Hi E.C. Because of the complexity and all the issues in your letter. I’m going to comment as we go through the letter, in hopes of tying each of my thoughts with each point or question you pose. I’m not going to use all caps, too hard to read, so look carefully as I will note my comments with “CBD writes:” There’s a lot in your letter and there are many ways you can approach this to give yourself some comfort, IF you are willing to reframe some of your thinking and beliefs. CBD
Hi Cathryn, I have nowhere else to turn. No one that i know has been through this same situation that I am in now…
I am 22 years old, my boyfriend is 23… we are getting engaged fairly soon, as soon as I am comfortable.. He had a rough past, dated a younger girl, and when she cheated and he realized he did NOT love her, he tried to break up with her and she became pregnant. I met him when his daughter was one year old… We worked together and became good friends. Everyone who ever met him knew he despised his life. He loves his daughter, beyond loves her, but he always resented BM for what she did… He was responsible and stayed… He was always the sole provider for the family… worked days and nights, while BM did nothing but collected welfare… he was sick of the life he was living and once again tried to end it, custody agreement would have been better then the heck he was living in apparently. She magically became pregnant again…
They decided not to keep the child, but at the last minute, she went back on her word. My bf was not ready or able to take care of another child but she chose for the both of them. He left her, because clearly he was not important enough to her to make such a decision together. We started seeing each other, I understood and respected the situation and treaded carefully… We were happy for about 4 months, until pregnant BM and her new boy toy broke up. She started coming back with a vengence, and he was back with her for the birth of their son… because he couldn’t “be selfish” and needed to provide for his family. I let him go… I had no choice and she thought herself the clear winner, but i respected his decision.
Exactly one year from when we broke up and he went back, he called me… She had cheated multiple times, still wouldn’t work, and he had too much… he was done this time forever. He went back to try to make his family work, not once but twice and she was THAT miserable he left for good. I took him back because I knew he meant he was sorry and that he was finally over her nonsense. He has tried multiple times to bring her to court, she switches public defenders EVERYTIME, and denied the court ordered paternity test for the son.
This brings me to the current situation. I am 22, he is 23… there is no custody agreement and we don’t even know if his son is his… BM is engaged to another man, living in the house BF built for them getting their rent paid by the govt. Neither of them work and the children suffer. I read all these stories about jealousy and resentment, and I feel that… When i see my Bf with the kids, and he has one of each, a boy and a girl. I can’t give him something he doesn’t have. BM is now interested in going to court bc she sees what we have… a great beautiful apartment, a new car I bought from my grandmother, we both work beyond full time. We deserve what we have, and we share it with the kids. We take them every friday…. even when my BF works, I take them… and its hard. I don’t feel that he understands how hard it is on me… To love the two things that mean SO much to him… and they aren’t mine, not a part of me at all.. it makes me cry.
CBD Writes: This is quite a story and you’ve seen him go through a lot for only being 22 & 23. Since you knew about his story from the beginning, it seems it would be more soothing for your mental emotional state if you could ask yourself, “Do I want a life like this?” You are so young and these kids are so young and the bio-mom is going to be around FOREVER. That is a daunting thought, given her actions so far.
EC Continues: I think of him and his ex… and how they cried in the delivery room, and even though i KNOW they were never REALLY happy as a family and he was MISERABLE in their couple… it breaks my heart to know that everything I do for him, everything I want… is going to be on repeat for him.
CBD Writes: I think you are torturing yourself with a fact that you can’t change. Can you shift your perspective and realize that he has had the experience of having children with a manipulative, hurtful woman he had sex with? Can you see that he showed you his character, by his attempt to “Do right” by her? Can you believe that you give him the chance, should you have your own kids, to experience the dream of loving parents having a child together-as of now, he doesn’t know what that feels like. The other stuff is biology and lots of emotional pressure. If you’ve had sex with another man, in your past, can you imagine that he feels about his ex, the way you feel about yours? Can you realize that YOU may be even more appreciated by this man because he had such a bad experience in the past? These are all options. Being upset, hurt, angry at the facts from the past is only going to keep you cranky and hurt. (Please see my thread about resentment for more details about dealing with facts you can’t change.) Remember he can’t change his past and I bet you a zillion dollars he wishes he could. Finding a way to accept the past so you can turn your attention to the future (which looms large and long in front of you both) would be a much more productive and less painful use of your time. What do you think?
EC Continues: I have discussed it with him.. I get the whole “of course it’ll be special” and “i love you more than anything” and it helps for 30 seconds and then i feel.. insignificant again.
CBD Writes: What about his situation makes you feel insignificant? Have you told yourself you have to be first in order to be good enough? What are you telling yourself that makes you feel this way? If you are unwilling to “reframe” your view of the sequence of how to two became a couple, I believe, with all my heart, you should move on and look for someone who is in the same situation as you are. This kind of thinking punishes your BF, because there is nothing he can possibly do to “fix this.” Guys are all about fixing, but this complaint/hurt will never change. Good news, you have the ability to reframe it, so you can realize that “it is what it is” and feel appreciated by him. OR..honor your value about needing to be first to be happy and respect him enough to leave now and give you both a chance to find people who can give you both what you need. This is really a choice on your part. I can promise you that his begging you to believe him (and you being unable to accept it) will get old for both of you and poison your love at some point. Please reflect about how important this is to you and honor it. It is not about right or wrong, it is about what is right for you.
EC Continues: I know that he was young, and he did not want the kids, he does well by them and loves them dearly, but we could never have them full time, and we both understand and acknowledge that… so it’s hard when she sends them with clothes that don’t fit, and the 3 yr old asks us why we aren’t smoking cigarettes… bc she’s clearly not fit to have two small children.
CBD Writes: This is more complex than I can address here. As I wrote, sadly, it sounds like she is not going away and “sounds about right” may need to become your mantra each time the stepkids come to visit. NO amount of your upset is going to change her actions. (Read that again so it can sink in bit by bit. NO amount of your outrage is going to change her actions.) However, if the kids are being mistreated by their mother, then they need to be with someone else. If your BF is not willing to take custody of them (sounds like you’re saying that) then I’m not sure what the laws are wherever you are. This is an important matter. You and BF will want discuss this possibility BEFORE you make marriage decision.
EC Continues: She is so spiteful its unfair…
CBD Writes: One thing Ive noticed over all these stepmothering years is that there is so much that is unfair about what a mother is allowed to get away with, just because she is the mother and because you have no control over her every action. A spiteful (we refer to them as hostile) Bio-mom has the ability to devastate a “happy stepfamily” situation and looking deep inside yourself and asking, Can I find ways to be OK with whatever happens and trust my BF to handle (or not handle) and NOT let whatever she does come between us? This is a huge question that will serve you well to ponder right now.
EC Continues: Again she is ENGAGED to another man, a man who she is having the kids call daddy, and its proven when they call their father by his name… she sees nothing wrong with her moving on, but when the babies want to speak with me on the phone she hangs up. I realize the past was rocky but i LOVE those kids and i do well by them, and it bothers me to know that she doesn’t accept me as a major part of their lives when she clearly puts her SO in theirs so strongly.
CBD Writes: Oh Boy! Sounds like fairness and justice is a big issue for you, as it is for so many of us Stepmoms. While all the things you mention are not kind or good or fair, she has the ability to impose them on her kids. Can you let go of being upset for the things she does to your BF? (This is very hard but helps if you can do this for as said before, NO amount of upset, changes the reality.) From what you have said, there’s no reason for her to treat you fairly or to give you anything.
It sounds like she’s never been concerned about anyone but herself and this is a person you’re going to be tied to as long as you and BF are together. The key issue is again, “Can you find a way to let the BF handle her that way he feels is best, giving your input when asked AND supporting his decisions about rearing those children without feeling left out? Can you love him, support him, trust him and stay connected to him, even when things are NOT fair and equal? This is a serious question and one I wish I’d thought about and worked on 16 years ago when I started my journey as a Stepmom. There are ways to help you do this. It’s a question of your willingness (it’s a choice, not a right or wrong) to do the inner work needed to be able to live in this situation and be OK with it.
It’s about deciding if being a connected, close and a loving team with your beloved is enough KNOWING that bio-mom is probably never going to be fair or “right” as you’d want. You are signing up for a difficult life path, that can be filled with tremendous joy and happiness IF you can understand, accept and make peace with the fact that you will not have some of the things you now believe you “Should” have in your life (Like a civil or kind bio-mom to the children you are going to love and care for and have virtually no authority over.) This is a BIG question. Again, no right or wrong, just opening up your thoughts so you can decide what kind of life you want.
EC Continues: She has decided lately that she is “sick of having nothing” and wants to take BF to court…. he pays the max child support… she doesn’’t work, how can she even think she’s entitled to ANYTHING WE HAVE??
CBD Writes: Remember, she’s not operating out of the same “rulebook” you are. She’s the bio-mom and it sounds like she feels she’s entitled to whatever she wants, no explanation or fairness or justice or reciprocation required. It is not a logical thing. It is the reality of your BF situation. This is more than likely what you are going to experience every year, over and over again.
EC Continues: She’s never spoken to me, other then to tell me “i was talking to BF” in which i replied kindly, “well i was speaking to you.” I don’t know how to handle it.
CBD Writes: Can you accept, live with, NOT being involved with her at all? Can you be OK that she’s never going to embrace you as a part of her children’s life? Can you take the hateful energy that’s likely to come your way every time to interact with her and NOT thane it personally? Can you realize that this has NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with your role in her life. You’re many things she’s not and rather than admiring or appreciating you, she’s likely to hate you. Hate wants to annihilate and this energy is going to come at you. Are you prepared to find ways to shield yourself, so you won’t take it personally or feel hurt? Can you accept that your situation is not going to be one fortunate enough to have a happy blended family? Can you believe that you and BF can create a dream that CAN come true?
EC Continues: He doesn’t feed into her nonsense… he ignores her basically.. he told me.. he doesn’t HAVE to deal with her anymore so he doesn’t. she doesn’t matter. we are to be grown up about it.. and fighting with her is pointless… yet i feel like he doesn’t stand up for himself or me… even though what he says makes sense.
CBD Writes: I can totally understand what you’re saying and this is one of the hardest things to adjust to, if you want to be able to accept this path. Can you trust the BF knows her better than you do, knows when to pick his battles and understands how to handle her for the greater good? Can you let go of believing your way is “better”? When Stepmoms put themselves in the role of seeking fairness and justice with a hostile bio-mom, it is most likely going to cause tremendous pain and stress between YOU and BF. This isn’t fair, is it? But when you’re dealing with a hostile Bio-mom, letting the dad deal with the bio-mom his way is going to save you two zillions of hours of arguing. Can you trust him to do it his way and focus on your life together? (Goodness I wish someone had pointed out these questions to me 16 years ago!)
EC Continues: I don’t know how to handle my feelings of resentment when BF naps on the couch and his small children are being difficult and its not my place to punish them.
CBD Writes: Try this, Ask him how he’d like you to handle it? Get clear on each of these situations and don’t settle for a solution until both of you are truly AOK with the plan. This approach will give you two a chance to address many of the unspoken causes of so much Stepmom/beloved stress. It will also help you two see where your individual beliefs about what mothering and fathering roles should be, what child-rearing beliefs you share or disagree over. If you can agree to address them with the “creative problem solving” goal, this will eliminate a lot of hurt feelings, stored us frustrations and resentments. Promise to speak up as new things crop up. When you handle them as little daily things, they don’t have to become huge, relationship-hurting things.
EC Continues: I don’t know how to express love for them, while feeling jealous of the fact that they exist at all.
CBD Writes: This is an emotional trap and so painful. They do exist. They can’t help it. Do you want to love them or not? KNOWING that they are another woman’s children but that you’re going to have a place in their lives, can you find a space in your heart to love and accept them as they are? If not, can you care for them, like a teacher or nanny would, keeping some emotional deference to their mother? None of this is their fault, yet at their ages, they’ll feel your emotions in a flash. It’s really not kind to be jealous or envious around them. Can you a bit deeper into the situation to see what’s going on with you about this?
EC Continues: When i asked BF the last time that he cried? he said when my daughter was born… when i asked, but why not when your son was born, he replied “i’m not sure… because he was second i guess” and thats EXACTLY how i would describe my feelings… i will never be as important, or significant, loved, no child we could have would mean as much, nothing i could give him will matter, because i’m just… second… its just on repeat. He tells me thats not the case… but i don’t know how to be less insecure about it. I feel that it will destroy our relationship, or at least my mental state. Will it get easier if we have a child of our own? (not now, but in the future, when its time and i am ready)
CBD Writes: Dear EC, this seems like such a self-torturing line of questioning. Almost like you are looking for facts to support your premise that you are not good enough. Is your BF the first man you’ve ever loved? DO you think he is only capable of loving something once time? DO you feel his heart is limited? Can you see that his life experience already happened when you walked into his life and to make yourself miserable about something that can NEVER change is really self inflicted pain and no one can assuage. People often learn from life experiences. He surely knows what love isn’t because of what he experienced. Maybe he didn’t cry at his son’s birth because he was trapped and manipulated and duty-guilted into fatherhood about it. Watch your questions to see if some part of you is aching to feel pain about something you can’t change? Where is this feeling coming from? It has got to be hurtful to your BF because he is answering your questions and then he is dealing with your hurt because you impost your assumptions about his ability to live, learn from and love others. What’s your need to keep poking at the facts of the past?
EC Continues: why would she deny a paternity test? it wasn’t like a I can’t believed you would even ask and didn’t answer, she simply just said no… and why wouldn’t he DEMAND one? why should he invest all the love into a child and find out later that its not his… he’s not even two.. it’ll hurt, but way less now vs 10 yrs from now? and BF is all about the financials. so again… better to find out now right?
CBD Writes: These are the kind of questions that, to me, you’d feel less upset if you could decide to make the right thing (in your mind) less important than supporting whatever your BF wants to do. This upset is robbing you or time, energy, well-being and it’s bound to come between you if you do’t make another choice.
EC Concludes: I guess that’s my whole story, i love my two young step kids, and i can’t imagine life without their father, he really is who i’m meant to be with… and the past was hard and i envision the future to be harder, but i need help adjusting my attitude to be better for both my man and my step kids….but mostly to make it better for myself.
CBD Concludes: Whenever there is a hostile bio-mom in the picture it’s going to be very challenging. From what I learned, after 13 horrific years, is that I believe it comes down to a personal choice, “Do I feel I can love and trust my husband, giving him my full support as he raises his kids, being there for him, as he needs me to be, yet stepping back unless invited in? Can I trust that my BF will honor the impact of his decisions on me, helping me, supporting me so we can stay close and connected no matter what bio-mom does? Can I feel that HIS love is worth the effort? Do I want to choose to stay, realizing ALL the unchangeable facts without resenting them and taking it out on my BF? Is this the life I want?
When we make choices, we don’t feel we are at the mercy of others. It’s more empowering. When we make growth choices (versus fear choices) we are honoring ourselves and the ones we love. This is going to be a very challenging road for you both. It’s bound to bring up all your childhood wounds, his also. Any issues of being left out, ignored, feeling guilty, feeling blackmailed by fear, feeling “less than,” not having equal rights, being treated unfairly, etc are going to come to the surface in this situation, it’s virtually guaranteed.
How willing are you to do the inner work to address the pain that comes up? How willing is your BF to help you when the unfairness of his kids’ mother, intrudes on your world? When a divorced dad and his beloved (you in this case) can embrace the challenge, with eyes open, instead of being blinded by the “Happy family fantasy” and/or the need for justice but deciding that being together and making your relationship most important, success can happen. It’s a tough choice. It’s a path of personal growth and healing if that’s what you’re up for. The question is what kind of life do you want to have this time around?
Thanks for the thought provoking letter.
I hope that there is something here that will help you.
Glad to see you joined the BB.
My Best, Cathryn