Single Dad Seeking advice. He and his girlfriend have just split up

by singlemomseeking on December 2, 2008

One of my single dad friends — we actually became friends via online dating! — just emailed to ask for some advice. Since all of you have so much life experience, I thought I’d turn to you. Thanks!

So, D. — the divorced dad of a toddler — was dating a woman for five months, after which they moved in together. (I can hear some of you now: She moved in with you after just five months? What were you thinking?)

Judgments aside, living together made them realize that they weren’t meant for each other. There was no drama, fortunately, and she has recently found another place.

“She is coming by soon to pick up the rest of her stuff,” D. writes. “But here’s my question: how do I discuss this topic with my three-year-old? I don’t want to raise a kid who has separation anxiety and thinks that everyone vanishes.”

D. has been doing his best to explain to his son that his girlfriend his moving out:

“While I’m here to listen to him, I’m afraid that he might be saying that he still misses her six months from now,” he says. “Do you have any suggestions? Thoughts? Anything?

My two cents?
As much as we try to be the very BEST parents — and always do everything right for our kids — life doesn’t always work out so magically.

You got attached — and your son got attached. That’s what relationships are about, and good for you for letting your son have his feelings.

You might say things like:

“It will be different without [her name] here, won’t it?”

“It’s sad to say ‘good bye, isn’t it?”

Remember this: your son had his own relationship with your girlfriend, separate from your romantic relationship.

I wonder: Can your ex phase out of your son’s life gradually?

Hopefully, at least over the holidays, she spend a little time with your son? Say, they can go out for ice cream? That way, he can transition into letting her go?

I know that many of you have been there!

If you have kids under five, especially, how have you handled a break up?

Let’s hear from you. Thank you.

P.S. If you haven’t watched the video with Single Dad RJ about when to introduce your child to your girlfriend or boyfriend, please watch it below. Let us know your thoughts.

Photo by Jason Nelson

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Sol December 11, 2008 at 12:10 pm

The child will be fine..:)…he/she is too young to remember :)..your doing a good job dad..just keep doing the best you can and continue to learn from your experiences 🙂


Angel Broadaway December 8, 2008 at 6:05 am

I am 23 years old, have been a single mother of one for close to 6 years now. I recently found out that I am pregnant by my 50 year old boyfriend. He constantly lies, I’ve never met his parents, and I question if this child is a good idea. I don’t get paid much on my job, and can’t seem to get assistance. Any suggestions…?


avigail74 December 4, 2008 at 1:44 pm

I absolutely agree with Kelly—wholeheartedly—I remember when I first started dating my last boyfriend, my daughter did call him “daddy” as he was leaving the door. I did explain to her that he is a good friend of ours–and a special man, more like an uncle and that we will keep calling him by his name. She graciously accepted that. Whew.


Angie December 4, 2008 at 1:41 pm

I just broke up with my boyfriend about a month ago that lived with me and my 2.5 year old for about a year. She actually used to call him daddy (yes, I know that was bad, but she was too little and everywhere we went people thought he was her daddy). She askes about him every once in a while, but not too much. He came by last night for about 15 minutes and she really didn’t run and cling to him. She is beginning to view him as a friend that comes over to watch TV. And eventually, as he continues to fade away, she will easily forget about him. The only memories will be the pictures we have of all of us together.

Angie´s last blog post…Updated: I’m moving on…Not to another man, just to another chapter of my life.


Kelly December 4, 2008 at 6:58 am

Oh, one more thing. I am very much against letting your kids call your bf/gf mommy or daddy, especially when the child is too young to know the difference. It can really cause a lot of confusion, and I think it does make it that much harder if you break up. When I had a boyfriend (who we lived with for 2 years), my daughter always called him by his name even though her dad was not in the picture.

Kelly´s last blog post…Brand New Day


clever beatrice December 3, 2008 at 12:20 pm

I recently broke up with my first boyfriend as a single mom. there was a nothing graceful about it- he freaked and pretty much disappeared for the most part. i didn’t make too much of a deal about it but told my 3.5 year old daughter that i was sad that ‘JR’ was not around. she is still sad about it. we all got together for brunch and a walk to check in, then he really freaked (his mood swings are a whole other story) and will not be coming back at all.
rather than get into adults with possible mental illness and emotional issues i explained to her that sometimes people fit together and sometimes they do not- like shoes- you out grown them and have to make room for another pair. i told her it was okay to miss him and that he probably misses her too but it just doesn’t work out everytime- it doesn’t mean he loves her any less. we are also writing a letter to say good-bye.
there is not easy way and it’s a crap shoot everytime no matter how careful you are- you just don’t know and you absolutely have to try.

clever beatrice´s last blog post…we had joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun– sayonara summer love


Honey December 3, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Since the vast, vast majority of relationships (romantic or otherwise) DO end, and the vast, vast majority of people DO leave, I must admit to being a little confused about why a parent wouldn’t want their child to know that. Isn’t it better to know the truth as soon as possible and develop sound coping mechanisms?

Or maybe you’ll all just tell me it’s a good thing the BF and I are never having children 🙂

That said, I agree with the advice here. I don’t think I remember anything about being that age!

Honey´s last blog post…In Sickness…


pisceshanna December 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Boyfriends/girlfriends come and go. Moms and dads are eternal. That is, unless your kid started calling your girlfriend “mom.” Then you probably got some issues.

My ex lives with his girlfriend and her two kids. They call him daddy. I’m sure they would be heartbroken if he left one day, but that’s because he’s so involved in playing the daddy role.

I guess it depends on how involved you were with this girl, and how deeply your child depended on her.

pisceshanna´s last blog post…Love, Logic & Laughter


Single Mom December 3, 2008 at 11:33 am

Since there was no drama, a simple faze out should work well with the transition slowly to where the child does not have seperation anxiety.

Single Mom´s last blog post…Extra Money for Christmas !!!


mc December 3, 2008 at 10:51 am

I agree with what others have said here….a child that young will forget the GF quickly, especially if the Dad explains in a calm way that she’s no longer living there and then leaves it at that.

Wondermom: A baby! OMG that must have been hard on you, too!

But many infants and older children in daycare get similarly attached to their “daycare mom”, and they still benefit from that love even though it obviously isn’t long-term.

My own kids were in a home daycare from age 3 months until 2 1/2 years, when their daycare mom (who they were very attached to) died from a heart attack. I explained the situation and gave them room to grieve and ask questions and express their sadness. 6 years later, We still talk about her fondly sometimes, like we would about a grandma who had passed on.

I didn’t take them to the funeral, but I went and it was very touching–all of her current daycare kids were there from 5 years on up with their parents, and also dozens of older kids and adults who she had helped raise over the years.

I’m sure the love you gave that baby made a positive difference. Children need that, even if it means they may experience a loss down the line. But that’s also a part of life.


singlemomseeking December 3, 2008 at 10:42 am

I knew I could count on all of you!

Thank you, especially, for pointing this out: our kids really do mirror what we’re feeling.

As Klee put it: “Your little one will be looking for cues from you. If you are having anxiety about the separation, try hard not to show it around him.”


Kelly December 3, 2008 at 10:40 am

I have been there, actually. When my then 4 year old daughter and I moved out of an apartment we shared with a boyfriend, I tried to put a positive spin on it. I told her excitedly that “just us girls” were going to get our very own place. She did act out for a little while (got in trouble a lot in preschool for bullying other kids), but she was just fine after a few months. Kids are very resilient.

As for gradually phasing her out of the child’s life, that’s what we sort of did. For a while after the breakup, the ex would sometimes pick her up and the two of them would spend time together. He eventually stopped doing that. We’re still friends to this day, but we see him maybe twice a year and he and my daughter are like strangers. She has long ago moved on, so that’s the good news.

Kelly´s last blog post…Snowy


dadshouse December 3, 2008 at 9:18 am

The kid will get over her quickly. Blood is thicker than water. My son was four when he met my first post-divorce girlfriend, and five when she and I broke up. He still remembers her. But he knows who is his dad, and who is his mom (my ex).

If this guy doesn’t want his kid growing up thinking everyone is temporary and leaves, then he shouldn’t have a girlfriend move in. Period. Wait till he remarries.

That’s not judgment, that’s advice.

dadshouse´s last blog post…Miley Cyrus Nude Photos Not a Mistake


avigail74 December 3, 2008 at 8:09 am

Life if full of challenges–and somewhat more so for single parents with children, small or not…the only way to make sure our children never get attached to people is to not date. Hmmm…I’m not sure if I want to live my life like that. In addition, every, yes, every single relationship you enter is a gambling chance. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t. We don’t know. And, goodness, if it works out—that’s totally wonderful and it was worth the chance. If it didn’t work out, then, bummer. But, that doesn’t mean that life stops there. You pick up yourself–and your child(ren) as well—dust off the dirt and try again. But, we all live.


ruth December 3, 2008 at 7:03 am

The great thing about dating with small kids is that they really don’t remember anything. Even though they lived together, he’s going to forget about her quickly. I wouldn’t prolong it or expose him to her anymore. We moved out of our house when my son was 4 and he barely remembers living there with his “dad.” If dad makes it no biggie, the kid will think its no biggie. Its when they get older and have their own opinions and better memories that you have to worry.


T December 2, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Gosh Rachel, I love your advice. Just allow him to feel his feelings. Don’t feel bad about it. And I think its ok for him to see that you’re sad too. But then yes, he will handle it like you do.

Allow him to feel…

I wish more moms taught their little boys this powerful lesson.

T´s last blog post…Hauntings


klee December 2, 2008 at 8:09 pm

My ex and I seperated when our daughter was 18 months old. At first she use to run into living room in the a.m. to see her daddy because he had been on the couch for several months. When he wasn’t there, she was a bit confused. She got over it fast without any tears. Four years later, she doesn’t even remember him being with us. She has somewhat of a healthy relationship with her father and idolizes him just like the next child.

My advise is to take care of yourself. Your little one will be looking for cues from you. If you are having anxiety about the seperation, try hard not to show it around him. You guys will be just fine! Best of luck!


Wondermom December 2, 2008 at 7:03 pm

Before I ever got married, I dated a guy with a 2 year old daughter. We didn’t live together but we might as well have. I was young and stupid and he was just stupid…the baby was more attached to me than she was to him…she even called me Mommy most of the time. When we broke up, it was very hard on her. He used her to try to keep me around which wound up making it harder than it should have been, but I don’t think you can discount the feelings and confusion even in a child so young. Long term, the little boy probably won’t remember this situation consciously, but especially if he’s still dealing with losing his mommy, I think it’s very reasonable to assume that there will be some separation anxiety and possibly even some long term effects in terms of attachment and trust.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have any advice. If the breakup is civil, I agree that it might be easier to phase her out slowly but the dad will have to watch the situation closely and decide whether it seems to be “working” or just prolonging the difficulty. I can tell you that when I broke up with the single dad, his little girl had a worse time with his new girlfriend than with the separation from me. He had been cheating so the new girlfriend came into the picture as soon as I was gone (actually before I was completely gone) and that seemed to confuse the baby more than my eventual disappearance. I ran into his grandparents about a year and a half after the last time I saw the baby and they said that she still asked about me once in a while but it always got worse when a new girlfriend came around.

All children are different and most of them are pretty resilient so hopefully this little boy will accept the transition without much drama. Good luck to the father and try not to beat yourself up too much. Kudos to him for realizing that this could have an effect on his son and trying to be careful not to raise him to be afraid of attachment or commitment.

Wondermom´s last blog post…I’m sort of back


BlueBella December 2, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Although I haven’t been in this situation, I can honestly say I can count the number of memories I have under the age of 3 on one hand, if that.
While I think it is important to discuss the situation in an age appropriate manner, not making a big deal about it is probably the best advice already given here as far as I can tell.
That said, I’m sorry D is facing this situation and hope he and his son can move on to find Ms. Right !

BlueBella´s last blog post…What Do I Say To THIS Guy? Or THIS One?


Eric the BeehiveHairdresser December 2, 2008 at 5:31 pm

I agree with the above about the 3 year old not remembered in the long run.

If I remember Intro to Psychology correctly, children have some sort of thing that happens to their brains around the age of five that causes most prior memories to vanish.

Eric the BeehiveHairdresser´s last blog post…I Hate NYC #43 MTA Bus Service


Honoree December 2, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I agree – I was briefly engaged when my 8-year-old daughter was 4 and she doesn’t remember him at all. She said she missed him 3 or 4 times after we split up … I think your child will probably move on. I know from experience my daughter takes her cues from me – when I’m fine with something, she’s fine with it, too (even if it takes her a little while). Best wishes for your future happiness!

Honoree´s last blog post…Asking for Help


singlemomseeking December 2, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Judy: If he and this woman just been dating, I would say the same thing… But somehow, the fact that they lived together makes me believe that his kid got more attached.

Thanks for the advice! Don’t make drama where there is none…


judy December 2, 2008 at 4:51 pm

It will be a big deal if D makes it one. A 3 year old will probably move on…..Answer questions without drama,
and don’t seek ways to promote questions.
my daughter does not remember the guy I dated when she was 3 and he even had a girl her age and a pool in his backyard.


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