My problem right now isn’t the other parent but the man I am with. We have a child of our own and have been together for almost seven years. He told me about his children a few months after we met but in the years we were together he never had an established relationship with his son because he and she stated they do not like talking to each other.
This year I reached out to the mom because i thought it was important for our son to know who his brother is. His son has been visiting at least once a week for the last four months and recently i planned a birthday party for both the boys. My SO and I have been taking about how at the party he has with his dad’s family and mine he would leave his birthday stuff at our as to start establishing our home as his home too (something his dad and I talked about since we started planning over a month ago). The day after the party he talks to his son’s mom and all of a sudden he says he doesn’t remember saying we would kee his stuff at our home and basically says he did what I wanted and kept the bike we got him.
Totally made me feel like I have no place and like we have never discussed and he did me a favor by keeping his bike at our home.
This isn’t the first time we have fought over his children. Earlier in the year i text his daughter asking to pick up her daughter so our kids could play together. My SO was so mad at her because she never texts him back but when I text to ask for her daughter she ended up calling her dad (my SO).
He told me he was mad because she never responds back to him and when I text she called him. So he took a problem he had with his daughter and made it into something I did wrong. Don’t know if i did the right thing or not but I deleted her number because of the problem we had in our relationship. Of course I still say “Hi” when I see her but I told my SO that I did delete her number because of how mad at me he got.
I’m at a loss and feel like the more I try the worse things get between me and my SO.
Glad to hear from you.
Your situation is sadly all too common for Stepmoms willing to try so hard.
Your last line describes the feelings of so many well-meaning, creative & energetic Stepmoms. From my experience much of the source of stress between you and your partner breaks down to differences in beliefs and the unawareness of those conflicting beliefs. Because “being a good Stepmom and good parent” can include so many layers of do’s and don’t’s, shoulds and shouldn’t…this is a good place to begin. Add in the impact of divorced Dad fears and guilts, it’s easy to see that untangling these situations can be complicated, enraging & exhausting to both Stepmom and her partner.
Before going forward, I just want to offer you my heartfelt compassion for all the frustration and pain you’ve endured all from the pushback reactions to trying to create more connections between your son and your stepkids. It sounds like you’re working creating towards something we at SMOMS.org call, “The Happy Family Fantasy.”
The happy family fantasy is a wonderful vision of how things could be for Stepmom, partner, all the kids involved and sometimes the bio-mom of our stepkids. It’s often a dream formed in the height of romantic euphoria, when Stepmom and partner feel like, “together we can handle and create anything.”
Sadly the death of this happy family dream can be a painful, lengthy and often denied experience for the Stepmom in the family. Let’s look at what things you can better understand in the situations you’ve described and see if we can find some new choice points & insights where you can make new choices going forward.
On the member side of the site, there’s an article called, “His Kids: HIS call.” It was my take on the more common line of “His kids are not my problem” which is often said in an exhausted frustrated, “tried everything and nothing seems to work” despairing state of mind. You may want to read it. You can become a Guest member for free (30-days) if you’re interested in reading it.
The gist of the article is about looking at our beliefs about being a good mother, a good Stepmom and about our partner being a good divorced father to become aware of what is driving some, if not all of our unsolicited actions towards our stepkids and judgments towards our partner.
Example of a belief: A good Stepmom makes an effort to include her stepkids at all birthday parties for their dad or half-siblings.
Please note: This is NOT about right or wrong but it sure can feel that way.
Beliefs are formed, inherited, acquired and forced into our minds in many ways as we grow up. They are so powerful that it’s easy to forget they are just beliefs and not unchangeable laws of the Universe. Beliefs can be changed once we are conscious we have them. So it might be a good idea for you and your SO to sit down and make a list about what each of you believe about being a right, good, responsible Stepmom and divorced dad.
This exercise can reveal so much. It can be a fascinating exploration.
Our partners have beliefs about what Stepmoms are and are NOT supposed to do. we have beliefs about what a good dad should do and what a loving partner does and doesn’t do.
The great thing that can come from this exercise is that many unspoken, tacit, assumed and conflicting beliefs show up.
When couples take the time to identify beliefs, it is usually a surprising experience. Once identified, it’s time to look at them make new decisions. DO you want to keep each belief? Does it serve your situation? Why do you believe this anyway? What belief better suits you? Do you want to keep them or change them.
IMPORTANT: it’s always an option to change a belief…we’re adults now and not prisoners to our child-created beliefs. Just because something was right or imposed on you from the past, doesn’t mean you have to keep them. Becoming conscious of your beliefs is going to help you and your SO get clear on many of the disagreements you have had. Curiosity and creativity will serve you well.
It’s funny how much our culture, our childhood families, our schools and our religious experiences impact our beliefs…in a very profound way.
Look at any urges to do/give in unsolicited ways.
Reflect back on the stressful situations. Slow down the sequence of your thoughts and look for places where you could have checked in with your partner, but you didn’t because you wanted to do whatever you wanted to do. Beliefs compel us to do many things &/or ignore the subtle or clear wishes of others.
Quite often we end up engaging in unconscious (and painful) power struggles with our partners. It’s like playing tug of war…exhausting and someone HAS to lose. Stressful situations that arise from these power struggles can also become unintentional avenues for expressing (gushing, losing out, spewing) all kinds of intense emotions that are looking for an opening. It’s emotional energy that gets misdirected and that can lead to blame, judgements and other hurtful feelings between lovers. Doing this belief work, just to avoid these damaging experiences can be motivation enough to take a look.
Even with great, sincere, loving intentions present, when doing things for our partners & their bio-kids causes stress between you and your partner…there’s likely a conflict in beliefs that needs uncovering. time spent patiently and lovingly uncovering these conflicting beliefs is a treasure trove of insights about you and your partner.
Another article in the member site, is called, “Are you over-giving? Understand the difference between over-giving & natural giving.”
Look for choice points in your interactions where it’s easy to confuse asking for permission (which usually triggers a lot of parent/child stuff) and checking in with our equal partner with respect (which usually creates more closeness in a couple). The difference between the two approaches is whether you’re coming from the child created strategy you developed OR from what I call, the awake, adult wise woman you are today. We don’t need to manipulate anymore to interact with our partner. There are plenty of creative options we can use as soon as we are consciously in our wise adult selves.
Note: If you’re unsure whether or not you’re being your most wise, awake, adult self, think about a time when you felt terrific. Think about how great, strong, free and wonderful you felt and what you thought about yourself and the world. Can you think of one of those empowered moments?
Can you take a moment to remember how good, how empowered, how capable and resourceful you felt? This is a great memory to store so you can compare any moment with this feeling.
Now, with that wonderful memory firmly in your mind, think about how you felt during the last argument with your partner. Yikes! It can be a bit jolting at first to realize how different we can be when we’re not consciously acting from the place of our wise adult self. Calibrating the two different states of mind is going to help you become more and more conscious and it will definitely change how you respond to your partner and how you feel when something stressful happens.
This is a normal human process…we are unconscious until we become conscious. This is a chance for you to become more aware of your choices and to make more wise choices that support you and your well-being.
When your SO seemingly forgot about the agreement to retain the birthday presents, think back about when you two made that agreement and remember how that all felt. Did he seem enthused? Did he anticipate a problem with his ex but you minimized it? Was there any kind of pressure you applied? Did you use logic to gain agreement?
Again, none of this behavior is bad or wrong, it’s very human. Sometimes we Stepmoms feel we know better than our partners about what to do in terms of his kids or his ex. It’s very tempting. It may be true AND it’s often not true. I learned this after many years of arguments with my husband. In hindsight, it was my dream to create a happy family, be a good Stepmom & try to help him be what I thought was a great dad. This yearning vision blinded me to the realities he knew to be true of this ex-wife and child’s actual personalities.
What if you check back in with your SO about any of the unsolicited or pressured choices you made and ask him how he felt about it with the goal of learning more (not to blame or prove him wrong or your beliefs right.) It can be a very interesting loving exploration when we can ask, truly interested in better understanding and then honoring the beliefs and needs of your partner ALONG with honoring your needs. Being flexible can be scary to some people. Why? because they have been manipulated so much in the past they don’t really know what it feels like to be in a mutually respectful relationship. Please review the public article, “The Nobody’s wrong, Nobody’s right approach to relationships” article.
An example of how much can be learned and healed between a couple when reflecting on a past situation is the article about “A new approach to dealing with divorce fear & guilt.” It’s in the public article section about SMOMS & their partners.
I know there is a lot of homework here. Take your time and please be patient and compassion with yourself.
May something here be helpful to you and your situation.
If my approaches resonate with you, please register with us and join other like-minded Stepmoms on a mission.
Wishing you all the best on your journey, Kind Regards, Cathryn.