‘He’s never going to put his foot down with his family’

I have been divorced for quite some time and have three amazing children. I met a guy who is about eight years younger than me with no children. We fell for each other pretty quickly, and he moved in after about three months of dating. Two years later, we broke up because I felt he didn't have a backbone when it came to standing up to his family. Although my boyfriend and I were very much in love, his family rejected me.

The issue is his family HATES me and the fact that we are together. They are extremely racist and will never accept me, my biracial children, or the age difference. They refuse to meet me and have told him that if he marries me, he will be eliminated from their will. They said that my children and I will never be welcomed in their home, and that if we had a child together they would have nothing to do with it.

Knowing all of this, we stayed together for two years, broke up for a few, and have now been back together for one more year. Even as we dated other people during the two-year breakup, we couldn't forget each other and always stayed in touch. But now that we're back on, the same problems still exist. He's never going to put his foot down with his family; he's the most passive person I have ever met. He doesn't put his foot down with anyone, but especially wants to keep the peace with them. I feel like my children and I deserve more out of a relationship, but at the same time, it's not him, it's them. He's nothing like them – he is good to me and to my children.

I tell myself to focus on that and forget the rest, but it's hard because it's such a major issue. I don't know what to do.

– Backbone

You do know what to do. It's an unpleasant option, but it's the one that's best for you and your kids.

In order for this relationship to work, your partner needs to be able to stand up to his family – and the world – about the things that are important to him. He needs to be able to say, "These are my choices – and if you're not in, you're out."

Maybe this man doesn't share his family's opinions, but being good to your children means being proud to be in their lives. He must have courage around the people who make that difficult. Instead, he's turned you and your kids into something he has to hide. What kind of example does that set?

It's a shame because there does seem to be a lot of love here, but it's important that the love is supported by, as you put it, a backbone.

It's very telling, by the way, that you didn't ask us whether your boyfriend will ever put his foot down with his family. You know that he won't – and that's your answer.

– Meredith

Readers? Can this work if he doesn't stand up to his family?