From the “this can’t really be solved” files and the “I had a few free hours let’s knock some blog posts OUT” files. Hi!
Dear Captain Awkward,
I am having an issue with my boyfriend because he is having trouble deciding who he wants to work on a relationship with, me or his daughters mother.
My boyfriend has a 7 year old daughter her mother is coming back into the picture. She claims she wants to clean up her life from drugs and be back in their life. He told me she was degrading, flakey, cheating, and manipulative towards him. She would make plans to see her daughter and rarely sticks to them because she had been high. She had left my boyfriend and got pregnant, that man went to jail. She went back to my boyfriend and she did this up and back a couple times. Now she doesn’t talk to her sons father and wants to work things out with my boyfriend. He feels loyalty to her because it’s his daughters mother. With us in the begining he moved fast, i met his daughter the first few days of after I met him. He talked futures together and making plans for us, wanting to take our relationship as far as it could go. We have only been together 3 months but we spent much time together, got along great, I grew very fond of his daughter and she likes me. Recent weeks he has become distant from me, less talking, etc. Especially now his daughters mother is becoming more involved recently. He tells me he thinks what he and I have is a good thing. And he really likes me but now he is confused about whether working things out with her and being a “family” for their daughter is the right thing to do. Or if he wants to stay with me and move forward. It’s like he did a complete 180.
I honestly have no clue how to react or respond, I need help on what I should do or think.
Thank you from Baby Momma Drama
Your letter (and your sign-off and email subject line) set your boyfriend’s ex up as The Problem. If only she would go back where she’s been all this time, everything would be perfect, right?
I’m not making out with your boyfriend or smelling his sexy neck or listening to his nice plans for the future or hanging out with his adorable daughter, so from my safe distance outside the high of new romance, I see a dude who moved very quickly to sell you on a long-term, serious relationship when he barely knew you. I’m sure you are a very lovely person, but a single dad introducing his young daughter to a new partner right away and talking so much about serious long-term plans for the future out of the gate sends up a red flag to me. Not a “here be a bad person” flag, necessarily, but a flag of someone who doesn’t think all the way through his decisions before acting on feelings. The smart single parents I know take a little time before they bring dating partners around their kids, both to make sure the new partner is a safe person and so as to not mess too much with the child’s expectations until the know for sure that the relationship is going somewhere. I know you view his ex as the source of the “drama” in your partner’s life, but someone who vacillates between “I love you and see a future with you/come be in my life always meet my daughter you’ll love each other” and “Hrmmm I don’t know I might try to make things work out with this other lady (while also telling you all about how terrible she is)” is bringing the drama plenty on his own. If you dropped the somewhat offensive term “baby momma drama” and renamed the situation as “dating a hot but confusing dude who oversells me on his feelings and then does a complete 180 when his ex comes back into the picture three months in” maybe this would start to look different to you.
I think the shortest route to your well-being and happiness is not necessarily the shortest route to a long-term relationship with this particular man. That route starts with, “Boyfriend, I will miss you and Daughter so very much, but obviously you need some space to think about what is best for you and your family, and I can’t date you right now if you are seriously thinking about a romantic relationship with someone else. I don’t do love triangles. If in a few months you decide you want to try again, free and clear, give me a call and we’ll see where we’re both at. For now, let’s make a clean break while we still like each other.”
It ends with you walking out the door and NOT making yourself available for shoulder-crying, sounding-boarding, flirty texts, jealousy games, free babysitting, getting your hopes up, and furtive passionate breakup/makeup/I MISS YOU sex while he figures out what he wants. He can try again with his ex. He can date you. He cannot do both, because you do not do love triangles, because y’all are not sexy vampires or dystopian teenagers.
One of two things is going to happen. He is going to realize “I am being a dumbass and losing a good person from my life because I cannot let go of a dysfunctional relationship from seven years ago. I am enough family for my daughter and I don’t have to play house with a partner who is not dependable or nice to me to give my daughter the illusion of a normal family” and run after you. Or he is going to play out a big pile of unfinished business with his ex until they either work it out or he gets her all the way out of his system. That second scenario can take years to resolve. You sticking around in the hopes of “winning” this or “proving” to him that you are a better partner is just going to wear you down in the meantime. You are probably objectively the better fit for his current life, but “fairness” and “being right about stuff” doesn’t undo the history or ties or ideas about what a family is that he has with ex. Him being unsure about what he wants doesn’t make him a bad person, and you Nope-ing out of there doesn’t make you a bad person, just, all you can do is choose yourself. Believe his confusing behavior and assign him full credit in the play he is acting out. Disengage from someone who is disengaging from you. If all else fails, pretend your good friend was coming to you for advice about this, and give yourself the “Hey, that sucks and I realize you really care about him and his daughter, but you deserve the full attention and loyalty of your boyfriend and not this U-turn bullshit” that you would tell your best friend. Grieve for the lost good feelings and possibility and be really nice to yourself.