This is a long read. If you can get through it please give any advice you can. I want to start by saying my husband is a good man. He provides a very comfortable life for me and our children. He has never been abusive or manipulative. He’s never kept secrets or cheated. But he has one huge flaw. He has a favorite child.
We have three teenage sons. They are Mason (18), Kyle (15), and Sean (13). Our youngest son Sean is my husband’s favorite. He knows this, I know this, and what really kills me is that our children know it.
It wasn’t always like this. He used to be equally loving to all of our boys. But when Sean was 5 years old he got pneumonia and was dangerously close to death. It was obviously an extremely tough time for my husband and I. And through the entire hospital stay, Sean always wanted his dad above anyone else. It bonded them.
Ever since then, my husband has always favored and spoiled Sean to the detriment of his relationships with Mason and Kyle. The two older boys noticed as they got older and were understandably hurt that their father always favored Sean.
I had several conversations with my husband throughout the years about how he needs to realize he has three sons, not just one. He always listened and would make an effort to be more involved with Mason and Kyle but it never lasted. He’d always go back to being super dad to Sean.
This all came to a head today when Kyle’s school had an awards ceremony that Kyle would be presented an award at. This was a virtual event. Essentially the event was just a large group video call where the kids would be recognized for their academic achievements and there was a raffle for several prizes. Kyle was excited because one of the prizes was a game system he wanted.
Parents were invited to join in on their own computer to get an extra “entry” for raffle prizes on behalf of their children. I wasn’t going to be able to make it as I had work but I told my husband to just drop in and watch them read Kyle’s name and stick around so Kyle could have just a slightly better chance at getting the prize he wanted.
Again this was a virtual event. All he had to do was go to the website and sit there for less than half an hour. School events like this (even pre-covid) were always more my thing.
My husband almost never went to these things as he was usually working (but of course there was a higher chance of him showing up for one of Sean’s events). But he’s working mostly from home and he wasn’t even going to be on the clock at the time of this event. He said he’d do it.
On the day of the event, I reminded him before I left for work to make sure he showed up. I sent him the invite link again while I was at work just to be sure he had it and he assured me he’d be there. Well, the event came and went.
Kyle was in his room on his own laptop for the event and my husband never joined the group call. I was busy at work so I couldn’t message him back until almost an hour after the event ended.
I asked how it went. He said he was trying to join but the link didn’t work. I asked what did he mean he was trying to join now when the event was an hour ago. He replied “Oh I thought you said it was now.” I saw red.
He missed the event because he got the time wrong. After I told him several times what time and exactly how to join. All he had to do was click the link at the right time. I was furious but I wanted to wait until I got home to talk to him.
So, I get home and see our oldest son Mason’s car in our driveway. He does not live with us anymore; he is in college and has his own apartment. I walk inside and Sean is in the living room looking upset. I ask him what’s wrong and he says the other boys are fighting with dad.
I asked what happened and he said he doesn’t know just that Kyle got really mad and called Mason when he told Kyle that Sean and my husband went to get frozen yogurt earlier. I asked what time they went and he tells me.
It was 10 minutes before Kyle’s event. He missed the event because he chose to take Sean to get frozen yogurt (I learned later that Sean was begging him and my husband, as usual, caved and took him.)
At that moment, Mason, Kyle and my husband all come down the stairs. They’re yelling and Mason has a duffel bag with Kyle’s things. I asked what is happening and Mason says he’s taking Kyle with him to stay at his apartment for a while. I told him Kyle can stay the night but he can’t just move in with him.
My husband said that Kyle is not leaving and he needs to talk to him privately. But Mason blew up on him. He said everyone knows Sean is his favorite and he couldn’t tell Sean to wait 30 minutes before taking him to get yogurt. I told Mason I understood his anger but that we all needed to sit down and talk.
Kyle joins in and says that he’s tired of his dad always choosing Sean over the two of them and he wants to stay with Mason. My husband was apologizing and saying he doesn’t choose Sean over them, he just made a mistake.
Mason challenges my husband saying “you always just make mistakes that leave me and Kyle on the back burner” and told him to try to remember the last time he did something with either he or Kyle alone. My husband listed two events. Mason reminded him Sean tagged along for both.
My husband said they’re family and of course he’s allowed to go with. Kyle shouted back that my husband has taken out-of-town trips with just he and Sean three times in the last year and a half. And he was right.
Sean got visibly upset at this point. Mason said he was sorry and that this wasn’t about anything he did wrong. That it was their dad’s fault, not his. Sean went upstairs to his room. My husband started after him and Mason said “See? You’ve got three upset sons and you still run off to coddle Sean.” My husband said that’s not true, he’s just more sensitive than the other boys.
Mason told him that if he wants so badly for Sean to be his only son, then he can have his wish. He said not to call or text him or Kyle anymore and that they don’t have a dad anymore. Kyle added “You already act like we don’t exist anyway” My husband’s face dropped. The way he was neglecting our two older boys finally, FINALLY hit him.
I was a sobbing mess. I could see the hurt in both my son’s eyes. I told them to stay so we could talk and find a solution. Kyle begged me to just let him leave, saying he didn’t want to be in the house anymore.
Mason hugged me and assured me he’d make sure Kyle got his schoolwork done and he’d call me tomorrow. I let them go. As much as I want Kyle here, I know he needs time away from my husband.
My husband went to the kitchen and cried. He’s never been an emotional man, but the reality of our two older boys wanting to go no contact with him finally knocked some sense into him. I wanted to yell and scream at him. I told him for years that he needed to stop favoring one child. All he had to do was show up one time for Kyle. I’m so angry.
Instead, I told my husband that I love him and I know he’s hurt so I’m not going to yell at him. But, I told him I love my children more and that if he didn’t fix things with his boys and start treating them equally from this moment forward, I would be divorcing him. He just said “I don’t want to lose my family.”
He started to get up saying he should make sure Sean was okay. I told him I would check on Sean and for once he needed to think of his other sons. I admit I was passive aggressive but my blood was boiling and I was trying my best not to tear my husband down any more than my son’s parting words had.
I spent the next hour consoling Sean and reassuring him that his brothers don’t hate him and that their issue is with my husband, not him. He said they won’t text him back and I said he needs to give them time. I’m emotionally exhausted. I don’t know what to do.
My husband is sleeping in the guest room tonight. We’ve never not slept in the same bed unless one of us is out of town for one reason or another. Is it worth divorcing my husband over if he doesn’t fix it? This is the only big issue we’ve ever had in our marriage but he broke my children’s hearts and, even if we do stay together, I don’t know if I can ever forgive him for that.
I feel like a failure as a mother for not being more assertive with my husband and not interfering throughout all these years. I also feel like it may be too late for him to make things right at this point. What do I do? What CAN I do?
I wish I had some great advice. But I read this whole thing and I wanted to say that I'm sorry. I can only hope that your husband had finally learned his lesson. He really might have been unaware of how bad it was. I think the best thing is to give it time and find out how you're feeling about his effort, or lack of? I hope he makes some big changes. Hang in there.
Thank you for taking the time to read the entire post. I guess I’m just scared that he won’t step up and fix it. But I guess you’re right. All I can do is wait and see how he handles that. I know that this is his issue to fix but knowing how hurt my children are kills me. They are such good kids. They don’t deserve to feel this way...
Light a fire under your husband's butt. Don't let things settle, it's easy to do. Don't let him get relaxed like things will just blow over either. Get that man doing good because you know he can. I hope his eyes are open to the truth so you don't have to. Marriage counseling though, get it.
Things will definitely not just blow over. Our two oldest hit their breaking point. We both saw that tonight. I think I’ll give it a day or two to see what he comes up with on his own. I really do want this to be something he fixes on his own without being “forced” to.
I think he will. As crazy as it sounds given what I just wrote in my post I do have faith that he really does love our boys enough to not let this be the end of his relationship with them. I’m seeing a lot of comments about marriage counseling. I guess this is something I can look into on my own while he figures out what to do on his end. Thank you for the advice.
I posted a few weeks ago about an issue with my family and there were a decent amount of people who gave great advice and reassurance on what I was already feeling. I am so incredibly happy to say that this is a good update. Great, even!
First, regarding my sons. Mason called me the next day as he promised and said Kyle was settling in fine. I asked how they felt about Sean and Mason said that he and Kyle talked last night and while they don’t necessarily blame Sean that it’s still hard not to be slightly angry at him, especially because we can all see that Sean does realize he’s the favorite and leans into it.
In the end both boys texted Sean that they weren’t mad but they needed time away to cool off. Sean was of course sad but I did get through to him that sometimes people need space. A couple days later I dropped Sean off at Mason’s apartment and the boys had a movie/game night.
I’m not sure what was said but Sean came back much happier and his brothers are texting him back again. I knew they would be okay but I was glad that Mason and Kyle are mature and kind hearted enough to not hold onto their anger towards Sean.
Regarding my husband: I admit I was weak and I caved the night of the incident. I went to the guest room and my husband was still awake and on his laptop. I asked what he was doing and he showed me the screen.
He was searching for therapists. I never brought this up as a suggestion. He did it on his own. I asked why he was looking for a therapist and he said because he feels like he’s only going to get one chance to make things right with the boys and he wanted a professional to tell him the best way to do so.
It lifted so much of my fears and anxiety about how he felt. I cried and I told him to come back to our room. He took the next day off of work. In our entire 22 years of marriage he has called out of work less than 5 times.
He talked to 3 different therapists for roughly an hour each before deciding he liked the second one best. He’s an older man with adult children and my husband said he felt like the therapist could relate to him and understand his situation best. I was so proud of him.
His therapist suggested sending a short apology and promise of working on himself. Both his therapist and myself read the text but did not change or influence him in anyway. The words are entirely his own.
He wrote, “I’m sorry. I messed up. For years I messed up. I hate that I let it get to this point and I hate that I hurt you both so badly. I love you. I will always love you and I know you may not want to talk to me right now but I’ve just started therapy and I hope in time that you boys will forgive me and give me a chance to be better for both of you.
There is so much more I want to say but I would like to say it in person. You can always call me, text me, or come home when you’re ready to talk. Any time. I will drop whatever I’m doing when you’re ready to talk. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I love you boys. Love, Dad.”
Kyle called me a couple hours after my husband sent them the text and asked me to come over. I did. Mason and Kyle were there and they asked me if their dad really wrote the message.
I assured them that he did and reiterated that neither I nor his new therapist wrote a single word of his apology. It was all him. They admitted it felt good to know that he did care but they needed time. This was also when we talked about Sean.
A week went by with no response to my husband’s text. Then another. He was heartbroken. He broke down in our bedroom one night and just cried saying he’d ruined his relationship with his sons and they were never going to forgive him. I reassured him that wasn’t the case but it was hard for him to accept. I told him he needs to keep talking to his therapist and focus on himself.
His relationship with Sean changed as well. Even though he was the only son we had in our home he started to spend less time with him. And Sean was completely fine with this. His therapist helped him realize that he was the one always initiating “hang out time” with Sean.
He’d go to his room and ask Sean if he wanted to do something. Or he’d tell Sean to go with him when he went to pick up dinner or go run errands. Five days ago Kyle finally texted my husband asking if they could talk. My husband said absolutely and asked where Kyle wanted him to go. Kyle said he and Mason wanted to come to the house.
My husband, true to his word, called his boss and said he needed the rest of the day off for a family emergency. I dropped Sean off at my mother’s house so the boys could talk openly to my husband without worrying about hurting Sean’s feelings and they came over and we all talked in the living room.
It wasn’t easy. We all cried. But my husband did everything right. I repeat: he did EVERYTHING right. He apologized. He didn’t deny his favoritism. He told the boys about his work with his therapist and how it was helping.
He said he’s learned he justified his favoritism by telling himself that he and Sean were just closer but he now realized they were only closer because he was putting the majority of his time and effort towards Sean instead of all three of the boys.
My husband asked for one chance to show them he has and will continue to change and treat them equally. Kyle accepted his apology. Mason said he wants to but he feels like it’s too late for he and my husband as he’s already out of the house.
My husband told Mason that he is Mason’s father for life and asked him again for just a single chance. Mason agreed that he doesn’t want to not have his dad in his life but that he doesn’t want to feel that pain again if he lets him in.
He asked the boys what specifically they need from him besides him making improvements in how he communicates with them. Mason said he doesn’t want it to feel forced he wants it to be genuine. Kyle wanted a hug. My husband hugged him and cried and swore that whenever he has an event he will put multiple alarms on his phone the second he’s told about it.
My husband suggested family counseling. The boys are reluctant but did agree to go as we all want our family to heal and grow stronger. Kyle moved back in the house and said he’s happy because his bed is much more comfortable than Mason’s couch.
We decided Saturdays will be a family day that we all spend together. My husband has said he will reach out to the boys to see if they are free to get lunch (not much else we can do until covid is gone.)
He’s started playing video games with the boys just as something to do to spend time with them. He gets on the mic and talks to Mason which he’s said feels good to talk to him even though they’re mostly just talking about stuff going on in the video game.
He plans on buying Kyle the PS5 he wanted from the school event but his therapist suggested he wait until their relationship has healed so he knows it’s a genuine gift and not an apology gift. I agree with this.
And that’s where we’re at. My husband and I have been recommended a few family counselors from his therapist and are in the process of talking to them. He’s really taking point on this. He’s going to continue seeing his own therapist as he said it’s helped in more than just this incident.
I admit that I still have some fears that this new attitude won’t last but this is so much more effort than he has ever put in when I mentioned his favoritism before. I’m really hopeful that this is only the beginning.
The boys are already much happier and seeing all the men in my life talking and laughing together just melts my heart. This is what I wanted all these years and I’m hopeful that with family counseling and my husband continuing his own therapy this can be a lifelong change!
Also, wow I was NOT expecting this to blow up especially when my first post didn’t get much traction at the time. I’m assuming it will be locked soon so I want to say thank you to everyone for the kind words. I know this is not an instant fix and it will take much longer and continued dedication and effort from my husband for us to truly heal as a family.
But we are committed to therapy as it’s worked at opening the door for healing. I’ve made it clear to him that if he reverts to his old ways and hurts our kids again I will be gone. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for them to let him back in after just a few weeks of no contact and I will not stand by if it happens again.
That being said as of now I have no reason to believe he is not dedicated to this change and for the sake of my family I will give him the same single chance my children have given him. It’s up to him to use it wisely. Thank you again and wish me luck!
I am past 50 now, my mother's favouritism will always nag at the back of my head until the day I die, it's just like that.
My parents were talking about how extraordinary it was that their baby boy, my elder brother, had turned 50 the previous year...
...at the lunch I was hosting for my own 50th birthday.
My mother once told me a story about a little day trip she took with my brother and his kids. The day trip was with me and at my request. For my birthday. She mentally wrote me out of a story about my birthday, and left only my brother and his family.
That last comment is on point. You can repair things you break, but the crack is always going to be there. It never goes back to how it was. Dad might eventually get forgiveness, but he's permanently damaged his relationship with his kids. Better late than never and all that, but he needs to accept there's always going to be issues and fragility here.
Not just permanently damaged his relationship with his kids, but permanently damaged his kids. What does it do to one’s psyche to know that it requires an absolute confrontation, threat of divorce and therapy before your parent “wants” you.