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hopeful5141's avatar

Boyfriend thinks he's cheating on his children with me?

Asked by hopeful5141 (418 points ) January 2nd, 2013

In his marriage my boyfriend and his wife had no emotional or physical connection for many years. The kisses and the snuggles all came from his children. His children are teenagers wanting to grow up, and this makes my boyfriend sad. Also, he informed me that now that his adult conversations and affections come from me, he feels as though he’s “cheating” on his children. He is not unaffectionate with his kids, but they are growing up and away not wanting to be kissed or conversant. Is this feeling of obtaining the appropriate love and discussion with me as “cheating” something that he can get over. He admits that his kids did occupy an unhealthy role in his life of being literally everything as he had no relationship with their mother. Have any of you struggled with this or have any ideas how to handle this situation?

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28 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’ll reply because I was in your boyfriend’s situation while my kids were growing up. My ex and I had divorced when the kids were young, and we had done quite well with joint custody. As I began to date again, and in some cases got very serious with a potential spouse, I always had a nagging feeling of spending time with <her> and not with my kids, who I have always said were my first responsibility.

At one point, it came down to a “me or the kids” ultimatum from the woman I was pretty serious with. (The kids were about 12–14 at the time). Of course, I chose the kids. That’s simply not a choice that a decent woman should ever ask a man to make.

So my suggestion: Understand who he is and how he values his children. (You wouldn’t want him if he abandoned them, would you?)

And absolutely don’t require him to make a choice. Because you will lose.

hopeful5141's avatar

To add to what I had written, I am not expecting my boyfriend to choose between me and his kids, but it worries me that he views having affection and discussion with me as “cheating.” His kids are growing up and away, and that makes him sad. He’s happy to have the things in our relationship that he did not have with their mother, but he feels guilty now deriving the things that he should from an adult relationship from me rather than his children. Basically, his kids were both his adult and child relationship, and not that he has me, he feels guilty just being a parent with his kids, and he feels sad that his children are growing up and away from wanting to be around him as much as they used to want.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It sounds very sad. My mom and I had adult conversations because she wasn’t married so I kind of get it, but he must also realize that children and teens need other children and teens, in order to really get to ‘live’.

If mom or dad’s talking about politics or something instead of music and relationships, then they miss out on being young and silly. I loved being there for my mom but I would have rather waiting until later in life to start discussing world affairs, I felt a little robbed of my youth and my naivete at a young age because of ‘adult’ conversations.

The healthy thing to do here in my opinion is for him to have age-appropriate conversations with the children and you, and to be really cognizant of boundaries and start the process of letting them grow up with normal parental involvement. Everyone says you can’t be your kids best friends and still parent well, and I tend to agree so better sooner than later that he starts establishing himself as the ‘parent’. Growing up and away is what kids do.

*The love and affection and cheating verbage disturbs me a little though.

Shippy's avatar

Perhaps he would feel less like this if you all spent more time together? Got to know each other. Perhaps he feels guilty at being happy again. I assume he left his wife.

Judi's avatar

This can be a hard time in a relationship. Blended families, even when only one party brings children to the relationship can be difficult to navigate. Depending on the maturity of his kids, if they sense his guilty feelings they could use that to manipulate him in the future. Not on purpose, just normal adolescent self interest. That could get in the middle of your relationship. (I was the one who brought the kids into my relationship and we had some really tough times because of this. )
If your relationship looks like its serious and going somewhere I would strongly suggest you get couples counseling in order to help you plan together how you will navigate this in the best interest of the children and your relationship.

hopeful5141's avatar

No, break up was mutual. They both had for many years had not physical or emotional connection.

I agree, letting the kids be kids is important. He does. The problem seems to be that he’s no longer getting his happiness only from them.

Agreed, we should try to do things together, butI do fear that given these feelings of already being disloyal to his children that the cards would be rather stacked against me until he has his feelings sorted.

hopeful5141's avatar

I am a parent, and I understand loving and protecting children, but he’s concerned he’s leaving his children when they spend time with their mother. We only share time when the children are not with him, but he still has this sense of being disloyal.

Thank you, thank you for all of your advice. I need it!

Coloma's avatar

Most parents go through a phase of having to let go. It is normal and natural.
My daughter is 25 now and her dad and I divorced when she was 15.
She was my only child and I was a very devoted mom and then, practically overnight. she was growing up, spending a lot of time at her dads and pulling away. It was rough for a few years as I adjusted to letting her go her own way.

Now we are best friends again but the years between 16 and 19 were rough.
All transitional times are difficult, but your boyfriend needs to learn to accept the inevitable and adjust. Let him know that the day will come where everything will come full circle.
Relationships with your adult kids are so rewarding!

bookish1's avatar

Hey, welcome to Fluther, @hopeful5141. I have no experience on the relationship side of this question, but as a former child, I do find it disturbing that he considers his relationship with his children as a bond that one can “cheat” on…
Perhaps he fears being happy after so many years of unhappiness? He feels like he does not deserve it, or something must be wrong, so he is creating more problems for himself.

hopeful5141's avatar

Thanks of the kind welcome, and helpful responses. I am most appreciative hearing from all sides of the issue. It truly helps!

Judi's avatar

@bookish1, that made red flags go off in my head too but thought maybe I was just crazy.
@hopeful5141, how old are your kids?

Coloma's avatar

Well…maybe “cheating” really translates to feeling he is somehow betraying their affections by being in a new relationship. Maybe just a less than perfectly articulate expression of his feelings. I didn’t perceive it to mean something unsavory, more just that he feels divided between his old affections towards his kids and his new relationship.

Shippy's avatar

I used to get this feeling with my ailing parents, I felt bad if I wasn’t there on a weekend, or I had sidestepped them for a moment.

I feel its a guilt thing, but I could be wrong. Just a gut feel.

marinelife's avatar

Your boyfriend needs a therapist.

hopeful5141's avatar

I think it is definitely a case of now sharing affections which were directed solely towards his kids. His children have not expressed any issues, so it really is in his mind. My child is 15 and his are 14 and 16 years old.

No worries, I did not think that any of you had applied the unsavory connotation to the term “cheating.” I included the word because it was what he used.

I appreciate all of the thoughts that you all have so generously shared. The situation makes me anxious because I can see that it could be divisive.

hopeful5141's avatar

What kind of therapy, Marinelife? Solo, couples????

SuperMouse's avatar

Hello @hopeful5141 and welcome to Fluther!

You don’t say how old his kids are (unless it is somewhere and I missed it), but assuming they are in their upper teens, the natural course of things is for him to start the process of letting go of his kids and letting them grow up. At this point it sounds like he might have a co-dependent relationship with them which is not healthy for anyone.

My husband was a single father to his three children who were all grown up (20, 22, 24) by the time we met. Because of his and their situations, he was very dedicated to his children and had made it clear to every woman he had dated to that point that his kids came first. Period. He definitely had the feeling that when he was with me, he was taking from his children. Slowly but surely and with the help of an awesome therapist (single and couples therapy), he renegotiated his relationships with his kids. They are thriving, going out on their own and starting their lives. It was challenging for both of us and for his kids but it has turned out great for all involved. He had to set his boundaries and stand by them. The key for us was that he knew it was time to do this and even though it was tough he forced himself. I think that is going to have to be the key for your man, he has to decide that renegotiating his relationship with the kids is what is best for all involved then he has to commit to doing so.

There wasn’t much love in my first marriage, and like your husband, I found myself giving all of my affection to my kids. Since I have remarried I have had to get over the feeling that when I am loving my husband I am taking love away from my kids. It took me a while to understand that modeling a loving healthy grown-up relationship for them is not only not hurting them, it is a gift. It took some time for me to understand that but I finally got there and I know my marriage is healthier for it and my kids are lucky to see true love in action every single day.

So my advice is talk to him, just keep talking and communicating. See a therapist to help navigate the changes. Stay dedicated to each other, present a united front to the kids, keep working and you’ll get through this. Good luck to you.

hopeful5141's avatar

I cannot express enough gratitude to all of you for offering advice and suggestions. I think there is this mix of issues of sadness of his children growing up and away, combined with deriving things from our relationship that used to come from the kids. They are age 14 and 16, by the way! Again, much gratitude.

bookish1's avatar

@SuperMouse: “modeling a loving healthy grown-up relationship for them is not only not hurting them, it is a gift.”
Very well said!!

hopeful5141's avatar

Agreed, and we have had just that conversation that together, we have the opportunity to give all of our children an example of how to be part of a loving couple/family. He’s all for that, but just has this almost childlike notion that loving me takes something from his children. The crazy part is that we are scrupulous about not allowing our relationship to impinge upon the parent child focused time. It also saddens him that often his kids choose to spend what is supposed to be their time with him with their friends. I try to remind him that this is normal, but he still feels hurt. When he sees small children, he is sad that his own kids are no longer that little. I did not realize how deep all of this ran until recently, and we have been a couple for over two years. He has a hard time expressing all of this.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It’s very normal at the tween age to choose friends over family, he should know that I’d think. Maybe he needs a good ‘raising teens’ parenting book?

wundayatta's avatar

Children are all different. Relationships are all different. I don’t know how anyone can claim that something is normal or not.

My daughter has grown apart and then come back closer to me at age 16. She had been unaffectionate for several years, but now seems much more willing to hug and play. My son, who is almost 13, is still very affectionate. He still hugs and kisses, and always has. He is a very sweet boy. I’m the one who is more stand-offish, since I was raised in a non-affectionate family.

If your partner thinks he is cheating on his kids, and taking time from them that he owes to them in order to spend it with you, then I think this is a problem. He feels guilty about taking care of himself and about allowing himself to try to find love and satisfaction in an adult relationship. He is probably beating himself up inside for not giving his kids what he mistakenly thinks he should be giving them. It’s not healthy.

I agree with the others that suggest therapy. He needs a better perspective on this. He needs to understand that he is worthy of a relationship and he is not stealing from his kids. He needs to understand that his kids are doing ok and will do ok and he may be hovering over them too much and not allowing them to develop appropriately. He also needs to gain perspective that he may be doing this in competition with his ex to see who is the better parent and that this does not help the kids.

If he can gain this perspective, he may learn to be happier and healthier. We can only hope. Otherwise, he could be sabotaging your relationship subconsciously. That would be a shame if it is a good relationship.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@wundayatta Everyone knows tweens and teens have rockier relationships with their parents, that’s all I meant.

wundayatta's avatar

Was not replying to you, @KNOWITALL. If I do not mention a name, I am replying to the OP.

Sunny2's avatar

Your boyfriend was expressing his feelings, and feelings should be accepted as just that. Feelings change all the time. His kids are teenagers and may not be around more than 5 or 6 years more. Of course he knows that his time with them is limited. Take it in stride and don’t make a big issue of it. His feeling don’t reflect on you in this case. Choose your issues. This should not be one for you. Understand, don’‘t take offense.

hopeful5141's avatar

Oh gosh no, it is not that I take it so seriously, but it does seem to make him very sad, and I think it has caused some issues for him personally. So more a case of wanting to know what to do and how to help! Thank you all, very much!!!!!

hopeful5141's avatar

Wundayatta, thanks, I do think that this issue has caused us problems as decisions are sometimes made that have proved problematic for all in that it felt as though sides were being chosen to prove a point that no one was asking to have proved.

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