Freaked Out! Dating a man with kids!

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by OliviaPug, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

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    Hi, All.

    Well, this is definitely new territory for me. I am recently (a year) divorced after being in a 14-year marriage. I started dating a guy in January of this year who has two daughters (12 and 14). Yeah, I know. Tough ages. For months, we kept things quiet, and that suited me just fine. I always told the guy that it was fine not to share his private life with his daughters, but if they asked him a direct question such as, "Are you dating?" -- he shouldn't lie to them. The inevitable finally happened last month. His oldest daughter asked him if he had a girlfriend. I met the girls at a sporting event soon after that because I believe they were extremely curious and wanted to make sure I wasn't a monster.

    The pluses: The guy is great. We live 1 1/2 hours away from each other (yes, this is a plus in my eyes). We have a fantastic time together. We're very compatible. He's very understanding of my work. He knew me before we dated and really knows and likes the real me. The girls are great, at least so far as I know.

    The minuses: He has kids! I don't have children and never wanted children. He has an ex-wife!!!! Yes, I know I have an ex too, but since we don't have children, we don't share children and have no other ties (financial or otherwise), he isn't a factor in my life.

    The kids like me, so I've heard. His oldest chose to spend the day with us last Saturday -- even though it was not her father's weekend. The ex seems ok with my existence, but who really knows.

    I'm freaked out. I think I'm so freaked out because I didn't expect this relationship to get serious. I keep trying to convince myself that it's not serious (I don't even refer to myself as his girlfriend and I don't refer to him as my boyfriend), but all evidence is to the contrary. Now that the kids are involved, I feel like I've taken this impossible step forward and I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with it. I don't want to ruin a perfectly good relationship, but I'm anxious about the possibility of becoming more serious with a man with kids. Sigh.

    So far, I've just taken things one day at a time, one "date" (I don't even use *that* word :lol:) at a time, but that approach has gotten me further and further down this path almost without me even realizing it ...

    Any advice?

    O-
  2. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

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    I'd try to worry less and just see what happens (easy to say :lol:). Kids can certainly complicate a relationship, but I also know a lot of people who have great, positive relationships with their stepkids. Try to respect that they need some time alone with their dad and that you're not always around when they are, but otherwise, take things slow and just see how it develops. Relationships can go wrong (or succeed) for lots of different reasons, so just do your best to be thoughtful and recognize that they may have some feelings that aren't directly related to you or anything you do. Good luck
  3. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    What Garden Kitty said. Also, although you are probably not at this stage yet, it's really important to respect the parents as the primary caregivers (for lack of a better word). What I mean by this is that e.g. if the kids act up, let their dad deal with it whenever possible, or if you disagree with something their mom lets them do, tell their dad your concerns and let him sort it out rather than telling the kids not to do it. Things can go sideways really fast for everyone if a third party is interfering, or being perceived to be interfering, in how divorced parents raise their kids.
  4. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Garden Kitty and overedge. All good thoughts. And, yes, I am definitely trying to take things as they come. In my saner moments, I do well. I am having a neurotic kind of day, I guess.

    The thing is, I don't want to be involved in parenting decisions. And I don't want to be around when their father has his time with the kids. I wish I could be a non-entity, actually, but that is now impossible. They ask about me. They email their dad with things to share with me. Simply put, I have no desire to be a parent -- especially to kids who have two perfectly great parents (and, yes, I think both parents are doing a really good job). And the sound of "step mom" is both frightening and anxiety-inducing.

    So, it all comes back to me. Not the kids. Not the guy. And what I want and what I can live with. I've already been in a marriage that turned very badly after 10 years due to substance abuse. I neglected myself and my wants and needs for a very long time to the point of almost losing my life last year due to a health concern that resulted in sudden cardiac death. I am very lucky to be alive. And now I ask myself: "Do I really want to be involved with a whole other family?" And, yet, I'm a loving, nurturing person, and that's part of the problem. When people are in my life, I nurture them at my expense. It's so tough. I'm scared to go back there ...

    O-
  5. Badams

    Badams Well-Known Member

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    If you don't want anything to do with his kids, I think you really need to ask yourself if this relationship is worth pursuing. They are part of the package and deserve someone who wants to accept them. I'm not trying to be rude or anything, and I think it's great that you are so up-front and being completely honest with yourself about it. Some people just don't want to be parents in any way, shape, or form, and that's COMPLETELY fine. But he already IS a parent and...and there's no changing that.
  6. Hedwig

    Hedwig Rarely here anymore but I try to be better!

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    The kids are 12 and 14 years old and they have - as you say - two great parents. There is no need for an additional parent. I think it is even better that you don't have the wish to fulfil that role (which would probably lead to stress and resentment from the kids, at least at the beginning, i.e. "you are not my mom" )
    If you manage, however, to be a friend to the family, the relationship might be a lot easier for all the people involved.
    The kids don't seem to live with the father, therefore you will not see them very often but they are of course an integral part of his life. Of course you have to be okay with that but it is perfectly all right just to be a friend to them and no mother figure. At this point in time the latter would really be an overkill.
  7. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

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    The kids have equal time with both parents. 1/2 the time they live with their father. 1/2 the time they live with their mother. But, as I mentioned, we live 1 1/2 hours from each other, so we don't spend a lot of time together to begin with.

    I do ask myself all the time if this relationship's worth pursuing. And my answer is always the same: "If we're both enjoying each other, then why not?" From Day One, I've taken the day to day approach. It's just that now that the kids are involved, I'm beginning to question that approach. I would never want to hurt his children.

    I certainly do accept the kids. They are wonderful. But I don't want to be a parent. And I'm circumspect about my own attitude in that regard. Friend may be do-able. I just don't know right now. I think that's the bottom line. I don't know how much of myself I am ready or willing to give.

    It's amazing how just typing out your thoughts and feelings and reading other's opinions and comments can move your thought process forward.

    Thanks :)

    O-
  8. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

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    You're right, badams, that the kids deserve an accepting person in their father's life. But every relationship needs to be negotiated to some extent. I have no idea if the kids even want to spend time with me at the expense of spending alone time with their dad. I'm sure they have conflicting emotions as well. I think, in that regard, we're probably all in synch at this point, which is more reason to take things slowly and cautiously.

    O-
  9. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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  10. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

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    Yep, heckles. I know from my mom and her own relationship with my step dad (and my step dad's relationship with his kids) that the kids will always and forever come first. That's pretty much a given.

    It's one thing to realize and quite another to accept and be OK with. I'm OK with it now because it's sort of obvious that he would put his kids first. Just because it's expected and I realize and accept, doesn't mean it feels good all the time.

    O-
  11. susan6

    susan6 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, if you're dating the guy, you have to be able to deal with the kids. Unless you can take it really slowly and wait 6 years until both daughters are away at college. I've tried online dating and a lot of the divorced men are upfront about it in their profile: "Love me, love my kids."
  12. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

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    :lol: Yep. The guy I've been dating hasn't said anything like that, but I'm sure he feels that way. In fact, he's very closed-mouthed about the whole thing. That's probably a source of my anxiety as well, but I'm not ready to have any kind of "kid" conversation with him. He probably senses that, which is why he's kept his mouth shut.

    O-
  13. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    I suspect that the fact you've already mentioned twice that he lives 1 1/2 hours away is a sign of your valid apprehension.

    As a stepparent, society will expect you to be able to turn on and off your devotion like a faucet, lest you be deemed the Evil Stepmother. When things are going well between you and their parent, you are assumed to consider those kids "family" and maybe even perform some parental tasks. Your beau's not doing that now, but that does not mean he never will.

    When you and the parent break up, you're generally expected to just go away quickly and quietly so that a new stepmother can take your place. Don't expect a solid visitation plan or even appreciation for what you did.
  14. PRlady

    PRlady aspiring tri-national

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    Second this. I was a stepmother for 11 years, live-in for most of it. And then I was the parent married to the childless step-parent when my child was a teenager. And I'm a step-child myself although my mom didn't remarry until I was 21.

    The children always come first, and if they don't something is wrong. Yes, on a particular day a parent might choose to do something fun with the partner and arrange for the children to do something else, but that's an anomaly. Basically, with a parent, you are having a relationship with more than just your partner.

    I sympathize. I'm long past wanting to parent or step-parent small children, my daughter is 24. And the guy I'm seeing lives 12 hours by plane away, so it's not really an ongoing relationship, which is fortunate since he has two small children and I just don't want to be a part of that. If the relationship were to get more serious and we were in the same country for a while I know I would have to choose. So do take it seriously, you're asking the right questions.

    This isn't always true. I've been divorced from my first husband for twenty years and last month my youngest stepdaughter brought her new baby to visit me, a three-hour drive. I see my stepson and his family a few times a year. Only the oldest, who lives in Nevada and is something of a screwup, is out of my life completely.

    I'm always pleased when two of my stepchildren still want to see me!
  15. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    I think it's actually good that the daughters are 12 and 14. Difficult ages, sure, but they're also certainly old enough to speak their minds. You don't necessarily have to worry if you're taking away their dad time. You just have to ask them.

    My fiance's parents divorced when he was very young and his stepfather has actually had quite a hand in his parenting when he lived with his mom. You won't have that much responsibility. Certainly not 10 years of it. :lol:

    I have a friend who's dating a guy with a 7-year-old son from a previous relationship. The son has health issues and the ex is a bit nutty but...nothing too bad. I haven't asked her the nitty gritty about it, but it's working well for her. I certainly didn't expect her to be the kind of woman who'd date a guy with existing children, but they like each other a lot and they're making it work. :)

    So yes, what you decide is basically up to you. The daughters are older so you don't have to guess what'd be best for them, and by all accounts, both their parents are supportive so I don't foresee any issues there. But as you said, it's something that you have to figure out for yourself.
  16. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

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    A couple of thoughts occurred to me. First, if the relationship progresses and you choose to co-habit or mover closer to each other, you'll be closer to the kids as well.

    Can you maintain a relationship with him and them, without assuming the parent role?

    You've said you and he haven't negotiated the kids' issue - sounds like a key priority to me.

    Lastly, given that the kids are 12 and 14, and only with their dad half time, should make the situation easier. They are entering the ages when they are living their lives independently to a certain extent, so you won't have kids underfoot.

    But nonetheless, a relationship of some sort is inevitable.

    From what you say the relationship is going well, so maybe it's worth putting effort into the kids' issue.

    My brother ended a relationship with a woman who was quite perfect for him because of issues involving her kids, aged 11 and 16. I always thought that was really too bad, as it would have been worth working it out.
  17. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    Which is why I used the "generally" qualifier. You're indeed fortunate that your ex-stepkids keep you in their lives. It speaks well of you, them and your ex. A lot of ex-stepparents, sometimes by no fault of their own, are relegated to being mentioned in passing by the kids as "Bob" or "Anne". Ouch.
  18. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    From watching my friends' children, almost all have/had become increasingly interested in school activities and friends in high school, and the children who were crushed when they missed a visiting day/weekend with the secondary (for lack of a better word) custody parent when they were 8 or 12 were blowing off visits the older they got. (The advantage is that the younger child[ren] started to get alone time until becoming a teenager.)

    I had lunch with a friend yesterday whose only child is headed off to another continent for college in a few weeks, and she told me that you can do just about anything if you have children that you can do if you don't, but that most of the time, it just can't be spontaneous. Since you live so far away from the man with whom you're doing whatever-it-is-you're-doing, spontaneity probably isn't much of a factor. That goes for both sides, including the kids. It's not like you're 15 minutes away, and they can invite you to see soccer practice.
  19. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

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    It's good that you are trying to think all this through, and good that this guy seems to have a good relationship with his kids. A friend of mine who is divorced has an ex-husband who is really a jerk. He would not make time for the kids, except rarely, and then got himself transferred 4 hours away. When my friend also got transferred to the same area, so she could be closer to her parents (who are elderly but can help with the kids when she needs to travel for work) her ex told her not to expect him to see the kids or help in any way. Turns out, he has a new girlfriend who has at least one kid, and who does not want to be a step parent. Very sad that he would throw away his own kids for the sake of a new relationship. And strange that his new girlfriend thinks it's good that he threw them away. Guess she thinks it can't happen to her!

    So I guess what I am trying to say with this story is don't try to make him choose, because either way, it is probably not a good thing.
  20. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    I had an only-child college boyfriend whose step-mother would not meet his mother until she had more children with his father than his mother did.

    It would be easy to run if the parents weren't getting along, if the ex was manipulative and impossible, or if the children were awful. Since none of this applies, so it really is about OP and her feelings about the guy and having a relationship with him.
  21. AxelAnnie

    AxelAnnie Well-Known Member

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    OliviaPug

    RUN~! Go the other way FAST!

    I didn't. And although I love my three step kids......it is a huge complication. HUGE.
    Especially if you didn't want kids. Those ages are brutal. Not fun if both parents are married, happy and on the page about child rearing. Horrible if not. You have two teenagers who are going to resent the time that their dad spends with someone else...how could they not? I assume they live with the mom.

    And, PRLady is right. The kids have to come first. There is usually a lot of guilt attached to the divorce........on everyone's part, and being in the middle of the insanity is not a fun place to be. (Kids playing one parent off against the other, parents trying to win the kids affection, and it goes on and on.)

    I married a man with three children when I was 24. The kids were 12, 6 and 2. Their mother is not competent at that point to care for the children at all. Their father (my husband) just figured it was someone else's job...........that someone else was me.
    Now, I volunteered for that job (Put me in Coach!!! I can do it!!!)

    The kids all lived with us (some more, some less) and I love the kids...........but I would NEVER do it again. Marriage and relationships are hard enough without extra complications.
  22. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    Sounds like your husband was the ass in that situation, AxelAnnie.
  23. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

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    It really sounds like you need to take more time for yourself and have fun as a single.

    On the other hand, it's tough, because depending on your age, you will either find men with kids, men without kids who are kids themselves, or 53 year old men and up who are "ready to settle down and start a family". I just divorced recently, though I have known it was over for at least a year, and though I'm not dating yet, it's rather discouraging to see what's out there.

    Really, you will have to decide between three things-Staying single and having serial monogamy if that's your preference, becoming involved with a middle aged, selfish manchild, or compromising and adapting to your partner's kids. There are men who don't have or want kids, but I suspect the stable, mature ones are scarce.

    Why not explain that you are satisfied right now with your situation, and take it slow? If you decide to make it permanent, the kids will be even older and less for you to deal with. Even if it doesn't work out, the kids are old enough to not become attached to you. They have a Mother, and are at the age where they spend the majority of time with friends.
  24. Hannahclear

    Hannahclear Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with this. Most guys have kids, especially by this stage of life. And if you like this guy, I would try and find a way to deal with it. Especially given that they are older and you live far away. It sounds negotiable to me.

    Good luck!
  25. AxelAnnie

    AxelAnnie Well-Known Member

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    Well, I have said that myself.....many times. He is from a different generation......Man works and brings home the $$$, woman keeps house and children. I didn't really have a problem with it.......that is how I was raised to. I was 24 to his 37...what did I know. I saved those kids, though.

    I just wouldn't do it again.

    Also, if someone doesn't want kids....good for them, and good for knowing, and good for not having any. It isn't a job for everyone. I really admire people who are honest about their wants and dislikes. Makes everyone happier in the long run.
  26. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    I'm not a big fan of telling anyone they have to settle. Seems that it's usually women who are told this. While it's true that a lot of middle-age men have children, OliviaPug is presumably looking for just one man. It's not unrealistic for her to find one without kids if that's her preference.
  27. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    It'll just be harder to find them, I think that's what Hannahclear is saying. It might take a long time and a lot of dates and frog princes. But if if it's worth to OliviaPug, then it's worth it. Just gotta go in aware of this stuff.
  28. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

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    Frog princes dressed in Ed Hardy who asure you that even though they're in their fifties, everyone swears they look like they're 35, and they don't act their ages, anyways. Yeah, they put an s on the end of anyway. Oh, and botox. Bruce Jenner bad level botox. The ones in their thirties seem to be lacking employment. The guys in their forties seem to grouse about "games", "drama", and "baggage" a lot.

    I'm sure the single, childless men are out there, and there are some worth having, but it may take more effort to find and deal with them than kids. If you like the guy enough, it would be well worth investing in some counseling. You may change your mind about kids one day.

    Then again, it sounds to me like you've made your mind up. Probably best to break it off for now at least and give yourself time to find what you're looking for.
  29. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Ugh, on another forum we're dealing with a guy who claims to be 50 but likes to "manipulate" young women (like, half his age) to sleep with him. By giving them lots of alcohol. :eek: And there was one time he was dry-humping the current object of his attention in the passenger seat of a SmartCar. :scream: And he keeps claiming that of course she likes the attention because all her friends are okay with letting her get sexually assaulted by other friends, and she keeps on wanting to hang out with him. And of course she has severe daddy issues.

    Sure he's got his own house and a car and a good job and is childless without an ex-wife but...no! :scream: I'll take a guy with kids over that rapist creep!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012
  30. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    Eh, would you want someone to get in a relationship with you thinking, "She's not what I actually want, but it's more effort to find what I really do want, so I guess I'll just settle for her."?
  31. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    To be fair, anyone who was THAT stubborn about their "wanted in a partner" list would best be avoided anyway. ;)

    Could kids complicate a relationship? Sure. But it's never that cut and dry, is it? Stuff like that is always on a case-by-case basis.

    I just had a friend who, after swearing he would never do long-distance relationships, fall hard for a woman who lives 1500 miles away. (They met when she was in his workplace on business.) So now he's doing the long-distance thing. :rofl:
  32. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    At the end of the day, you're ultimately responsible for any conscious and unconscious choices that you make.

    With any real relationship there are pros and cons. You like him, but he has kids (who like you, it seems.)

    I know it's a hard call and I am not suggesting you act on it. But, have you thought about how he'd react if you said that you would prefer to spend quality time with him alone instead of with his children tagging along?

    They already have parents that make decisions on their behalf.

    As some people have mentioned, finding a man who doesn't already have children or isn't damaged in some way by past experience, is a lot harder later in the game.

    I would seriously think about the positives before breaking things off.
  33. heckles

    heckles Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I just can't understand why picky women have non-negotiables in dating, like "no death row inmates" and the like. :lol:
  34. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Well, you'd meet a childless older man before you'd meet a death row inmate for dating, at least! :lol:
  35. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    That's what I'm thinking.

    Olivia, I think you need to put the brakes on the "hang out with my kiddies" aspect of this since it causes you such (understandable) anxiety. It sounds to me like he's trying to slowly integrate you into his life. He has kids so he probably wouldn't want to date a woman who wouldn't blend in well with the kids. You passed that test it seems. Just don't underestimate your dating market value. You are a woman without kids and you sound pretty level-headed and reasonable, therefore, you are a VERY attractive commodity in the dating market. You have a lot of power here. Don't blow it all on some situation that you're not comfortable with just because it's the first thing that's come your way since your divorce. It's harder for him as a man with kids to find a woman without kids than it would be for you to find a man without kids. Maybe he'd be a good fit for you at some other time, but you're not at that some other time right now. You're in right now. Is he working for you right now?

    If you enjoy spending time with the guy then by all means enjoy yourself, but don't let him slowly wheedle you into a situation that you're really not comfortable with or even want. He may be a good rebound experience for you, but perhaps you need to experience a little more of life on your own terms and for yourself before getting tangled up with someone again. There is no shame in taking on the world on your own for a while. Or maybe even longer. ;)
  36. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    A friend of mine married someone with 3 kids who are now almost grown up. They were about the age of the girls of your boyfriend when they got married. She has never wanted kids herself but it was part and parcel of getting together with her husband.

    She has always taken the attitude that she is not involved in the parenting side of things and has kept to that. When the kids have spent the weekend with him, she has gone and done her own thing so he can spend time with them.

    I think it is a positive that his kids like you (says something about you too :)). It can be really horrid when the step kids are horrible to the new partner.

    Maybe talk to him about your feelings and just be honest about it. There is no reason why it can't work out if it is managed in a way that suits you both and the kids.
  37. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    Olivia, does he have any idea how you feel? Seems like that might need to be the first thing brought to the table.
  38. PRlady

    PRlady aspiring tri-national

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    I believe you. My husband's ex was manic-depressive, not on medication and impossible. (According to my stepdaughter she still is.) I was 25 and fiance 32 when we moved in together and got the kids. WHAT was I thinking?

    But despite all my mistakes, and there were plenty, I knew how to keep a clean house, deal with a teacher, and eventually, cook a dinner. My husband shared chores equally but was annoyed that I insisted on my own bank account -- I couldn't stand the idea of the alimony checks coming from a joint account every month.

    The kids were already a disaster, the older two dropped out of high school, when things got "bad" meaning some discipline they ran to their mom's. My stepson was on his way to an awful life, he actually was in jail as a teenager for stealing cars. But now he's a responsible fortysomething with an excellent second marriage and custody of his kids and a good job as a techie. My younger stepdaughter has three degrees and does something so esoteric and highly classified I barely understand it. They're not perfect but they made it, somehow, and since they give me some of the credit I'm grateful and pleased.

    But I wouldn't do it again. And if my own daughter, at 24, was in that situation, I'd have a plain ole' fit.
    AxelAnnie and (deleted member) like this.
  39. LilJen

    LilJen Well-Known Member

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    Ditto. Very important to be open about your feelings. He may be OK with you being uncertain, or he may decide that he needs to be with someone who feels more comfortable in the potential-stepmother position.
  40. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

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    Olivia, a new viewpoint. You are one and a half hours away. You aren't stepmom. You like the boyfriend. Find the good in this.

    I inherited a 'son' when I was 27. It was a typical ugly divorce and I met my now ex the day the divorce was granted. The wife was an alcoholic pill popping drama queen and was convinced I was in the background the entire time. My ex would drive anyone to alcohol and pills he was so abusive. Then there was the 12 year old son.

    Can you think of yourself as a big sister to these kids? Help them out, they know the score. I was never Uncle Alex, Daddy Alex. I was big brother Alex. In the emotional tug of war between those two parents, I was the one who took my 'son' to trumpet practice, soccer games, spent hours on the basketball court. The parents were incapable of giving this kid love. Money? Sure. Attention? No way.

    Anyway, you are an hour and a half away. You control this dance.