My Boyfriend is Obsessed With the Child of His Ex

Reader’s Question

I’ve been dating my boyfriend now for about 6 months. We are both mature adults in our mid-40s and have never been married before. My boyfriend told me he babysat an ex-girlfriend’s child from birth until his current age of 6 years old. He claims to have had the boy about 50% of the time, as the ex-girlfriend liked to go out. The ex-girlfriend is about 17 years younger than he is and now lives with a new boyfriend to whom she is engaged to be married. My boyfriend was not with his ex-girlfriend and has not been in a serious relationship over the 6 years he spent babysitting and spending time with his ex-girlfriend’s son. However, the ex-girlfriend and my boyfriend have allowed the little boy to refer to my boyfriend as “dad” over the last 6 years. My boyfriend developed an strong attachment to this child and claims that his bond with this boy helped him emotionally after the death of his parents. The boy’s real father is not in the picture, and the little boy resides around the block from where my boyfriend lives.

When we started dating, the ex-girlfriend didn’t want her child around me and would not allow my boyfriend to see the boy. Later, she changed her mind after my boyfriend made it clear I would not act as a mother to him. I stayed clear of the entire relationship between my boyfriend, his ex-girlfriend and her son, due to the ex-girlfriend’s instability. As our relationship progressed, the ex-girlfriend broke into my boyfriend’s house and took all pictures my boyfriend had of the boy. On another occasion, she broke into his house late at night while intoxicated and yelled at my boyfriend for not seeing “his son” and referred to me as the person not allowing him to visit. My boyfriend has assured me the child is not his, and there is no relationship between him and his ex-girlfriend. I believe him fully but also feel the ex-girlfriend is too unstable for me to be involved in their child sharing situation. My boyfriend did not want to report either incident to the police, probably fearing the ex-girlfriend would never allow him to see the boy.

The ex-girlfriend now won’t allow my boyfriend to see the boy and accuses him of breaking her child’s heart. My boyfriend tries to put himself in various positions where he might catch a glimpse or get the opportunity to see the child playing outside. It’s almost become an obsession for him. He will drive down their street or spend large amounts of time in his garage or in his front yard hoping to see the boy. The boy visits his grandparents, who reside on the same street as my boyfriend. Most recently, the ex-girlfriend threatened to file a stalking report against my boyfriend to the police.

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My boyfriend tells me his heart is broken, and he feels as if he’s lost another family member. I’ve tried to explain to him, he has no legal right to the child and he may find himself in trouble with the law if he continues to try to pursue the relationship. I also explained to him the boy probably needs to develop a fatherly relationship with the ex-girlfriend’s fiancĂ©, who resides with him. The current situation is not healthy in my opinion for any of them, including myself. My boyfriend constantly looks at pictures and brings up the little boy. He’s posted a picture of himself with the boy on one of the social networking sites, as his profile picture. My boyfriend told me he’ll always love this child and desire a relationship with him. He’s against going to counseling to work out his feelings. He says he believes the ex-girlfriend will allow him to see the child again if we give her another chance. I believe the boy will only be hurt in the long run and denied a normal family relationship if things continue going as they have.

Psychologist’s Reply

The young child you mention faces sufficient challenges, given the instability of the adults around him. And, from what you’ve said, it appears your boyfriend has significant issues of his own to work through before he can gain a right perspective on what this child needs. There are so many reasons that your boyfriend might have such an attachment to this child, not all of which are noble or healthy. Although your boyfriend says he’s against counseling, you would do well to insist upon it not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of the future of your relationship with him.

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