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Background: I was in my last relationship for 10 years, and the last 6 he was abusive to me and a drug addict/alcoholic. I was finally able to leave him and moved away, but he found me, and after “hanging out” one night as friends, we had sex one time and got pregnant. Trying to do the best for the child, we attempted to revive our relationship. He was much much better to me, and didn’t physically abuse me at all, but there was just nothing left in the relationship and he still wasn’t a loving partner.

When my son was a baby, I had started a new serious relationship with my now husband. My ex took this as my husband stealing me from him. He still hopes we can be together one day all as a family, or at least that’s what he says. But I have no interest in ever doing that. He wasn’t just physically abusive, he was financially, emotionally, psychologically, and physically abusive. He destroyed my own mental capacity and I spent a long time thinking I was the one that’s crazy. If you understood how long it even took me to refer to what was happening as abuse, you’d know that though I am better, I go in and out of something similar to Stockholm syndrome.

My husband (son’s step father) is by all accounts my son’s father. He’s there every day and loves him with his whole heart. My son’s biological father, is still struggling with his addictions, currently on probation (barely Required to do anything since COVID started), lives in a bad neighborhood with criminal roommates, and is unemployed now (again because of COVID). He does truly love our son though.

When I think about how I would like to raise my son, I would like for him to always have the option to love his real father. I never want him to know about the abuse and when he’s old enough, if it’s still an issue, I want him to know addiction is a sickness and doesn’t mean his father doesn’t love him. I want more than anything for his father to get better and truly co-parent, but I’ve spent many years of my own life waiting for the day that would happen, and I don’t want to pass that pain onto my son.

So here are my questions:

My biggest concern is my son’s feelings. If I teach my son to call his step-father by his first name, will it later hurt him that he isn’t “really” his dad or that somehow he isn’t allowed to refer to his step father in the way that he feels?

If I teach my son to call him dad (or something similar) will it damage the relationship with his biological father in some way?

Will his biological father poison my son against me by saying I broke up the family and just replaced him (he does acknowledge he was abusive, but also thinks that I broke the family up by not staying together)?

Bio-dad makes no active effort to see his son but gaslights me and says I won’t let him see him. I initiate all FaceTime calls with the two of them, offer to drop them off at the park together (he has no car and nowhere for my son to be), offer to let him come to our home (but he refuses to come if my husband is there, and my husband refuses to leave him alone with me). I truly feel I’m giving him every chance to be a father, but he is an addict, and as of right now, has not overcome his selfishness and self serving behavior enough to be a father to our son.

I just don’t want to make the wrong choice. None of this is out of hate for my ex. I truly feel he was abusive because of his addiction that started from a very traumatic incident. I don’t hold hate or anger for him. I do know he loves our son. I don’t know if I can allow myself to believe (or plan) for him to one day get over that addiction. So what do I do? My son is 1.5 now. He calls me mama. But as of right now we don’t refer to my husband as anything that he can repeat. It’s getting closer to the time of making that decision. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

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Thanks for the great detail in your question. It is easy to see that your heart is set to love your son and that is a beautiful thing. I'm not sure if I have the best advice or if I can answer your questions to the fullest extent, but I can speak from experience.

My wife and I are both on our second marriage. In her first marriage, she had a son and when we married, I adopted him. Her ex wasn't an addict but in Japan, only full custody can be granted and it usually goes to the mother.

For years he called me "Chris" and this started from the time my wife and I were dating. His biological father was "papa". Time (years) went on and eventually some very honest discussions happened with him about the family situation and eventually he started calling me "daddy". Nobody forced him to. The decision was left to him. Biological father is papa and I am daddy.

To answer your questions is difficult. Everyone is different and every reaction is never consistent. However, I would say that your husband would probably be happy to be called dad. He would probably be happy to be called by his first name for a season and then your child may make the decision one day to call him dad after his own deliberations.

As far as biological dad is concerned, any hurt/anger/mental anguish that he feels seems to be internally held and there is nothing you can do about it. Continue offering opportunities for your son to hang out with him and continue keeping the door open. One of two things will happen: your son will get older, realize that his father hasn't been a part of his life and he'll shut the door or the father will realize he's making a huge mistake by not walking through the door and he will start actively participating to be a part and work on his hurt and anger in his own time.

Continue loving your son. Communicate this with your husband. Through actions, continue to show your son that you love him and the father won't be able to poison his thoughts against you.

It seems like you are already on the right track to allow the fostering of good relationships between biological dad, husband, and your son. What they do with that is all up to them.

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Really great question! I don't see the harm in your son having two dads since he's pretty young, it'll be an even easier thing to introduce. I think as long as you continue to acknowledge that he has another dad outside of the house it shouldn't be an issue. When activities or situations come up during his school years (father's day crafts etc.)you can cross those bridges when they get there. My older sister had two dads (mine and her bio dad) and she calls them both dad... I remember when I was really young and was jealous of her for it haha Best of luck to you in whatever decision you make!!!

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    Yeah, I don't see why they can't both be called dad. You can have two grandpas and be a lot closer to one than the other. Kids don't know things are expected to be a certain way. – Kat Jun 18 '20 at 20:05

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