woman wants to be invited to this 12 year old’s birthday party for her own purposes and what it means to her. Not for what it means to the child.

    The child probably views her as a temporary presence in her life, and until there’s a ring involved that’s exactly what she is. Hell, even if there is a ring involved she might still likely be a temporary presence in the girl’s life.

    I also agree with the first commenter who mentioned that her mother introduced her to a boyfriend and them got engaged married and moved in within 6 months. The kid is thinking, “who the hell isn’t his complete stranger moving into my house?”

    You might love your boyfriend and your boyfriend might love you but to his children you are just some random woman who is moving in on their territory. They didn’t ask for their world to be blown apart by divorce and they didn’t invite you into their lives. They didn’t ask for any of this. You are a part of that situation. Remember that and behave accordingly with them.

    1. 10.1
      Emily, the original

       
      Treifalicious,
      This woman wants to be invited to this 12 year old’s birthday party for her own purposes and what it means to her. Not for what it means to the child.

      Agreed. She wants her place in the boyfriend’s life to be publicly acknowledged. It’s not like she has a strong relationship with the child and the child will be hurt if she doesn’t show up.

    2. 10.2
      L

      yes!  As. Single mother of 3 who is dating a divorced dad, yes!!! Slow it down.  The fact that the letter writer met the kids at all is big.  To expect to be included in a 12 year old’s party, which is probably a fairly intimate event, is presumptuous and rude.  It isn’t the letter writer’s day.  It isn’t a bar mitzvah.  It is a small birthday party and about the child not her.  The letter writer isn’t the only one not invited – the child’s mother isn’t bringing her boyfriend either.  While the idea of blended family is exciting for the letter writer, it is terrifying for kids. She doesn’t want some random woman or guy at her party!  Once letter written lives with her boyfriend or is engaged, she can be invited.  Not before.

  11. 11
    mgm531

    “When I became a Dad, I read a book that taught about the dangers of “child-centered” parenting, which is to say “doing whatever the child wants to keep him/her happy.” I take a parent-centered approach: Mom and Dad had a life before you existed; we’re still going to have a life as you grow up.”

     

    This is good advice if you are dealing with a rational or cooperative ex, but if you’re not, it’s useless.  I say this because if the father were to ‘put his foot down’ and ‘get his balls back from his daughter’ then he seriously risks jeopordizing the relationship with his one and only child.  Why?  Because all the mother of the child has to do is take the child’s side and allow the child to do whatever she wants, even if it means spending less time with the other parent.  Then the mother (or father if the case may be)  can go to court and have the child custody arrangements and corresponding Child Support amounts adjusted due to the fact that the child is now spending more time with them than with the parent that wants to impose more rules and structure.  This then leaves the parent that wants more rules and structures with a no-win situation:  a) spend lots of money on legal fees to fight it thereby forcing the child to spend time with them (against their will) and seriously jeopordizing the relationship they have with their one and only child or b) accept the fact that your preteen child will not act rationally and realize that you cannot win her heart with the other parent not playing fair and hope that in time the child see the error of their ways.  Which means of course you must now accept a reduced custody arrangement with a increased Child Support.  This is in essence what has happened to me.

  12. 12
    Barbara

    Treifalicious

    I also agree with the first commenter [AMT] who mentioned that her mother introduced her to a boyfriend and them got engaged married and moved in within 6 months. The kid is thinking, “who the hell isn’t his complete stranger moving into my house?”

    You missed the rest of the AMT’s comment and are overlooking the fact that her mother’s boyfriend moved in after 6 months, which is not what happened in this case. As AMT said:

    18 months is plenty of time, and now he needs to stand up to her and let her know that Sonja is a part of the family now. Period.

    Nissa

    It’s unreasonable to ask his child to give more of a commitment to the girlfriend, than the boyfriend in question does.

    Excellent point. Knowing what I know now, I can’t see holding out for hope beyond 18 months with a man who hasn’t decided to make me a priority. I’ve never been in the OP’s situation but well before writing this letter to Evan seemed like a good idea, I’d hope I would have decided I’m worth holding out for a man who doesn’t need me to gently encourage him to value me and clearly let his child know that he does.

    KK

    The other part that she’s bothered by with him giving all his attention to his kids when she’s there, she’s going to either have to accept or move on. 

    The way things stand right now, she’d be a fool to move forward with marriage and children.

    I agree. If I were her, I’d move on. His children wouldn’t have to accept me but him choosing to exclude and ignore me in their presence would be a deal breaker because it’s a big red flag that says “You are not that important to me.”

  13. 13
    Mrs Happy

    1. She is 12.

    She gets to invite the friends and family she wants there, to her birthday party.

    It’s her party.

     

    2. Talk with your boyfriend and ask his intentions re remarrying and having more children. You have little time to waste, you’re 38.

    1. 13.1
      Barbara

      Mrs Happy

      She is 12. She gets to invite the friends and family she wants there, to her birthday party.

      Not as my child in my home when I’m providing your and your party’s food and shelter. As your parent, it’s my job to teach you–by example and through direct instruction– how to be a considerate human being. So, no, you do not get to exclude my special friend, who we both have known for over a year and who has treated you with kindness (I assume), from your birthday party. Doing so would be inconsiderate and insensitive and would hurt her feelings and we don’t behave that way in our family.

      If the parents can’t unite about this, rather than have a triagulated battle over it, the father can simply not attend the party and have a Dad-and-me-only birthday celebration with his daughter. She gets his undivided attention and the OP doesnt have to be the invisible girlfriend at a party with her boyfriend’s family,

       

      The OP s real problem is that she isn’t really special to the man she has been with for 18 months. You can’t convince or gently prod someone into genuinely treating you like they highly value you. He is treating her like he doesn’t do that. It’s time f or her to leave him

       

      1. 13.1.1
        Stacy2

        Not as my child in my home when I’m providing your and your party’s food and shelter.

         

        Really? Is this really the message you’d like to send to the kid? I suppose on some level it can be considered healthy. The underlying message here is “until you make your own money you will be pushed around by those who are stronger”. But the only logical response to that would be to assert her independence as soon as possible. Way to go if you want to drive the teen out of your life, i guess.

        As your parent, it’s my job to teach you–by example and through direct instruction– how to be a considerate human being.

        Again, may be this is a generational thing – but IMO it is much more important to allow the child to develop a healthy sense of agency. I would hope to raise a child who will not feel like she has to tolerate undesirable people in her life out of some outdated sense of etiquette or because she was guilted into it by others.

        1. Adrian

          Hi Stacy2

          I agree.

          Should not the child’s wishes be honored in “this specific” situation?

          There is a difference between deciding what is best for a child because their decisions are based upon the experiences, mentality, and emotions of a child

          And

          Just being a complete authoritarian.

        2. Barbara

          Stacy2

          Again, may be this is a generational thing – but IMO it is much more important to allow the child to develop a healthy sense of agency. I would hope to raise a child who will not feel like she has to tolerate undesirable people in her life out of some outdated sense of etiquette or because she was guilted into it by others.

          Having agency doesn’t mean you always get to have things your way. Adults realize this.

          Nothing I wrote implied guilt-tripping the child. I said it’s a parents’s job to teach children how to be a considerate human beings. That consideration or respect is two-fold–respect for self and respect for others. You can’t do one without the other.

          Self-respect doesn’t mean you get to override other people to get what you want. Nor does respecting others mean you allow others to walk all over you. Both are just the opposite–you consider your needs as well as those of others and work to create a win-win.

          Sometimes a win-win looks like a loss for the one person. Sometimes it takes time to realize a loss was really a victory. Assuming the OP’s description of the situation is accurate, in my opinion, a win for her would mean dumping her boyfriend.

          The OP’s letter provides no evidence that she is unkind to the child. I said I assume she is in fact kind. If she isn’t, the father should not be with her or allow her around his daughter at all.

        3. Stacy2

          Having agency doesn’t mean you always get to have things your way

          Eh… and wouldn’t your birthday party be obviously one of those instances where the child should get her way?? Does that really sound like an occasion for a power play? Does her dad really need to shove his girlfriend down the kid’s throat because this 38 yo woman feels so insecure and has the need (rolling my eyes) to attend? Really we’re doing it now? As an older, more mature person, the OP should recognize it is not about her at all, and being invited to this girl’s party against the birthday girl’s wishes will have nothing but negative impact on their relationship. What kind of grown woman forces herself into a kids party against the kid’s wish? It is simply pathetic. 

          You know what I would do – I would send a gift and my best wishes, and not press that issue at all and give myself a spa day. Problem solved.

          The OP’s letter provides no evidence that she is unkind to the child.

          It doesn’t matter. The child might still not want a relaitonship with her – now or ever. And this isn’t up to OP. You simply can’t force yourself on other people. I would think a grown woman would understand that.

        4. Barbara

          Stacy2

          You simply can’t force yourself on other people. I would think a grown woman would understand that.

          The OP isn’t asking to be forced upon the daughter. She’s asking the man she’s been with for 18 months not exclude her from a family function and ignore her at the family functions she does attend.

          She shouldn’t have to ask any of this. If I had her boyfriend, the fact that I thought I needed to discuss this with him would be all the proof I needed that it was time for me to exit.

        5. Barbara

          Stacy and Adrian

          Stacy: The underlying message here is “until you make your own money you will be pushed around by those who are stronger”

          Adrian: There is a difference between deciding what is best for a child because their decisions are based upon the experiences, mentality, and emotions of a child
          And
          Just being a complete authoritarian.

          Other parents may not agree with me and, at times as a parent I know I was authoritarian. However, unlike the two of you, I have raised three children, ages 18, 19, and 21.

          Here’s what I can say about my children: They stand up for themselves when people try to push them around. They’ve done this since they were young. They challenge their father and I if they think we’re wrong. They always have. We taught them to do this–to think for themselves and not to follow anyone who is doing wrong, even us. They were raised by Buddhist parents but–because we taught them to think for themselves–none of them officially practice our faith right now. In fact, they have come to their own independent conclusions about the nature of life based on their own experiences and observations and on learning views beyond what they were taught growing up. They excel in school and in every job they’ve ever had. They all worked in high school and started saving money ever since then. They all still work today while being in high school and college. When they are wrong, they admit it as soon as they realize they are.

          Everyone who knows my children tell their father and I what great young people they are. I can’t count how many teachers and other adults have said to me “I wish every child was like yours.”

          My 21 year old daughter invited me out to lunch this weekend. At one point she said: “Mom, when I look at how other parents limited their children, I see how lucky we are. You and dad never told us we couldn’t achieve something. You let us decide and supported whatever we chose to do.”

          Yes, there were times when I was authoritarian. Between my ex and I often he was the way-too-good-cop and I was the way-too-bad-cop.

          But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he and I tried to instill in our children the importance of being good people. We tried to show it in our actions and we told them directly when they were getting it wrong–or when we were.

          When all is said, being a person of good character is all that really matters. This is what I’ve always taught my children.

          I stand by my original comments when it comes to the importance of helping children develop it.

        6. Emily, the original

          Barbara and Stacy2,

          At this point, I don’t even know why this woman wants to go to the party. She knows the child doesn’t want her there.  Doesn’t that make her feel uncomfortable?

        7. Adrian

          Hi Barbara,

          So… if you were throwing a intimate get together and someone who you did not like and who none of the other guest knew and probably did not want there demanded that they be allowed to come; you would just obediently smile and accept someone else trying to force them there?

          You would smile and obediently accept someone telling you that you are wrong and that the other person’s feelings matter more than yours even though it is your event?

          After all it is for your betterment to not be negative towards another human being.

           

          I have a feeling that the answer is No. If it was your cousin’s A-hole girlfriend whom you really did not like and barely knew, I doubt you would want her at your party…

          Though I could be wrong… Perhaps you like have someone who makes you feel angry, sad, and uncomfortable at your fun events…

          You may but most people don’t.

          So why is the 12 year old different?

          Because she is a child and you feel that you are superior to her and therefore you are willing to deny her even the most basic of human rights if you feel it goes against what you see as the right way, the superior way.

          I know many things that a 12 year old child does not know however I do not wish to be so arrogant and so stubborn that I can not open myself up to the possibility that I can still learn something from them.

          Because as hard as it is to believe, even at 30 there are things that a 12 year old may know about that I do not.

          So if it is possible for me to learn something from them and be taught by them, why is it so hard to acknowledge and respect that how they feel about a person may not be something I should force them to change or just assume that their reasons are childish?

          Why should I be such a hypocrite as to get upset and feel disrespected if someone tried to force me to admit someone I did not like to my intimate event but turn right around and tell this 12 year old that she is wrong for doing the same? Telling her that this is for her own good because I know better and how I see things is more important than what she feels?

          …   …   …

          P.S. I am only simply debating the subject not you nor your character personally (If you feel that I have done so please tell me and I will apologize).

          I enjoy your post.

          However I know that there is much contention on this blog in the comments section and many times a lot of commentators focus more on being right than on debating for the purpose of understanding the other person’s side and trying to grow.

          Anyway I just want you to know that my friendly sparing of ideologies with you is not coming from a place where I assume I am right or that my way is better it’s just to learn and grow.

          Nevertheless, I know that it is easy to misinterpret tone and intention when communicating through email and text which is why normally I don’t enter in these type of discussions here.

        8. Stacy2

          She shouldn’t have to ask any of this. If I had her boyfriend, the fact that I thought I needed to discuss this with him would be all the proof I needed that it was time for me to exit.

          Except this isn’t a “family function”. This, specifically, is a kid’s bday party where the OP’s boyfriend is not the host. His daughter is. Even if the boyfriend and her mom are paying for it. The kid is the host and she gets to invite who she pleases. Further, you can’t be expected to be able to attend all family functions with your b/f. Some family functions will understandably exclude you, and it’s ok. For example it is not unheard of to invite people to a wedding without the “plus one” option (married couples would get 2 invites). If it was such a situation, would you be questioning your b/f for “allowing the bride and groom ‘exclude'” you? Would you insist on coming anyway? I doubt it. But a 12 yo is somehow different and should be run over?

          In any case. We can agree to disagree, i suppose. In my opinion, the OP’s real problem is that she is insecure about where she stands with this man after dating him for 18 months., and she’s looking at this party invite for some validation of their relationship (or lack thereof) She needs to have an adult discussion with her b/f about what is really bothering her, and leave the child out of it.

        9. KK

          Emily,

          Personally, I wouldn’t want to go either. I probably would’ve handled things a little differently than Sonja. I don’t know how long he’s been divorced, but it doesn’t appear he’s ready to be in a serious relationship that includes a girlfriend / fiancee / wife being fully involved with his kids. I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but his actions are screaming, “You are not a priority”. She seems to have willingly inserted herself into a no-win situation.

        10. Barbara

          Adrian and Stacy

          My view is the OP should dump her boyfriend. Period. That’s the sum of everything I think about her predicament and I think this is the fourth time I’ve said it. Given the information she provided in her letter, my position about this isn’t going to change no matter what argument is presented here.

        11. Emily, the original

          KK,

          I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but his actions are screaming, “You are not a priority”. She seems to have willingly inserted herself into a no-win situation.

          Yes, I agree. The boyfriend is not giving her the message that he values her and I’m sure that’s painful for her. However, she seems hell bent on shoving herself into the situation and making her presence known. I don’t think that will help her relationship with the boyfriend but in particular make her interactions with the daughter even worse.

  14. 14
    Adrian

    Ummm…

    Why has no one considered that Sonja is just a bad “possible” step mom?

    As a child growing up a few of my friends had parents who divorced and dated, and all the comments you all have made does not take into account that maybe the daughter is not lashing out or seeing Sonja as someone trying to steal her dad or replace her mom; maybe she is intelligent enough to realize that Sonja is not a good person to get along with…

    When I was young every story my friends told me as a child about difficult step parents had nothing to do with that person trying to replace the other parent and everything to do with that person trying to be either an authoritarian towards a child who views them as a stranger or someone that they realized was only nice to them to get closer to their parent, or just simply someone who they had nothing in common with.

    Or am I the only one who has heard of women (and men) that are only nice to the child so that they can get with the parent?

    If two adult strangers were thrown together and could not bond or get along we simply just say they had nothing in common but because one of the two is a 12 year old now it is somehow because she doesn’t want to see daddy with another woman…

    My last point is that Evan just did a podcast on being the difficult one in a relationship, but honestly how many difficult people realize that they are difficult?

    The commenter GoWithTheFlow use to tell some great stories about friends she had who thought they would make great girlfriends and wives-though everyone that knew them thought differently.

    Apparently GoWithTheFlow and I are the only two who know people like this…

    How many difficult people have written to people like Evan and given a version of the story that paints them as the victim and not the aggressor?

    I am know that we are very prejudice when it comes to age (though ironically we all want to look younger) but just because the girl is 12 doesn’t mean that she is not capable of discerning when someone isn’t a person that she can get along with, and maybe her reasons for not liking Sonja are justified…

    1. 14.1
      Adrian

      I actually just had a debate with some co-workers 3 days ago about children, none of them have children and it was amazing hearing some of the expectations that many non-parents have about how it will be to raise a child.

      I don’t have any children (like Sonja) but I have enjoyed taking care of and still do take care of my toddler niece and 2 toddler cousins at least 2 weekends a month all alone by myself when they come to visit and sometimes for an entire week or two-they are dropped off.

      So I may not be a parent but I do have some idea of what I am saying when it comes to children.

      My point is that Sonja is almost 40 and has never been a parent, so how much experience does she have with interacting with 12 year olds?

      If she has nieces and nephews has she ever had to take care of them without the parents around for weeks at a time or just for a few hours?

      And for those who are attacking the boyfriend or who are attacking the ex, I want to ask… How many of you would invite someone to your birthday party that you can barely speak to???

      But for some strange reason just because the girl is 12 it has to be some signs of rebellion or an attack due to fear of replacing mommy…

      It’s inconceivable to many commenters that maybe she just doesn’t want to invite a woman who she doesn’t connect with and because she knows how much her daddy cares for the woman she asked her mother to ask her dad for her. The mom in return sacrificed her own boyfriend coming to make it appear that it was a “family” thing so no boyfriend or girlfriend would be invited and not a “my daughter just doesn’t like Sonja” thing.

      1. 14.1.1
        Barbara

        Adrian

        Why has no one considered that Sonja is just a bad “possible” step mom?

        It’s always a good idea, in my opinion, to self reflect so you can see what role you’re playing in a bad situation. I’ve always discovered that, even at times in which I have been clearly wronged, sometimes my own negativity and behavior is fueling the fire or, at the very least, there is a lesson about myself–some faulty thinking I have, how I view myself and others–that I need to learn from the situation. So I definitely think Sonja should do some soul searching over her predicament.

        Even so, we only have her point of view. Logically, each person in this story has their own viewpoint and your guess, Adrian, is a valid possibility of what’s going on holistically.

        But Evan’s blog doesn’t provide the same opportunities to get multiple points of view that, say, a family counseling session could. So, since Sonja’s letter and viewpoint is the only one being presented here, the advice she received from Evan and our comments can potentially help many other people.

        1. Adrian

          Hi Barbara,

          Yes the flaw in this type of advice giving is that it is so one-sided.

          Do you think it is dangerous or at the very least debilitating? Giving advice without knowing both sides of the story can limit the person’s ability to become a quality partner in a relationship?

          I don’t mean for us the reader but for the letter writer themselves.

          As a child I once read a series of books (I can not remember the name of it now) in which the classical Disney villains had the story told from their point of view.

          The caveat was that each story gave the background to why they did what they did or thought what they thought.

          It was really amazing to me to see that someone whom I considered evil could seem like a person who was actually justified and a person who for years I considered the Disney hero could be seen as self and mean; given the ability to view both sides of the story.

          My point is Sonja my be right or maybe wrong; either way if she is wrong giving her advice that helps her justify placing the blame on the boyfriend, his ex, and his daughter will only hurt her ability to be a good girlfriend in the long run.

          This is why I take out the human in most letters and just focus on the subject.

          I have been reading Evan’s blog for over 2 years now and I have not once seen a woman  write in saying that she is the one to cause a great relationship to fail or have problems (I think I saw a male letter writer admit he was the problem once… but I am not sure).

          People mistake seeking advice with seeking validation.

        2. Barbara

          Adrian

          Yes the flaw in this type of advice giving is that it is so one-sided.

          People mistake seeking advice with seeking validation.

          To me, the value in the letters Evan shares here doesn’t lie in the fact that they are honest depictions of a particular situation or even in the fact that the stories are true. They could all be fiction.

          The value of the letters we read here lies in the fact that they provide stepping off points for Evan’s advice and the discussion that ensues. Countless readers have been helped just by finding this blog and Evan’s advice, books, and opportunities for coaching. That’s what’s relevant, I think, not the point of view being presented in a particular letter.

      2. 14.1.2
        Emily, the original

        Adrian,

        It’s inconceivable to many commenters that maybe she just doesn’t want to invite a woman who she doesn’t connect with

        Very good point. I have had friends over the years who had great relationships with their stepparents, sometimes even better than the one they had with their biological parents. I personally had a horrible one with my stepmother. I think a vast majority of stepparent/stepchild relationships are rooted in civility and tolerance. Were something to happen to the biological parent, their interactions would cease to exist. At the end of the day, it’s a forced relationship in a lot of cases.

      3. 14.1.3
        GoWiththeFlow

        Adrian,

        Thank you for bringing up this point.  I have been on both side of this.  As an adult who was dating a man who was unwilling to integrate me into the life he shared with his kids, and as a teenager who’s Dad brought home a few girlfriends.

        A few points:

        A man (or a woman for that matter) who does not work to slowly integrate you into his children’s life after you become an exclusive we-have-a-future-together couple is not a person who should be in a relationship period, no matter what nice words come out of their mouth.  However, I don’t think the OPs boyfriend is this type of man.  The OP says that she is present when he has his kids around, so he is including her in the everyday ins and outs on his life.  (More later about her complaints that boyfriend and the kids are focused on each other during these times.)

        When you are a kid who’s parent is dating, it will always feel a little weird when mom are dad gets seriously involved with someone, even when you really like the other person.  And if you don’t connect with or like the person, it’s not a good time.  Heck, I know adults who have had huge negative emotions to their parent having a SO.  Even though they rationally wanted their mom or dad to be happy and the parents divorced or passed away a long time ago these feelings still welled up in them.  To expect a child who is dependent upon his or her parent for an emotional and physical safety zone, and who is not fully cognitively developed to do better than 30 and 40 year old adults managing fears and negative emotions is unreasonable.

        Now, the first thing that came to mind when I finished reading the OP’s letter is that is why is she attaching so much importance to ONE event on ONE day?  If she is seeing her boyfriend most days and weekends, including the times he has his kids, he is doing a good job of integrating their lives.  Yes he made a decision for short term peace..  The thing is, it’s hardly guaranteed that anything positive at all would have come out of her and her boyfriend forcing the issue of his girlfriend attending the party.  What would have been accomplished that would have been so awesome?  A tense birthday party?  An argument with the ex or the teen?  I don’t know many parents out there who would not have done exactly what the dad did in this situation.  He was between a rock and a hard place.

        As far as the OPs complaint that dad and the kids are focused on each other during his time with them–that’s a good thing!  If you have children with this man he will be an involved and emotionally engaged dad.  Becoming a loving blended family takes time, usually years.  You can’t force it.  Be a low-key relaxed and supportive adult, and they will come to you.  Even in nuclear families, it isn’t uncommon for a child to ignore or push away from one parent or the other at certain points during their childhood.  The OP should examine what her expectations have been about rapidly forming a blended family and question if they are reality based and reasonable.

        Yes it is disappointing for Sonja that she did not get to attend the party.  But this hardly deserves a relationship death penalty.  Her boyfriend was put in a tough spot and she needs to understand that, and also understand that his kids will have mixed feelings about anyone their dad dates (mom’s bf was excluded too) and not try and take it so personally.  It takes time to build a bond with a child.

  15. 15
    Lia

    My sister married a man 14 years ago. He had joint custody of daughter and a son. His daughter was 12 years old at the time and for the first 2 years of their marriage his daughter would not even acknowledge that my sister existed. My sister’s husband wanted to confront his daughter and force her to acknowledge his wife. My sister told her husband not to do that. She told him that his daughter was doing the best that she could and to let her adjust at her own pace. For two years my sister’s stepdaughter wouldn’t look at her, speak to her, or even refer to her when she spoke to her father. My sister is very patient and did not let it bother her. Slowly the girl started to come around until they actually became friends and her stepdaughter loved her an wanted to spend time with her. The marriage ended six years ago but my sister still refers to her as her stepdaughter and they are still close. In fact she sees my sister more than she does her own father and she calls her for dating advice and shares things with my sister that she NEVER would share with either of her parents. I know this is not the norm, but my sister’s patience and understanding has given her a strong and loving relationship with a truly remarkable young woman.

    1. 15.1
      Barbara

      Lia

      My sister’s husband wanted to confront his daughter and force her to acknowledge his wife. My sister told her husband not to do that.

      If the OP’s boyfriend treated her like your brother-in-law treated your sister, we wouldn’t be discussing the OP’s letter at all because she wouldn’t have felt the need to write it.

  16. 16
    KK

    Sonja said, “My boyfriend of 18 months has his 12-yr-old daughter’s birthday this weekend. She doesn’t want me to attend. I wasn’t invited last year either (because it was at his ex’s home). I told him last year that if we are to move in together and have more children together, we need to share all family events. He and I need to build that up and teach the kids how to be together”.

    The daughter’s (or the mother’s) wishes were honored a year ago. At that point, they had only been dating 6 months. Understandable. From what she says here, it appears they were already pretty serious because she clearly stated she had a conversation with him about moving in together and what she expected from that point forward. We don’t know when he introduced his children to his girlfriend, but I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that they had known her at least a few months (before last year’s birthday) otherwise why would she have had this conversation with him. (Side note: Later, she mentions “his kids” but she never mentions being excluded from any other children’s birthday parties. Odd).

    To me, this means his child(ren) have had more than an entire year to get used to the fact that dad has a girlfriend. Mom has a boyfriend too. At what point, is it doing more damage to coddle his child(ren) than it is to gently encourage them to accept reality? This is a 12 year old’s birthday party. I doubt they had a sit down dinner. They probably had a group of her friends over and had some sort of activity / entertainment for the kids, while the adults talked amongst themselves. So, what does it matter if there are two extra adults there?

  17. 17
    Adrian

    Hello Barbara and KK,

    Just so I am clearly understanding both of you.

    You two are advising Sonja to dump a man who she calls a great boyfriend NOT because of his actions but because of his daughters???

    Because he is refusing to FORCE a child to do something that amounts to an insignificant event for the relationship?

    364 days out of the year Sonja said this man is great but because of one day (which he doesn’t have full control over) You both want her to dump him???

    99% of the good things he does for her doesn’t matter, this one thing (which he only has 1/3 control over) is a sign that he doesn’t view her as a priority???

    …   …   …

    Anyway this will be my last comment on this subject.

    I come to this site to learn not to debate so thank you both for showing me another side to how women think and that if a man doesn’t do everything 100% right a woman will dump him… though I don’t see how forcing another human to do something they don’t want to is right.

    By the way I just re-read Evan’s response so he apparently agrees with you both. He said the child is an inmate and the boyfriend should take his balls back.

    So I guess some people are okay with forcing a person who is in a powerless position to do things against their wishes… even if it is a trivial matter like even if it is as simple of a matter like bullying someone to allow a person they don’t like into THEIR own private event .

    1. 17.1
      KK

      Hi Adrian,

      “You two are advising Sonja to dump a man who she calls a great boyfriend NOT because of his actions but because of his daughters???”

      No, because of HIS actions.

      Try to put yourself in Sonja’s shoes. You meet someone and the relationship is great and moves very fast. She’s 38, divorced with children, appears to be madly in love with you, wants to marry you, and have more children. You’re completely onboard. She introduces you to her kids and they’re polite but standoffish. You’re very understanding, thinking that once they get to know you, they’ll eventually warm up. Her daughter’s birthday comes up and she tells you that the party is at her exhusband’s house and that it would be best if you didn’t go. After all, the kids don’t know you that well yet. You understand but your feelings are a little hurt and you tell her later, “We’ve been talking marriage and kids, I really feel like I should be included in family events in the future if we’re going to be a family”. She completely agrees with you. (Btw, I know this might not be YOUR reaction, but can you see how Sonja sees it this way?) Fast forward. You’re spending lots of time at your girlfriend’s house, even when her kids are there. You’re largely excluded while her kids are there. You’re conflicted because you want to be included. These are your future step children after all, but you don’t want to make a big deal about it. Your girlfriend isn’t going out of her way to encourage a relationship between you and her kids. She could say, “Lets go to Adrian’s house. He has a really cool game room, swimming pool, etc”. She could say, “I need to run to the store. Adrian wants to make cookies with y’all”. She could put her arm around you or give you a kiss on the cheek, but instead you’re treated like you’re invisible. Next thing you know, she tells you she’s planning to have her daughter’s birthday party at her house (the one you weren’t invited to last year). You’re looking forward to it. You help her plan it, go to the party store for decorations, buy some birthday presents. The Tuesday before the party, she tells you you’re no longer invited. You’re upset. You start thinking about how you’ve been excluded when her children are around. You start thinking about the time she told you that her ex husband, who’s never met you, doesn’t like you. You’re wondering what’s going on and feeling like she isn’t as ALL IN as she claims to be.

      1. 17.1.1
        Yet Another Guy

        @KK

        Adrian is does not get it.   Like many people with school-age children, this man is not truly available for a committed relationship.  He should not be dating.  A parent endures a primary relationship being between his/her child and his/her spouse because he/she has a paternal bond with the child.   A love interest who is not a child’s parent is not going to take a back seat because that bond does not exist.  That is why I “next” women who lead-off with “my children always come first” in their profiles.  These women are not truly available to date.  They want a relationship of convenience that fits their child-centered existence.   These women need to wait until their children are less dependent to date.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          *Adrian does not get it.

        2. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          These women need to wait until their children are less dependent to date.

          There are some women who will always put their kids first, whether the kids are 10 years old or 40 years old. I have a co-worker like this. Her priorities are her daughter, the dog and what she’s making for dinner. She barely mentions the husband. I would not want to date anyone who was calling his adult children several times a day.

    2. 17.2
      Barbara

      Adrian

      You recently asked me some of the things a man could do to make me feel like he was protecting me. One of the answers I gave was:

      [I]n public, be my biggest defender and advocate.”

      The boyfriend does the opposite of that with the OP.

      If the OP and her boyfriend had only been a couple for a little while–Evan mentioned “six months. Maybe even one year,” for instance–I could see the situation the OP describes as not being such a big deal. But they’ve been together a year and a half and are talking about marriage and having children together.

      The OP is 38. Her window of opportunity for becoming a mother is quickly shrinking. Assuming she wants to be married when she does it, I suggest she dump her boyfriend and find a potential husband who would value her enough to protect her AND their children at all times. This one has shown that protecting her isn’t something he’s good at.

      1. 17.2.1
        KK

        Hi Barbara,

        “Adrian, You recently asked me some of the things a man could do to make me feel like he was protecting me”.

        Good point. I had forgotten about that conversation. Excellent example.

  18. 18
    Barbara

    Adrian 

    I think you’re missing the point of why Evan, KK, and I think the OP should leave her boyfriend. If you really are interested in understanding how some women think, I suggest you reread Evan’s response and the comments of KK and I in which we state that the OP should dump her boyfriend and try to understand our rational.

    Our views have everything to do with how the boyfriend is treating the OP. You are focused on the daughter in this letter. But she is not the focus of our responses. The OP and her boyfriend are–the two people the OP’s letter is centered around.

    On the other hand, if you simply want to debate and consider whether or not the daughter should invite the OP to her party, that’s your perogative. I just don’t think doing that will provide you with information you can use to improve your relationships with women, if that’s something you’d like to do.

  19. 19
    JK

    I was surprised at Evan’s response. 18 months is long enough for a teenager to accept you as their Dad’s significant other and extend a courtesy invite to a birthday event. If they had only dated 3-6 months I’d feel different – if I were her I’d start weighing my pro’s and cons as to the relationship as a whole. Feeling like an outsider every other weekend can’t be much fun.

  20. 20
    Stacy

    @Barbara

    YES to everything you said.  I agree that there are some aspects of this mindset that is cultural (yes, I am black).:)

    You said, “In my home, I taught our children that all people are equal but our home was not a democracy. Dad and I were in charge.”

    Yes, yes, and YES.

    When that child grows up, he or she has to get a job and has to listen to a boss and other modes of authority where you either succumb to the rules or find another job/school, etc.  As long as there is no violation of law or your personal values, there are things you have to decide to accept in reverence to that authority. One does not always get her way in life and kids need to understand that.

  21. 21
    Morris

    I’m really not getting a lot of these comments. A girl is having a bday(to become a teenager at that) and it’s not suppose to be her special day? It’s not like the OP stated that they never spend time together. For all we know they have dinners and outing together frequently. But the OP wants more. The OP states “we need to share all family events”.

     

    She doesn’t live with the guy so it’s not like they are asking her to not be at the house where they are having a party. She’s not even engaged. I think her demands that she be included in a young girls bday even if it will ruin the girls day is ridiculous. It’s her day! Not a regular day.

  22. 22
    BEE

    For the first time, Evan, I do not agree with you.
    As a divorced mom of 2 teenagers, I think the Dad is absolutely right in every respect, whereas the OP is wrong and selfish. What drives her is “wanting to feel included”, which is more a matter of self confidence than of empathy, love or caring for the father or child.
    Why does she want to be in a birthday party of a child who does not specifically love her or want her on her special day? Why would she want to make this an artificial awkward “show” which is all intended to “prove” that she has the status of “the girlfriend”?
    Evan, I believe that releationships take TIME. She is with this man 18 months. They are NOT MARRIED yet and if this is her attitude, I am not sure they will be. IF and when they do tie the knot, AND bring another child into this world – this would take at least another 10 months? Perhaps then, as a family, it would be more appropriate to become part of this family. But now, this is just a promise to a family – which might evaporate without the existence of real love, empathy or understanding, especially to little children who cannot have any say about the major things in their lives, so at least let them celebrate their birthday with their choice of guests.

  23. 23
    Givemeabreak

    Proceed with caution.  This has much bigger implications than a 12 year olds birthday party.  When does it become important that she be included in the life of her boyfriend?  When does the 12 year old stop calling the shots?  Where in the world did that child ever get the idea that she is the one that is making the rules for everyone else to follow?  Do they get engaged, and then she is told that she does not matter as much as his daughter until they are married?  Do they get married, and then she is told that she doesn’t matter as much as his daughter until they have a child of their own, and so on?  Unless the girlfriend is happy playing this game for the rest of her life, i suggest she start dating a man who actually has a spine.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t love his daughter, but love does not mean playing by any whim this kid happens to come up with.  This is why so many women are hesitant to date men with younger children.

  24. 24
    Rampiance

    The biggest problem I see here is the scarcity of celebration time. Birthdays come around only once per year, but birthday parties happen as often as people want them. If parties are important to Sonja, Sonja could throw a sweet little party for the 12-year-old. If she’s not a party-thrower, she could cater one. Or do a birthday-themed outing.

    Does Sonja want something other than celebrating the solar event with the child? Seems that way to me. It makes a lot of sense, when ex-spouse-parents are at odds, to have separate celebrations to mark special events. Maybe it turns out that every outing with the dad is a celebration because those are the only times he gets to have that kind of time not interfered with or overlaid by his ex-spouse. Well, so be it.

    I bet the dad would have been fine if Sonja carved out 3 minutes of his weekend following the birthday party so Sonja could present a sweet gift and note with her heartfelt thoughts. That’s one way to build a relationship with a 12-year-old, instead of expecting a relationship to be handed over like an obligation.

  25. 25
    Robert

    The only thing tuff here is that this woman has allowed it to go on for so long. Any adult who allows a child to dictate in such a fashion is teaching that child that dysfunctional relationships are normal. The marriage is over with, time to move on. I did this for my son by finding an old copy of “The Courtship Of Eddy’s Father”. He was just nine. Over time I have taught him that a person may date many people before finding just the right one for a variety of reasons. He’s learning how adults function and that’s a good thing.

    I agree with Stacy2 here as well, but only because a child with a sense of entitlement this great is going to be a pain in the ass–my eldest was because of his mother. My number two and four children were not/are not. My son lives with me full time. As did his sister.

    Frankly, id run from this situation. Very unhealthy and it’s likely. It going to get any better.

  26. 26
    Robert

    * “likely not going to get any better”

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