Advice: My husband’s child has reentered our lives and I want nothing to do with her

Frustrated couple by a tree in the forest
The husband had promised that their lives would remain child-free.Pexels

No matter how you become a parent, through giving birth or sharing your life with someone who has a child, stepping into the role is a life-changer—for better or worse. And people who wish to remain child-free, for whatever reason, might see the prospect of becoming a stepparent a dealbreaker for a relationship. A woman, writing under the handle hatewhatshappening took to the “Am I the A**hole?” subreddit to vent about contending with this very issue. In short, her husband fathered a daughter with an ex who he says was “not a planned baby,” but 15 years later, he’s had a change of heart and wants to be in his daughter’s life. For the original poster (OP), this is a massive betrayal.

The OP wrote, “I met my husband 13 years ago. We were married after two years of being together. When I first met him, he told me that he had a 2-year-old daughter that he had no interest in being a father to, and that she wasn’t a planned baby. I accepted this, and accepted that he just paid child support and that was it. His child lives with her mom in Pasadena, and we live in Vermont- so as you can imagine, worlds away. My husband never once expressed an interest in going to see his child, maintaining contact, they NEVER spoke or exchanged birthday cards, Christmas cards, etc.” She noted that her husband had even pleaded with his ex to have an abortion.

Hatewhatshappening noted that she accepted the situation and is herself “childfree,” explaining, “My childhood was spent slaving away looking after my mother’s five other children, and while she was constantly on drugs it fell on me to be mom. I am NOT okay with children, having children, or wanting to foster maternal bonds with children. When I entered into this relationship, it was 100% done under the trust that my husband had no contact with this child or wanted to be a father.”

But last year, the OP’s husband’s daughter got on Facebook and sent him a note. “She spilled her heart out, said she had sleuthed her way into finding her father, she wanted a relationship desperately, etc.,” she shared. “My husband came to me in turmoil and in tears asked for permission to go and see her. I was angry, my world had turned upside down, my own place in his world had now changed, everything was different—but I swallowed my hurt and NEVER ONCE did I let him feel my own fear. I told him to go and make his peace.”

Since then, the Redditor says her husband has regularly flown to see his daughter. “He has had an apparent complete change of heart and has taken on the role of daddy with enthusiasm and gusto, to the delight of both his daughter and her mother,” she wrote. “A few weeks ago, he sat down and had a serious talk with me. He said he knew my stance on children, but he begged me to integrate this child into my life, to let her come and stay with us from time to time, to open my heart to her. I told him I couldn’t do that. I said I would rather divorce then be a stepparent to a child I never knew would be in my life.”

The OP says she would have left if she knew the two were communicating before this past year, writing, “Had I known, I would have left as it’s unfair to this child, she only has one father whereas I can go and find another partner.” The whole situation has left her feeling “like a terrible person, like I’m an evil witch,” but also as though the way things have panned out are “horribly unfair” to her.

In edits to her original post, the Redditor then clarified that her husband asked her to “take on being a ‘mom’ with him,” “he becomes sullen and withdrawn when I don’t join in the topic with equal enthusiasm,” “he has started a college fund from our shared savings,” “he has taken over the second bedroom that used to be mine, and has decorated it so she has a space to stay.”

Her bottom-line: “I never consented to being part of this type of family, and he knew that. … When I ask him to let me go at my pace, he is unable to see why it’s important. He’s making up for lost time, I am not.”

Ultimately, Hatewhatshappening was looking for her fellow Redditors to tell her that her husband is actually the one at fault.

Since the post went live on Tuesday, July 30, it has racked up 2.7K comments, many of which reassured the OP that she’s “NTA” (Not the Asshole).

ConvivialKat observed, “You met and married this man with some very serious and honest promises made. He has broken them (apparently, permanently). As a child free person, myself, I cannot think of any reason you should be considered an asshole in any way. I also do not think you are under any obligation whatsoever to meet his child. Him asking you to do so is not OK (for you or the child). You married him because you trusted his promise he had no interest in this child. He married you, knowing full well that you never want children or stepchildren. I see a divorce in your near future.”

Another Redditor named _bufflehead wrote, “I feel for you. Your husband has had a change of heart that he wasn't looking for and neither of you were expecting. … I hope you find your way through this.”

Peithecelt voted “YTA” (You’re the Asshole), calling the OP out for “being blindly oblivious.” He elaborated, “He had a child, this was ALWAYS a possibility. I'm sorry that your daydream has burst, but if you hook up with someone with a child, there is ALWAYS a possibility that the child will go from a financial burden to a HUMAN BEING.”

Tygria was empathetic to the OP’s cause but encouraged her not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, writing, “Look, I understand being child free. I am child free. But honestly, I think your childhood trauma is really impacting your life in a way that’s bad for you, and I think it might be time to at least look at some therapy before you throw away your whole marriage. You are the one who brought up that it was your childhood that made you not want to parent, so I’m basing my opinion on that.”

While the Reddit community was understandably divided on this complicated and sensitive subject, it’s heartening to see that most commenters understood the nuances of the situation. Here’s hoping that the OP and her husband are able to reach an amicable solution. The fact is that parenthood isn’t for everyone, and step-parenthood may not be for this Redditor. When all is said and done, this challenging moment may lead her to the conclusion that this particular partnership isn’t for her either.