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alexisd42 March 13th, 2013 12:12 AM

Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
I've been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now, and he's an amazing guy. Everything I've always wanted in a man, except for (and I hate to say it), the "baggage" that comes along with him.

I'm a single mom myself, so I know everyone has their own "baggage" going into new relationships (although my son is far from baggage, he's a bonus!). But my boyfriend really is in a different situation. He's been separated for three years now, but his ex is doing everything she can to drag out the divorce. She is also incredibly selfish and has an extreme anger problem--the first time I met her, she lashed out and threatened me in front of the kids and everyone within earshot.

Add to that his son seems to have picked up his mother's anger problem, and has gotten in lots of trouble at school for biting, choking and hitting/kicking other kids out of the blue (and he's only 7!). He's done similar things to my son to the point where my son is scared of him, and I've had to limit the time they spend together.

My boyfriend will discipline his son, but it's usually only in the form of time outs and there are NO consequences for his actions! I've tried to gently bring up the issues with his son, but all he will say is he's a "physical" boy and that "brothers fight" as our boys will do. He thinks it's normal and that my son needs to toughen up and fight back. He seems to be in complete denial about his son's issues.

I just don't know if there is any future here. I don't see how we could look at living together when my son would dread coming home every day, and to be honest, I probably would too as his son is incredibly hard to deal with. He may be more so that way with us as we're the newbies in the picture, but I do know he acts this way at school and with other kids as well.

Is there any way to deal with this, with my boyfriend denying that his son has any sort of problem? Or with the ex coaching her kids/making it virtually impossible to be in the same space as her without her lashing out at me?

I love my boyfriend, but I love my son more and I just want him to be happy, as well as me!

Wisey March 13th, 2013 04:26 AM

I would put my son first. I would do everything to keep him safe.

It sounds like your boyfriends son needs help.

stresswife March 13th, 2013 11:20 AM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Errr I cringe at the word Baggage for a child.. sorry

anyway His son is obviously having a very hard time adjusting to everything, he most likely needs to talk to someone about everything and learn other ways to vent his frustration and anger.
I would remove yourself and your son from the situation until your BF decides to get him help..

Keakie March 13th, 2013 01:42 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
I would consider the marriage that has not been formally ended and the lack of real help for the this little boy to be "baggage" more so than the fact that the boy exists, personally.

I'm a little confused about the divorce being dragged out for several years. I'm not sure which state your bf is going through, but most will aware divorces after a certain amount of time if it's clear that one party is deliberately refusing to sign. Has he filed paperwork at all, or is he waiting for her to sign something? What stage of the game are they at? Are there lawyers involved?

As far as your bf's son goes, it sounds like he could really use some help. Has he ever been evaluated for behavioural or mental abnormalities? While not all violence is necessarily indicative of a larger problem, chronic outbursts and lack of impulse control most definitely can be, and in those cases proper therapy and (in some cases) medication might be worth exploring. Ruling that out, it sounds like he may have a poor example for anger management and I'm sure that he's having some issues adjusting to life following his parents' separation, especially if she's handling it badly in front of him, in which case some degree of therapy may still be beneficial. While I would certainly ensure that your son is safe too, I would encourage some compassion towards your boyfriend's son too. He sounds like he's hurting.

Unfortunately, if your bf isn't willing to seek that kind of help for his son and the boy's mother is encouraging it, directly or indirectly, there isn't very much that you can do to move things forward for him. I'm sure it's difficult to watch, especially as a parent to your own little boy, but the sad fact of the matter is that these responsibilities lie with his parents.

In a similar vein, you can't really do a whole lot about the fact that the ex is hostile. I would limit how much interaction and shared space time you have with her. You can't really stop her from acting badly, but you can minimize how often you're exposed to it. How does your boyfriend respond when she threatens and causes a scene?

pmdc5286 March 13th, 2013 04:59 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
I would encourage you to either encourage your bf to get his son help immediately or for you to not leave your son unsupervised around his son. Dani, my DD, has an older sister from her dad. We knew she had ADHD and ODD but we thought we could manage it ourselves. Soon after Dani was born, us not realizing Val needed professional help almost cost us Dani's life about 6 months after we brought her home from the hospital.

I had been extremely sick and had just gotten out of the hospital so my then husband came in the bedroom to check on me and Dani was laying on a blanket in the living room floor and Sean and Val were in there with her. Val picked up a pillow and attempted to smother her. It turns out she was in a jealous rage over again having to share her Daddy and no longer being "Daddy's little girl". Thankfully Sean was in the room with Val and was unable to get Val off Dani, but got my ex by screaming for him. My ex had to physically pull her off the baby. We immediately called a child counselor and it turned out she had suicidal had homicidal plans. She was hospitalized for 2 weeks for evaluations and placed on meds and it helped greatly. She has been hospitalized once more since then after she found her grandfather after he comitted suicide but she is doing pretty well on the whole. She is Sean's age but is not as well rounded as he is.

Ember Rose March 13th, 2013 07:15 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
You could manage the ex being hostile but you can't mange the bf and you not being on the same page about his son's behavior.

alexisd42 March 13th, 2013 07:31 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Thanks for the replies. I know, I hate using the word baggage, I just don't know how to describe the situation. I hate to say that I pretty much resent a seven year old kid, and I resent my boyfriend in a way for implying that my son was lying when he told me his son tried to hurt him.

His son has a pattern of this behavior but he refuses to see it. He thinks he is a little rough around the edges but doesn't seem to think he's any more violent than other kids. Meanwhile, his school won't even let him stay for lunch as they can't handle his violent outbursts towards other kids on the playground. So, there's really no getting help for his son as long as he refuses to see that he has a problem.

I worry for my son's safety around him yet my boyfriend thinks it's normal for boys to beat up on each other, am I exaggerating here in thinking it's not? I think there's a difference between play fighting and trying to deliberately hurt someone else, especially when the other kid won't fight back. My son is a gentle boy and could maybe use some "toughening up" but I wouldn't want him to fear coming home from school everyday.

It's just a shame to be in this situation because in every other way, my boyfriend is great. We have so many similar interests and have a lot of fun together, and he wants the same things I want. Yet I cringe at the thought of all of us living under the same roof, and also being put down and yelled at every time I come within the line of sight of his ex.

alexisd42 March 13th, 2013 07:31 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Duplicate post! Sorry!

stresswife March 13th, 2013 09:23 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
dealing with "baby mama drama" is something some people just can't handle.. it's been almost 5 years and my husbands ex still calls me names and talks bad about it, and I really don't think she will ever change.. not everyone here has to deal with that and have pretty good relationships with BMS.
I would have a long talk with your BF, even if he is perfect in every single way but doesn't see your sons safety as anything important than he isn't for you.

plan4fate March 13th, 2013 11:31 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Yes, boys rough house. But there's a difference between that and trying to hurt the other on purpose.

My brothers were rough housers. The rule was if you willingly partook in it, you couldn't come crying to her about it later. They were evenly matched in size and skill, so it was usually entertaining.

My cousin.. was a dangerous child who once threw kitchen knives at his brother who was 3yrs younger. He once shoved my mother down a set of stairs while she was holding a 3 year old child. He would force his brother into "rough housing".. aka he'd beat the crap out of him while his brother tried to get away and we tried to peel them apart.

Your son needs to come first. If your BF isn't willing to open his eyes, then you really need to reconsider the relationship.

alexisd42 March 14th, 2013 10:27 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Keakie, they've gone through every possible legal avenue and spent thousands upon thousands of unnecessary funds because she's not willing to compromise on anything, she wants it ALL. They've finally exhausted all their options and it looks like the judge will be making a ruling, but if there is any possible way for her to appeal, you can bet she will.

My boyfriend's son's teachers and a psychologist have recommended that he get tested for ADHD, but my bf "doesn't believe" he has it and if he does, he says there is no way he would ever medicate him. He genuinely thinks his son's behavior is normal. And while I get that his parents' issues could have spurred a lot of his anger/aggressiveness, he's had issues long before they even separated. I read the psychologist's assessment (part of their legal process) and she blames a lot of it on his mother's lack of self control and most important a lack of DISCIPLINE on both their behalves.

I feel guilty for even bringing my son around him and when I do, I have to watch them constantly to make sure my son isn't being attacked. It makes me sad to think about not being with my boyfriend anymore, but if he is so in denial about his son's issues I don't see how we can go forward. And I don't know how to make him see his son needs help, as I know he loves his son as I love mine and doesn't want to see him in a bad light, nor do I want him to think I'm coming down hard on his son or think that I see him as a bad parent.

alexisd42 March 14th, 2013 10:27 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Duplicate again!

Keakie March 15th, 2013 03:09 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
I'm not really sure what else you can offer if both he and the boy's mother refuse to believe the behavior is more than normal "rough housing". I have 3 stepsons ranging from 13 to nearly 4. Yes, they rough house. My oldest stepson, however, has also been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and mood disorder NOS and has struggled with violence and impulse control since he was tiny. It's *very* different than when the other two boys shove each other around or wrestle with each other. He's been on various combinations of medication since he was 5 years old, and the most recent one has helped the most (and he still has trouble with violent thoughts and threats).

I would assume it's easier for your bf to convince himself it's normal while his son is so young. It's easier to intervene when the violent person is 7 years old. I'm not suggesting his son has the same level of issues that my oldest dss does (because I'm not a professional and I've never met this child), but there is a large difference in what's normal rough play and what's indicative of something bigger. How would your bf respond to the idea of even an evaluation? If there is nothing unusual, then the evaluation will prove your bf right. If there is, it might help to hear it from a third (trained) party.

It wouldn't mean he's a bad parent, or that his son is a bad child. On the contrary, these things are usually bigger than any particular parenting choices and understanding them better simply helps everyone in the family know the best way to approach things.

Either way, in the meantime, you need to make decisions about what's safe for your son. We had to make some very painful choices last year regarding the way we spent time with my oldest dss because it became a real concern that someone could get hurt. We got a lot of resistance from his mother, and while she's traditionally been on board with his diagnoses and medical care she suddenly decided he wasn't actually dangerous (she has been pushed into walls and kicked in the stomach on more than once occasion, and he has drawn knives in her home on more than one occasion). She's responded by encouraging my stepson to believe that dh is just mean and punishing him and we just don't love him as much as the other kids. She also believes we just want to keep one child with her for more of the time because we want to control her (he's going to be 14 this year and she regularly leaves him home alone anyway). None of it is true. Not one word. What we've wanted all along was for her to put him back into therapy, but when she decides someone's intent is to wrong her or control her or she can find some way to be angry at my dh and I for ANYTHING, she will be.

And it's my dss who suffers, and the other children who are at risk because she would rather make a point against her ex than pay attention to the fact that what she's doing for my dss now isn't enough for him.

It's not a fun place to be in for anyone, but you need to ensure that your child is safe. Obviously, the best course of action would be for the boy to get an evaluation, get help if he needs it and his parents alter the way they parent him in order to best set him up for success in the future. While you can make suggestions, though, if his parents aren't on board there really isn't much you can do to push treatment for your bf's son. At best, he sounds angry and like he has poor examples for expressing that anger, and would really benefit from something that would give him better avenues to express it and process it.

You're going to need to ask yourself if you would feel safe in your home if you moved forward together and lived together. How about, if nothing changes, in a few more years, when your dss is bigger and physically intervening is more difficult? What about if you have to leave the boys home together? What if you have children of your own with this man? Would you feel comfortable with infants and toddlers in the house with him? I'm not trying to be overly dramatic, but they're questions we've needed to consider in my house. Maybe your answer is yes to all of these things. :shrugs: Maybe he will simply grow out of it. I'm not there so I don't know. I just think they're important things to consider while you're deciding whether or not you can see a future with this person.

Ember Rose March 15th, 2013 11:02 PM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Sometimes love isn't enough. I feel like you know what your options are and you know how this is going to end up going down but that coming out and saying it is proving hard for you because you really care about this man. Which I can understand and empathize with. Be gentle with yourself. The choice you're having to make isn't easy.

alexisd42 March 19th, 2013 01:41 AM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
That is all so true! I thought about how I would feel leaving my son alone with his son as they got older when you mentioned it Keakie and the thought terrifies me! And we've talked about having more kids together...I know his son is actually somewhat gentle with babies as I've seen him with them, and thought it would give him/my son some common ground. But once the novelty wears off I'm sure he would be just as rough with the baby, too, particularly if it meant he wouldn't be getting as much attention.

I have been pushing for the ADHD assessment as much as I can, encouraging it when he says it's not necessary, and I do think he considers my opinion so it might help. I've also talked to him about how I feel his son bullies my son, however I haven't talked to him about the lack of consequences his son faces when he acts out. I guess I'm scared to insult him when it comes to his parenting. I don't know if it would help much anyway, if he doesn't see his son's behaviour as that bad.

I can't see this working out long term if things continue this way and it's such a shame because he really is a great man. I guess I just wanted to know whether I was exaggerating the issue and whether this really was normal behaviour/roughhousing or whether I was justified in wanting to keep my son away from his. Thanks everyone for your input :)

alexisd42 March 19th, 2013 01:41 AM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage

yvee80 March 20th, 2013 06:32 AM

Re: Dealing with boyfriend's baggage
Lots of great advice from the ladies I have to deal with a similar ex but she is more extreme the difference is I am already married and I just don't take her BS! I agree with Keakie, do some evaluating the most important pieces are both boys.

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