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My wife cheated on me right after our son was born and she decided to start a life with her lover. I tried to keep seeing and supporting my son, but she got pregnant a year after and asked me to stop seeing him because she said I was disrupting their new family's life and my son would be better off without me. Although in many chances, I tried to approach him, she and her new husband stopped me from making contact with him.

Now that he's 14 and I live in another country, he's trying to reach out to me. But instead of looking to create a relationship, he only asks for money and things and gets really mad at me if I don't give them to him. He says I don't love him and his mother and stepfather are the only ones that have given him what he needs. He also says now I should support him economically. However I'm in no position to do so now. I love my son and I want to help him, but I feel very hurt to see he doesn't see me as a father but only as a source of money.

How can I create a healthy relationship with him?

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How can I create a healthy relationship with him?

With time, great effort and a significant amount of difficulty. Let me emphasize time. He's in a difficult stage right now, and his expectations for a relationship will change as he matures.

What your wife did was illegal and (in my opinion) immoral. And now that he's begun to try out his independence from his mother and step father, it sounds like he's using you to do some of that.

Although in many chances, I tried to approach him, she and her new husband stopped me from making contact with him.

Hindsight is 20/20, but it was at this stage that a lawyer could have helped you maintain a healthier relationship with your son and better boundaries with his mother and her husband. So much could have been different today.

But today is all that you have to work with.

Offer to fly him over to meet you and take a short vacation together where he can spend some quality time with you and some less intense time doing things he may like with you. Use that time partly to explain your absence from his life, partly to get to know him, partly to let him get to know you.

If he really wants a better relationship with you, he'll take you up on it. If all he sees you for is a source of income, he probably won't.

I feel very hurt to see he doesn't see me as a father but only as a source of money.

It's probably nothing compared to the rejection, confusion, loss and other feelings he's had over the years as a result of your absence. It's probably nothing compared to the loss you felt over the years knowing you had a son you couldn't see. Put it into perspective. There's a lot going on here.

Explain (once) your financial situation to him clearly, and make sure he understands it. Then when he asks for things, do what you can/want financially; otherwise just refer to this previous conversation. But don't let your feelings of hurt eclipse this opportunity to build - albeit very slowly - a relationship of sorts with him. Listen to him, ask him questions, give him what is reasonable (maybe consider what you would have spent on him had you stayed involved). If you love your son, then put him first, unless he is toxic to you. If you need help figuring your feelings out, a good therapist is a good start.

This is a difficult situation, but it will pass as he enters adulthood. Consider keeping lines of communication open until then. Good luck.

  • 3
    I'd underline the "with time" part of the answer. 14 is a difficult time - my relationship with my father at 14 was probably at it's worst. So even if he seems primarily interested in money now, maybe don't let that fester in your heart. If it doesn't work out now, try again in a year, in two years, in three.. when he gets a bit more mature, his attitude might change. – Pascal May 12 at 17:56
  • Thanks, @Pascal. I will do that. – anongoodnurse May 12 at 23:17
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I spent a few years estranged from my father and we managed to patch things up, I really hope this works out for you!

This sounds like a difficult situation that isn't helped by the fact he's probably had a very bad home life. Don't send money, whatever you do because:

  1. It would make your relationship transactional, if you send cash he'll talk to you, and you'll never know if he actually wants to talk to you or not
  2. It might not be him behind the requests. It's possible he's being put up to asking you for money by his mother or stepfather. He's probably been told all sorts of stories which put you in a very bad light, so why not get something out of you? I have heard of cases where people masqueraded as their children in order to bilk estranged family out of money, you'd want to make very sure it was actually him!

You're never going to have a normal father-son relationship, and you'll need to be realistic and a bit hard nosed. He's probably angry at a lot of things, and it may take him a long time to come around, if he ever does. In your place I would offer to talk, and that's all. Make it clear no money will be involved from the get-go and be absolutely consistent with that. Offer moral support and try and help him through difficult emotional times, and remember it's not about what he wants to hear but what he should hear. Once you build a rapport with him and you have a measure of trust and respect you can relax a little, send him a reasonable birthday present (an actual thing and not money), and look to do some things together if you can.

Try not to bad-mouth his mother, stepfather/boyfriend/partner, etc no matter what is said. Be the better person and just say that's not your view.

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Understand that what he wants and what he needs are not the same thing.

If you are in another country, the complications of him coming to you are big: Currently you must be accompanied by a person over age 16 to fly internationally.

Can you afford to go to him? Take him on a special vacation? Rafting the Grand Canyon, take a course in basic sailboating together?

Correspond with him. Channel doesn't matter. Text, Skype, email, phone. Make notes. Find out his interests. Gifts that expand those interests may be appropriate, but limited. E.g. One of my nephews developed an interest in birds and in photography. I bought him a subscription to a photo magazine one year and to a birding mag the next year. (If you have some interest in it yourself, buy a subscription too, and it gives you stuff to talk about.)

If you are on social media, give him your handle. Don't ask for his yet. Teens need space for their own lives.

This will take time.

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Honesty is the best policy.

I have a very different opinion on parents protecting the other parent because it's incredibly illogical for the child to continue blaming you for the problem while remaining close with the other who is causing the issue. It just means they remain close with the one causing the problem and then blame you even though you are not in the wrong. It makes no sense. In my circumstance my mum was incredibly poisonous about my dad but it did not help (or ruin) the situation. It was her opinion and it didn't change my own views, it just made it very difficult to remain close with her (as she said disgusting things no child should know). I would have respected her more if she just told me the truth instead of trying to sabotage the relationship.

Just be honest and let them form their own opinion, you don't need to talk about them badly but just state the facts. They deserve to know the truth. Everyone deserves the truth and hiding certain factors won't help anyone.

I definitely would not give money but I would let them know in a way they can understand it.

"I am so sorry for what happened. I wish I was there for you but I had to respect that it made it very difficult for your mother and her husband to build a life together. I had to respect that. I am not going to give you money because you know you don't need that. What I am going to give you is support. I want you to know that I am here for you whenever you need me. You want to talk about any problems at school, at home, maybe there are things you're not sure about and I want you to just go right out and ask me. I wish I could have been there for you when you were younger but I'm going to make up for that. I'm here now. I am not going to lie to you, I'm not in a great position financially, but when I'm better I would love to come out and spend some time with you. If that's something that you'd want then that would make me really happy. I hope everything is good at home with you anyway."

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