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I was 'saved' by this forum. Here's my story for story's sake.

expatpreneur's picture

Hey everyone, I'm a British childfree by choice entrepreneur/business owner and part-time expat (37F). 

This is my first and perhaps last ever post here, assuming I keep my intention to never get involved with another single parent! However, I think every story is worth sharing even if you've stepped out of the situationship (pun intended), so we can perhaps give other people more courage to defend their own boundaries.

Over the past few months, the stories on these forums have been a real source of comfort and validation to me throughout a bizarre experience which I've now escaped. Hopefully. So, thank you for having the courage to share your experiences. 

My story goes back over decade when I met a German acquaintance through a job in my mid 20s. We got along like a house on fire from day one and we were massive flirts with each other, and then he tried to get a transfer to the UK office which was denied. But I was also in another relationship at the time and not interested despite my relationship being on the rocks so to speak.

Background: Soon after this he met a German woman, who, in fact, looks a lot like me, and they got married pretty quickly. He invited me to the wedding party, which I felt slightly weird about and ultimately they had a son who is now 5 years old. Not long after its birth, the ex wife cheated on him and is still with this other guy apparently. After that I was immersed in my own life, in another relationship, etc but he continued stay in touch as friends as I kept it as that in my mind. In 2018 they filed for divorce and that didn't go through fully until late 2019/early 2020. German family law is quite complex. 

The co-parenting situ: Both bio parents are fully involved with the child on a 50/50 schedule and live just a few streets apart, so he's passed between households alternately. There are also 5 (F.I.V.E) bio aunties living within a few miles all hands-on involved and 2 sets of grandparents also hands-on involved. It was very unclear as to what my role could be even if I'd have wanted one and my ex was reluctant to define what it was, as if childcare is women's work and we should inherently know, which for someone like me is fairly offensive and 1950s. But, this is Germany. Yes, still. 

Naive phase: Fast forward to April 2019, he travels internationally work, including to UK customers, and he contacted me about meeting up in a city where I happened to be on business as well. When we met the attraction was like a lightening bolt. We began dating pretty quickly but I guess things felt pressured moved faster because of the long distance. Anyway, I was fresh out of my 4 year relationship too in April 2019 and jaded and 'lost', so I did what any smart, sane person does (sarcasm) and rebounded straight into a new one with this dude. In hindsight, I would have slowed things right down, taken 3-6 months space for myself and focused on my business. But no. 

Anyway, we had this fun international relationship for a few months (April - July). He'd fly in to see me and vice versa. Then he asked me to move in with him in Germany. I knew about his son but was naive about what it would entail. Before I moved, he expressed some concerns in passing around the fact the lifestyle might be too boring and restrictive for me but still pushed hard for me to move in regardless.

After moving over: (I'm bilingual btw and studied at a German university, so Germany is not a foreign place to me.) We had maybe one or "date weekends" where my ex showed me around this new German city and then the organised dates and fun couple stuff slowly fizzled. It became all about the kid and the post-divorce issues. I met his son (then just 3yrs) pretty quickly and was invited to spend a family holiday with him and son on the German coast (I recommend it!), whereby I bought all the meals and didn't have to pay for the accommodation, etc. This was also the set-up at home which was pretty great for my bank account but now I realise that "payment" isn't always monetary! 

I went along on the trip for the experience but it was not what I'd call a holiday. I was plain tired and irritated by the child's demands. I just put it down to the fact I wasn't used to being around kids and never said anything. So, the jist of it is, it all moved too quickly. But my ex was encouraging it throughout this period and confident it would all work out well.

Corona and lockdown #1: I flew home to England in March 2020 to visit family and got locked down for 4 whole months. We lost my grandmother in the April and couldn't say goodbye and I was fairly traumatised by that as I'd never lost anyone that close. My ex was super keen to get me back over there to Germany though; I was in two minds because I felt that my own mum needed my support in England a bit longer. Anyway, this didn't seem to be his concern at all. He wanted me back there ASAP. He even drove to Amsterdam (~3hrs from where we were in North Germany) to pick me up in the end because of flight restrictions. I went to the coast with him and his son for a second time in July 2020 because I thought it'd be better the second time. Plus, I'd been locked down for 4 months. But, I felt pretty much the same fatigue and boredom with it as before and asked for one day to myself on the beach. I also had to sleep separately because my ex snores like a steam train and frankly, I'm not OK with losing sleep for that lol. 

Beyond July, we had a few issues with the sleeping arrangements at home on a permanent basis; the kid wanted to be with his dad every single night around midnight. It was just his little routine for whatever reason and my ex let me stay in the big bed and never brought him into the bed with us both as I said absolutely NO to anything like that from day one. This meant they had to sleep on the very large and comfy sofa downstairs. I guess over time my ex just got tired of that aspect. 

There was another bad day which was later highlighted as one of the "deal breakers" while Germany was in semi-lockdown in September 2020. I love industrial history and we had his son with us on this particular weekend when I discovered a local museum I wanted to visit. I suggested going another time but my ex said, nah it'll be fine let's go today. The kid RUINED it with attention seeking and shouting, etc. and it simply pissed me off. Not going to apologise for feeling that way. I was still grieving my grandmother's death too which my ex seemed to have little sympathy for. I didn't feel like acknowledging the child and playing with him for just a day and half. I took my laptop upstairs for some me-time. Then we all forgot about it. So I thought. 

Lockdown #2 and the discard: So July - Dec were pretty dull because of lockdown and both my ex and I had a downturns in business. He seemed in a flat mood I chalked his low mood up to all that. He loves to travel, etc. and likes to be on the go and he couldn't because of the restrictions. Anyway, I'd read on here something about living situations and how it's a good idea to ask what the future set up would be, so I asked my ex what he would do if his son wanted to live with him full time. Obviously, I didn't really want that but was open to adjusting to it, etc. As a busines woman, I was thinking about increased living costs with a teenager there, the prospect of moving and buying a home together, etc. And my ex took this as a really offensive question and then he seemed to get over it and acted normal. (Acting being the operative word.) 

Around November, I heard that my mum was going back on the frontline (NHS worker) after a break, and having lost my grandmother already I panicked a bit and decided I had to risk being separated from my ex again in lockdown. I chose my real family and flew home for Christmas knowing I'd probably be gone until March at the earliest. But I assumed that we'd continue out relationship via Skype, etc. It was a temporary situation after all. 

Around New Year, however, things got really weird. After NYE the content and tone of his messages altered. He became very cold and withdrawn for the whole of January and eventually dumped me by email citing a long list of things he'd apparently held against me all this time. He still refuses to face time me, and half of my possessions are still in his house in Germany. He promised to pack some of them up and arrange to ship here but has not given any update on that since Feb 18th. Naturally, I'm preparing for the worst while planning an "invade and raid" rescue mission with my 6'5" sibling once borders open lol. 

The break up reasons he wrote in that email are why I'm posting in here because for closure, namely; 

  • I work too many hours (actually he fully supported it prior to this second lockdown)
  • We already spent 4 months apart the previous year (not sure if he's trying to blame the pandemic on me or what!)
  • He said that realised he "wanted something he cannot have when he looked at it objectively." (Still lost with that one...millions of people are married with children simultaneously.) 
  • The day at the museum I was "hostile" towards his son which is just not true.
  • I'd mentioned something casually about preferring to go to Wimbledon this year (I'm a tennis fanatic) instead of the coast with them for the 3rd time. Apparently, this was "avoiding time with his child." 

I'd like to know for future situations what's normal/reasonable and what's not. My experience doesn't seem to fit with anything that I read on here. *scratch_one-s_head* Many of you say that it's good to have your own stuff to keep you entertained while they've got their kids, etc.

So, at first I thought dating a busy entrepreneur would probably work quite well with a single parent as I'm self-sufficient understand heavy commitments. But I was not ALLOWED to disengage from the child; I was not ALLOWED to have my own things to do and stay on the sidelines when the child was with him, etc. If I wanted to meet new expat friends, my ex had to come too. And I was expected to reduce my work hours to give the already obsessed over only child more attention. 

In the end I was seemingly punished for having boundaries, giving them space and in a vindinctive way (waiting until I'd flown home, etc. to devalue and discard me.) 

OBVIOUSLY I will actively avoid dating any parent from now on, I have a very good idea of my ideal 'type' now, so no need to reiterate that point. I am very happy to remain single for a while and work on myself and my businesses as I should have done from April 2019. However, I'd love to hear any constructive feedback as the lockdown has not helped with the rumination about it. 

Does any of it sound normal or bizarre or what? For anyone versed in personality psychology, I get "cluster B vibes" from my ex (NPD). The big irony of it all is that I miss his son more than him LOL. 

Serious props to everyone here who continues to battle through less than ideal circs in the name of love! You deserve to live happier and more hassle-free lives. 

Thanks for reading and all the best. Stay safe & well! Drinks

Harry's picture

No normal in real life.  Yoir BF just told you.  His son is his number one important person in his life.  You are second or third.  In order for this relationship to work you must let SS control your life.  You must kiss his as* and keep him happy SS    
If you want to do this find. But you don't   So thank him for letting you out 

expatpreneur's picture

Thank you, yes, definitely dodged a bullet there! 

The_Upgrade's picture

I wish I knew this guy’s address so I can send him a  thank you message. He saved you from wasting more precious years of your life playing nanny/f-buddy while he worships his son on his pedestal. Your story is a refreshing change from the norm on StepTalk where the poster is several years down the line, sold their house, given up their job to be a SAHM and feeling trapped with a bio kid to the dysfunctional mix. 

This guy knew early on you weren’t going to cater to his idiocy. I only wish he came with a bright warning label firmly attached to his forehead to warn the next girl he sets his sight on. “WARNING: I will wine and dine you to sucker you in but I really want a free live in nanny to worship my son who can do no wrong. Bonus points if you can pay my bills too” 

expatpreneur's picture

"He saved you from wasting more precious years of your life" & "...Bonus points if you can pay my bills too”  - yes, though I do - to be fair - earn more than the average person, he may have seen me as a lucrative resource because I was paying for most things we did as a couple together without the kid, and when with his son, I ended up paying for them BOTH.

This reminds me that early on I began to question the assumption that I'd be paying for his son's bedtime nappies and expensive organic or "bio" foods (as they call them in Germany) with the main food shopping as he and his ex wife insisted on the kid having because of "allergies" (he was the healthiest, fittest kid I've ever seen).  Well, I could tell he didn't like that I pushed back on that or on the assumption that I'd be paying for the kid's tennis coaching lol. The cheek of it.  

expatpreneur's picture

...sold their house, given up their job to be a SAHM

I can't actually believe people go this far! At least let out your home and test the waters before committing more.

Wicked stepmo.'s picture

It sounds to me like your ex wanted to move very quickly and then wanted to change you to meet his needs.

That's a lot different than someone who loves you for everything that you are. I don't think it is a kid issue. You just picked the wrong guy.

Rebound relationships do teach us a lot. Just take what you have learned from this experience to help you find the right person for you. 


expatpreneur's picture

I don't think it is a kid issue. 

True, the boundaries were just too vague in this situation and I've learned a lot! I also don't think he's properly over his divorce or ex and I was just an emotional airbag for a while. 

Rags's picture

Congratulations.  Your self awareness and drive are awesome positives for you.

Do please keep in mind that SParents in happy marriages with good Skid relationships and boundaries generally do not come to this community.  That said, I am confident that quality adult relationships can happen even between a child free person and a prior family breeder.  It takes maturity from both partners, complete agreement that each will be equity life partners to the other, the adult relationship is the sole top priority for each other and both are equity parents to any children in the relationship home.  Regardless of kid biology.

I would not write off everyone who has a child or children.  Just update your smell test for quality candidates, have the relationship priority, equity partners, equity parent discussion at the point where the intense connection occurs, and move forward only when you are confident that an agreement is in place that provides the assurances that confirm that you and the relationship are your partner's priority, as your partner and the relationship are for you.  And.... that makes you an equity parent to the SKids in your relationship.    The relationship is the priority, kids are the top relationship responsibility. Two very different though important concepts.

Good luck.  Be good to yourself.

expatpreneur's picture

Do please keep in mind that SParents in happy marriages with good Skid relationships and boundaries generally do not come to this community.  

That's an excellent point, yes, thank you. I hear about and see some healthy, happy SKID situations, so I guess that's why I was thrown a bit by this one. You're right, it provides a good knowledge base for what to look out for next time. Equity is really important to me and at least I've reconfirmed that to myself. Take care too. All the best. :-) 

MaryBethC's picture

Good for you and getting out of this mess!

Sounds like BF wanted you to play mommy to his son. I've read so many stories on here of men going after women (mainly childless) to be their built-in nanny mom so they don't have to deal with their spawn alone. I wouldn't say never date someone with kids but if you are the type to not want any I'd recommend dating other childless people.

For the future some red flags for people with kids:


Don't want to talk about your feelings, are vague about what role you'll play with their kids

Get upset at any mention of their kids that aren't praise

Sleeping with kids for any reason other than the child is sick. I think this is a huge flag because it shows they have no backbone when it comes to their kids. A grown adult having kids sleep in the bed with their SO or choosing to leave the bed to co sleep is so infuriating.

Has no boundaries with other bioparent

Doesn't put you first or checks their kid when they are rude.


Good luck in your future endeavors.

expatpreneur's picture

I've read so many stories on here of men going after women (mainly childless) to be their built-in nanny mom so they don't have to deal with their spawn alone. 

Yes! There is actually an important semantic difference between childfree and childLESS. The latter are more "fencesitters" about kids and more likely to be happy to accept other peoples kids in a step parent like role. The problem with the childless group is that if they are young enough, they will likely want their own kid with the parent and I've found that many divorcees, incl. my ex are against remarriage, and also never want another kid because "it was all so stressful." They simply want you to accept and raise theirs. Oh the narcissism LOL. 

Whereas someone who calls themselves childFREE, that usually, but not always, means that they don't want anything to do with kids in their personal lives whatsoever. Even if they have nieces and nephews they love. It's only because they can give them back later. Biggrin Dating a parent is not my ideal situation but since it is statistically more likely to meet someone with kids nowadays, they must meet the criteria as you kindly set out above. 

The exception I made with my ex was based on the fact I thought he understood the difference. In hindsight, I remember comments now like "the PROBLEM with women's right is they want their cake and to eat it too." *cringe* which indicates some pretty fixed traditional ideas about women. 

Given how selfish he is, I'm confident that he would suddenly become a super feminist if he'd had a daughter. *smirk* 

Thanks for your awesome tips, all the best!

Kes's picture

Look at it this way - he did you a complete favour in ending it with you, before you'd wasted any more time on this man.  I imagine he'll now be looking for some poor woman willing to cave in to his bullying, gaslighting and expectations that the world will revolve around his whiny kid.  

expatpreneur's picture

...he'll now be looking for some poor woman willing to cave in to his bullying, gaslighting and expectations that the world will revolve around his whiny kid.  

Yes, I sense that he has either found a new victim already - hence his complete radio silence - and he's busy grooming her, or he's being passive aggressive because he knows I'm waiting for an update on his packing my belongings. Besides that I'm emotionally over it and feel relieved. I'm just sad that other women fall for this stuff and lose so much of their valuable time. We all deserve better. 

Thank you and all the best. 

CLove's picture

I imagine you to be very successful at your business - given the way that you had managed to see through all the BS. Thank goodness he broke it off. I can imagine you are feeling all kinds of relief. My condolences on the loss you experienced.

Good luck and best wishes!

exstepmomnotmychoice's picture

Hi. Just signed up because I am finally facing that years after it fell apart I am deeply affected by by blended family's end. I loved my stepD.  A lot of the time.  If the dad won't hear you, life gets really painful.

 Giving you a list like that sounds like an attempt to blame you for everything. I hope writing it to this forum helps you let it go. Myself, I tend to rewind all the crappy things  that were said. Almost ironic that I'm here years later- trying to let go. But the stories make me know I'm not alone and at fault like I was set up to feel.  Believe the "better off" comments. Best luck to you!

Stepdrama2020's picture

mine are an EX as well, and the reflections of step hell still run through my core. It's like being kidnapped into some crazy twisted cult and finally when freed you need years of therapy to get back to yourself.