I have a girlfriend that I’ve been with for five years…. She has a son who calls me “Daddy” because I am the closest father figure in his life. I love him and his mother the same, but she lives with her mother, and the way that this grandmother is rearing him is not appropriate. He often throws fits, doesn’t obey, raises his voice to adults, and tries to manipulate his mother even though he is only five years old….

I want to marry my girlfriend, but it is very uncomfortable for me to have to put up with this situation.

Dear Friend,

We can understand why you are uncomfortable being around the child when he is not being disciplined in the way that you believe is best. Many parents don’t comprehend how a very young child will manipulate to get his or her own way, even though he or she is not even old enough to do it deliberately nor with malice. They are not able to recognize the manipulation, not able to administer fair and consistent discipline, and not able to understand that they are doomed to many years of conflict.

You don’t want to be a part of that conflict, but when you tell us that you want to marry your girlfriend you leave out an extremely important detail. Do you want to get married because you are financially able to support her and her son? Can you afford to make a home for them, apart from any other relatives? Can you replace the support that this grandmother is providing for her daughter and grandson?

If the answer is yes, then you should discuss with your girlfriend whether or not she will be able to leave her mother’s house and live independently. She may want to marry you and live with you, and yet be so inextricably tied to her mother that she will never be able to leave her behind in order to live independently.

If you cannot financially provide for this woman and her son, then you should not continue to have a relationship with her, talk marriage to her, nor let her son call you “Daddy.” Instead, you need to walk away and not look back because you are doing yourself and her a disservice by continuing to plan a life with her.

Furthermore, you absolutely should not marry your girlfriend if her mother is going to have to continue taking care of the boy. That would be very unwise, and you would suffer for years. Only the naïve think that these kinds of problems will get better after marriage.

If you already have an intimate relationship with your girlfriend, it will be much more difficult to break up with her. However, you will be risking your lifetime happiness and peace by staying with her. If she gets pregnant, many of your current choices will no longer be available to you. Instead, you will be dooming yourself to a miserable life of conflict with the boy’s grandmother. And you will no longer be able to get away from the situation because of the new child that you and your girlfriend will have created.

God loves you and doesn’t want you to be stuck in a miserable situation. He wants to help give you the strength that you need to terminate the relationship before it is too late. We recommend that you pray and ask God to help you to do things His way. He is ready and waiting to give you wisdom and strength.

We wish you well,