My partner’s biological father is a constant disappointment. Can we give him up?



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9-year-old Caitlin gets a surprise on Christmas morning when the gift inside a large box is her Marine brother, Jaret, who is home for the holidays.

Militarykind, USA TODAY

Question: “My partner and I have been together for three years, recently bought a house and welcomed a baby. My parents are very helpful and supportive, as are his mum and step-dad. he must know my partner is biological.father left when he was about the same age as our baby now (3 months).Since then he has been a very absent and neglectful father.I have only known this side of the family a handful of times.When my partner told him he was going to be a dad, he responded by congratulating himself, but then we never heard a single word from him throughout my pregnancy.

After our baby was born, they made a trip our way and we had a short visit. They brought gifts and insisted we come visit them the next time we travel near them (our parents live in the same area), and we visited them the next time we went home. We thought it would just be my partner’s dad and stepmom, and were surprised when we arrived that they had invited the whole extended family. There were at least 15 people! With our three week old baby, COVID and RSV are the main thing for us and we were not prepared to walk into such a crowd. We managed the visit but were very happy to go back to my parents house.

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Shortly after the second visit, we were shocked when my partner did not receive a call, text or card from her father on her birthday. We thought that with the new situation it might be an opportunity for her father to form a real relationship with us, and my partner was hurt once again. I have seen how my partner’s biological father has disappointed him and how it has affected him. I want to protect our baby from this same pain and disappointment. I feel like if we didn’t approach them, we’d hear them once or twice a year. Am I wrong not to make any effort to continue the relationship?”

Answer: “I don’t think you’re wrong to want to stop putting effort into a relationship with your partner’s biological father and stepmother. From everything you describe here, it sounds like a performative relationship and not one built on respect, love . and genuine care. When you brought your 3 week old son to visit them, and they had the whole family there, did they take tons of pictures? They went above and beyond to show that they are the most caring and involved. If it is so that and the fact that they didn’t bother to get there during the pregnancy or after the visit makes me wonder if it was all for show.

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Relationships are a two-way street, so if you’re the only one putting in the effort, it doesn’t look cool. Your partner has been hurt and disappointed a lot in the past, and while that’s to be expected, it usually doesn’t hurt any less. I wouldn’t overextend you in the future, but I would keep a line of communication open. Send holiday cards, birthday updates, or whatever else you think you have the energy to do, but don’t go above and beyond. Let them work to show that they care and that they are not in it for a performance. If they can continue to prove themselves to be respectful and reliable grandparents, they deserve more effort, but until then, stay safe. The holidays are coming up and your little one’s immune system is still maturing, so don’t let them overwhelm you again if controlled contact with limited groups is off limits for you.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best,

Morgan

Morgan Absher is an occupational therapist in Los Angeles who hosts the podcast, “Two Hot Takes,” where she and her co-hosts offer advice. He writes a weekly column, sharing his advice with USA TODAY readers. Find her on TikTok @twohottakes and YouTube here. You can contact her by email at Mabsher@gannett.com or you can click here here to share your story with her.

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