Dear Wendy: “My Baby Daddy Is An Alcoholic. Should I MOA?”

My boyfriend (he would be a fiancé, but I turned him down) and I have been in a relationship for 2 1/2 years, and we have a 16-month-old daughter together. We’ve had problems in our relationship from almost the beginning. Every time I try to move on, he always coaxes me into staying (saying “we’re a family,” he loves me, “we’ll work on our relationship,” etc.). Most of our issues stem from his drinking. He’s English, and so he’s always spent loads of time in the pub, however, he’s being irresponsible, and only recently have I figured out he’s a functioning alcoholic. He says he’ll come home sober, but he keeps choosing not to (he can’t say no to another pint). Recently our arguments have started getting worse, and it’s getting physical. He refuses to go to couple’s counseling, and I’ve never been more alone in my life than I am in this relationship with him! I think on some level I do love him, but I feel that our daughter is more important. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that our nuclear family unit is normal. Should I MOA or try and stick it out, and focus just on my daughter and myself (only including him when he’s not drinking)? — Girlfriend of a Drunk

MOA, MOA, MOA! Not only are you putting yourself in danger by staying with this man, you’re putting your dear 16-month-old daughter in danger too. At the very, very least, you’re modeling for her a relationship that is dysfunctional and abusive. You’re showing her that it’s better to stay in a relationship that makes you miserable rather than happy on your own. You’re sending the message that being abused — both emotionally and physically — is not only acceptable, it’s normal. At worst, you are putting your little girl in danger of being her father’s punching bag the next time he’s drunk, enraged, out-of-control and overwhelmed with her normal toddler/child behavior. Even if you don’t love yourself enough to get out of this abusive relationship, love your daughter enough to provide a safe and loving home for her and a future that is less bleak than the one she’s currently facing in the presence of that man. It is not going to get better until you leave. As you’re already seeing, it’s only getting worse.

Do not talk this over with your boyfriend. Do not give him any more opportunities to make excuses and empty promises. Simply leave. Leave him as soon as you can. Leave him tonight if you’re able. Pack your bags while he’s at work or at the bar getting plowed and stay with a close friend or family member until you can get a place of your own. If you lack resources, contact a battered women’s shelter in your area that can provide a safe place, counseling, and assistance in getting set up in your own home. You don’t have to do this alone. There is help available. You owe it to yourself and your little girl to get it and get it now.

My boyfriend and I are planning to be engaged in about six months (when he finishes saving two months worth of salary — his idea, not mine!) and in the meantime, we are planning on moving in together. We have been dating since college and are unbelievably in love. He is extremely successful in his career and will be starting business school applications in the fall. I can’t think of anything other than a life with him, and I am so excited to be with him for the rest of mine.

I am the oldest of many children, three of whom are still under the age of ten, and my father is having a very hard time dealing with the fact that his daughter will be living with someone before marriage. If we move in together, he has told me multiple times that he will sue me in order to repossess any assets he has given me over the years. He also said that he will sever any contact between us in the future. He is clearly having a very hard time letting go, and it’s causing me and my boyfriend endless grief. We’ve tried calmly talking to and negotiating with my father with no success. What can we do? I’m not asking for him to give us his blessing, only for him not to ruin my relationship with my family. — Daddy’s Not So Little Girl

Parents often have a hard time letting go of their kids, but your father is really taking this to an extreme. Threatening to sue? That’s desperate (and something I can’t imagine a judge taking seriously). As easy as it is for me to say from where I sit, I wouldn’t take your father’s threats too seriously. Chances are, in time, he’ll come around and if not give you his blessing, he’ll accept that you are a grown woman making choices for yourself. Most parents don’t want to be estranged from their children forever — especially when those children are starting happy families of their own, which is exactly what you and your boyfriend will be doing when you marry. Since you’ve tried calmly talking with your father and that hasn’t worked, I’d write him a letter expressing how grateful you are that he raised you to be an independent thinker and someone who could open her heart enough to love and be loved, and though you respect that you and he have differences of opinion on certain matters, you love him very much and it would mean the world to you if he could accept you despite those differences and continue to be part of your life.

If what you are most concerned with is your father standing in the way of your relationship with the rest of your family, including your underage siblings who still live under his roof, find out first if that is his intention. He told you he’d sever contact in the future, but does that mean he’ll also sever contact between you and your siblings? If so, try to enlist the help of other adult family members — first to talk to your father on your behalf, and then to act as a liaison between you and your siblings, perhaps even offering a place where you could meet regularly. You don’t mention your mother, so if she is no longer in the picture or is unable/unwilling to help you, are there other family members who could act as a liaison — grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even close family friends? You may not get as much time with your siblings as you’d like, but keeping the lines of communication open with them until your father comes around — and, really, I do believe he will, eventually — may help give you a sense of peace and connection.

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