Couples Counseling...(blended stuff) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 04-07-2009, 12:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I posted a snipet of this in PAP... but wanted to post some thoughts here as a lot of issues are in the blended sense.

DH and I are starting couples therapy. I'm terrified. I'm afraid of being honest in therapy and him resenting me.

I'm in solo counseling too and have been for awhile.... but some aspects of the blended family are really hard for me, and sometimes I feel like he really doesn't have a clue.

I'm wondering if anyone else has gone through any similiar experiences or has any words of wisdom.

Some big issues are his ex... we fight about her a lot. She does a lot of things that neither one of us agree about or it upsets us (see thread about bad weeks)... but yet he never seems to confront her then tells me that I don't need to "bring out the claws" everytime he and I talk about her... this really upsets me because it seems like he "protects" her or something. He has no problem raising his voice to me but he is all demure to her. It really upsets me.

Then this past weekend he actually told me I am not allowed to vent to him anymore about what his ex does and if I have a problem with her I need to take it up with her. I told him it wasn't my place to take up parenting issues with her it was his and he said that was BS because I'm a parent too. But I already know from a previous casual parenting comment I made before to ex that she immediately gets on the defensive if I say anything, which I tried to tell DH that is why he should handle it.

And sadly, the last big part of a lot of our arguments as of late is DSD. DH keeps acusing me of favoritism because I often sheild the baby when DSD is rough housing around here. How is that favoritism? That is normal human instinct, regardless of bio/not bio. DSD is a rambunctious 4 year old who does not pay much attention to her surroundings and is often clumsy... I do not want her to accidentally hurt DD while she is playing rough nearby, so yes, I shield baby's head.

DH said that it sends the message of, "you can't play with your baby sister because my daughter is glass and I don't want anyone to touch her."

Seriously, I don't know where he pulls this crap! *sighs* I let DSD play with DD all the time, but when she starts being too rough I let her know, and if she doesn't listen to me I remove baby.

This came up again when we went shopping for the girls a couple weekends ago. We never looked at prices much when we picked up things for DSD. Well, all of a sudden DH got an attitude because of a pair of pants I wanted to get DD saying it was too much money to be spent on something that DD would grow out of in a couple of months. I gently pointed out to him that we spend money on things DSD grows out of in the same amount of time all the time. He got really mad saying how dare I try to say he treats the girls different... then he said that we didn't need to worry about prices so much then because there was only one daughter, now there are two so things need to be watched more carefully.

This was so incredibly hurtful to me... I want to be able to buy my DD something if I want to, just like he bought stuff for his DD whenever he wanted to... I'm okay with going without for myself to be able to provide better for my kids, and I do the finances so I know what is totally out of our budget and what isn't. If I wanted to splurge on one cute outfit for DD, I think I should have been able to. And to note, we still buy things for DSD. In the same day DH insisted we get her 2 pair of jeans, even though she already had a pair of jeans, plus several skirts and sweats at the house and we only get her every other weekend... she really didn't need two more pair of jeans at our house. But DH won't hear it or see that he could possibly be treating the girls differently.

I honestly feel in part he is parenting DSD out of guilt right now....

I don't know what I'm asking here... I just needed to get some of this out.

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#2 of 24 Old 04-07-2009, 12:59 PM
 
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I think couples counseling sounds like it will be helpful. I know that if my husband and I were having those kinds of issues communicating and I was feeling the way it sounds like you are, and I was hearing hints of some of those issues from my husband, I would do exactly what you have done-- counseling on my own, then couples counseling.

Can you talk to your own counselor about your fears? Alos, maybe it would help to think of it as someone who can help you guys communicate and make sure your thoughts and feelings are heard and validated... it sounds like that is the part that you are needing support with-- not having your feelings brushed off. While it will probably be hard, it will be a lot easier to talk about these things in a therapist's office than with the kids in the middle of the store.

It will also, hopefully, give you two tools to communicate in the future so each of you can better understand where the other is coming from. I don't think couples counseling is just about venting to your spouse or airing your dirty laundry... I think it is about getting some help to make your communication smoother and help you both advocate for yourselves in a way that is productive and doesn't make things worse.

This is a tough time you are going through!! New babies are a BIG adjustment for any couple, and when you add the baggage that comes with all parts of a blended family, there is bound to be some heavy-duty hard stuff going on for everyone. So don't be hard on yourself-- this is big stuff youa re dealing with and it is a measure of your strength that you know when you need some help.

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#3 of 24 Old 04-07-2009, 01:33 PM
 
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We did some counseling and it helped immensely. Sometimes, I think that it might help to go back.

You should be honest about your feelings when you are there. They aren't going to go away (most likely), and it will be a waste of time if you still have issues hiding when you guys are done with the counseling.

Almost every fight that DH and I have is either about DSD or her mom. She does a lot of things that aren't officially neglectful, but still not great parenting (seldom gives DSD a bath and never clips her nails, for example), but DH doesn't bring them up often to keep the peace and we try to make up for it on our end (clip her nails right before she goes to her mom's). Sometimes I wish he would just say something to her.

I also wish he would be a little more proactive about getting the money that she owes us.

We fight about discipline often, too. Our styles and expectations are different. I get particularly upset when I feel like I have to protect DS from DSD (How many times in one morning should he have to hear her complain about how annoying he is, how he ruins everything, how she hates having a little brother?). I can't make DH have higher expectations of DSD and her treatment of her DS, but I can certainly take DS and leave for the rest of the morning. I wind up accusing DH of favoritism or parenting out of guilt often because he goes to great lengths to avoid disciplining DSD sometimes. He also seems to make a more concerted effort to spend time with her/do things for her as compared to how he treats DS.

A lot of the issues that you bring up are so common in blended families. It is hard to figure out what is fair to everyone in these situations. For example, with the clothes issue, eventually your DH is going to have to realize that it isn't going to be worth the money to match every piece of clothing that you buy for your DD with one for DSD as well. Your DSD lives with you 4 days/mo, where your DD lives with you every day. Your DD is going to need a larger wardrobe at your house than your DSD.

Bottom line, I don't really have any advice. But I sure can commiserate with you.

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#4 of 24 Old 04-07-2009, 01:33 PM
 
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(I saw your post in PaP and responded there first - obviously you can ignore that now, all except the "good luck!" part!)

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#5 of 24 Old 04-07-2009, 10:15 PM
 
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We have had (and still have) so many fights like that. It has gotten a lot better though. I totally agree with the "parenting out of guilt" statement, and I have been making more of an effort to empathize with where he is coming from. But, he needs to make the effort to not take it out on you! He does need to realize that dsd does not live with you all the time, and learn to be okay with not pretending that she does. You do have two kids now, so I'm sure things are tighter. But, that does not mean that they need the same amt. of clothes. Heck, I should say that a young baby should have more clothes period, as I assume the four year old isnt' drooling, vomiting, spitting up, peeing, or pooping on their outfit four times a day Good luck, I hope the counseling helps. I wish that we had gone this route when things were really rough. FWIW, the difference b/t how dp treats dsd and dd (in my eyes at least) has really gotten much, much less. I think it is harder to be okay with spending less time with an older child who really realizes it than a baby whos is seemingly oblivious (i..e. cannot voice it!). Oh, and pinksparkly-I totally hear you about the comments from dsd about how annoying dd is. They drive me crazy. I wonder if this is fairly normal for older sibling until they really see the little ones as " real people" ?

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#6 of 24 Old 04-10-2009, 12:28 AM
 
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Oh, and pinksparkly-I totally hear you about the comments from dsd about how annoying dd is. They drive me crazy. I wonder if this is fairly normal for older sibling until they really see the little ones as " real people" ?
I don't come from a blended family myself, but i must say that as the oldest sibling I ALWAYS and constantly complained about how annoying my younger brother was. In fact its not till i moved out of the house that i felt differently.My brother is now 15 and we have a sister who is 4 and and he still constantly complains about how annoying she is. I think that its normal sibling stuff.
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#7 of 24 Old 04-10-2009, 11:24 AM
 
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I don't come from a blended family myself, but i must say that as the oldest sibling I ALWAYS and constantly complained about how annoying my younger brother was. In fact its not till i moved out of the house that i felt differently.My brother is now 15 and we have a sister who is 4 and and he still constantly complains about how annoying she is. I think that its normal sibling stuff.
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#8 of 24 Old 04-11-2009, 08:37 PM
 
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Some big issues are his ex... we fight about her a lot. She does a lot of things that neither one of us agree about or it upsets us (see thread about bad weeks)... but yet he never seems to confront her then tells me that I don't need to "bring out the claws" everytime he and I talk about her... this really upsets me because it seems like he "protects" her or something. He has no problem raising his voice to me but he is all demure to her. It really upsets me.

Then this past weekend he actually told me I am not allowed to vent to him anymore about what his ex does and if I have a problem with her I need to take it up with her. I told him it wasn't my place to take up parenting issues with her it was his and he said that was BS because I'm a parent too. But I already know from a previous casual parenting comment I made before to ex that she immediately gets on the defensive if I say anything, which I tried to tell DH that is why he should handle it.

this must be so frustrating for you, but i'm happy to hear you are in counseling - a great counselor will be able to help you so much.

i understand where your husband is coming from about not confronting the ex. in my experience, confrontation hasn't changed anything in the way my ex interacts with the kids. i used to get really worked up about the things he did (and i still do!) and confront him about it, but after a while i realized it was pointless. all it did was get everybody worked up, yet nothing changed. i have learned to just let it go because i prefer to spend less time thinking about my ex and talking about him with my husband, trying to change something that isn't going to change.

my husband used to get angry (understandably) and frustrated at me as well when i let things slide, but the only reason i let things go was because my ex was going to do what he was going to do regardless of how i reacted, and i just felt it wasn't worth my time.

as to addressing parenting issues with her, i agree with you, it's not your place and i'm pretty sure she won't listen to anything you say anyway. if my ex's wife phoned me up to complain about my parenting, i'd hang up on her

i'm sorry for the hard time you are having and i hope you find your way through it.

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#9 of 24 Old 04-14-2009, 11:34 AM
 
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My husband and I have been together for going on 13 years, married for almost 4 years. We still have blended family issues come up now and again. A lot of our issues have to do with the fact that our two oldest kids (mine and his) are only six months apart and it's a fact that he treats his son differently than he treats my daughter.

It's so very hard to deal with the "unfairness" of things.

I want to stand on my soap box and preach about how while he facilitates his relationship with his son by giving him everything he wants and not disciplining him while he is at our house (he's always done this)...his being more strict with discipline with my daughter because she's here 24/7 and he doesn't have to worry about whether she will want to come over or not....AARGH!

Our oldest kids are 16 years old now & let me tell you, my daughter has some whopping resentments against my husband for the inequalities that she recognizes now!

That said, I can not tell you how beneficial it has been for us to go to counseling together. I actually found a family counselor that specializes in blended family dynamics. She really knew her stuff and was able to direct the conversations in a healthy way that depersonalized what was being said.

I was able to discuss things in counseling, old issues, that would have absolutely freaked my husband out if we were to have that discussion in the privacy of our own home. At least for us, we were able to come to a healthy stopping point at the end of our sessions and not bring huge resentments home with us.

I can't say enough about how helpful it was...I honestly don't know how good our marriage would be at this point had we not pursued a safe place to have these discussions.

We went for a total of 9 months to work on our marriage/family life and then I went for another 2 months by myself to work on my reactions/ownership of what I bring to the family dynamic.

It's not easy, but it sure is worth it!
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#10 of 24 Old 04-15-2009, 05:42 PM
 
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blended family issues seem to be the hardest ones to cope with in a marriage.. .especially when you have your own child together and you see such obvious discrepencies between how your partner treats your children together and your own bios and then their own child... it is a tough place

your feelings about your sd being too rough with your child are fair and fine.. you would do the same things and say the same things if it were your bio four yo rough housing around baby. it really sounds as though your dh feels a lot of guilt for the time he spends away from his daughter :sad and wants to make her feel as though nothing has changed for her since having a baby with you. that is soooo unfair, to both your child and to sd... because it is not reality. life does change, relationships change and so do the needs of the people in those relationships. trying to maintain some status quo of how things were denies your sd the power to change and grow, it is as though your dh feels she is too fragile to move through this life and i am sure that is just not the case.
his comments about your thinking that your child is made of glass are unfair, you wouldnt let cousins or anyone play rough with your baby an dsd doesnt get some special priviledg to do whatever she wants with anyone she wants simply because she is only there four days a month... i thinl that your dh needs to deal with his feelings, those he has for his older daughter and the ones he has regarding yoru child together, he needs to let go of his guilt because it is getting in the way of his loving both of his children freely...

i would recommend that you do be totally honest in your counselling sessions, why pay good money to not deal with the real issues at hand...
i can see why your dh doesnt want to engage in conflict with his ex... and why it seems that he isnt wanting to yell at her or whatever... it does seem as though her feelings matter to him and of course that doesnt sit well with any wife
it isnt her feelings he is protecting, rather his own. i would think he is tired of fighting with her and that is part of the reason that they arent together anymore. i am sure he doesnt want thier fights to somehow spill over into your marriage either. detatching is a really good way tot deal with that, accept that you cant make her do anything, you cant change that situation at all, but you can change how you deal with it. so when it is something that really gets to you or feels hurtful hand it back to him, let him deal with those issues.

as for the clothes and money, how about an equal budget for clothes for each of them? that is most fair and easily managed.. not to mention easy to see in black and white that no one is getting more than their fair share and no one is left out.

i am sure your dh doesnt realise how much he is preventing and getting in the way of your relationship with dsd, he is setting you up to resent her and that isnt fair to you or to her in future it will cause resentment between his children and that is really sad too...

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#11 of 24 Old 04-15-2009, 08:54 PM
 
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I posted a whole huge reply to your other post but the thread seems to have been removed so not sure if you got it. Counseling has been amazing for my partner and I. I would highly recommend trying to find someone trained in stepfamily issues - the stepfamily association of america could be a good starting point. One of the things that counseling did for us was to help us hear the feelings underneath what we were saying/how we were reacting. It enabled us to develop a greater level of empathy for one another so that we didn't see each other as antagonists but as partners. It's been really hard for me to accept and understand that my partner has a different relationship to his son than to our/my daughter. It's been hard for him to feel rejected by her. But getting at why we feel how we do has helped us to communicate so much better. Definitely be honest; it's the only way forward. I think both you and your husband have very deep and very valid feelings and they are giving y ou a lot of pain that you take out on each other. Counseling can help you understand one another so much better. Good luck!
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#12 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks bronxmom, I will look into that site.


Vivvysue... I'm not sure if I understand your suggestion of an equal budget for clothes being fair? DSD gets clothed at our house only twice a month... DD gets clothed multiple times a day everyday, as she is a baby and makes messes.

Obviously the child that lives here full time will have more clothes, just because they live here full time and need more... how could I possibly make the clothing budget the same for them?

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#13 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 11:24 AM
 
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we are in counseling....it is helping,,,We just had a very very good session this week, we've been seeing our counselor for a few months now, I feel like after this long we are starting to see some progress in individual stuff and now we are starting to be able to really understand and work on the stepcoupling/parenting stuff...

we just got the book, "Stepcoupling" so far it seems really good. we are reading it together.

There is also the book, Keys to Successful Stepparenting that DP is reading, we have one child from my previous relationship....its very challenging.

best wishes

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#14 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 12:51 PM
 
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Thanks bronxmom, I will look into that site.


Vivvysue... I'm not sure if I understand your suggestion of an equal budget for clothes being fair? DSD gets clothed at our house only twice a month... DD gets clothed multiple times a day everyday, as she is a baby and makes messes.

Obviously the child that lives here full time will have more clothes, just because they live here full time and need more... how could I possibly make the clothing budget the same for them?
Does the older child not take her clothes to her moms house? Does the older child go naked? I guess I see it as dad has an equal responsiblity to BOTH kids and regardless of when she is with her dad, he still should be equally taking care of both his kids with equal budgets etc.

With all that said, my DH and I have vowed to NEVER fight over the ex's. i will NOT allow my ex or his ex to have any negative effect on our relationship. If we have to laugh about it, we do, but we are a united front when it comes to the ex's and we refuse to let them bring any drama into our relationship. We also have both choosen to not get into major confrontations with the exs. Frankly unless there is something dangerous or distructive, we just let things slide and remeber why we are no longer married to these other people.

It was tough at first and my husband had a hard time understanding why I didn't wont to start any confrontations with my ex, but now he sees. Our relationship (mine with the ex) is so much better and we do work together if we just agree to disagree at times and just let him do what he needs to do at his house and I do what I need to do at my house. I don't agree with everything he does, but letting him parent his way is much better then a war. My dh now agrees with this, and the kids see us all as a united front.

I hope the counselor can help you communicate what is bothering you though. Your husband should be the one person who you can talk to openly without fear. I know I sometimes chicken out because of fears I have due to experiences with my ex, so I tend to write out my thoughts and make Dh read it, then we can talk about it.
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#15 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 02:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Does the older child not take her clothes to her moms house? Does the older child go naked? I guess I see it as dad has an equal responsiblity to BOTH kids and regardless of when she is with her dad, he still should be equally taking care of both his kids with equal budgets etc.
Does CS not factor into this equation? We already spend hundreds of dollars a week on DSD via CS... I'm obviously not requesting DH to spend hundreds on DD a week to keep it fair.

DSD comes to us in clothes from her Mom's house and back on Sunday in clothes from her Mom's house. We dress her in clothes we have on Saturday.

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#16 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 02:43 PM
 
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Does CS not factor into this equation? We already spend hundreds of dollars a week on DSD via CS... I'm obviously not requesting DH to spend hundreds on DD a week to keep it fair.

DSD comes to us in clothes from her Mom's house and back on Sunday in clothes from her Mom's house. We dress her in clothes we have on Saturday.
honestly so your husband feels better, no CS shouldn't factor in. It sounds to me like he is having a very hard time with the fact that he parents one child more then the other and is trying to keep everything else as equal as possible. I can't imagine what it must feel like for you to hear that your child with him shouldn't have more, but these are both his children and sounds like he really wants to keep things equal. In the end and at the end of the day, he can tell both his girls that he did everything he could and what he had control of to keep things equal.
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#17 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 03:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think I might be misunderstanding this...

No, CS doesn't factor in? So my DH should pay CS and provide a full wardrobe here for DSD, even though she is only here 4 days a month, but to keep with having the same clothes budget as DD?

I'm confused...

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#18 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 03:01 PM
 
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I think it can help a lot to sit down and look at the reality of the situation. The money that goes out the door every month in the form of CS - is it EQUAL to 1/4 of your other household expenses (since dsd is 1/4 of your family)? Is it more? Is it less? That might help your husband get a handle on how much he is spending on his first daughter and help to mitigate his guilt.

(I personally think this is a fairly nonsensical conversation anyway, since you are obliged to WOH and some of YOUR hard-earned money is going to pay that CS unless you keep your finances completely separate, but I can see why it might be worth ignoring that to make peace in your home. Besides, if you do someday end up with primary custody of your dsd due to neglect issues, then the practice of assuming that her expenses are around 25% of your family's budget will stand you in good stead.)
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#19 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I took our rent + utilities and groceries and divided it by 4 and we are paying MUCH more than that in CS.

(even though I don't feel rent and utilities should factor into CS as the parent has to provide those regardless)

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#20 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 03:27 PM
 
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I really don't feel that you are obligated to provide a full wardrobe for a child that in reality you only clothe 2 times a month (since she arrives in clothes from her mom's on Friday and leaves in them on Sunday). That is wasteful, IMO. How much of that wardrobe will go unworn before she outgrows it? Sure, the extra clothes could be sent to her mom's, but knowing your situation, something tells me that they wouldn't get worn over there, either.

We have my DSD a little over half time, and she and DS have about equal wardrobes. OK, maybe hers is a little larger. But she is more fun to shop for. Plus, it's not like I can spend money on things like hair pretties for DS. But if she was only here 2 weekends/month, she would probably have a wardrobe about half the size of DS.

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#21 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 03:33 PM
 
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Well, I took our rent + utilities and groceries and divided it by 4 and we are paying MUCH more than that in CS.

(even though I don't feel rent and utilities should factor into CS as the parent has to provide those regardless)

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Can you compute it with your total monthly spending? Not just categories but the actual dollar amount you spent last month? I think that would be the most convincing number. Your husband probably wants/needs to feel that of all the money he has a say in spending (which includes your paycheck if your finances are blended), 25% of it is spent on his first daughter. I suspect that the numbers may well work out that way, and it might help with the guilt for him to see that in laid out black and white.

In reality, of course, expenses in any family aren't divided this way. At any given time, one member is more expensive to maintain than another member. It just might be a useful starting place for your particular family, and might emphasize to him that you consider dsd to be 1/4 of your family.

Honest to G-d, I think you might have fewer problems if your dsd lived with you full-time. You'd have to adjust to caring for her, but your husband might start behaving a whole heck of a lot better. And there would be no lice.
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#22 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 04:38 PM
 
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OKay, I totally don't get why you would have an equal wardrobe for a kid that you dress two days a month? Clothes, yes, but equal to a child that lives there everyday? That is a flat out waste of money.

My dsd has lots of clothes here, but my dd definitely has more. Why? Because she wears more clothes! Dsd is also here 8 nights a month and we send her to school.

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#23 of 24 Old 04-16-2009, 05:25 PM
 
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I don't think you need an equal clothes budget. That seems obvious. But I also think your dh should have the pleasure of buying his daughter something just because it would be special and she liked it - even if she doesn't "need" it. Similarly, you should be able to buy cute clothes for your baby regardless of whether she "needs" it. Maybe a better way to think of it would be an equal amount of "extra/discretionary" spending for fun stuff beyond the necessities.

But again, there are way bigger issues at work here - you want to celebrate your baby (understandably) and your dh wants to protect his daughter from any feelings of unfairness (regardless of the reality of the matter in terms of actual fairness). You can get past all this with some real work and open minds. We're rooting for you
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#24 of 24 Old 04-29-2009, 05:18 PM
 
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hmm i guess i wasnt thinking of equal as being the same, just fair...
your dd that lives with you obviously will need more of a wardrobe, not only because she is there 24/7 but also because she is an infant and will of course go through a lot more clothes in a day than an older child... it seems that it would be a lot of adding up and breaking down to make things fair on paper with that, as far as how much per day per child spent on clothes rhair i am not sure i could even figure out what the equation would be, so i guess that isnt much of an option at all... although with the differences in the price of clothing for infants and children it could be done fairly on a same amount each monetary basis.. not meaning that the same amount gets spent at the same time, but over all in a year it works out to the same or nearly so for each...

in reality if your dsd was your bio daughter and lived with you full time, your infant daughter would still have a need for a larger wardrobe at this stage in her life and so would more than likely have a larger budget set aside for her needs...

it is soooo difficult to come up with a solution because it seems that the real issue isnt the moneies or where they are spent, but rather the way your dh feels about not living with dsd full time yet living with your dd together. making monies spent on each fair is never going to make time spent together the same...

have you guys started your counselling yet, perhaps a counsellor experienced in blending family issues would have a good solution for you...

i wish i had a better reply for you

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