Love And Life Toolbox

Ask Lisa: My boyfriend is playing house with his ex and son

I have been dating my boyfriend for just over a year and a half.  He is a wonderful man and father to a nine-year old son. I am crazy about them both. I am a single mother to a two-year old girl. Her father lives in another city and has her every other weekend.  This is basically the extent of the contact I have with him.

Unlike my situation, my boyfriend and his ex-gf often seem as if they are still playing house together.  They are always doing things as a family – extracurricular activities that their son is in, clothes shopping, birthdays (not just the son’s), mother’s day and father’s day – family stuff.  These are things that I feel that we (us as a couple with our children) should be doing together.  Am I out of line?  I understand that they both want to be included in their son’s life but where are the boundaries? I have always felt very uncomfortable around my significant others’ ex’s and don’t feel that I should have to be around her to be with the boys.

When I bring this up to him he is obviously hurt and says that he doesn’t know how to “fix” this “problem” and, if he doesn’t spend time with his ex, he won’t see his son enough.  This makes me feel terrible for bringing it up at all.  Am I asking too much?  Is there a reasonable solution?

Lisa’s thoughts…

You say yourself you are with a “wonderful” man so I assume there is nothing he has done behaviorally to you or your daughter to elicit mistrust or doubt.  This is a great start.  Sometimes when families break apart, parents make attempts to get everyone together, not so much “as a family” but to demonstrate cohesiveness and unity to the children, so they can experience both parents together positively.  If both are motivated strictly for the benefit of the children and one isn’t harboring hopes for reconciliation and the outings aren’t described as “family” outings to the children then I see nothing wrong with it.

But – I would be a little concerned if there are still feelings by one of them (hope to reconcile), if the outings are so frequent that it sends mixed messages to the children or they are in lieu of outings with you and your daughter, the person he is supposedly in “relationship” with.  Then it can get a little tricky.

Unfortunately, many families break apart with bad feelings between the parents (resulting in all sorts of possible damage to the children).  I think it’s to be admired they are at least, on the surface, trying to make the best of a hard situation.  I can imagine it’s hard to understand considering it’s the polar opposite from the relationship you and your daughter have with your ex – which must be tough.

It’s always best to communicate your feelings rather than let resentment build.  You have a right to ask questions and have clarity.  One red flag that came up for me was that he’s afraid he won’t see his son enough if it’s not with his ex.  I’d follow that thread and find out what that’s about.  He should freely be able to have a relationship with his son – without her.


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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.