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Ex-etiquette: Woman frustrated with boyfriend’s child

Jann Blackstone

Q: My boyfriend has a 2-year-old child and I have no kids of my own. Things started off wonderfully. She visits every Sunday and every other weekend she spends the night Saturday to Sunday. I love his child very much, but there are sometimes I do not want her around. She can be very defiant and frustrating and insists on sleeping in our room. This makes me mad at her because I feel like it interrupts intimate time that my boyfriend and I could be having if she wasn’t there. During the week, we have very little time for ourselves. I’ve been getting upset when he gives in to her demands and I want nothing to do with his horrible ex. I feel like a monster and I don’t know how to stop these feelings of frustration and resentment toward the ex and our child.

A: If she was “our child” it would be doubtful you would resent her for wanting to be with you. As a result, you don’t understand why your boyfriend would choose to be with his child when he could have intimate time with you — you probably feel rejected and this is possibly at the root of your frustration and resentment. How you cope starts with better communication with your boyfriend about his parenting expectations — and education. Talk to your boyfriend about how involved he expects you to be? How involved do you expect to be?

Since you don’t have children, consider taking an “ages and stages” parenting class so you (and possibly your boyfriend) can see that this 2-year-old is acting completely age appropriate.

Remember transitions are difficult for young children, especially if there is no continuity from house to house. It upsets their schedule and they act out when their expectations are not being met. If this child sleeps with Mommy at Mommy’s house, then she expects to sleep with Daddy at Daddy’s house. She’s looking for comfort and continuity. Again, a reason for mom and dad to be on the same page — the best interest of the child.

Let’s address your resentment: Wanting intimate time with your boyfriend is understandable and human — but you’re with a man with a child and that should be his first priority. Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 1, is “put the children first.” If he acted differently, that would be cause for concern. He’s only with his child two nights a month and a day visit here and there. You have between five and six days a week with him. Make your intimate time be when the baby isn’t around. If you don’t want to, you shouldn’t be with a man who has children.

Finally, you may not want to talk to his “horrible ex,” but don’t make it difficult for him. He should talk to her. Research tells us the less conflict after a break-up, the better adjusted the children. Be the girlfriend who advocates time for Dad and baby and you will be around for a long time. Make him choose and you will lose.

Dr. Jann Blackstone specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation.