Q: My boyfriend and I dated for five years. We began dating when my son was 13 and his dad was out of the picture. My boyfriend never spent any time with my son, but helped me pay for his sports, food and other things whenever he needed extras. (He doesn’t have any children of his own.)
After five years of no emotional connection, I ended it. I felt like I was pulled in two directions and I’m very close to my son.
After two years, my boyfriend and I reconnected, but there’s still nothing between him and my son, who is now 20 and still lives at home. I just don’t know what to do. We love each other very much. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: It sounds as if your personal prerequisite is that anyone you date must have a close relationship with your son in order for you to commit to him — but you are measuring any emotional connection between them with what you consider a connection to be.
Your boyfriend may not see it that way.
This is just an educated guess, but your boyfriend has never had children. He may not have wanted any, and had no idea how to connect with a child.
He meets you, falls in love with you, but you have a child, so he does the best he can, which is to offer financial help.
You also have to consider that he may never have wanted to emotionally connect. What you see is what you get.
I was very lucky. I immediately connected with my bonuskids, but not everyone does.
I often hear from bonusparents who secretly confide they have no special feelings for their bonuskids and wonder if there is something wrong.
And as the child grows into a teen, and often becomes more difficult, the lack of an emotional connection can make the bonusparent less tolerant — which causes the family to polarize — bonus against bio. This is when you have bioparents running defense for both their children and their partner, trying to protect them both from being hurt by the other. An impossible state, by the way.
Good ex-etiquette, in your case, would be to let them work on their relationship themselves. Don’t be codependent.
Your relationship with both of them is fine. They are both adults and it’s not up to you to run defense for either of them.
Truthfully, love, per se, may not be necessary for your bonusfamily to work.
Respect is a necessity — for parent, bonusparent and bonuschild. Consider rule No. 9 for good ex-etiquette for parents, “Respect each other’s turf.” Literally speaking, this means that you can’t control your ex’s life.
Respect the similarities and differences of both homes — and allow your children to do that as well.
Applying this concept to your problem with your boyfriend and son, promote mutual respect for their similarities and their differences — and love them both for who they are.
The rest, truly, is up to them.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at: