Hi everyone. This is my first post here but I feel like I need some advice.
I lost my husband 4 years ago very suddenly in an accident. Our daughter was 20 months old at the time; she is now 5.
I met my current bf almost 2 1/2 years ago. We moved in together in November of last year, so coming up on a year ago. We have discussed marriage but haven't taken any steps in that direction yet. His son is 5 as well. He shares custody with his ex-wife. We have 6 of 14 overnights and his ex-wife has 8. She is remarried with 2 stepkids.
The relationship between my bf and his ex-wife is very contentious. I genuinely believe she has mental health issues. She is extremely manipulative and controlling and creates conflict at every opportunity. She has tried to bring me in to it as well, but so far I've been able to avoid engaging with her. However, that doesn't mean I'm spared the headache, as my bf and I spend time nearly every evening discussing the most recent accusation/threat/criticism/rant/complaint and how to respond. The constant conflict takes a toll on my bf and I, and our entire family as a result. I feel like there is a third person in our relationship. I'd like to disengage, but I feel like my involvement improves matters somewhat because I'm able to view things a little bit more objectively and communicate more clearly than he is, which mitigates some of the conflict. While his ex-wife is, at least in my mind, the instigator of most of the conflict, my bf certainly isn't perfect. He is stubborn and tends to get drawn in by her games. I feel that many of their decisions are made with the goal of "winning," rather than doing what is best for their child.
Another concern is that his son has some behavioral issues. He is very impulsive and has issues with anger. He tends to resort to physical aggression (which in my opinion is unacceptable under any circumstance) and tantrums. My bf will discipline him if the aggression is directed toward my daughter or other kids, but will tolerate it when it's directed at him. My bf often accomodates his son's ridiculous demands in order to avoid a tantrum. Yesterday was only the 2nd week of kindergarten, and my bf's son was sent to the principal's office for trying to strangle another child (yes, you read that right, strangle). My bf's ex-wife has a brother with bipolar disorder, and as I stated above, I genuinely believe she struggles with mental illness, so I'm afraid that potential may be there with their son. Further, when my daughter and his son are together, my daughter does naughty things she would never in a million years do otherwise. She is a willing participant, and sometimes even the instigator, but she's not like that with anyone else, ever.
My daughter is no walk in the park either. She has some serious attitude for a 5-year-old, and has struggled a lot with "sharing" me, which results in some pretty difficult behavior with both my bf and his son. However, I feel like my bf lets his son get away with murder, but will fight my daughter to the death over even the tiniest thing. Additionally, there is love and forgiveness behind his discipline for his son, but not with my daughter. He can be very cold with her, and seems to hold a grudge, so that some tiny little infraction will be brought up over and over again. This morning when I was walking out the door to take my daughter to school, my bf picked a fight with her about why she put playground gravel in her backpack (which ended up on the carpet). He had already discussed the issue with her once, but felt it necessary to bring it up again, while his son was at school strangling other kids.
I don't want to paint this picture as worse than it is; my bf is a great guy, we have a very healthy relationship, his son is mostly loving and very intelligent, he is willing to work on his relationship with my daughter, and we are generally on the same page when it comes to parenting, beliefs, values, etc. However, I am terrified that at some point his ex-wife will make allegations of abuse, or that our kids will always be "trouble" together, which is manageable at 5 but not so much at 16, or that the the relationship between my bf and daughter will remain difficult.
I don't want to listen to it, but there is a little voice inside of me telling me that someday I may deeply regret bringing my daughter into this situation.
Does anyone have any advice, insight, or recommendations? Thanks in advance...