Am I just a babysitter or is it jealousy?
question: I know after reading many threads on the forums it’s natural for a smom to feel jealous over her stepkids…however, I’m starting to wonder if what I feel is going beyond jealousy. I love the stepkids and I love my SO more than I can bear. So when they cling all over him, or when it feels as though he’s taking their side (and it’s wrong), it hurts. It hurts so much that I start to question why he’s even with me. I think, “Am I just convenient?” I wonder, “Am I the only one who he could find to put up with this crap?” I want to start a future with him so badly but he hasn’t even proposed to me. I’m starting to think I’m a glorified babysitter. Please Cathryn, is this a relationship that’s going ANYWHERE? I’m getting to an age where it’s risky to have children. Do I need to move on?
Hi there, I appreciate having the opportunity to offer you some ideas for your to think about AND I need to make sure you know that YOU are the only one who can answer your last 2 questions. The fact that you are raising the issues is, what my old coach would say, noteworthy. Trusting your gut here is going to be a vital element of your future choices.
Nowadays it is so common for lovers to move in together before there is a formal commitment. What you are experiencing now is, from my experience, not likely to change if you two had a formal agreement. This can be hard to hear when we are as in love with someone as you say you are. When trying to make a decision it can be helpful to try to untangle all the many feelings you may be having.
Let’s see what we can pull out:
Yes, you are right, it is normal to feel “upset” when you feel that you are not getting the attention of the one you love. Whether jealousy or more is a good question. When the stepkids are not around do you feel totally adored and like you are getting enough give and take from him? Can you find ways to give him a chance to have quality time with the stepkids AND family time that includes you. “Dates with Dad works well with young kids and with teens, just changing to outings with Dad can give him a concentrated time with each one. (Doesn’t have to be all day.) Seems when stepkids can get a concentrated dose of attention it can work wonders. However, if the stepkids are showering him or being needy for his attention whenever you are around trying to put their Dad in a “Make a choice me or her?” kind of thing, that is a matter that only the Dad can address.
Since he hasn’t proposed, are you not talking about the future or is he consciously uncommitted to you?
What would happen to your relationship if you told him that you were no longer available to do the babysitting? Clearly he is getting a good deal that he knows his kids are safe with you. However, what are you getting out of the arrangement? What about finding alternative sitting arrangements, even reducing your time to gage his reaction and your feelings about them?
Does he know about your feelings and refuses to set limits with his kids? Is he willing to have the kids see how much he loves you AND the kids? Do you ever get top priority when the stepkids are there? (Date night, pre-post dinner stroll just you two?) Perhaps some of these questions will give you a different perspective of what is happening at the house and will help you decide what you want and need.
How he supports (or doesn’t support) your emotional needs and your stated concerns is a BIG FACTOR for any marital relationship. (This is important-you know that old saying, “Why pay for the cow when you get the milk for free?”)
An exercise I often give to clients and friends is this, make a list of the “Top 50 qualities of the Man of my dreams.” Seriously, be brutally honest with yourself and write down this list. It is going to be more challenging for you as you feel you love this man-but since you are soul searching about it-pretend the Universe is going to bring you the man who has all 50 qualities your write down. What are they? How many does this fellow have?
How important is it to be the number 1 priority in your lovers eyes? This is a time for you to be brutally honest with yourself. When you marry a man with kids from a previous relationship, there is a chance you will be tied for 1st, or 2nd or worse. This is very hard if what you want and what he can give aren’t matched up. There is no right or wrong but you want to listen very closely to his answers to some of these questions.
Have you read, “The Mastery of Love”? By Don Miguel Ruiz? He is the one who wrote “The Four Agreements” and it could be a good, thought-provoking book for you at this point. Sometimes when we are in love, we compromise our needs or promise ourselves that we can work things out. Now is the time for you to have the conversations about these things, not only because you need to see if he will honor your needs and help you get them met, but because working together to figure out how to help each other is a life long skill you all are going to need and now would be a better time to decide if you two can create it.
Does he suffer from Divorce guilt? Does he acknowledge it and it’s impact on you? Is he getting help with his fears? Can you two use this “challenge” to become closer and develop new skills or is he a “take me as I am or get out?” kind of guy?
Have you talked to a good therapist about this? I hesitate to recommend therapists because it is my experience that so many do not really understand what we are going through and if they haven’t walked in our shoes, many tend to generalize and are not supportive in a SMOM’s process. I am sure there are terrific ones out there but I hear more about the ones that do not help the situation. I can wholeheartedly recommend a wonderful, talented, gifted, kind therapist (over 30 years) who works on the phone. She’s a Stepmom, got ss at age 5, he’s now in his 20’s. She is very talented at helping people getting to the bottom of things and healing and learning. If you want her contact details, email me and I will pass them along.
I realize I am asking more questions than I am answering. Yet something tells me you are looking for the questions that help you sort out your feelings. I hope you got support when you posted on the BB.
The other factor is your own childbearing goals. If you want to have your own child, that certainly deserves your highest attention. Does he know your desires about this? I’m sure he knows your age so it is also noteworthy that you appear to feel like he is dragging his feet. It would be heart-breaking if this relationship is not what you want and need to move one. It would be irrevocably life changing if you don’t listen to your heart, trust your feelings and do what is right for you.
A line from “The Four Agreements” has been with me for many years now. “You’re lying to yourself if listen to what people say instead of paying attention to what they are doing.” You deserve to be loved, feel cherished and valued in your relationship. Maybe it is time to have a good long talk with your sweetheart. It is definitely time to have a good, long, honest talk with yourself and then TRUST in yourself!
Good Luck in your process. There are a couple of articles you may want to read about relationships in my columns. You can click over there and check out the descriptions-trust your intuition on any titles that strike you as interesting.
My Best Wishes for your happiness and well-being, Cathryn