I'm dating a divorced dad. I realize his kid is always and rightfully going to be his top priority, but is he going too far? I feel like he's spoiling her and creating a situation in which I will get excluded in the same way his ex-wife was excluded.
posted by ceiba to human relations (84 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 51. He's 50 and has been separated for a year, divorced for 9 months. I've never had kids and I had an extremely independent childhood, which probably affects my ability to judge whether a kid is being excessively coddled.
We've been dating for 6 months. He wants me to eventually move in with him and his daughter. His daughter is about to turn 10 and is smart, fun to be around, and seemingly well adjusted.
He has weekend custody; he's trying to reverse this and get weekday custody, which could happen in a month. I think this could end our relationship. Am I overreacting?
What concerns me:
- The daughter won't sleep alone. She must sleep in the bed with her dad, or if she sleeps in her own bed, she requires her dad to sleep in the same room in the hammock. The dad thinks this will pass but he continues to indulge it, never requiring her to sleep alone and, in my worried mind, setting up the expectation that she will have the power to determine where he sleeps. (I don't spend the night at his house when she's there. I'm currently "Dad's special friend.")
- More often than not, her dad forgets promises made to me when he's spending time with her. He says (proudly) that her need for attention is so overwhelming that he's unable to remember anything else. For example, he'll say, "I'll call you at 2 to see if you can join us at the zoo," and he doesn't call. If I call him, he often says their plans changed and he'll call me the next day about some other plan, and he won't call then, either. This has happened a depressing number of times. As a result, I've learned to not believe any promise he makes if it's supposed to happen when his daughter is present.
- When I'm with them, she is such a priority for his attention that I feel like I don't exist. Example: we're walking along, her dad starts talking to me, she quickly says "Papá!" and he immediately stops mid-sentence and attends to her, when it's clearly no emergency. He has never said, "Wait a minute, I'm talking to Ceiba."
- He has two adult daughters in addition to the young one. He says he gave them the same attention as he gives the young one. He says that his daughters preferred him and disrespected their mother, calling her "stupid" and refusing to listen to her, even though he scolded them for it. He says she eventually stopped participating in family things. She left him alleging psychological abuse.
I can see how his ex might have felt marginalized by his need to be the doting dad, everyone's favorite uncle, and, frankly, the center of attention, always impressing others with his generosity and wisdom. He appears to have a strong need to be admired. My gut reaction to our current dynamic with his daughter is to withdraw, just like the ex did. I feel like there's no room for me.
The adult daughters are suing him for maintenance, which they can do here. His theory is that he spoiled them and then too abruptly pushed them to get jobs.
I'm managing the weekend custody okay. I make my own plans and expect nothing from him from Friday night through Monday. (He often needs Monday to recover from the weekend.)
Today I asked how weekday custody would work. He described what he considered a typical weekday. He thought he was describing an independent kid, but it sounded to me like he would have no time in which he wasn't focused on supervising, driving, feeding, or entertaining his daughter, except during the 5 hours in which she would be at school and I would be working. He's home all day and lives on rental income.
Considering the way they've stretched weekend custody because the daughter prefers the dad, I suspect that weekday custody would start Sunday night and end Saturday morning.
We've talked before about my feeling like I'm a low priority, but nothing has changed except that I've lowered my expectations. Today I finally said that if I continue to feel marginalized, our relationship won't survive weekday custody, much less turn into the live-in arrangement that he wants.
I'd like to see him do things now to start getting his daughter to sleep alone and to be able to occasionally do things herself, though I haven't made this request directly, because I don't think I have the right to do it. Or do I?
Right now, he wants me to continue to wait. First, I'm supposed to wait another month to see if he wins weekday custody. Then, I'm supposed to wait an additional unspecified time to see how that works out.
Despite the lawsuit from his adult daughters, my concerns about our relationship, his wife's abandonment, and his statement today that he had no friends of his own because he focused all his energy on his daughters, he has never said that he's planning to change anything in how he treats his current daughter. My sense is that he needs the adoration of his daughter and the respect of others that he gets for being such a famously doting dad, and he believes he's doing the right thing. And maybe he is.
Is there anything else can I say or do? Or is this just how it is when you date someone with a kid? They're the parent that they're going to be, and you have to accept it or walk?