Loves His Kids

Q: I admire the wisdom of your advice! You are amazing! I had a boyfriend who is a gambler and has not stopped, and I broke off the relationship. His kids adore me and I explained to them that I would not be as available as I was. I stop by once in a while to visit them. Things are great with the kids, the youngest loves me so much, she is always asking me to stay. I am at the point I don't want to give her up! The problem? Their dad has and is using this to make me the responsible one for all his unhappiness. He is moody when I am there but dares not to show that to the kids or the neighbors. He makes me feel unwanted but will do anything to bring me back for these visits. It's so frustrating! I make attempts to talk to him and he gets very vague in his responses and never answers any questions straightforwardly. I love the kids but I am hurting at this treatment. How do I stop the pain? I don't want to hurt the kids by walking away, but is that my only option? -- Maria, 45

Dr. Susan: It's so great that you're still able to be part of your ex-boyfriend's kids' lives. And no, you don't have to walk away totally. Remind yourself that your ex's problems are not being caused by you, and that his blaming of you actually shows that he is not making the effort to work on his own issues. Try to develop some inner strength so you can ignore his comments. Keep telling him that you're there to see the kids. If he won't answer your questions, simply stop asking them. It would be helpful if he would go into another room, or if you visited them in the front yard, so your interaction with him would be limited. If you don't respond to his provocations, consistently, he will give up. Meanwhile, at least his kids know you're trying to be there for them. It's certainly a challenging situation, and there are no guarantees it will stabilize. Meanwhile, try to make the time you're with the kids as stress-free as possible.

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