We are newly married, only 6 months now. I have 2 daughters from a previous marriage, and my husband has 1 from a previous marriage. My two are 6 and 10, and his is 7. They fight like sisters. There are definite boundaries for my children, but when his daughter is there, whatever she says, wants, etc…goes. When we bought our home the first rule was our room was off limits to the kids. Now, it’s off limits to mine, and not his. Rules go out the window when she is there, although, I stick to the rules with mine.
Now, he has decided when he has his daughter on Wednesday nights, that they will go to his mothers so we don’t see her at all and he feels that my bond with his daughter is broken. I pointed out that it was broken when her mother told her not to go anywhere with me, and she is to only be with her dad.
How are we suppose to bond or blend when now, she isn’t even there? It is taking a true toll on me. He has said from day one, that his daughter comes first and always will. Which is ok, because i feel the same about my children. I am so afraid of what this will do and is already doing to our marriage. Any advice? He knows I don’t like it but he can’t handle the stress when she is with us, he says there’s too much tension in the house. He tries to be super dad, to prove to his ex that he is a better parent than her, which is ridiculous. Unfortunately it is teaching my step daughter that tantrums work to get her way. He admits that it does, because he says he will give her whatever she wants as long as she is happy, but it makes everyone else miserable. HELP!
Hi there, Boy oh boy, this is one of those common and very painful situations. When our husband’s do not see that they are indulging their own kids our of fear or guilt it is almost impossible to get them to see what’s really happening. It’s like they become blinded to the reality of how their actions are impacting everyone else. I understand how hard this is on you, your marriage.
Isn’t it hard to watch a strong, wise, loving husband become completely manipulated by his kids, become a different man around them and then become defensive and often mean to us if we call them on their actions? Yes it is hard, very hard and I’m so sorry for the pain you are feeling.
Divorce guilt and the resulting behavior can have a devastating impact on a marriage. It’s a huge topic and not something I can give a complete answer for in 30 minutes but, to get your started, let me see what I can offer as some new ideas for moving forward.
Regarding him taking his daughter to his mom’s (your skid’s grandmothers) every Wed. night…Hmm?? Can you make Wednesday night a regular ritual for you and your daughters? Do you have family you could visit? If not, could you make it the night you 3 wrote letters, learned SKype to connect with far off relatives or began a special Holiday project for your husband, their bio-dad or stepsister? The idea is to re-frame his decision to go away and turn it into a fun thing that you and your daughter’s look forward to. Instead of feeling rejected, could you turn it into a special time that everyone will look forward to? If you and your daughters begin to have a great time on Wed. nights and you show your husband that you are willing to “make lemonade out of his lemons” do you think it would lessen the stress between you two.
As far as having a relationship with her…I’m wondering about this. There are 2 issues here: Him not being willing to have his daughter follow the same house rules your daughters follow AND him not standing up to his ex-wife and allowing his daughter to join you and your daughters in activities. HE is the one who has the power to change this entire situation and that’s what makes it so hard for you. He appears to be acting like the victim, instead of the powerful man he can be and YOU are paying the price.
Given this situation, it’s up to you to look at how you CAN act, re-frame and adjust your actions. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s your choice to respond to his actions. If he wants his daughter to have different rules, there are going to be consequences and you are faced with some choices about how you are going to respond.
Are you OK not having a close relationship with his daughter right now? It may be that having no relationship is better (right now) then having her bad behavior cause trouble for the rest of you and in your marriage. What do you think? She is young. Seems she is not being taught to respect the rules you all have set up on your home and that your husband is openly telling you “to heck with the rules, I’m going to let this little girls boss me around.” Could it be better for their interactions to not be in your home, for now? I say “for now” in hopes that your husband will wake up one day and realize that he is being manipulated (which hurts) and will stop doing it but sadly some Divorced Dad’s aren’t willing to face this issue.
Regarding the different standards for his daughter-this is a tough one. I’m hoping you have posted in the BB about this as there are so many SMOMS with this situation and I’ve found that the more options we have the more hopeful and powerful we can feel when we do take action.
I’ve written a lot of words but I’m not sure this is all that helpful. The reality is, from my perspective, that he is not being fair to you, to himself and to all the girls involved but he can’t see it because of his emotional fears and guilts. If we were talking, I’d ask the following:
Is he willing to acknowledge his fears and guilts?
Is he willing to work with you to find ways to not be manipulated by his daughter? Can you two find creative ways to help him so he can feel more empowered around his daughter. Just an example, if he wants to bring her back to your home on Wed. nights: Can you make every Wednesday, “weird Wednesday” and that night you all do fun things together that you don’t do the rest of the week. Maybe the girls each get to come up with several ideas and you pick 1-2 each Wed., knowing that everyone will have their thing picked at some time. (This needs parental guidance but hopefully you get the idea. )
Does he care enough about you and your daughters to find a new approach to this situation? (nobody has to be right or wrong, just going forward with new choices.
Does he want his daughter to be raised in the same way your daughters are or is he consciously choosing to raise a spoiled, manipulative young lady? (Ouch! and sometimes saying the obvious can shake us out of our fog.)
If you want to continue this process, please email me and we can continue. Otherwise, I’ll hope that something here is helpful to you as you move forward. It’s very hard to watch men put their kids “above” their lovers. If only they could see there is a way for both of them at the top.
Best Wishes, Cathryn
CBD Note: Because I don’t have my own bio-kids, I asked Emmie, a SMOM-Mom for her opinion on this letter and she was graciously willing to share it with us. Here’s her reply to me after reading the letter above.Thanks for helping us Emmie.
Gosh, when I read it, I chuckled because I remember those growing pains.
If I were giving her advice, it would be #1 to find a blended family counselor in her area. I don’t know that my marriage would have survived without it. The whole “yours and mine” dynamic is hard to shape into an “ours”, especially when one set of kids spends more time in the “ours” house than the others.
Even though my DH has always been the custodial parent, like I am, his parenting time share has always been less than mine. My ex-husband gets my children every other weekend and one week in the summer. His ex-wife gets them three weekends a month and, in the summer, we only have three weekends a month plus one full week of vacation. So, even though we both have “custody”, my two boys are physically in our home more.
I didn’t give much thought to how this made him feel in the scheme of things. I assumed that it was just how it was and everything was a-ok! But, inside, he was feeling guilty when he was having his life with us and enjoying it. He felt like there was this “imaginary scoreboard” and his kids were always coming up short.
On my side, I was frustrated because my stepkids were, in my opinion, brats. They cried and whined and even when they talked, they whined. They were sloppy and lazy and my 6 year old sson still wanted me to cut up a hot dog for him. I was constantly frustrated by the differences in our kids.
The counselor helped us see that even though, on paper, things were even (we both had custody, we both brought children into the marriage), they weren’t on the emotional scoreboard.
There were two things we both had to accept as truths to our situation:
-We are not the same parent. Everything in our parenting lives had been different and different is not always bad. Plus, as much as I considered myself a good mom, my way was not the only way.
-Our kids were not the same. Every child is different, but given they did not have the same start in life, I was being unfair comparing them to mine. There was no value to our marriage for me to say the words, “Well, my kids don’t do it” or “Well, my kids do it this way”. My kids were able to have me home with them, raising them, from infant to preschool (age 4). I didn’t go back to work until then. My stepkids didn’t even have a consistent babysitter! Their BM worked third shift so my DH had them in the evenings, but it was the round robin of family and friends that kept them when BM slept during the day. There was no structure and few educational activities. There was no routine, which kids crave! Comparing my kids to my stepkids were like comparing a toaster to a car! They were completely different.
Once I accepted these two things into my heart, it allowed me to be more compassionate towards my stepkids.
For my husband:
-The best way you can love your child is saying no. Divorces happen and yes, they are messy and ugly sometimes. But there is only one way to make it up and that is by continuing to be a good father and raising your child to be a happy, balance, well-adjusted person. He had to then identify what are the markers of a happy, balanced, well-adjusted, successful person and when he did, he found that his over-indulgence due to his guilt was not even truly making them happy. If they were happy, would they throw tantrums? Saying no was new to my husband. He had done little of it in the marriage either as he felt bad because their mom was always gone.
-The second was simple: It is okay to be happy when your kids are not with you. In fact, the best gift you can give your child is a happy home to come visit. If you smile and laugh with your stepkids, it is okay. You are not betraying your own kids.
We never believed in the “putting the kids first” or “putting the spouse first”. We opted to put the family first.
If counseling is not an option for them, validating that each other have true and honest feelings is the first step. He is not wrong to feel guilty about his daughter not being there as much. And she is not wrong to feel like he is putting his daughter above the family. Maybe it was too much, too soon for everyone or for some members of the family. So start the integration again.
If he wants to take SD to grandma’s, great, but do it after dinner. Have her come to the house with dad and the rest of the family and have dinner and then go to grandma’s. Find compromise in the little things.
I would say it took us about 2 years to successfully blend our family. And even then, there are bumps and bruises along the way. We are in our 9th year and some days are great, most are good, but some just plain stink. It would be that way in an intact family so why should it be different in a blended family? Be okay with mostly good or okay days and keep your expectations simple.
I guess that would be my advice to her. I hope it helps!