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Steps and ex's and oh.... *sigh*

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hey, all... I have a question of a sort of step-parenty sort of nature, I guess. Or maybe lots of questions.

I recently finalized my divorce with my ex-husband a couple of months ago. We've been separated for something like a year and a half, almost 2 years. Shortly after we separated, I came out as a lesbian, and met my current partner.

Things happened really quickly, probably quicker than they should have, ideally. DP and I dated for a couple of months, then moved in together, and I, having been a SAHM for 5 years, had no job and limited income. She took on the financial responsibility of caring for our children. My ex chose to quit his (relatively) lucrative full-time job in favor of a minimum wage job for around 20 hours a week so that he could spend more time with the kids. He had meager income as well.

His career decision along with the way DP perceived him to treat me and the children (and has continued to) has soured any friendship the two of them may have had. She can't stand him, refers to him as a gaping black hole that sucks the energy out of me.

In a perfect world, I think both birth parents, if they're wanting it, should have equal access to their children after the relationship has ended. This would mean seeing him on a daily basis. DP is convinced that doing so would prolong the hurt they're feeling over the end of the relationship between me & their father and possibly perpetuate the idea that we might get back together at some point. She's also not convinced it's a good idea for the kids to spend that much time around their father, whose motivations appear to be selfish, albeit disguised as kid-centered (eg: he wants to be a more involved and "nurturing" father, but he won't meet them on their level. Instead, he wants to push them to have a relationship with him that never existed before, rather than building it from the ground up. Any attempts at compromise for the sake of the children's stress levels is met with resistance because of his schedule, his ability to find childcare - all things we've offered to help with).

It's come to a point where she loves me, and she loves the kids - calls them her own, even - but she despises their father so much that she's contemplated leaving us just so that she doesn't have to deal with him anymore. She really doesn't do well with negative people, and she's had to work really hard to keep her distance from them in the past - she "catches" their energy, and it changes her outlook and the way she deals with life in general. It's really not good for her mental health to be around him.

I don't like the way he's handled the whole parenting-time issue with me; he's definitely playing games and preying on my emotions. But I don't think he's a bad father - just not a good one. The family court judge we have will not award primary custody to me unless we can actually *prove* that he's harming the children in a substantial way. Their therapist has recommended that they spend the school week with me and weekends with their dad, but he isn't going to go for that. Our custody hearing is on the 28th of this month, and I'm kind of at a loss what to do.

Right now, the only real option I can see - to save my relationship with DP and protect my children's long-term well-being - is to move out-of-state. We have an option where we can just pick up and go, but we don't know anyone there aside from my family. I've lived in my town almost all my life - I'm the fifth generation to live here. Moving away is *scary*. Plus, I'm not so sure it's the best solution. It seems like running away and not really solving a problem.

I don't know, maybe this is more of a vent - it's not something I really care to share with a lot of my friends because it's so very personal, and I don't want to sound like I'm talking sh*t on my ex. I try to be positive as much as I can, so much so DP believes I'm a little naive.

The questions on my mind these days... 1) How can I support my DP's role as a caregiver and co-parent/step-parent to the kids in light of the resentment she feels towards me and my ex for having taken on the financial responsibility for so long in a new relationship?
2) How do I support her need not to have my ex involved in our daily lives (mine or the kids' even), and do right by my kids?

I think I'll leave it at that for now. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I know this is convoluted and could probably use some clarification - I'm happy to offer that as well.

TIA.
post #2 of 25
Thread Starter 
In reply to a previous poster in the other forum:

Quote:
Well, I'm in the step-parent role myself and what I can tell you is that she needs to remove herself from the situation between you and Ex... if it upsets her then she needs to have less involvement in it. I understand she has taken financial responsibility and that is great BUT they are not her kids and she is not their parent. You and he are and any dealings that need to be done should be between you two only. This was a very hard thing I had to learn over the last 10 years... I can not STAND my DH's ex-wife but I love my step-kids as my own so for my own sanity, my family's well-being and the well-being of my step-children, I let my husband deal with everything that has to do with her. I can't be a part of it because I get so frustrated and angry with her... so I just stay out of it. He is perfectly capable of dealing with her and I trust the decisions he makes. She needs to do the same for you.

Her NEED to not have him in your daily life is honestly not a reasonable request. He is the father of your children. He should be a part of their daily lives. I know that's not always easy but nothing about divorce is and it certainly isn't for the children. They have a need and want to have their father in their life. If YOU are able to get along with him and don't have a problem with him seeing them on a daily basis, that is wonderful and I don't even understand how that could possibly prolong the hurt... that doesn't even make sense. If they are able to see him daily and he's an important part of their life, they have LESS to hurt over. Honestly, I think the best thing would be for YOU to handle all communications with the father... you are trying to facilitate a great relationship between children and father and that is awesome. I commend you for that Mama
I think part of her problem is that she's seen how he manipulates me emotionally, and she's worried about my ability to stand up for myself, let alone my kids. It makes it much harder for her to remove herself. She cares a lot about me, and she's seen the damage my relationship with him did to me (it was toxic for both of us). So for her to trust the decisions I make regarding our family, she needs to trust that I'm not allowing him to manipulate me, which is easier said than done.

As for her "need" not to have him in my daily life... she has said that she feels like (because of the emotional manipulation), I dedicate more energy to him than I do to my relationship with her. In other words, she feels like I'm still behaving as though I'm in love with him because I've engaged in his games. To a point, she's right - it's taken me a long time to learn that, while his feelings are valid and I can honor the fact that he has them, it is not my responsibility to resolve those feelings. Now that I understand that, I'm not really sure how to go about putting that awareness into action. It's definitely a growth process. It goes the same way for her, too - I'm not responsible for resolving her feelings, either; I know she knows this, and she tells me this, but I do think that on a certain level, the expectation still remains that when she's unhappy, I'll do something to fix it. (This is part of the reason why I put the thread in the Parents as Partners forum in the first place). She can't sit by and watch him suck all the energy out of me. So clearly, I have to stop allowing that, and save my energy for the things and people I do love and want in my life.

Part of the problem is that my kids - rather, my oldest, doesn't even like his father. He only goes willingly b/c DP talks him into it - they have a special relationship where he trusts her and opens up more to her than to either of us. This puts her in a really awkward position. She loves being able to be there for DS, but she hates the feeling that b/c he will listen to her, an association is being developed with going to dad's house and leaving the place where he's happier, and DP and DS's relationship with one another. DS and his dad didn't have much of a relationship until after my ex moved out. And then it was like my ex expected the relationship to develop overnight and had unrealistic expectations about how DS would respond. And all this time later, DS is still singing the same tune. We don't talk about the kids' dad around them, other than what the kids bring up; we support their expression of their emotions, while reinforcing that their parents love them no matter what. DS has just never really felt all that favorably towards his dad, from the get-go.

So DP is concerned that the kids seeing their dad daily could be hurtful in that it's forcing a relationship where one doesn't exist; DS has said if he "has to" be with dad, he wants to see me on those same days. I can understand that, I can see how that would strengthen him - but he doesn't want to be with dad. DD doesn't seem like she cares one way or the other (I'm sure she does, though). But this arrangement, she feels, is playing into my ex's game - giving him what he wants, using up more energy than necessary to make it ok for the kids in the meantime.

I'm scared... and saddened. I don't want to lose my DP over this - I can't stand the idea that my ex could have so much influence over my life that an otherwise wonderful relationship could be ruined over him. DP feels stuck in the middle and I feel stuck in the middle, and I know the kids are stuck in the middle of all this conflict. I've told her that if she needs to walk away to preserve her sense of self, I'd support that - but I'm fairly certain she'd be losing a bigger sense of self than she'd be preserving. She'd go into a very dark place and walk away from friends and a life she's known for a very long time just so she wouldn't have to be reminded of the hurt from this.

I sometimes feel as though I'm walking on the edge of a cliff, and one loose pebble or one wrong step could end in disaster. The worst part about it is knowing that not everything is in my control.
post #3 of 25
I come from the stepmom perspective, and I agree with the poster that you quoted from the other thread.

Because you and your DP merged households so quickly, she basically went through the whole divorce with you, seeing only the ugly parts of your ex and none of the good. People can behave badly during a divorce - I would venture to guess that most people do or say some things that they regret when a marriage is dissolving. It isn't surprising that she thinks pretty lowly of him. Unfortunately, she is just going to have to get over it if she wants to be a part of your life. You come with strings.

The fast timeline after your split with your ex also means that you hadn't figured out things yet. It takes a while for a couple to figure out how to operate when no longer together, and it takes a while to figure out how to blend families. Doing them at the same time is pretty difficult. Your DP needs to step back and let you and your ex figure out how to be exes.

I would not call it abnormal for coparents to communicate often, even daily, about their children. I am pretty sure that DH talks to DSD's mom at least every other day, either by phone or by text. It is hard to coparent effectively if you cannot communicate wit each other. Also, there will birthday parties, graduations, weddings - all things that both your ex and your DP will be at. He isn't going to just disappear.

If you (notice I am saying you, not your DP) think that your ex is manipulating you, then it is up to you to do something about that (set more boundaries personally/counseling/whathaveyou).

It is not fair to attempt to cut your children's father out of the picture because your DP thinks it is a good idea. Or to move them away and make their father inaccessible because she does not want to deal with him. In fact, I would be pretty surprised if a judge granted you permission to move. Maybe your children and their father didn't have a good relationship when you were married - was he working long hours at the lucrative job so you could be a SAHM? Whatever the reason, he wants a relationship with them now. I don't understand why on earth you wouldn't want to facilitate that, let alone stand in its way. It is never too late to turn around a bad relationship with your children, but the earlier, the better.

One last point - in my state, if a person quits a lucrative job voluntarily to take a lower-paid job, they still are required to support the children according to their potential income. Have you asked your lawyer about this?
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
We've not sought child-support because he's been so hard to work with on all the other counts... we thought it would make it easier to gain his cooperation. You raise some really good points, especially in regard to the timing of the break-up and the blending.

I don't want to cut him out of their life, and I agree that it wouldn't be fair. But I am concerned for my DS who doesn't like his dad and wants very little to do with him. I also don't think it's fair to force a relationship on him that wasn't there in the first place. But I don't think it's fair to deprive him of the chance either.
post #5 of 25
Honestly? Your DP needs to stand back. This is a situation for you to deal with. She needs to remain in a position of solely providing you with emotional support. What *I* see is a control issue that will not bode well. For you, or your kids.

BTW if Dad is involved with the kids, you may not get permission from the courts to move them away.
post #6 of 25
I think you might want to go through the courts. This way, the visitation schedule can be laid out, and your contact with your ex can be somewhat limited - or at least be somewhat predictable. If he doesn't want full custody, he probably won't get it. It can also be relatively painless if neither of you actually want a custody battle and just want to get something official on paper so that you can move on with your lives easier.

Then you can also get child support and whatnot. But, until there is a custody order there can't be child support really, so you need one to get the other kinda thing.

I would also caution you against moving away - that would NOT look good for you if your ex decided that he was going to file for custody for denial of access - that gets the kids moved in with dad pretty darn quick.

Was there some kind of custody order with your divorce? I have a hard time believing that you divorce with kids and a judge didn't see to it that the kids would be provided for - since you're a sahm and they live with you. I see that as irresponsible on the judges part. And no, your dp is not obligated to provide for your kids and a judge should not have relied on that.

Also, I think you should do some real thinking about the relationship you have now - and if your dp can't step out of the situation you have with your ex you may need to come up with a way to support yourself. Your children have a RIGHT to a relationship with their father. The way your dp is acting she's trying to cut him out and insert herself - which is a huge interference on your ex's ability to parent, and YOUR ability to parent. Are you sure that the relationship with your ex was toxic and not the relationship you have now with your dp?
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by pinksprklybarefoot View Post
It is not fair to attempt to cut your children's father out of the picture because your DP thinks it is a good idea. Or to move them away and make their father inaccessible because she does not want to deal with him.
This. You're children are your first responsibility, not your partner, not your ex, not even yourself.

On a side note, please be very careful about your partner expressing her feelings on your ex to or in front of your children. Whether you or your partner likes it, they are half you, half HIM. Your children may eventually feel that your partner's dislike of your ex will turn towards them.
post #8 of 25
I am only going to address yout second question:

2) How do I support her need not to have my ex involved in our daily lives (mine or the kids' even), and do right by my kids?

Why would you support this need in the first place? How can you justify to your children that you are considering chosing a new partner over their relationship with their father. In my opinion, nothing you have said here in terms of his interactions with you or the children indicate that he shouldn't be around him. I think one of the other posters said this, but maybe he doesn't have a good relationship with his kids because he was working some high stress job to support you and his kids, and wasn't around much.

If the roles were reversed here, and you Ex met someone new, and that someone new was trying to suggest that he move away with the kids or cut you out because they didn't want them around you, how would that make you feel? How would you feel if he didn't stand up for you and your role in your children's lives?

Quite honestly, it sounds like your new DP is controlling and emotionally manipulative or immature. I wouldn't want to be with someone who felt it was her right to tell me how to parent my children or maintain a relationship with my children's other parent. It sounds like might want to consider the option that until your business with him is finished, you might not want to pursue a relationship with someone else until you get settled into the new role of single-mom and divorced co-parent.
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by leilamom View Post
I am only going to address yout second question:

2) How do I support her need not to have my ex involved in our daily lives (mine or the kids' even), and do right by my kids?

Why would you support this need in the first place?
I am a step-parent and was friends with my current husband through his split with his ex. As his friend, my role was to be there for him, to listen to his side of the story, to support him when she needed it. It wasn't my job to see her side of the story or to hear how their relationship was from her point-of-view. So I have always had a very one-sided view of her. I saw how utterly destroyed he was after dealing with her, I remember how much of our time was spent dealing with her. When we started dating and later living together, I was not only listening to how she was impacting his life, but it had an impact on me, too. Like your partner, I took on most of the financial responsibility for my husband and his daughter once we were living together, too.

I tell you all this to say that I absolutely understand where her perspective comes from and why she might try to set some boundaries for herself and for her own mental health. It is a unique situation to be a step-mom... it often feels like your life is controlled by someone you don't like and wouldn't choose to have a part of your life. It can feel like your life isn't your own. I think it is healthy to say "this is what I can handle. This is what I can't." and to see if you can work that way.

I would have loved to set more boundaries to keep her out of my life further, but I chose to be a part of her daughter's life and to parent with the father of her child. So there is a limit to what rules I could set, and there is a lot of stuff I have had to learn to suck up and deal with. My husband's job is to do what is best for his daughter first and accommodate my needs when they don't infringe on his daughter's. It was my job to know what my limits are, advocate for those, and make a choice about whether to stay in a relationship depending on whether or not my needs can be met.

The biggest thing that made a difference for me was time. Time for me to feel more comfortable and confident in my own role. Time for me to develop a relationship with my step-daughter that was it's own thing and had nothing to do with my relationship with her parents or her relationship with them. Time for the custody agreement to get ironed out, and for the inevitable kinks to get worked out, too. Time for my husband to recover from the trauma that is divorce with children and be to stand more firmly on his own, confident in his own rights and responsibilities.

So I don't think it is unreasonable for your partner to set boundaries for herself. Your job is to decide whether or not those can be accommodated without interfering with your children's needs and rights. And that is HARD to do when you are still reeling from divorce (and almost-two-years is not that long when it comes to this stuff... especially when there is not a custody agreement in place, and especially when there was another huge life-altering revelation accompanying it!).

Anyway, don't know if that was at all helpful....
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
Aricha, I think your response has been the most helpful so far, from an emotional standpoint. DP has never been good at setting limits and enforcing them for herself. She has a long history to support this.

To the other posters... yes my relationship with my ex *was* toxic. We both undermined each other's self-confidence and, especially towards the end, both of us were emotionally abusive towards one another. We established some very unhealthy and negative patterns. Both of us have owned our roles, and we're still working out how to function in our new roles.

I'm not a SAHM anymore - I'm an assistant preschool teacher. The wages aren't much, but I could support myself and my kids if I really needed to.

As to moving away - I left out some crucial information. The cost of living where I am now is pretty high, and the wages around here aren't exactly "living wages." The biggest part of the motivation to contemplate moving away is financial - I have an opportunity to live somewhere more affordable, five hours away. Not completely inaccessible to their father, though definitely not nearly as accessible as the present case. I want to be clear - I would never rationally consider moving just to keep the kids away from their dad. I don't have any justifiable reason to do that. It's only how I *feel*. Like running away and starting over from scratch. I *know* that wouldn't solve anything, but it doesn't change the way I feel.

We are going through the courts and mediation. The date for our next custody appearance is 9/28. I really would love to have this resolved out of court if we could do that.

I know that we started this relationship awfully early and awfully quick. I know that it would have been better to wait until I'd sorted out my issues and established my role as single mom. I know this. But the fact is, we did what we did, and we're both committed to honoring the relationship we've built with one another. It's been almost a year and a half, over a year of that has been us living together - with the kids. I can't just walk away from this relationship to look at my role as a single mom, because I created a situation that makes that nearly impossible. I'm not going to subject my kids to that. So, while it does make it harder for me, it's a choice I made and I have to follow through with it unless her words and behavior actually become harmful. At this point, she's expressing her feelings, and she's entitled to them. I'm looking for support because I've never been in this situation before, she's never been in this situation before, and no one we know has either.

She understands that the kids' needs come first. Above and beyond anything else. She's very quick to remind me in cases where I might lose sight of that. She does NOT say a word about their dad in front of them. Ever. Unless they bring him up, and then she's supportive of their feelings, and reminds them that Daddy loves them too. She's not just civil to him, when they're around - she's capable of actually being friendly towards him.

I wouldn't call her immature. She feels taken for granted, having been the primary financial support at a stage in our relationship when it wasn't appropriate. She's panicky because she's got this guy in her life that is toxic to her, and he is going to be in her life forever if she does indeed decide to stay with me. These are very real feelings for her, and very valid concerns.

So I'll be honest. I appreciate the posters who advise that she stand back and remain emotionally distant from him - easier said than done, but surely truer words have never been spoken. But I resent the implication/assumption some people have made that she may be controlling and possibly even abusive herself. That's not the kind of support I'm looking for. Whether it's true or not, it's not relevant to the question I had. I'll rephrase it: How can I be a good mommy and support my kids' relationship with their dad, which is in need of help; and how can I be a good partner and support my partner as she grows in her role as step-parent and comes to terms with her feelings towards my ex?


Does that clarify?

(I apologize if this last bit comes off as snarky, I'm only just starting on my morning coffee and I'm not so great with tact at this time of day)
post #11 of 25
<<<How can I be a good mommy and support my kids' relationship with their dad, which is in need of help; and how can I be a good partner and support my partner as she grows in her role as step-parent and comes to terms with her feelings towards my ex?>>>
I have not read all the replies, I'm going to tell you right from the start that I have a direct style of posting, I will try to stick to the facts, be clear AND be gentle all at the same time. I'm sorry if my thoughts bounce around but there is a lot of information posted.

One thing that stuck out for me was your definition of your DP as a co-parent. It may work for you to not think of her that way. Realistically, you and your ex are the co-parents. You are parenting "together" while being separate. It will be difficult for your DP to be a "co-parent" in this situation if your EX does not accept her in that role. And from what I'm reading, I don't think he does. He has that right. Same as you don't have to accept a new partner from him as a "parent" to your children.

Ok let's move on…. Your DP can be a great support for you, it sounds like she's stuck through some pretty rough times (divorce, moving, your ex, etc) That's a fantastic quality to have. It works for YOU which is great. BUT it does not get to replace the relationship your children have with their father. She can be a support for them without asking that he not be as much as a presence. Your DP needs to learn how to "fit in" to the situation that it already there. She needs to accept that their father will be a constant and important person in your children's life.

You say your DS is having a tough time with his father. The FIRST thing I would do is have him attend counselling. Your children when through a lot of major changes very quickly. They have not had much time to adjust. He should be talking to somebody. If you and your ex can get on board with that, even better. I'm not saying you have to have "family" counselling all together because that could be awkward and doesn't work in every sitch. What I'm saying is both of you agree on a counsellor, both of you have contact with the counsellor, etc.

You say your DP feels that your ex manipulates you/takes advantage of you, ect. Do you feel this way? You cannot be responsible for your DP's feeling and she can't be responsible for yours. To me it seems that your being pulled in two directions. When I read your posts, I hear you say that you want to do right for your children and help with their relationship with their father AND that you want to do right by your DP and validate her feelings concerning your EX. It's hard to do both isn't it? Your kids need to be number one. That doesn't mean that your DP doesn't count or isn't important. It means finding a balance between it all. One thing I've learned about manipulation is that you can really only be manipulated if you allow yourself to be manipulated. I'm not saying it's easy, but maybe some counselling will help you learn how to stand up to that and learn how to appropriately deal with it. The answer is NOT having your DP deal with it for you. You need to learn to do that on your own. Only them will you be able to truly appreciate the help from your DP regarding your EX.

Let's talk about how to support your partner. It might be a good idea to sit down together with a pen and paper and both of you, privately, write down what your expectations are. When finished, trade papers. See where you guys agree and where things need to be worked out. You can move down the list from there trying to resolve specific issues. The thing is you have to be honest, you cannot write what you think will make her happy and vice versa. There is no point building a relationship on false wants and needs.

As to moving. Please don't do that to your children. They have a father in their life who wants to be there for them daily. That is a blessing. It shouldn't be, but it is. You and your EX don't need to see eye to eye on everything, but if he wants to be there, he should be. I'm glad that there is a court date set. Hopefully that will iron out a lot of these very large wrinkles. But please don't move.
post #12 of 25
Ok, so if your relationship with your ex was toxic I'm going to recommend a book. I read it, and it changed my life. It's called, "Why does he DO that" by Lundy Bancroft. It's geared towards emotionally and physically abused women, and while your case may not have risen to 'abuse' per say, but the book gives advice about how to deal with manipulation. And how not to be manipulated. Read it. Have your partner read it - it may help her to understand her feelings and where SHE fits in even though its not directly geared towards step-parenting.

And yes, it may be easier said than done for her to step back, but she needs to. If she can't set her own boundaries, you need to set them for her and make sure that you don't let her cross them. She may be your children's step-parent, but that is NOT the same as a parent. Heck, she doesn't even need to be there when you speak to your ex. There are ways to set boundaries, and maybe she should seek counseling for help with defining her role. I don't know. BUT moving so that your DP doesn't see your ex and doesn't have them in her life is horribly unfair to your children, and may not be allowed anyway so its probably moot.

And its not her responsibility to provide financially for your children. So if she resents that, you need to figure out something with your ex so that she doesn't have to. I still think it was very irresponsible of the judge you had for your divorce who didn't make sure there was a child support order in place for the children.
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by DannysMomma View Post
Aricha, I think your response has been the most helpful so far, from an emotional standpoint. DP has never been good at setting limits and enforcing them for herself. She has a long history to support this.
Quote:
How can I be a good mommy and support my kids' relationship with their dad, which is in need of help; and how can I be a good partner and support my partner as she grows in her role as step-parent and comes to terms with her feelings towards my ex?

IF you can help her figure out a couple of concrete thigns that will help her, and then decide on how you guys will make those part of your family and co-parenting, it might help. For example, if she doesn't want to be present when he picks up the kids, you can work out a routine so that she has something else to do regularly at that time, or your ex can call from his cell when he arrives and you and the kids can go out and meet him in the driveway. If it's too much to hear you talking on the phone with him about co-parenting stuff, schedule with him a time to do that when she is not around. I know these specific ones might not apply to your situation, but you get the idea.

Here's the thing... it is probably going to be a HUGE internal struggle for her to both protect herself from involvement with him AND want to be there to support you. She wants to be by your side while youa re dealing with him so she can help you if you need her AND she doesn't want to be in the same zip code with him. She wishes she could be the one to communicate with him about the kids so you aren't sucked into his manipulation AND she doesn't want to hear his voice (AND she knows it is not her place to do it). It is HARD. Probably the best thing my husband and I did was to figure out how we could handle things-- for example, when a decision needs to be made that he wants to talk to me about or that will involve me (like a change in holiday schedules) we discuss it ahead of time, I give him any non-negotiables and my general opinion or preferences, and then I take a deep breath and just let him handle it. It can be HARD WORK to not ask questions when he brings the final decision back to me, and it's HARD to know he is having the conversation without me there to remind him of details that he might be forgetting. But I know that overall it is what will keep me same and work best for both of us. Again, it takes time and practice and patience and you have to work through stuff over and over and over again. Step-mothering is NOT for the faint of heart!

Oh, I've heard of someone else who has banned any talk or discussion of the ex from their bedroom so that step-mom has an "ex-free zone" to unwind in.

And, for what it's worth, it sounds like you ARE being a good Mommy. You are encouraging your kids' relationships with their dad, you are trying to separate the grown-up stuff from the kid stuff, you and your ex are being polite and even friendly toward your ex when the kids are around... Just because it is hard doesn't mean you aren't doing it right. I nearly always feel like I could be doing better, as a parent, as a step-parent, as a wife... but I have to acknowledge that at any moment, I am doing the best I can, and that has to be good enough... I can always learn more, gain perspective, or try something different for next time and for all the times in the future... but right now I am doing the absolute best I can do at this given moment...

I started out unable to be present during pick-up and drop-off, leaving the room when my husband talked to her on the phone, raging for days when she manipulated him or the schedule or lied about something to get what she wanted. I was more terrified of the possibility of her messing up the birth of my son than I was about labor and delivery itself. I have never felt hate for someone until she came into our lives.... And now it is 7 years later... Yesterday we invited her to join us for lunch to celebrate her daughter's birthday. I had a pleasant chat with her as we gave her a ride to her hotel. She helped my younger daughter with her carseat buckles and chatted with my son about starting Kindergarten. I let her know about the extra clothes and snacks I'd packed in my step-daughter's backpack, and she thanked me sincerely.... if you'd told me 7 years ago we'd get here, I would have laughed and said "no way in h---." Yet here we are. What got us here? Time, time, time and more time, and lots and lots of patience from everyone. A real dedication from the grown-ups to put the kids first, and a long hard look at myself (sometimes with the help of a qualified therapist) to own what I need to own and work through what I need to work through, and to be honest with myself about whether or not I can handle what I signed up for.
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
You say your DS is having a tough time with his father. The FIRST thing I would do is have him attend counselling.
Both my kids are seeing a play therapist, and they love her. It's a bit too soon for results, but they see her weekly and look forward to it. There's a definite sense of relief and exaltation when they visit her - separately. Occasionally, they share a visit, to work on sibling dynamics, but DS and DD have their own separate things to work out.

Quote:
When I read your posts, I hear you say that you want to do right for your children and help with their relationship with their father AND that you want to do right by your DP and validate her feelings concerning your EX. It's hard to do both isn't it? Your kids need to be number one. That doesn't mean that your DP doesn't count or isn't important. It means finding a balance between it all. One thing I've learned about manipulation is that you can really only be manipulated if you allow yourself to be manipulated.
That's exactly it. Finding a balance. Theme of my life, at that! I've learned recently (I think I put it in the other thread and not this one) that I've used up so much of my personal energy engaging his manipulative games. One way to help her (and more importantly, my kids and myself) is to cut off the energy drain and stop allowing myself to be sucked in. I can see that, it's very apparent. But figuring out just how to do it is trickier. I've contemplated sitting down and making up potential scripts to be used in certain situations. I think that might help. I know that if I can stop the energy drain, then my life really will change for the better - I'll have the energy to be more present with my family, to pursue my passions and hobbies. It's like it's sitting there right in front of me, but across a river I have to swim across to get to it.

Thanks for your suggestions, Spinknottle. I'll try them out and see how they work.

Thyra, thanks for the book recommendation. I love to read, so I'll add it to my list. It sounds like it could be pretty relevant.

I want to reiterate that I would never move to keep the kids away from their dad or just to make DP happy. Finances are the biggest motivator. We've been in the hole for so long and we're not making rent anymore. And we live in a pretty affordable (for our town) place. So if we do move it will be out of financial necessity. It's not something I'm taking lightly. I only mentioned that it seemed easier to move away and start over because it shows some perspective - it's where I'm at emotionally. I know rationally it would create more problems than it would solve.

Aricha, you have a unique perspective in all this. You've BTDT and lived to tell the story. Would you mind if I PM'd you for a good healthy dose of perspective once in a while?

Quote:
Oh, I've heard of someone else who has banned any talk or discussion of the ex from their bedroom so that step-mom has an "ex-free zone" to unwind in.
BRILLIANT idea. Seems so common sense. Wonder why it hasn't occured to us so far?
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by DannysMomma View Post
Aricha, you have a unique perspective in all this. You've BTDT and lived to tell the story. Would you mind if I PM'd you for a good healthy dose of perspective once in a while?
Absolutely. Any time!
post #16 of 25
i'm a step mom too. lived through my husband's divorce when we first met.

at first i wanted to know everything that was happening with him and his ex. i wanted every detail but it would get me all worked up. we finally had to agree to limit talking about it.

we had a lot of ex-free zones. it helped but i had to deal with the part of me that felt curious about it. easier said than done. i was more hooked into the drama than i wanted to admit. it was great to see it.

i would imagine that for you, getting custody and support legalized will help a lot. everyone needs clear plans to follow.

glad to hear you're working to unhook the financial dependency on your new partner. that should help too.

is it possible your son is picking up on your partner's dislike of ex? is there conflicting loyalty?

i'm sending good vibes towards your ex getting busier and more productive and for this tense, triangular pattern to break up. and good vibes to your new partner in the hopes that she can step back, unhook and come at the situation with you and your kids from a new angle. and for you, some letting go of trying to be the mediator, the pleaser to both sides. too many compromises/too exhausting.

tighten up the boundaries.
post #17 of 25
Quote:
We've been in the hole for so long and we're not making rent anymore
You mentioned that if you were a single mother you would be able to support your children on what you make though.

You NEED to go after child support.

Finances can be dealt with without having to move 5hours away.

Your DP needs to step back. If she can't make & keep her own boundries why is she telling you to make boundries(less time for the kids with dad, etc).

Do YOU feel the kids spend too much time with their dad & that it is confusing to them or that they think you & him will get back together if they see him daily?

Or is it DP who thinks you & him will get back together if you have to see him daily?

Play therapy might not be enough or the right type of therapy for your 6yo. His life was turned upside down in ways most other divorced children's lives aren't. Not only do Mommy & Daddy no longer live together but Mommy lives with a woman. That's alot for a 6yo to process.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by DannysMomma View Post

She can't stand him, refers to him as a gaping black hole that sucks the energy out of me.

In a perfect world, I think both birth parents, if they're wanting it, should have equal access to their children after the relationship has ended. This would mean seeing him on a daily basis. DP is convinced that doing so would prolong the hurt they're feeling over the end of the relationship between me & their father and possibly perpetuate the idea that we might get back together at some point. She's also not convinced it's a good idea for the kids to spend that much time around their father....

It's come to a point where she loves me, and she loves the kids - calls them her own, even - but she despises their father so much that she's contemplated leaving us just so that she doesn't have to deal with him anymore. She really doesn't do well with negative people, and she's had to work really hard to keep her distance from them in the past - she "catches" their energy, and it changes her outlook and the way she deals with life in general. It's really not good for her mental health to be around him.

Right now, the only real option I can see - to save my relationship with DP and protect my children's long-term well-being - is to move out-of-state.
TIA.
You say he's manipulative?

I'm sorry, but looking at this (especially these pulled sections), from the outside -- the only way you could know some of these things is if your DP were *also* being manipulative. It comes together with a message: "Cut him off or I'm leaving you." "Lets leave town with the kids, its the only way we can save our relationship."

It's a very junior high attitude. "Him or me. Choose." Even coated in new-age speak of "oh, its his negative energy, I catch it," its still, in the end, someone trying to get you (and the kids) all to herself by cutting the competition out. The fact that you know in excruciating detail how much she *hates* the father of your children, the fact that she's has in essence threatened to leave you unless she doesn't have to deal with him -- those are signs, to me, of some pretty heavy manipulation on her part. It may be cloaked in "oh, we need to communicate about EVERYTHING" language, it may sport the paint of progressive psychoanalytic talk, but its still manipulation.

Right now, you're squished between *two* manipulative partner (former partners). It must be an incredibly uncomfortable place to be, and what you need to do is make sure that you take care of YOUR needs and your kids needs, rather than catering 100% to either of them.
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by savithny View Post
You say he's manipulative?

I'm sorry, but looking at this (especially these pulled sections), from the outside -- the only way you could know some of these things is if your DP were *also* being manipulative. It comes together with a message: "Cut him off or I'm leaving you." "Lets leave town with the kids, its the only way we can save our relationship."

It's a very junior high attitude. "Him or me. Choose." Even coated in new-age speak of "oh, its his negative energy, I catch it," its still, in the end, someone trying to get you (and the kids) all to herself by cutting the competition out. The fact that you know in excruciating detail how much she *hates* the father of your children, the fact that she's has in essence threatened to leave you unless she doesn't have to deal with him -- those are signs, to me, of some pretty heavy manipulation on her part. It may be cloaked in "oh, we need to communicate about EVERYTHING" language, it may sport the paint of progressive psychoanalytic talk, but its still manipulation.

Right now, you're squished between *two* manipulative partner (former partners). It must be an incredibly uncomfortable place to be, and what you need to do is make sure that you take care of YOUR needs and your kids needs, rather than catering 100% to either of them.
I agree with this. It was very hard for me to see my ex's manipulation for what it was - for a LONG time. And I'm 9 or 10mo post break up right now, and not ever CLOSE to ready for a new relationship. It's all still too fresh, and I need to feel confident that I'm not going to fall for the same old junk next time around.

I really recommend reading the book I wrote about up-thread. It really did change my life for the better! And was recommended to me by another wise MDC mama!
post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by choochymama View Post
is it possible your son is picking up on your partner's dislike of ex? is there conflicting loyalty?

i'm sending good vibes towards your ex getting busier and more productive and for this tense, triangular pattern to break up. and good vibes to your new partner in the hopes that she can step back, unhook and come at the situation with you and your kids from a new angle. and for you, some letting go of trying to be the mediator, the pleaser to both sides. too many compromises/too exhausting.

tighten up the boundaries.
It's possible, in the sense that *anything* is possible, but really, he's *never* liked his dad much, from day 1. They've never had any real bond. He loves him, don't get me wrong, I can see that he loves him and wants to please him and wants some kind of relationship with him, but he really just doesn't like him.

Thank you for the awesome vibes.

To all the other recent posters - your words are exactly what I need to hear right now. Thanks, so so much!
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