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#1 of 9 Old 10-04-2011, 04:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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#2 of 9 Old 10-04-2011, 07:59 PM
 
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I am a step-mom whose existence was very much hated by my now-husband's ex. It wasn't a personal hatred, it wasn't anything specifically about me, it was that she hated the whole idea of my existence. My husband also was never married to his daughter's mom and when she left with the baby there was no custody order in place... she just left and his ability to see his daughter was basically at mom's whim. I can say from his perspective he was TERRIFIED, nearly all the time, that his daughter was going to be taken away from him again and that this time he wouldn't be able to find her. The stakes were incredibly high and, in his mind the only thing he could do was keep her happy enough that she would let him continue to see his daughter. It was an incredibly stressful time for him, living in fear that he would say or do the wrong thing and would lose his daughter altogether. 

 

Here are the things that helped:

Proximity-- when she left, it was very easy for all the control to stay in her court. When he was just the visiting dad, travelling to see his daughter, she had a lot of control over when, how, and where he could see his daughter because if he disagreed she could just refuse to show up. When we were able to move closer, we established a regular schedule and the power and control balanced out a little... He was parenting on his own, in his own space, and she couldn't just not show up because he was right there.

 

Time-- It was agonizingly slow progress for my presence to be accepted on any level. We moved together and lived together, and on some level she certainly knew that. But I allowed her to pretend I didn't exist. I didn't go to pick my step-daughter up. I made myself scarce when she dropped her off at our house. I didn't answer the phone when she called. My husband rarely used the words "we" and "us," always "me" and "I." She knew I was there, but we didn't rub it in. 

 

Support-- my role, other than getting to know my step-daughter and finding my way through that relationship, was to be a support to my husband. He had to go from being terrified all the time about losing his daughter at any minute... to standing up for his rights as a father and finding a way to assert himself as an equal parent. There is a LONG distance between those two things, especially when you have lived in fear for a long time. I was there for him as he stumbled, made mistakes, regressed, got bowled over, doubted himself, lost his confidence... he didn't need me to FIX it, he needed me to be there while HE fixed it. That was, perhaps, the hardest thing for me to learn.

 

Having a plan-- My husband stopped taking her decision of the day as the final answer. When she said 50/50 custody would be too traumatic for my step-daughter, my husband asked to make a plan to get there eventually. When she said she would never feel comfortable trusting him with their daughter, he suggested counseling or mediation to work on their co-parenting skills. When she refused holiday visitation, he asked to come up with a plan for how to share holiday time equitably the next year.

 

I hope some of that was helpful. I think in your case, the best thing you can do is support him as he moves forward in his own parenting journey. If he wants to be an equal parent to his son, he first has to believe he is an equal parent. Perhaps the best thing you can do for him is to be there for him as he goes through the inevitable ups and downs that are in front of him. You can remind him about all the things he is doing for his son, all the ways he is putting his son first, and all the ways he is a wonderful father. You can counteract the doubts that are going to arise as his ex questions and doubts him as a parent. Once he is not living in fear of losing his son, he may be able to move things forward in his co-parenting relationship with his ex... but he needs to be the one to do the work. There are no short-cuts. Once the two of them are on more stable ground it may open up room for a third person.

 

Obviously this is from my own perspective and experience as a step-mom, and a mom who has dealt with an ex and their new girlfriend/spouse might have a very different perspective on how you should handle that relationship. I know that in our situation it would have done more harm than good to try to bridge that gap before she was ready to accept me into their parenting system. 


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#3 of 9 Old 10-04-2011, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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#4 of 9 Old 10-05-2011, 12:28 AM
 
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I was going to say that your DP's ex doesn't get a say over whether your DP dates and/or lives with you and that your dating/living status has nothing to do with whether and how much your DP should have time with his son (assuming you both are no danger to the son). But in my state (not sure about yours) if he has no parenting agreement (custody order) he has no rights. Meaning there are no rights to enforce right now, because he doesn't have them. It is by the "good graces" of mom for DP to see their son. Technically she can't make DP or you do anything, but she can force your hand if she decides to use access to their son as the lever, so to speak. It's an awful, cheeseball in the gut, kind of feeling, I know.

 

You (that is, DH) can't reason with her that he's a good parent. He has to be a good parent. He has to demonstrate with his actions that he is a good parent. If she doesn't see it, doesn't get it, or whatever, it doesn't matter. If the court system gets involved, her fears pretty much don't matter. A judge will (or at least should) listen to his version of the story, such as how he is a good parent and provides for their son, and her stories about who he was 5 years ago won't matter much. So I wouldn't dwell on trying to convince her of who he is now. Just be that person. Heck, be better than that person out of spite. ;-)

 

Once there is an order giving him parental rights, she effectively loses the ability to dictate such fine details of DP's life. No, she couldn't demand to interview and approve you. No, she couldn't demand to enter your home for whatever reason, like looking at son's room (though I doubt if she could now, it's your private residence). If your DP says you are a good person and he chooses for you to be around their son, that's that. He would have no obligation to provide her with your qualifications, or let her supervise you. Your DP is their son's parent too, and he's qualified (whether she cares to agree or not) to make some decisions when their son is in his care in the same way that she's qualified to make some decisions when their son is in her care (like who she will date and when she will introduce that man to their son). Then there are some decisions, like medical care decisions or (semi-)permanent decisions, that ought to be made by both parents. Unless the order says otherwise (on all counts).

 

If she is unreasonable about giving time to your DP without an order and the issue ends up in court, the unreasonableness may come back to bite her in the tush. It's in her best interest (not to mention their son's best interest) to facilitate quality time with each with dad and mom. It's really hard to convince a judge that you want your son to spend quality time with his father when in practice you don't freely encourage it or perhaps even prevent it. That's why, even when things seem like they are going well, it's worth keeping a log. Hope you'll never need it and can burn it when your DP's son turns 18. But otherwise a good safety net to have for now. Keep it in a safe place where the son will never find it.

 

The process of establishing parental rights is long, expensive, stressful, and mostly something I wouldn't wish upon anyone. But it's necessary if both parties can't cooperate/be reasonable. From what you're describing, I would at least start interviewing lawyers and thinking about what you want to do, even if you don't file anything or pay a retainer yet. Once you get through it and have a parenting agreement/order, you have something to lean back on instead of just fear of making mom mad. Not sure of your state, but in mine, the existence of the ordered parenting time means DH's ex cannot up and move more than 50 miles away without written approval from DH or a court order (relief from the fear of DSD being taken even farther away with no means of recourse). If she's willing to be reasonable about it, your DP and the ex can write up an agreement and have a lawyer help you get the court to approve (i.e. enforce) it. This would be the best way, so some overworked judge (no offense to the judges intended) doesn't decide your fate, but it assumes that it's possible for DH and his ex to agree on something. Don't do any of this without a lawyer (and I don't mean the ex's lawyer), especially if you do end up in court, no matter how much you think you can handle it on your own.

 

I have never "met" my DSD's mom in the interview--much less chummy, talkative buddies--sense. It's kindof like a business. We're not friends, never will be, but while we're in the office we are polite enough and do what is necessary to get the job done. We've been at school functions together. We've sat in the waiting room at DSD's therapy sessions alone together. She's informed me about what vitamin to give DSD. After a few years of being with DH, I've even picked up DSD from her mom's a couple times. But that's that. All communications (no matter how much better I think I could say it or smooth things over or think I'm more right) go through DH. It's not my child, and despite the fact that I would go to great lengths for her, there are some things that just aren't my role to fill. With whatever I do as it pertains to DSD, and with whatever support I give DH, I always think about how what I'm about to do/advise will be received; how would I feel if the roles were reversed? This makes DH kindof agitated (like when I say I can see where she's coming from, even though I think she's wrong) but it keeps me grounded, focused on DSD, and helps make good choices. I consider that to make her and I "close enough."

 

 

P.S. My DH's ex turned awful awful awful once she found out he was seriously dating, and filed court motions for him to have no parenting time (not on the basis of anything to do with me). Yes, really. Like Aricha, I kept myself sparse when she was around, yet once DH's ex figured it out, she behaved very jealous-like (not so much of me, but of the things and security that being a "we" offered him I think). I certainly can't say your DP's ex would do the same, but if your DP is afraid of his ex withholding time with their son if DP makes her unhappy, and thinks that her knowing he's dating would make her unhappy, I don't blame him for avoiding the topic because to him, unhappy mom means risk of not seeing son. He might need to let her know some minimal amount of detail (like that he has a GF who is wonderful and son likes, but not much more) and he could use all your support in helping get through that somewhat scary task instead of criticism for how he's done it wrong. Just be as supportive as you can going forward even when you think he, her, or both, are wrong. Good luck on this rocky road. :-)

 

 

ETA: Didn't mean to sound all negative. Kudos to you for willingly heading into this, and for obviously caring enough to go on a forum and find people to talk to about it.


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#5 of 9 Old 10-05-2011, 07:02 PM
 
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You find it reasonable and acceptable that his ex would refuse overnight visits.  

 

Does that stem from a theory that it's "wrong", or confusing, for a 5-year-old to spend the night with a parent who's living with someone he's not married to and whom the child doesn't know well?  I.e., seeing your Dad and Rachel go to their bedroom and watching Rachel make breakfast in her PJs, differs from just spending the day with Daddy and Rachel at "Daddy's" house.  Plus, until you guys marry, you haven't officially committed to staying together.  His son could get attached to you as a step-mother and - theoretically - he could lose you.  And it's already a lot for a little kid to process that his parents didn't stay together, without reinforcing the idea that marriages and families are temporary, by making him experience a revolving door of step-mother-figures.  Understand, I'm not saying you and your BF aren't committed to each other, I'm just saying this is one theory for resisting overnights when the noncustodial parent is living with someone.

 

This could be what the Mom is thinking.  And it's by no means outlandish, from her perspective.  She doesn't know you, or anything about your relationship with her ex.  You guys have already broken up once.  You're only just now getting back together and you're moving in without any sort of test period for rekindling the relationship.  In her shoes, I'd be worried that my kid would think you're his step-Mom and then you guys would break up again and you'd disappear.  But if you assume this is what she's thinking, it seems unfair to blame it all on your BF or to try to commiserate with her about how badly he's handled things.  You are also making the choice to live together immediately.  

 

In fact, you really have a quandary on your hands.  You oppose the idea of a man putting his GF above his kid.  And you see that he's devastated about not getting overnights.  But if he follows through on letting you move in, he WILL be prioritizing you over his kid, if the "shacking up" is what's standing in the way of his ex agreeing to overnights.  It is, of course, resolvable.  Few courts these days will penalize a non-custodial parent for "living in sin", like they might have, a generation ago.  With some effort, your BF could force overnights.  Or he could suffer through for a while, as his kid AND his ex get comfortable with the situation, then start overnights later.  But if you have a rigid code of ethics - that already made you break up with him once, more-or-less for lying to his ex - then it will continue to bother you if he accepts not having overnights, so he can have you there.  You can try to rationalize around this, but the unavoidable truth is that he could have overnights with his kid right away, but only by denying you what you need (to be able to share expenses).

 

Quandaries like that are tough!  I'm not trying to downplay it, or judge you.  But I see you asking for advice right before you actually fly out there and commit to this arrangement.  Sometimes when we feel uncertain about something, it's because we know we're not doing the right thing, but we haven't figured out what the heck else we can do, instead.  If that IS what's going on in your head, all I can say is that one rarely regrets inconveniencing themselves to figure out a way to do the right thing; but one usually regrets doing the wrong thing because it was convenient.

 

That said, if you believe it's just fine for single parents to expose kids to their live-in relationships - and if you feel sure that's NOT what's bothering Mom (let's say she's shacking up with someone, herself, as we speak)... if Mom is withholding overnights out of pure spite because her ex has a GF, that's a whole different thing!!!  If she is that type of person, it may be perfectly reasonable for your BF to choose to keep his personal life to himself.  For all you know, she might have reacted with the same spite whenever he told her about you, and cut off visitation long ago, interfering with his bonding with his child.  It is one thing to withhold parenting time because you have a genuine concern about what your child's being exposed to.  It's quite another - and indefensible - to withhold it just because you're mad at your ex; because he lied to you; whatever.  

 

When people separate/divorce, they have NO entitlement to veto each other's new partners, or to decide when the kids will meet those partners.  She gets to decide what's she thinks is best about her relationships and your BF gets to decide what HE thinks is best about his.  SOME couples - who communicate well - might go the extra mile and get some sort of blessing from each other, about this.  But that is voluntary, and contingent upon a basic level of trust that neither one will take advantage of the other's openness and use it to undercut, sabotage or punish them.  If your BF's ex has trampled on that trust in the past, then you should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is handling his ex the best way he can, knowing her much better than you do.  

 

If you can't give him the benefit of the doubt, then what do you really think of him?  Are you sure he is a wise, admirable and good person that you want to be with for the rest of your life?

 

No good can come from trying to make nice with her, by cutting him down.  It will not make her like you one iota more.  In fact, it might make her wonder about the strength of your relationship, if as soon as you move back in with him, you're criticizing him to his ex-wife.  And it will only make him feel like you've betrayed and shamed him.  If you feel he deserves betrayal and shame, you should not be moving in with him.


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#6 of 9 Old 10-06-2011, 05:48 AM
 
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Originally Posted by OddRachel View Post

If after meeting me she still has reservations I will do anything, within reason, to make her feel comfortable...I can understand her having an issue with the whole not wanting him to walk in on us in the bedroom thing and us not being married and such.  He and I have talked about getting married in the past but there are reasons we aren't going there right now.  One is because we have things to work out before going there...Plus it is possible his son and I would not get along.  I want to make absolutely sure we are doing the right thing before getting married.  I wish I had thought things through this much with my ex-husband.

 


I read this after my other post.

 

Listen to what you're saying.  You do think it's reasonable for a kid not to be exposed to his parent living with someone outside marriage.  You're not sure your relationship will work out and become a marriage.  You hope it will, but you're not sure.  But you're going to move in with him anyway, not date first and find out if the relationship will work.  This sounds like mostly a decision of financial convenience and not because you're sure it's the right thing to do right now, considering all the relationships.  And you imagine that this woman - who was not even told that your BF was dating you, for 3 years - will believe that you will spend the night elsewhere when her son is over (if you are just nice enough, when you guys make that proposal).  You probably are in earnest about that, but this woman does not know you.  Even if you are super-nice and non-confrontational when you meet her, she still doesn't know you, except that you have dated a man she doesn't think much of, you broke up with him, and now you're going to move in with him immediately upon getting back together.

 

You are trying hard to rationalize that the living arrangement most convenient to you can also accommodate the relationship your BF wants - and that YOU want him to have - with his son.  But it can't.  If Mom is genuinely concerned about appropriateness, she will not back down from that just because you - a stranger - or your BF (whom she doesn't like or trust) promise you will couch-surf somewhere, during his overnight visits.  If jealousy, bitterness and being punitive are her real motivations, it won't matter what you promise, she will withhold overnights as she threatened, to get back at your BF for having you in his life.

 

Your BF used to have a relationship with - and fathered a child with - this woman.  You have never even met her.  And yet you have convinced yourself you know how she feels, what she thinks and how she will react to things better than he does.  This is not wise thinking.  He feels it's not safe to tell her more than absolutely necessary about his personal life.  He expects her to use things against him and use his access to his child, to punish him.  There is history that makes him expect that.  No matter how wonderful your personality, you are not going to make her different, nor change the dynamics between your BF and her.

 

If she were threatening to withhold overnights unless he breaks up with you, that should not be tolerated.  He cannot allow her to dictate whether he moves on with his life or not.  But if she only wants to withhold overnights if he's shacking up with someone he doesn't KNOW that he'll marry - and you agree that kids shouldn't be exposed to that - then he has a very basic choice to make:  Give up overnights with his kid indefinitely; or not move you in until you guys make a solid commitment.  And you believe he should prioritize his kid, over his girlfriend.  You're not wrong.

 


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#7 of 9 Old 10-07-2011, 05:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I never said I agreed with her.  I said I can understand if she had an issue with it.  Just like I can understand people's possible feelings about a lot of things I don't agree with.   For example I can understand why someone would have an abortion even if I wouldn't do it myself.  My dad dated a lot when I was a kid and moved in with a woman when I was a kid that he never married.  It didn't damage me.  So no I don't agree.

 

Also we lived together for 2 years already and we have only been apart for a little over a month.  So it isn't like we need to date again before I move back in.  I could have stayed in Texas and had a job already plus I have some money saved up so I am really not moving back for financial reasons.  I am moving back because I want to be with him.  If I just wanted to be back in California and not with him I would go move in with my mom who lives in a different town in California.

 

I have no idea why I am explaining myself to you.  I actually don't care much about what you think of the overall situation because it is going to happen.  I am moving back.  I just wanted advice on what to say or not to say to the woman. The only reason I explained the situation in the first place is because I thought it would help to know.

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#8 of 9 Old 10-08-2011, 04:58 AM
 
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I never said I agreed with her.  I said I can understand if she had an issue with it.  Just like I can understand people's possible feelings about a lot of things I don't agree with.   For example I can understand why someone would have an abortion even if I wouldn't do it myself.  My dad dated a lot when I was a kid and moved in with a woman when I was a kid that he never married.  It didn't damage me.  So no I don't agree.

 

Also we lived together for 2 years already and we have only been apart for a little over a month.  So it isn't like we need to date again before I move back in.  I could have stayed in Texas and had a job already plus I have some money saved up so I am really not moving back for financial reasons.  I am moving back because I want to be with him.  If I just wanted to be back in California and not with him I would go move in with my mom who lives in a different town in California.

 

I have no idea why I am explaining myself to you.  I actually don't care much about what you think of the overall situation because it is going to happen.  I am moving back.  I just wanted advice on what to say or not to say to the woman. The only reason I explained the situation in the first place is because I thought it would help to know.


And I'm not judging you - sorry if it comes across that way.  Like I said, I believe this would be a very difficult situation for you - or me, or anyone - to navigate.  

 

Even if you don't agree with your BF's ex, you seem to be saying that her reason for resisting overnights IS because you guys aren't married.  You have somewhere else you could live, but you want to live with him, even though doing so will keep him from having overnights.  Your BF is choosing you, over overnight visits with his son.  You said you don't think fathers should prioritize GFs over their kids, and that you would never ask him to do that.  Therefore, looking in from the outside, it seems certain that the situation you're moving into will prove troubling to you.  It sounds like you're doing something that meets your wants, but is at odds with your priorities and the needs of your BF and his son.

 

It isn't important what I think.  I'm reflecting what you have said you think.  

 

As far as what to say to the ex... For someone rekindling a relationship, you sound surprisingly willing to throw your BF under the bus, telling his ex how badly you think he's screwed up and that you understand why she'd threaten to withhold overnights because of it (although you'd like to change her mind).  You are really inflating how bad it was of him, not to tell his hostile ex about his personal life.  We often magnify the significance of others' perceived faults and mistakes, when we want to avoid thinking about whether we ourselves are making a mistake.

 

You should say very little to her.  This isn't your negotiation.  It's your BF's.

 


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#9 of 9 Old 10-08-2011, 06:02 AM
 
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I don't understand why he doesn't go to court and have a parenting agreement established so that he doesn't have to go through all of this drama. I can't find one legitimate cause for concern about your situation, besides the past you have hinted about. He is his son's father, and all of this about his girlfriend is nonsense. He's not obligated to tell his ex he has a girlfriend! Why should he? He's been going to meet his son for visitation in another town, without you. Why on earth should he have told her about you?

 

In my state, it's not that hard to get a court ordered parenting agreement- you just go to mediation and fill one out. Your boyfriend has been paying regular support and having regular visitation for such a long time, he would be entitled to visitation in my state, even if he wasn't the father of the child. Just get the process started, and keep a log of visitation. If she denies visitation, just write it down. It will not help her in front of a judge if she is denying access to her son because she doesn't want her ex to live with his girlfriend of three years. For crying out loud, people live together all the time without getting married. They have girlfriends/boyfriends and break up, and after that they still parent their kids. It's sad, and no-one wants to put a kid through serial step parents, but it's not the mark of a bad parent! It's not confusing to a kid for their dad to have a girlfriend. My ex has a girlfriend, and my kids have never shown the least concern about it.

 

Sorry to rant, I guess I just don't get what the fuss is about.

.

 


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