Dear Virginia, I've been going out with my boyfriend for six months and our relationship is now getting pretty serious. The problem is that he still continues to see his ex-wife and his baby son, though I've never met them. He spends lots of time with her and he even stays over at her house sometimes, although he says that they don't have sex. I feel very uneasy about this situation. Can I give him an ultimatum or would that be unfair? Yours sincerely, Helen

Virginia writes:

Ages ago, I had my first male lodger. I always remember my grandmother, when I told her, nudging me in a horribly lascivious way. "Lodger?" she said. "Lover, more like! But don't worry. Your secret's safe with me." It maddened me to think that she thought I was having an affair with a man I'd rather die than go to bed with.

And it sounds to me as if Helen, rather like my grandmother, has got sex on the brain.

Why on earth, if her boyfriend is sleeping with her and getting serious, would he be sleeping with his ex-wife? He's broken up with his ex, after all. What would be the point of his having sex with her? He's done that and found the relationship so bad that, despite the fact of having a small baby, he's broken up with her.

Surely it's the fact that he has a baby that makes him stay over - so that he can bathe his child at night, give it its supper, then see it in the mornings, spoon a bit of mush into its mouth at breakfast and perhaps give the mother a bit of a lie-in, rather than anything else? It's nice being a dad, and the odd afternoon visit at weekends isn't anything like the same.

And isn't the fact that he spends so much time with his family a good sign rather than a bad sign?

Helen has got to realise that when she takes on this man, she has to take on his whole scenario. That involves not just his small baby, but also an ex-wife. When you have a child, you don't just have a past, something you can cut loose from, you have a permanent present as well. And those of us who get on with our exes know that you don't just drop the father or mother of your child, once you divorce, as if they never existed. You once loved them enough to have a child together, so surely when you split up romantically it's worth capitalising on the love you once had to become good friends. I always think, and it may be because I have a terribly hoarding, Scottish aspect to my personality, that it's such a waste not to be friends with one's exes. It's like eating a chicken and not making stock out of the carcass.

Rather than issue ultimatums, which will make her look like a chump, Helen should put pressure on her boyfriend to introduce her - not only to his baby but also to his ex-wife. In the very unlikely event that he is actually having sex with her, it would all come out into the open once they meet. If your eyes are sharp enough, you can always tell people's true relationships by studying their eyes and body language.

Regardless, Helen's presence would also make her existence more of a reality. Perhaps her boyfriend's wife still harbours fantasies about them getting back together again - who knows?

It sounds as though Helen is irrationally jealous. Her boyfriend has told her that he's not sleeping with his ex - and yet Helen is still suspicious, even though she says it's all getting "serious". If there is no trust in their relationship, quite honestly, there isn't a relationship, not even a trivial one.

Rather than make her boyfriend cut a relationship out of his life, why doesn't Helen use this opportunity to make other relationships in her own life - with his wife and child?

Readers say:

Talk, don't demand

I wouldn't give an ultimatum if I were you. No matter how serious your relationship gets, he will still have a son and, unfortunately, an ex-wife. Perhaps if his baggage is too much for you, the only way forward is to leave the relationship. If you can't, and you love him, and he is what you want, then compromise is your only avenue.

However, I, too, would feel uneasy about him staying over. Perhaps you could tell him how much he is upsetting you and see if you can work it out so that both of you are happy. I hope itworks out.

Mrs Denise Morton

Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Go behind his back

He wants to have his cake and eat it! Why don't you call the ex-wife and hear her side of the story - I bet it's very different from his. Does she even know that you exist?

Mrs Sandy Griffiths


Trust is everything

What sort of ultimatum are you thinking of giving him? He obviously wants to see his son, and as yet his son is not of an age where he can see him alone. I cannot blame you for being uneasy, but an ultimatum is not the answer. Ask him how he would feel if the situation was reversed and your ex was staying with you. You need to communicate with each other and reach a compromise, preferably that he can see his son but should not be staying over. You need to decide whether you trust him or not, and if not, whether he is the right one for you.


by email

Have patience

Start issuing ultimatums and he'll walk! Appreciate that he's being a loving and supportive father to his baby, unlike some who may have just walked away.

However, how about your partner negotiating the baby spending some time at your home? Could your partner stay in a hotel close by rather than at his ex's house? You will have to be patient on this one, as his child will always be his first priority.

Debbie Hendle


You choose, you lose

It is clear to see that your boyfriend is a very good father and is trying to maintain a healthy relationship with his son. In order to make his son feel happy and secure, then it is important that he has a good relationship with his ex-wife.

You have said that your relationship with your boyfriend is getting serious, so this suggests that he has strong feelings for you and that he is not leading you on.

It may be worth telling your boyfriend how you feel and suggesting that, in the future, the two of you could perhaps take his son out for the day. The last thing your boyfriend would need is an ultimatum, because if it were a choice between you and his son, then I'm afraid that you would lose.

N Gauge

Sandy, Bedfordshire

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I'm having an affair with a married man. He keeps saying he'll leave his wife, but he never does.

I'm thinking of sending a letter to his wife telling her about us, including copies of his texts and letters, and seeing if that makes any difference.

What do you think?

Yours sincerely, Claudia