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...
I'm sorry, I don't have any advice for you really, except listen to your gut. While some of these things sound like small things now, they will not magically improve without serious effort and cooperation between you and your dp. Don't jump into marriage until you feel like things are on the right track.
It sounds like his son needs some sort of help (and I say this in a caring, loving way)-strangling other kids at school sounds out of the ordinary to me. Is your dp open to this?
As far as your two kids getting into trouble together...is it mischevious, silly kind of trouble, or like playing with matches potentially dangerous kind of trouble? The first one, I would just let it go as a funny mix of personalities and continue encouraing them to play together but working on boundaries; the second, yes I would be concerned about the wisdom of keeping the two kids together without pretty strong supervision. This would be true of any set of kids getting into that kind of trouble, whether they are step-siblings, friends, or biological siblings.
I do not have advice for you, other than what what was posted before: trust your gut. But I do understand your concerns about the relationship between your so and your dd. Also, I understand the "ex" aspect. Presently my boyfriend (and father of my son) is going through a custody battle with his ex for his daughter. They both go back and forth on getting under each other's skin. She is the primary instigator, but it does seem like their daughters well being is not the primary concern, but rather it's more about "winning"/"defeating" the other. All I can say, is do your best to stay out of it and do not directly engage with the woman, no matter how much she tries to pull you into it. As for the rest. . . it will take patience, understanding, work, and compromise with your children, you and your boyfriend; if you're willing to stick it out with this guy. *nodnod*
I don't really have advice except to say that if you think the dynamic between him, his ex, and you will improve with time, I definitely wouldn't count on that. You should assume it will be just as bad for as long as you are around, and decide whether or not that is something you can live with. I'm nearly 10 years into this, with a very level-headed husband who is extremely protective of me and understands well the impact on my mental health when I get too involved in their conflict... and it is still a big piece of our lives. While I will say it is not nearly as bad as it was the first two or three years, there are plenty of times it is just as bad as in the early days. If you decide to stay in this relationship, be aware that this relationship with his ex will probably be part of your relationship for the foreseeable future... I know when I was going into it, I assumed we would go through the initial horribleness and then it would settle down once we got everything ironed out and got into a routine. While that might be true for some (or maybe just in the movies), it definitely wasn't for us. Their relationship is what it is, and it may or may not change, and whether or not it does is outside my control. So make sure that is something you can live with.
I sound all doom and gloom... even if I knew then what I know now, I would still have decided to be in this relationship with my husband, despite his ex and the stress she can sometimes bring into our lives. Even at its worst, that stress is worth having my husband and step-daughter as part of our family. And there are even times when I am grateful for the things I have learned through this struggle that make other difficult people easier for me to deal with. I'm definitely not advising you one way or the other... it seems like what you really need is a crystal ball to see the future, and this is the best I can do :)
I read your post and see red flags that suggest your bf's child has been abused, and unfortunately, the behavior your bf is exhibiting with your own child sounds controlling and emotionally violent, also red flags for domestic violence. Another red flag is how your bf argues to win with his ex-wife, instead of negotiating with the best for their child in mind. Kids don't strangle other kids unless they see it modeled to them, and the parents of that child are the most likely perpetrators. I would advise you find a DV support group in your area to take care of yourself and your daughter - they are there to support women in figuring out how to handle difficult situations in their home like the one you describe.My strong advice is to not just disengage with the ex-wife but the bf as well. You and your daughter deserve a man in your lives who is trusting and loving at ALL times.
I am sorry that you are going through this, too. I do not have any advice either except an experience. My husband has 15yr old son with second wife, 12 yr old daughter from a wild woman he was involved with for a short period of time and 7yr old and 8yr old from his third wife and 3 yr old with me. So as you can see I have had potential to deal with a lot of that but he has made it very clear that I come first before any other woman in his life. I must say, it has felt good to know that I am first in his life. He usually takes my advice about those situations when one of them wants to start something like that with him, he ignores it. Idk your belief system or anything and I sure do not want to offend you but when we got together we broke soul ties with past relationships. Breaking soul ties is a part of my beliefs and I believe that this practice saved us from difficulties within realm of possibility.
I hope it works out for ya. Blending families is challenging. Backbreaking... in my case ;) I hope you follow your heart... but wait, one more thing.. I have had a feeling about raising my daughter around his kids because of the behavior patterns. I did not listen to that little lump in my stomach, I focused on how much him and I connected and I believe that with cooperation it will work out for our kids as well. Woman/mothers have an instinct for a reason, ya know?