Straight Talk Advice

What’s best closure after Dad’s girlfriend splits?

Feb 10, 2015

Saying goodbye to kids following a parent-dating breakup

Dear Straight Talk: I’m 43 and was dating a man for six months who has an 11-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. Our relationship moved quickly and I often stayed at his house during visitation weekends, thus spending quite a bit of time with his kids. Now we have broken up (my idea and abrupt). What's the best thing to do regarding the kids? The girl really liked me and we bonded. Do I send her a card? Email? What would be best to say? Do I also send a note to the boy even though he hardly seemed to notice me? —Vanished Overnight in Monterey, Calif.

Breele 21, Los Angeles, Calif. Ask me a question

It's fine to write the girl and simply say how much she meant to you. Maybe ask her to let her brother know you will miss them both and that they are amazing people. Definitely spare the details, but tell them you’ll miss them, that the breakup had nothing to do with them, that they are special people who you will always remember fondly, and that this is goodbye.

Brandon 23, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

This is a dangerous tightrope. Do these kids have a mother figure? If not, the daughter could potentially lean on you. Are you ready for that? On the other hand, if they DO have a mother, do you want to compete? Friendliness is one thing, but six months of occasional weekends is not bonding. When you’re the one who causes the breakup with someone whose children aren't yours, you should be prepared to break communication with those children unless they depend on you. Bottom line: The kids don't need a pen pal. You don't need a pen pal. They need stable focused parental figures to help raise them into great people. I suggest you leave them be. If you truly want contact, clear it with their dad.

Ashley 26, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

It was only six months, not years of knowing this man and his kids. Keeping your distance is most respectful unless cleared with the father.

Gregg 23, Houston, Texas Ask me a question

First ask the father. If he says no, drop it. You won't be the last lady he brings home as he probably wants to make sure you'd all get along. My dad gave me plenty of experience with women coming and going. For me, I already have the best mother in the world, so while I was always polite, his girlfriends meant nothing to me. That said, I don't know the daughter's relationship with her real mother, so maybe your relationship was important. Just guessing, though, I'd say you have a false sense of importance in the daughter's life.

Moriah 189, Rutland, Vt. Ask me a question

Write! Especially to the girl. Young teenage girls really look up to women role models and a quick letter explaining that you enjoyed her company will provide some clarity in a confusing situation. A sweet note for the boy can’t hurt either.

Dear Vanished: Thank you for asking. You clearly hit a sore spot so please take the panel’s comments educationally not personally. If the father has no objections, closure (versus general contact) is extremely important. In your case, a note is just right (long-term, bonded relationships would ideally involve in-person closure as well). Breele nails exactly what to say and I agree to “definitely spare the details”. Please send a card, not email. Cards show more care, they’re also more formal, more public, and don’t open the door to private email exchanges where you might find yourself fielding inappropriate questions or news. Absolutely send a card to the boy, too. Whether he gives a hoot or not (and he does at some level), it’s the right thing to do.

  1. By Peter, age 27, from Honolulu, Hawaii on 02/10/2015

    Putting my solidly-an-adult-for-9-years-now hat, and my having-dated-single-parents hat, it’s noble that you care about the kids but this is something that you should be talking to your ex about. They are his kids, and regardless of the reasons for the break-up, the right thing to do is run it by him before you reach out to the kids. If he’s fine with it, then he’ll tell you what he feels is appropriate. But if you don’t talk to him about it, you’re putting him and the kids in a potentially really awkward position and that’s neither right nor fair.

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  2. By Rhonda, age 15, from Carmichael, CA on 02/11/2015

    My dad had a girlfriend after my parents’ divorce who I became very close to.  She was much younger than my dad which really bothered my mom, but it didn’t bother me.  She was very good to me, and I came to consider her a close friend of mine and not just my dad’s girlfriend.  Of course, my mom did nothing but badmouth her and said that my dad was “robbing the cradle.”  I was able to have girltalk with her about things that girls talk about with their friends and their sisters, but not their parents.  My mom is very prudish and always made me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable if I tried to talk to her about female sexuality issues, but I was totally comfortable with my dad’s girlfriend.  When I started having periods and needed to start using Kotexes, there was no way I could talk to my mom about it, so I went to my dad’s girlfriend who helped show me how to use them and I was comfortable doing even something that intimate in front of her with her help and was much more comfortable with her seeing me nude than with my own mom.  When my mom found out that I had started using Kotexes, I had to lie and tell her that my best friend helped with it as she would have had a MAJOR COW if she knew that I had gone to my dad’s girlfriend. 

    Then, one weekend when I went to my dad’s for visitation, she was no longer there and all her stuff was gone from the house.  All my dad would say is that “she’s gone” and wouldn’t tell me anything else, so I have no idea what happened between them.  I never heard a word from her.  I tried sending her emails and text messages and posted on her Facebook page, but got absolutely no response from her.  I was devastated and it really hurt.

    Therefore, since you say the girl really liked you and you bonded, please do not just abandon her.  Based on my experience, I think she would feel better if you talked to her in person to say goodbye.  Also, do not totally abandon her and try to maintain some contact.  It may be awkward to continue seeing her in person, but there are many other ways these days like email, texting, and Facebook to name just a few.

    Rhonda

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    1. By Julieanne, age 16, from Redding, CA on 02/12/2015

      I was also very hurt and upset when my dad’s live-in girlfriend disappeared “without a trace.”  As with you, she had been very good to me and I considered her a friend and almost like a stepmom even though they technically were not married.  She even sometimes took me on “girls weekends” when my dad had to go away on visitation weekends, something I had to hide from my mom.  We would share a room and sometimes even a bed and really bonded with each other.  Similar to you, I was totally comfortable undressing in front of her and with her seeing me nude, just as comfortable as with my close girl friends my age, but have never been comfortable in this way with my own mom.

      Then she suddenly was gone without a trace.  There was no one I could even talk to about my hurt and feeling of abandonment.  I learned real quick that my dad would come unglued at even the mention of her name, and my mom always had nothing but hatred for her and laughed hysterically when I told her that she and my dad were no longer together, so I had to deal with it totally on my own and it still hurts.  Therefore, don’t just abandon the daughter and at least have closure with her and do it in person.

      Julieanne

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  3. By T.R., age 17, from Rancho Santa Margarita, CA on 02/11/2015

    I developed a huge crush on my dad’s much younger and very attractive girlfriend.  She could see this and would tease me by flirting with me and telling me how “handsome” I was.  However, at the time I was stupid enough to take her seriously and think that she was also attracted to me and had these fantasies about having sex with her sometime when my dad wasn’t there, and I would think about her and fantasize having sex with her while masturbating.  A few times she left the bedroom door open a crack when she was undressing and I got a peek at her in her bra and thong which drove me totally crazy.  Looking back, I think she may have done it on purpose just to tease me.  It didn’t last that long between her and my dad and she left without a word to me and now I realize that she had no feelings for me and was just teasing me.  It was very devastating to me and I felt (and still feel) like an absolute fool.

    T.R.

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    1. By S.J., age 17, from Santa Ana, CA on 02/13/2015

      My dad’s a busy lawyer who often has to go to his office on weekends to catch up on work.  His girlfriend started seducing me sometimes when I was there on visitations and he was at his office.  I’d never even seen a grown woman nude and had never had sex.  She was young and very attractive and sexy and it was the most flattering thing in the world for me and I thought I was in love with her.  When they broke up, I was stupid enough to think that our “affair” could continue, but she totally ignored me.  My phone calls always went to voicemail and she never returned my calls.  The same with my emails and text messages.  I now realize that she was just using me for some illicit fun and it really hurts.  This really messed up my head and I’m very sorry that my first sexual experience was with a slut like her.

      S.J.

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  4. By Cina, age 17, from Westminster, CA on 02/13/2015

    Wow! Guess everybody’s different cause it was the total opposite with me and my sister and our dad’s girlfriend.  She also wanted to be our friend and talk to us about intimate female matters such as periods, sanitary napkins and shaving and waxing and we had no interest in discussing these things with her when we were there on visitations.  However, are were able to talk to our mom about these things.  She was also way too informal with us when we barely knew her.  The first weekend we were there, she just walked in on us when we were undressing without even knocking and couldn’t understand why this should bother us since “we’re all girls and all the same,”  but I was just in my bra and thong and my sister had just taken a shower and was naked, and as I said we barely knew her.  Fortunately, the room did have a lock, so we started locking the door when we were undressed and she couldn’t understand why we needed to do this.  She would also walk around in front of us in just her bra and thong and go to the shower nude even the first weekend when we had just met her and also used the “we’re all girls” line when she could see that we were uncomfortable.  When she got a new wax job, she actually asked us to look at it and give our opinion, and it made us very uncomfortable to have to look straight at her there. 

    As far as we were concerned, it was good riddance when she and our dad broke up.  However, she told us that even though they were splitting, she was “still our friend” and we could call on her anytime and gave us her email and cell number, but we never contacted her and are glad she’s gone.

    Cina

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  5. By Shayna, age 15, from Monterey, CA on 02/13/2015

    In our case it was our mom’s boyfriend 2 years ago when I was 13 and my sister was 11.  Our alcoholic father had abandoned us 3 years before and our mom hadn’t dated until she met “Bob.”  Bob treat our mom like a queen and was very good to my sister and me.  He frequently spent the night and like was written about in last week’s Straight Talk column the door to our room doesn’t have a lock, but we were never the least bit worried about undressing or being naked or in our underwear in our room when he was here since we knew he wasn’t the kind of person who would do anything improper toward us and he never did.

    We were sure that Bob and our mom were going to get married and looked forward to having a real dad for the first time.  We even hoped that he would let us call him “Dad” after they got married.  Then for reasons unknown to us, he was gone.  Our mom made it clear that it was a forbidden subject, so we had no idea what happened, but our room is right next to her room and we could hear her crying at night.

    We really felt hurt and abandoned and it actually hurt much more than the abandonment by our real father since he always abused and mistreated all of us and didn’t care about anything but getting drunk.

    Shayna

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  6. By Marlene, age 40, from Sylvania, Ohio on 02/14/2015

    I also bonded with my boyfriend’s teenage daughter and as Rhonda describes, she came to me regarding the issues with her body that come with puberty since she was not comfortable with her mother. She also felt comfortable with me seeing her nude regarding questions about her changing body but again was not comfortable with her mother.  However, he found someone else and told me that he was no longer interested in seeing me.  He also told me that I was NOT to contact his daughter, even to say good-bye.  I felt bad about it, but felt that I had to respect his wishes.  She probably thought that I abandoned her, but that was not the case.  Therefore, those who feel that they were abandoned in this way should know that they may not know the whole story and that it may not be the fault of the girlfriend/boyfriend who the feel “abandoned” them. 

    Marlene

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    1. By Robin, age 16, from Lodi, CA on 02/14/2015

      Thank you for writing this, Marlene.  It makes me see things in a different light.  I also bonded with my dad’s girlfriend and was able to talk to her about things I could never talk to my mom about as they would have gotten me in major trouble, but needed to talk to someone about including the fact that I gave in to pressure to perform oral sex on my boyfriend.  Unlike Cina, it didn’t bother me that she was casual about nudity in front of me.  I actually felt good that she felt so comfortable around me and I was totally comfortable with her coming in the room where I stayed when I was undressed and even nude, but was glad that she always knocked first.  We were both females with the same bodies, so I saw nothing to be uncomfortable or embarrassed about either way.

      She also disappeared overnight and my dad suddenly had a new girlfriend whom I did not like at all who acted like I was a “nuisance” that she didn’t like having around.  I never heard from her and also thought she had abandoned me.  However, after reading your comment, I now think it likely that the situation was similar to what you describe.  Since my dad had a new girlfriend literally overnight, I think he was most likely the one who abruptly ended their relationship and may well have told her to have no further contact with me as while I hate to say it, my dad is the type of person who would do this.  He has gone through a string of girlfriends since the divorce from my mom, but she was the only one with whom I bonded and I really miss her.

      Robin

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  7. By Cynthia, age 44, from Auburn, CA on 02/15/2015

    In my case it was stepdaughters with whom I bonded.  Their father had custody because they had been removed from their mother’s custody due to drug abuse and neglect issues and she was pretty much out of the picture.  It was a crucial time in their lives as they were both undergoing puberty and I remembered how much I needed a mother at a time like that, so I tried to be as much of a mother to them as I could.  They were glad to have someone be a substitute mother with whom they could talk about these issues.  They even started calling me “Mom” which I found very touching.  They never had any shyness about my seeing them nude when they had questions about their changing bodies just as it had been with me and my own mother as well as with my older sister.  Their room didn’t have a lock, but I always knocked before coming in and they never had a problem even if they were undressed.

    The marriage only lasted 3 years as I divorced their father when I discovered that he was having an affair with a co-worker.  Since I was the one who initiated the divorce and left, he of course put all the blame on me when he told the girls that I was leaving.  This caused them to be very hostile toward me which really hurt, and they stopped calling me “Mom” and started calling me “Cynthia.”  However, I didn’t want to turn them against their father by telling them the details of why I was leaving.  I tried to maintain a relationship with them after I had moved out, but they refused to communicate with me.

    Cynthia

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  8. By Jay, age 42, from Washington on 01/07/2017

    I am currently dating a woman who has three children from her previous marriage and is living with me. I am very annoyed with the situation and am about to burst. I am divorced too. No children myself and tried to be loving and understanding but I am done trying.How should I go about ending the relationship without being a complete as whole? Good advice is needed.

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  9. By Taylor, age 23, from South Florida on 01/14/2017

    I’m in a tough situation at the moment. I’ve been dating a really wonderful man for almost a year now. He has a wonderful 4 and a half year old daughter who I love the poop out of. She tells me I’m her best friend and that she loves me. When I’m spending time with them she’s always asking for me to do things with and for her instead of her dad (which is a big deal, because she worships him) just because she likes me so much. And I feel the same way about her!

    I love her father and want to stay with him, but I’m young and still figuring out my life. What I’ve figured out so far is that I’m not ready to settle down, especially where I live now, so I know that we can’t have a future together.  I know that I’m still probably going to be in the area for another year and a half, but I don’t think it’s fair to drag out the relationship until then just because I love them and don’t want to let go.

    It’s already a hard enough situation because I do love him and the only reason I’m thinking of breaking up with him is because we want different things in life. I’m only 23. I’ve never been in love, let alone had to break up with someone I love, so it’s hard as shit to admit that I have to end it. Should I break up with him now to save us all from growing more attached? Is she too young for me to say goodbye?
    Is there any easy solution to this that doesn’t hurt them?

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