Our Background story: I started dating my husband 3.5 years ago, we married 2 years ago. He has 2 children from a previous girlfriend (a 5 yr old girl and a 4 yr old boy).
When we first started dating, I actually lived with him (long story, not worth telling), and he had custody of his children every other week…we lived 2 hours away from where his ex lived with the children, so EVERY sunday we had to make that drive…in MY car…using MY money. Basically, I supported those kids (he worked at the time, but his court ordered child support was so ridiculous that his entire paycheck went to that).
I also was the one to take care of the kids most of the time. I worked, but my schedule was a little more forgiving than his. Anyway, I grew very close to the kids (seeing as how I was the one raising them…as in, I woke up in the middle of the night to feed,etc.
After about 5 months, my husband’s stepfather – who we lived with (crazier than god-knows-what), decided that since I wouldn’t marry (after 5 months of knowing each other) than I would have to get out…so I packed what I could and left.
Eventually my husband and I got back together…got married… (while also fighting a forever-long battle with his mom and stepdad) – they moved my husband’s ex INTO THEIR HOME, kept my husband from seeing his kids for 6 months!!!! (We contacted police, they said there was nothing they could do – because the existing court order was in a separate county).. Anyway, this kind of crap (of my husband not being allowed to see his kids) went on and on….one minute things were fine, the next minute he was not allowed (this decision was being made by the stepfather of my husband.
ANYWAY – after going through all that, I lost my relationship with the stepkids….and now, as awful as this sounds, I can’t stand being around them. (Possibly because I can’t get over all the trouble they have caused…and even though I know it’s not THEIR fault, they are still the reason my life has been a complete wreck) I can’t stand it because my husband never sees them, I am the one that stays home and babysits….in fact, I feel like when they are here, I am my husband’s glorified babysitter. I do nearly everything…(oh, and did I mention I now I have a one year old son of my own?)
My husband gets these kids every other weekend (and occasionally other times if their BM has to go out of town on work) – and I feel like during these small times, he should be here with them!!! HE should be the one spending time with them, not ME! They are not here to see me, they are here to see him…their DAD!
They are not smart, they don’t listen – as in, they stare at me while I am talking and then turn around and do exactly what I just said not to, get yelled at, and are truly confused as to why I am mad!!!!
And, bring my bio-son into this…he is one year old (well, he will be in a week), and I cannot stand when they play with his stuff (They have 30000 toys, why are they playing with infant toys??) I don’t want my Bio-son to pick up bad habits, I don’t want the stepkids to break his toys before he even gets a chance to play with them…
I was an only child, so perhaps the concept of sharing EVERYTHING is lost on me, but I feel like every kid should have things they can call their own. I am the only one that disciplines (so I always look like the bad guy) because my husband is afraid of hurting their feelings (which, don’t get me started, because I understand the importance of discipline, and how kids need it).
My husband isn’t a bad guy (he works hard, and he does clean the house, and if I ask him to do something he will do it), but when it comes to the kids and finances, his priorities are way out of line…
Im just overall frustrated….help!
PS. I’ve recently started taking anti-depressants…not my first time….
Dear AHP, Wow, as I read your letter over and over, it reminds me of the “end of the rope” feelings i had for so many years! As with all Stepmoms under such duress, I’m so very, very sorry for the pain you are in. Let me see if there is anything I can offer to give you some new avenues of hope and change.
First of all, I completely agree that you are doing too much for your stepkids and your husband. I realize that you didn’t say it that way but that’s how i’m reading it. SO often we SMOMS will do and do and do. Why? Because we are so eager to love and help our new Sweethearts and his kids. Because we are wanting to do our part to help create the elusive “Happy Family Fantasy” that so many of us chase (or chased). It’s not wrong, it’s human and understandable.
I was taught that resentment is a valuable sign of over-doing or “over-functioning” in our lives. Here’s a link to an article on resentment.
Because of a few of the things you said, and eluded to, I wonder if you are dealing with emotional exhaustion from all that you’ve given without a balanced return of energy and support. Could that be? It sounds like you’ve been pushed around and pressured because of the needs and “authority” of others and that can’t feel very good!!! Another article that may be supportive is “Are You Keeping an Emotional Ledger?” It may give you some ideas for ways to re-balance the energy exchange in your life. Just one avenue to pursue.
Another option to consider is to stop doing the things that you don’t feel good about, right about or responsible for doing. I’m not talking cold turkey but so often our generous acts of giving, end up becoming expected of us by others (because they need our help or prefer to let us do it for them.) Nothing sucks the joy and energy out of generous giving like feeling our gift has become a duty or obligation. Does this resonate with you at all?
I also agree with you that your husband should be the one planning his day around the skid time, for both he and his stepkids. Undivided attention is one of the most precious and positively impactful gifts anyone can give another. Children from divorced family can really use huge doses of this and sometime Dad’s have, for whatever reasons, a difficult time giving their own kids what they need.
If you have already talked to your husband about all these things AND he continues to be unwilling to work with you to make the changes that serve you BOTH, then it is time to do something very hard for many of us…It is time to draw your boundaries and state very clearly what you ARE an ARE NOT willing to do going forward. Yes, you can be very loving about it. You can give hime time to make other arrangements. You can explain what you need, how you feel and that, since he is not willing to make any changes, you are going to have to. You can stay open to him re-thinking anything and stepping up (which is always terrific) AND you can let him know that your well-being, your energy, your state of mental and emotional health has got to become more important to you (and hopefully him.)
The fact that you felt you needed to take anti-depressants, with all the side effects and impact on your brain that they have, just to try to cope with something HE has the ability to help you with, speaks volumes to me. (No judgment about taking any medication. It just makes me want to shake the husband’s by their lapels, that they are OK having their wives take medication, when they have the power to be her hero and change her world.) This happens a lot and I believe it is the result of “Divorce Guilt and Father Fears” that run deep and intense in so many bio-dads. It is also sad that so many of these men are unwilling to get the help they deserve, to eliminate their suffering and the negative impact of their attempts to self-numb with harsh or denying behaviors!
With that said (sorry for jumping on a soap box about this but it is a huge, HUGE issue for some blended families. What can YOU do? Can you see yourself switching your attention from what he and his kids have to do differently, to what you can do differently? I believe it’s time for your needs, your wants and your feelings to be honored. And right now, that starts with YOU honoring them.
What do you want to see change?
What do you want to STOP doing?
What do you want to START doing differently?
What do you need from your husband that you’re not getting right now? (Ask Him again)
What creative options can you imagine to allow your needs AND your responsibilities to be met?
Your feelings for your stepkids are also understandable. The energy and time you invested them, the harsh actions that caused you to lose your connection and the seeming lack of anyone’s remorse for the negative impact they (and that stepfather in law) have had on you would crush most of us.
As you acknowledge, the stepkids aren’t really to blame for their upbringing however, their impact on you and your baby son is very real. So it can be both. You can understand AND feel upset about it. (Not that you needed my permission-just wanting to emphasize that two emotions can BOTH reside within us at the same time…and often do.) It’s horrific to watch the stepkids we’ve loved and cared for in the past being allowed to get away with behaviors that are not OK with you or are forcing you to resort to disciplinary actions that turn you into feeling like that “wicked Stepmom” character most of us know so well just so you can survive in your own home. I would like to suggest that it’s possible some of your anger directed at your stepkids could really be resulting from the lack of action on the part of your husband. Is that possible? When I began working with a therapist (4 years ago) I was so eager to blame the skid or bio-mom for their impact on me and while it was true they were impacting me negatively, they were able to have such impact because my husband was NOT doing so many things he could have. Even though he avoided, rationalized, distracted and defended against inaction out of his fear and guilt, which I understood, I found it easier 9and less scary) to be angry at them instead of him. I was afraid I would realize I had to leave in order to save my sanity. I was scared of the impact of owning my anger at him and then sharing it with him so it was easier to detour my feelings. Any chance that could be happening with you? If so, it’s not wrong, it’s human and understandable AND it is something you can recognize, acknowledge, forgive yourself for and change. (The formula I was taught for processing feelings.) Lots of lovingkindness makes this whole experience more healing as well. Make sense?
As you can untangle all the issues, actions, chores, behaviors, needs and options that you can think of with the intention of finding creative new ways to help yourself-I bet you will begin to see some new ideas forming. I write them all down postem’s then stick em on a big piece of paper so I can see them all at the same time and re-arrange them, write new ones, etc. It’s how I do project plans and this is a project for saving your life, loving relationship and creating more happiness for everyone!
If you want to reply to me and continue this, I’m willing. Please email me and we will post the next “Round,” if you wish. Otherwise, I hope this gives you some things to think about. I wish you the well on your journey.
Take very good care, Cathryn