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#772073 - 07/02/16 05:05 AM A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!)
diablo Offline

recently joined

Registered: 03/12/12
Posts: 6
Hello! New to the forums and I have what is to me a unique stepfamily issue. While I think I know what the only viable solution is I'm curious as to the thoughts of some of you out there. Its sufficiently sticky that discussing it with other family members is awkward so I though I'd try the forums. Here is some background:

My ex-wife and I married in 1993 and had two children: my son (now 17) and my daughter (now 12). My ex-wife moved out and announced she wanted a divorce in December 2008. We legally divorced in 2010. In the interim we both saw other people. I ended up marrying my second wife in 2012 and we now have two daughters (age 2 and 1) and are suddenly expecting a son at the end of November.

When we first got together my future wife seemed to get along with my kids well enough but she failed to establish herself as "stepmom". They were younger then and she approached them as a "friend" or "babysitter" might. I was complicit in this as well, a fact I deeply regret now. My future wife cooked for and otherwise took care of my kids as if they were her own. Over the years the relationship deteriorated as a result of 1) my kids getting older and more insubordinate, 2) a lack of proper discipline on my part and 3) a general disregard for the role my future wife was playing in her children's lives by my ex-wife. My custody arrangement was unique and driven mostly by my ex-wife so I could have plenty of time with the kids (and so she could have many of her nights and weekends free).

Over time the deteriorating relationship between my kids and my now wife soured further and my custody arrangement was pared back to a week night and every other weekend that seems to be the standard. This was met with howls of protest from my ex-wife but eventually everyone seemed to settle into the new situation okay. By now my kids were old enough to understand that theirs was a unique lifestyle though not entirely different from some of their friends.

Fast forward to 2015...Custody remains the same as that last described above. My wife has grown increasingly annoyed and resentful of my kids. She feels they are disrespectful (partly, she feels, due to a lack of proper parenting on my part and lousy parenting on my ex-wife's part), sloppy, lazy, ... you name it. We now have our first daughter and the second is on the way. We are finally selling the house my ex and I built in favor of a house my wife and I will build. She expresses concern that as we raise our daughters that the examples set by my children's poor behaviors will be difficult to change. I reassure her that as we move into the new home that I will make every effort to correct these behaviors in order to set proper examples for our young daughters.

While our house is under construction, we move in with my wife's parents: the two of us, our two young crib-bound daughters, and our two dogs in a very small, old, and decrepit (literally) home. The situation is very stressful. On my custody weekends with my older kids I leave to spend it with them at my parents home about 40 minutes away on the other side of town leaving my wife to fend for herself with the two young girls with intermittent help from her mother. This further fuels resentment on my wife's part towards my children. Sometime during 2015, my ex-wife sends an email (the original reason for the email escapes me) to me that my current wife reads (like over my shoulder kind of reads) in which she dismisses any contribution my wife has made to the lives of her (my ex-wife's) children.

The letter, the weekends away, the stress from dealing with a suboptimal living arrangement, and our own stressful marriage have my wife on edge by now - more than I ever knew. As we move into the new house in March 2016, any agreement we had to "re-educate" my children suddenly flies out the window. To make matters worse, she finds a kitchen knife in my older daughter's bedroom that my older kids had apparently been using to cut open packing boxes and left laying on a low bookshelf. My wife is furious because said knife was in easy reach of my now two year old daughter. Nevermind that it was an accidental careless act by two older kids not used to having young toddlers around. My wife now feels that my kids - my son specifically - is "out to get" my young daughters. So now in order to see my kids on my custody weekends I am forced to once again retreat to my parents' home for the weekend, an arrangement doomed to fail...

This weekend is a custody weekend for me with my kids. I had hopes that with the passage of time and cooler heads, that the kids could return to my home and that somehow we could coexist as a blended family. I spoke (or thought) too soon because here I sit in my parents home again while my wife is home alone with our daughters.

I feel like that background was necessary to get a thumbnail sketch of the dysfunction that exists in my home and life. It would be impossible to post all the stuff that has happened over the years that lead my wife to resent my children so much. But she has made it clear that the only solution to the problem is for my older kids to never set foot (more or less) in our home again. And while she knows this is completely unfair to me she shows no signs of budging. I am partly here tonight because out of concern for my daughter's safety, she planned to sleep on the floor of her room to make sure my son - who has NEVER demonstrated any sort of violent behavior towards ANYONE - doesn't harm her in the middle of the night. I can't let her do this because she is 18+ weeks pregnant and has no business sleeping on any floor for any reason.

So.....what are the thoughts of those who stuck around long enough to read all of that? I feel like I have no choice but to resort to some kind of weird custody arrangement where I see the kids away from my home a few times during my custody week/weekend and not allow them at the house at all. This will surely elicit a nasty response from their mother - but I can't be concerned about that, right? My kids are probably so numb to all of this baloney that they will adapt as they (and other kids of divorce) seem to do to survive. And while my wife may be happy that her home is not being invaded by my children, where does that leave our relationship? (And yes, she is in counseling but likely has not discussed this issue though I surely will bring it up once I join counseling in the near future).

The anonymity of the Internet is a great thing sometimes. I guess I'm prepared to take a beating on this one for letting it get to this point though I feel its not entirely my fault. But I also think that there must be others out there with similar if not identical stories. How did you cope with this? How about your kids?

Thanks for reading all of that. Typing it all out was cathartic....

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#772074 - 07/02/16 08:43 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
SRS Offline

Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 11/05/10
Posts: 2585
Your wife sounds more than a little crazy. If she wants to sleep in the floor while your kids are there, let the crazy lady do her thing.

STOP HAVING KIDS WITH THIS CRAZY PERSON. She needs counseling and you both need counseling as a couple.

Don't give up seeing your kids in your home during regular visitation. Don't do it. BTDT and my kids have no relationship with their Dad. The various women in his life were more important.

As far a re-training your kids - how bad and terrible are their behaviors that they would need retraining at this point in time. What specifically do they do to make them so terrible?

Are you putting the step-Mom into a Mom role that she doesn't want? Do you expect her to take care of them and love them like they are her own? Some steppies want to do that and others don't. She isn't their bio-Mom and it sounds like she doesn't want to do it. Her prerogative. THere are some great step-parents on this board that may have advice for your wife.

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#772075 - 07/02/16 01:20 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: SRS]
diablo Offline

recently joined

Registered: 03/12/12
Posts: 6
Well I certainly realize that some of these behaviors are "crazy" and I think at some level she knows the same. But it doesn't change the fact that she is "standing her ground". I don't think she's even told her Mom (whom she tells almost everything) or her best friend about her fear of my son. And that's because they'd say the same thing you did.

I came from a four sibling family with a pretty intimidating father. There was never any abuse but it was clear that it was his way. Some of the things my kids have done would never have happened in the house I was raised. But my kids have never been in trouble with drugs, alcohol, a "questionable" circle of friends or anything else I would consider serious. Just normal, frustrating for parents kind of stuff. My wife's ideas about raising children are right now different than what she's observed with my kids. And the fact that my ex-wife permits a greater degree of latitude with my kids at her place than I would when they were with me doesn't help. The differences in parenting styles (or lack of as parenting as my wife would say) between the two households lead to confusion about how to act at my house. I suspect as our girls grow up that my wife will come to realize that how you WANT to raise little kids is difficult in light of their surroundings - particularly their friends and other influences.

So in sum, I personally don't feel that my kids have really done anything "horrible" to me or my wife. You hit the nail on the head about not wanting a certain role as step-mom. Before we left the old house, the kids were doing their own laundry because they disregarded folded stacks of clothes on the stairs placed there my wife. She felt that if they didn't care enough to take those clothes upstairs and put them away that they could do their own laundry. And as we moved into the new place with a toddler and a newborn she said she wouldn't be cooking at all. I totally understood that and told her that I had no expectations of her being a "mom" to my kids when we had two of our own that could do nothing for themselves.

Its frustrating because I feel that some of her thinking is just so far out there that no one can reach her. And while we talked about one day having another child the third pregnancy was completing unplanned and out of the blue. Our daughters are IVF babies; we were unable to conceive naturally and were told that based on medical issues our chances of doing so were extremely small. But low and behold.... While we are happy to have a third child I think the sudden realization (we just found out last week that she is 18 weeks along) adds to her stress regarding my kids.

So your answer is essentially how I feel. I think she is a little out there regarding her fears about my son since he has never said or done anything that would suggest violent tendencies or sociopathic behavior. And I don't feel my kids have done anything so horrible to warrant expulsion from the home. But what choice do I have?

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#772076 - 07/03/16 12:18 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
SRS Offline

Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 11/05/10
Posts: 2585
Don't give up seeing your kids in your home during regular visitation. Don't do it.

You can cook, so can your kids. Mine are 10 and 13 - they can both cook dinner.

Not putting your laundry away is a totally normal kid thing. It really isn't something to get worked up about. Making them do their own laundry teaches responsibility. My 10 year old chooses to live out of her laundry basket - her choice. She never puts away her clothes. Not a biggie to me.

Perhaps talk to her OB/GYN. Call him and make an appointment to talk with him. Maybe he can help you find a psychiatrist she can talk to. She sounds unhinged. 3 kids in a short amount of time can do that to a person. You don't want her to harm your children. You never know what a person who has an un-diagnosed mental issue can do.

Also, you need to consider getting snipped. You don't need anymore children with her.

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#772077 - 07/03/16 03:49 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: SRS]
diablo Offline

recently joined

Registered: 03/12/12
Posts: 6
After a blow up with her (my wife) last night, the core of the problem appears to be respect. She feels that over the years my kids have failed to respect her as stepmom. (Though even she will admit that she never embraced the stepmom as mom role from the standpoint of discipline and consequences. She hates confrontation - with anyone. And therein lies part of the problem). In addition she wants respect from my ex-wife for those early years where she did try to fulfill the needs of my kids. My ex-wife once said that my wife "means nothing..." and that "she never did anything for my kids". This really stuck in my wife's head and she's never let it go. So now, since she "never did anything" for my kids she will continue to do nothing, including hosting them in her home.

She is in counselling by the way. And she does have some deep emotional issues that go way back (IMHO) long before I ever met her.

And I did get snipped! And unsnipped, which led to IVF. And yes we will need to insure that we don't have anymore kids. Three is enough for us.

I appreciate the insight. More than anything I appreciate a chance to blow off some steam about all of this. My inner circle is quite limited and mostly disinterested in all of this drama!

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#772078 - 07/03/16 06:55 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
SRS Offline

Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 11/05/10
Posts: 2585
From an ex-wife perspective - I don't respect the women my ex brings around the kids. I don't have to. Sure, they may be involved with the kids - but I don't have to have a relationship with them.

I am not dating them. I am not married to them. They chose to be involved with my ex-husband - not me.

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#772079 - 07/04/16 03:16 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
Gecko Offline
Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 20602
Loc: Third rock from the sun
Wow...where to start?

From your first and last posts:

"When we first got together my future wife seemed to get along with my kids well enough but she failed to establish herself as "stepmom"."

"Though even she will admit that she never embraced the stepmom as mom role from the standpoint of discipline and consequences."

You obviously have no idea/concept of the role of a StepParent. Unless you are dealing with a situation is which the other parent is absent or deceased, there is NO 'stepmon/dad as mom/dad' role. When there are two active parents, a step-parent is simply an authority figure...much like an aunt or uncle or favored adult.

What bothers me most...even as you admit you and your ex-wife were complicit, you have absolved yourself of any responsibly and are blaming your wife for the problem with your children from your first marriage.

Sounds to me like you ALL need family counseling.
_________________________
If you air your dirty linen in public, expect people to comment on the skid marks!

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#772080 - 07/05/16 12:50 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: Gecko]
diablo Offline

recently joined

Registered: 03/12/12
Posts: 6
Wow back at you! You're signature is on point!

I'm not TRYING to absolve myself of my role in this mess. I just don't know how to fix what I've done (or not done). But while I accept that I made errors in judgement over the years, I WANT to fix those mistakes. I don't feel like my wife is interested in doing that at all. And you're right that I probably didn't understand the nature of the role my wife would play with my kids. This was likely the genesis of the problems we experience today.

Re: counseling: Agreed! I am right now awaiting the invitation to join with my wife in counseling.

One thing SRS said above was that she didn't need to respect the women in her ex-husband's life. This is something that my wife feels she needs from my ex-wife and I simply don't think she will ever get it. That has to be a voluntary action on my ex-wife's part. I believe my ex-wife feels much like SRS on this matter. And if THAT is a pre-requisite for moving forward with my kids in my home, how am I supposed to proceed?

You might recall a story that made national news not long ago about an ex-wife's letter to the new wife (I think it was a new wife) regarding her children. The ex-wife admitted that while she wasn't thrilled with the idea of another woman in her children's lives, she was glad that this particular woman treated her kids well in her absence. I think that sort of sums up what my wife would like to hear from my ex-wife. There was a time when my wife treated my children very well and she was never recognized for her efforts. Just today she described to me how her fiancee's ex-wife (this is years ago) expressed similar feelings to her regarding her own children. I don't think my ex-wife would ever write such a letter. Just not going to happen. And my wife can't get past that.

Just this weekend, I told both my wife and my kids that I would love it if we could all sit down and have a meal together as a blended family. But I don't know how to get us to that point.

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#772081 - 07/05/16 01:14 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
SRS Offline

Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 11/05/10
Posts: 2585
Why? Why do you feel your ex-wife has to have a relationship with your current wife? It isn't necessary. I certainly wouldn't do it.

Why does she need feel that your ex-wife must recognize her efforts in your kids lives? Do you ever thank your wife or your ex-wife for taking care of your kids? Does she ever thank your ex-wife for taking care of her step-kids? The whole thing is just stupid.

Both you and she need to grow up. Get counseling.

Whatever you do, don't give up seeing your kids in your home. Your new family shouldn't replace the first set of kids. It kind of sounds like your new wife wants that to happen. I'd put my foot down on that one.....be the adult.

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#772082 - 07/05/16 04:16 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
Gecko Offline
Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 20602
Loc: Third rock from the sun
I'm not TRYING to absolve myself of my role in this mess.

---> Sure you are and I quote you: "I am forced to once again retreat to my parents' home for the weekend". That was YOUR CHOICE...in the first place and now in the second place. It is normal for kids to test their boundaries, even more so in divorced/separated families, even more so when there are issues between the adults. And you admit that you did little to correct/put a stop to it.

---> And consider a couple of your other statements: "I feel that some of her thinking is just so far out there that no one can reach her." "And I don't feel my kids have done anything so horrible to warrant expulsion from the home. But what choice do I have? "

I don't feel like my wife is interested in doing that at all.

---> Can you blame her? Your ex-wife aside, YOU, never supported her as as authoritative figure in her own home and again, you went to the extreme of changing the Parenting Time arrangements and removing yourself and your children away from her so you didn't have to deal with the issues.

One thing SRS said above was that she didn't need to respect the women in her ex-husband's life. This is something that my wife feels she needs from my ex-wife and I simply don't think she will ever get it.

---> Are you sure? Are sure it's your ex-wife's respect...or is it yours? What was your response to that email from your ex-wife in which she dismissed your wife's contribution to your children's lives? From above, you think that her thinking is "so far out there", and you don't think "that your kids have done anything so horrible".

Just this weekend, I told both my wife and my kids that I would love it if we could all sit down and have a meal together as a blended family. But I don't know how to get us to that point.

---> Ya just do it.

---> You sit down with your wife and you apologize...for your unrealistic expectations, for not supporting her in her own home, for dismissing her fears and concerns***, for changing your Parenting Time and removing yourself and your children instead of dealing with the situation, and for YOUR lack of respect towards her...as a woman, as your wife, as the mother of your children and for everything she has done for your children.

---> You sit down with your son and daughter and you apologize...for not setting good examples for them.
_________________________
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#772083 - 07/06/16 06:00 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: Gecko]
mskelly Offline

journeyman

Registered: 05/02/16
Posts: 57
AMEN Gecko!!
I am from a divorced family and I have step parents. I also am a step parent.
One thing I have had to realize as I've gotten older had more parenting and step parenting experience, it this.... We are all different and we all have different perspectives on things and we all have different opinions on how the family dynamic should work.

Your wife is looking for acceptance and acknowledgement. Acceptance and acknowledgement from your children and acceptance and acknowledgement from your Ex-wife. It's simply not going to happen. She is also looking for acknowledgement from you! I think your wife is being unrealistic. I also think that you are both to blame. You didn't establish boundaries at your home. ALL children need boundaries and especially in a (step)family home. Your wife also needs to respect the fact that your children are in the middle. They didn't ask for this and they didn't marry your wife, you did. True we don't pick our parents, but they had no say in picking your spouse, and your children probably feel like they are betraying their mother when they are with your wife (their step mother) and part of that is more than likely coming from what they are hearing from their mother (you cant control that). I bet if you asked your children, they would tell you that they don't feel like your wife loves them. I don't care if you're 17, 12 or 42 you want and need to feel loved. Your wife needs to understand that. Your wife doesn't have to like your children but as an extension of you and her own children (they are half siblings) she does need to try to understand them.

17 and 12 are plenty old enough to have intelligent (semi-adult) conversations with. You may have to take a step back and have a do-over. Maybe the entire family (except the ex-wife) needs to re-establish the family as if it were just starting from the beginning.

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#772084 - 07/07/16 02:27 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: mskelly]
diablo Offline

recently joined

Registered: 03/12/12
Posts: 6
Once again, I appreciate the comments from everyone. All of you are right concerning boundaries, acceptance and acknowledgement, and what role my wife should take as stepmom ... vs. what I probably thought she should take.

My oldest daughter (from my first marriage) has always been a sweet, caring, and upbeat individual - even after the divorce. I am starting to see a shift in her behavior as she reaches that magical age of 12. Perhaps its mostly the influence of her peers and general shift to being a teenager. But I think its also that she now has a better understanding of the needs discussed above: acceptance and love. And unfortunately she hasn't received what she needs from me and my ex-wife as of late.

This is my fault and I do accept that responsibility. I DO want things to improve and I agree that we need "a do-over". Whether my wife and my older children agree with this remains to be seen.

The insight provided by those posting is helpful. I guess I've been too blind to see some of it and to weak to do anything about it. They don't give you a manual on this stuff (at least I didn't get a copy).

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#772085 - 07/07/16 11:21 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
SRS Offline

Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 11/05/10
Posts: 2585
What are your plans concerning a do-over?

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#772086 - 07/08/16 02:27 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: diablo]
Gecko Offline
Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 20602
Loc: Third rock from the sun
I DO want things to improve and I agree that we need "a do-over".

---> You CAN'T do a 'do-over'. Once something is done, you can't unspill, unsay, unwreck, uncut, unglue and so on a so forth. And while you can 'undo' a seam you have just sewed or a a few rows that you knitted or crocheted...the fabric, the yarn, the thread...it's not the same, it's already been changed by your actions.

---> What you CAN do...is move forward. And hopefully, with a favorable outcome, but there is no guarantee. And it a constant work in progress until that progress becomes habit and that progress can take time. It takes just seconds to wreck a vehicle, but how many hours...days...weeks does it take to repair it? And then...it may be 'AS GOOD as new', but it's still not 'new'.
_________________________
If you air your dirty linen in public, expect people to comment on the skid marks!

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#772087 - 07/11/16 12:37 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: Gecko]
Sadie Offline
addict

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 581
There is nothing wrong with having two sets of rules between the houses, if your wife wants the kids to keep their clothes picked up and put away in HER home, then that is how it should be. It will not hurt the older kids to learn niceties such as saying please and Thank You, they are not owed anything from her and if she does something for them a simple Thank you may go along way. and last if she feels that her little ones are in danger from something the older ones have done, I do not BLAME her for kicking them out, after all they are her babies

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#772088 - 07/12/16 10:11 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: Sadie]
SRS Offline

Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 11/05/10
Posts: 2585
So, it is okay for a step Mom to not allow her step kids in her home for no reason? The only real reason Dad gave was because the kids don't put away their laundry.

My kids Dad refused to see our Daughter for years. He would pick up our son, but not our daughter. He insisted she get counseling but refused to go with us. Coulselor said there wasn't anything wrong with her. Many years later he told me that his gf at the time was jealous of the time he spent with our then 3 year old daughter because she looks like me. So, because of that woman he has no relationship with our now 10 year old daughter.

How about Dad quit blaming bio Mom and step Mom. Talk to step Mom about what her expectations for her role in his kids life. Don't expect bio Mom to thank step Mom (stupidest thing I've ever heard, btw). Work together on developing expectations for their family. Don't expect bio Mom and step Mom to have a relationship unless both sides are agreeable. How about put his foot down and don't throw away his first set of kids because his new wife wants to sleep in the floor of his baby's room when she's preggers? How about marital counseling for him and her?

How about talking to her OB/GYN about her seemingly odd behaviors and possible paranoia? Don't want her to end up being one of those women that kills the kids when he's at work because a voice told her to.....

How about getting fixed and/or using birth control? Stop having children with the step Mom until you get things figured out.

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#772089 - 07/15/16 05:42 AM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: SRS]
Sadie Offline
addict

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 581
First of all I was not talking about a Thank you from the bm, although if SM does something special for her kids, it would be the polite thing to do, I was speaking about the older set of kids. Sounds like SM set rules and older kids didn't feel as if they had to follow them because the rules are different. Did you ever think that maybe there is a reason she fears for her little ones safety that we are not hearing?? I know of a case where the first set of kids were abusive to a toddler and that child wound up in the ER, when asked ( they were young at the time) it was because bm told them to hit the baby to teach him not to steal their daddy's love from them.

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#772090 - 07/15/16 02:14 PM Re: A unique stepfamily issue? (Long post!) [Re: Sadie]
Gecko Offline
Carpal \'Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/04
Posts: 20602
Loc: Third rock from the sun
I know of a case where the first set of kids were abusive to a toddler and that child wound up in the ER, when asked ( they were young at the time) it was because bm told them to hit the baby to teach him not to steal their daddy's love from them.

---> I don't think the above has any bearing on the incident with the knife, I think it is probably more of "the straw that broke the camel's back"...just one more instance in a long line (over many years) of instances in which she was treated as a 'second-class citizen' in her own home.

Sounds like SM set rules and older kids didn't feel as if they had to follow them because the rules are different.

---> From what the poster said in his original post, I would say it is more of a case that the father simply didn't enforce ANY rules in his house.
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