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Son Threatened by Mom’s Relationship with Boyfriend

Question:

My husband and I got divorced when our son was 3. He is now 11. Up until recently, his father, who lives in another state, has not played a significant role in his life. For seven years, it was just my son and me. But a little over a year ago, I started dating a wonderful man. He loves my son, and my son returns his affection. We all do things together, and my boyfriend and my son also do things together just the two of them. We make a concerted effort to include everyone and to make sure that attention is evenly split.  

Within the last month, my son has become very moody. He demands my attention, pouts and doesn’t want to be around us. My boyfriend is concerned that my son does not love him anymore. It seems like my son is worried that I am replacing him. I reassure him and spend time with him one-on-one, but he is unengaged during these times.  

His father has recently remarried a woman who has children. They have also had a child of their own. My son visits them during the summer now, and he loves the time that he spends with his dad, new step-mom and siblings. Why is this OK for his father but not for me?

 

Answer:

Your insight that your son thinks you are replacing him is probably accurate.  When your boyfriend first entered the scene, he was a new source of attention.  Now as your relationship with your boyfriend has become more serious, it is likely that your son perceives your boyfriend as a threat to his relationship with you. He was the “man of the house.” Now in his mind, he is being replaced and has to revert to being just a kid again.  

Since he didn’t have this special, exclusive relationship with his father, he doesn’t perceive it as a loss. The addition of step-siblings to play with is a benefit from his point of view.  

You need to stay the course and not overreact to his demands for an exclusive relationship with you. Overreacting will only make him less secure, not more secure. Give him the time and emotional space to work through his feelings.  

Remain committed to working this out. Discuss this with your boyfriend to make sure he is committed to working this out. Asking your son to accept this man and welcome him into his life only to lose him later on would be a significant setback. 

 

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