Breaking up is already hard to do, but when a child is added to the mix, it only makes the situation all the more complicated.
In these types of arrangements, boundaries and custody arrangements are especially important, as pointed out in the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
After his ex-wife and new boyfriend started to impose on his plans with his son, Redditor Carrotwestern1387 felt the need to speak up.
When they refused to honor his boundaries, the Original Poster (OP) wasn’t sure what would be the best thing to do next for his son’s sake.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for telling the mother of my child I don’t want her partner at my son’s taekwondo belt promotion?”
The OP had a verbal custody agreement with his ex-wife.
“I (26 Male) have a five-year-old child with my ex (26 Female). We share custody of him through a verbal agreement. We split time pretty equally between both parties, and things have been pretty smooth for the most part.”
“She got a new boyfriend almost two years ago now, and it was a weird transition, but I believe for the most part, I have been pretty welcoming and cooperative with the whole thing since he is involved in my child’s life as well.”
“They have another younger baby now, as well. For the most part, we are all on the same page when it comes to my son, and he’s a cool dude, so I don’t have a problem with him.”
Then the boundaries started to blur.
“A couple of months back now, my ex and I involved my child in sports, and he has been doing taekwondo.”
“On her days, she or her boyfriend will take my son to practice, and on my days, I will take him.”
“Things were smooth. There were boundaries, and we didn’t really interfere in each other’s days with my son since he loves to spend time with us both.”
“Things started getting a little rocky, however, a couple of weeks back when her boyfriend decided to join the same taekwondo class my son was in. (It’s an all-white belt class, with adults on one side of the gym and children on the other in a small gym.)”
“But again, I tried to cooperate and said, ‘No problem, you guys do what you think is best on your days. I trust you.'”
“I won’t lie, it felt a little intrusive for some reason, but I feel like it’s something I just have to deal with as a single dad.”
“Things again took a nosedive when on the day I was supposed to take my son to practice, my ex’s boyfriend took him instead since he was going there now, too.”
“I got upset and said since it was my day, I felt like they stole that day from me. I talked to her boyfriend and I told him that as cool as he was, I didn’t really want to go see another grown-a** man practicing next to my child on a taekwondo class that I pay for.”
“I added that on my ex’s day with my son, he was more than welcome to take him to practice if she wanted him to.”
The issue would potentially impact the OP’s next weekend with his son.
“Fast-forward to today and my ex messaged me and told me that my son is getting a promotion to yellow belt this Friday and that her boyfriend is also happening to test for his belt on the same day and same time.”
“Keep in mind. This is falling on my weekend. I told her that I feel I needed a little space to experience son and father things with my son without any interference and that I felt a little suffocated.”
“She said it’s a public space, and her boyfriend can be there, as well.”
“I told her I felt my boundaries as a parent were not being respected, and I told her I didn’t want him there.”
“We went back and forth and got into an argument about it. I don’t know if I’m being too possessive with the time I’m supposed to spend with my son, or if I’m not being inclusive enough with his now another side of the family, his stepdad now, technically.”
“We’re friends, but I don’t want to be best friends with him. I certainly don’t want to share my time with my son with him since he can see him on the days my son is with his mom.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some felt the OP was competing with his ex’s husband, and far too often at that.
“Stop competing with your ex’s boyfriend. He apparently is now in your son’s life, and you had better find a way to co-parent nicely. Your son will greatly benefit from a cooperative relationship. If you don’t, your son will figure it out, and your relationship with him will go south.”
“And the more people that love your son, the better for him. Your son isn’t choosing between you and your ex’s boyfriend. There is room for both of you in his life.” – Ducky818
“YTA. This event isn’t about you it’s about celebrating your son and everyone else who is paying for the class. (I think it’s weird the school is mixing ages like that within a single class, but that’s sort of beside the point here).”
“Who are you to tell another student they have to miss their promotion just because you’re too insecure to see your ex’s new partner getting along with your son? If anything, you should be grateful that she’s found someone who cares about and supports your son instead of all of the crappy stories we see on here with partners treating kids like garbage.” – idreaminwords
“YTA. You can’t tell him not to use the gym your kid is at. Not to mention, even if he wasn’t literally taking the class, I think they should have been allowed to come to see him get promoted to yellow if it’s something important to your son.”
“If he gets into tournaments, would you expect only the parent with custody that day gets to go? You are being unreasonable. YTA.” – Sufficient_Cat
“OP, while my mom never stated it outright, her actions were like an ultimatum between her and my stepmom. My stepmom wasn’t allowed at any of my activities, and I wasn’t to even speak of her around my mother. My stepmom was gracious the entire time.”
“I eventually decided to h**l with my mom. My stepmom and I have a good relationship. Don’t ever make your son feel like he has to choose, and be happy that his mom’s partner cares enough about him to want to do things with him.”
“It’s okay if you want to bring the kid to the studio, but to bar him from things? No. Not acceptable. YTA.” – Spinnerofyarn
“You are NTA for wanting to drive him on your days. But it’s possible the boyfriend was trying to be helpful. Just say I would like to drive him on my days regardless if you are going to the same place or not.”
“YTA for thinking parents shouldn’t be able to watch kids’ sports when it’s not on their day and for trying to control what a grown man does. You don’t provide any problems boyfriend is causing other than you don’t like it.” – GCM005476
“YTA. You’re being ridiculous about this. You’re just jealous that this man is bonding with your child and putting up silly barriers to try and prevent it. Nobody is ‘interfering’ with your time with your son.”
“And like… pretty sure he just volunteered to give your kid a ride to class because it was more convenient. Most people don’t see driving a kid and dropping them off at a class as a special time together. If you want to waste the fuel by both driving, go ahead, but no need to be paranoid and dramatic about it.” – Outrageously_Penguin
But others agreed with the OP and felt the new husband was stepping on the OP’s toes.
“He’s taking away that day that was meant to be yours, knocked you out of your routine, and quite literally stole your quality time with your son. It’s only natural that you feel he might do it again.”
“The moment he did that would’ve been the moment you took them to court to make the split custody official.”
“You can’t stop the boyfriend from going to his own paid class, but you can explain your side and let them know you’re not going to let them take away another agreed day from you.” – aries_daydream
“I don’t know, I kind of get why it feels like the stepdad is getting an extra day at the expense of dad’s day. Like, he can’t find an adult taekwondo class and practice with the kid at home on mom’s days?”
“Maybe I don’t understand martial arts, but a grown man in the kids’ class seems odd to me. It does kinda give off a power play. By joining the class, stepdad has (intentionally or unintentionally) made it so the studio is no longer neutral ground.”
“AND… Dad, I’m afraid you now have to decide how much of a deal breaker this is for you. You’ve raised your (I think valid) objections, and they were dismissed, so now you have to think about whether it’s worth escalating, in terms of the stress it would cause you and your kid. Or choose to let it go and adjust to this as the new normal, and continue showing up for your kid regardless.”
“I agree it was a s**tty power move and they’re forcing you to make a choice you shouldn’t have to make. It might just have to be an opportunity to demonstrate responsible conflict resolution for the kid.”
“If your kid comes to you (independently) and says his stepdad being in class makes it weird for HIM, then that’s a whole other conversation.” – InternalAd3893
“They are overstepping on your time. Guess you could do the same though. Speaking as a stepchild many times over, please do not argue in front of your child (not saying you do). It’s VERY stressful for them. These are the woes of split families. You should find something for just you and your son to do instead.”
“NTA for feeling like that.” – tonidh69
“NTA for feeling the way you do. I get it, coparenting can be hard, and feeling like you are being replaced is awful. However, you have to be the adult in this situation; your son is not going to forget you are his dad, and you will always have that bond with him.”
“But making life difficult is not going to help anyone. This sort of situation is going to happen more and more so you need to find a way to deal with it.” – marugirl
“His post shows that this isn’t the issue. There is no issue with the bf in general, and they have managed to come to a custody solution without courts.”
“The issue is that because the bf started lessons there too, the boundaries are being blurred. The boyfriend taking the kid on OPs day was absolutely wrong (I’m sure they thought they were being helpful, so they’re NTA), and I think that is why the current situation is confusing for OP.”
“So the boundaries have to be clarified. OP has his child until he walks into the training mat. Or for the ceremony day, they switch custody days. That said, they would be allowed to attend the ceremony, and life isn’t clean-cut. He has to deal with it. The best interest of the child comes first.”
“NTA, child custody issues are emotive and difficult.” – Limp-Archer-7872
“I have to say NTA. The stepdad takes a class at the same time at the same dojo as your son, coincidentally being able to drive him there as well, and impeding upon your limited time with your son? You have to clearly and calmly communicate to your ex and stepdad that they are taking away your time with your son.”
“Any time stepdad spends in class with your son should be as co-students, not as stepdad and stepson. If this class takes place during your time with him, then you should be the primary parent during this time. I don’t think this was malicious, but it does need to be limited.” – Metal_dweeb2134
The subReddit swiftly took sides over this situation, with some completely understanding why the OP was upset and others accusing him of making something out of nothing.
But everyone could agree that the most important person here was the OP’s son. As long as the three adults could work out something that made their son happy, that was ultimately the most important thing.