Can anyone tell a scared woman anything positive?

charmed1April 17, 2009

I have been reading many of the posts on this site and they fill me with a really intense fear. Can I do this? Can I handle the fact that my boyfriend (whom I am very much in love with) has a child. I am using this forum and really thinking about it, weighing the pros and cons, because I need to make a decision. I have the cons...alot of cons and now need someone, anyone out there to give me tell me their story, a story that doesn't have a psycho bm/ss/sd or all, a story where things really do work out for the best.

I am not trying to live in Eutopia where everything is perfect. No this is TOUGH but I also need to know if there's hope, if this situation doesn't always end in disaster.

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My dd is not my husband's bio-child. We have a very nice home life. She talks to her dad several times a week, my DH talks to her dad and I talk to her dad. We are all (mostly) on the same page regarding parenting. Both my DH and I want her to have a good relationship with her father and foster that relationship. (uh-oh! am I going to get skewered by saying that? look at Vanity fair thread!) But it's true. We have the power to really thwart their relationship and we do the opposite.

My dd's father has had issues but on the whole he is a good father. None of us are on drugs, manipulative or psychotic. We have differing views on parenting, but the biggest issue is readjustment after my dd goes to her bio-dad's for holiday and gets the "vacation" mentality and then has to come home to stricter rules.

She is well adjusted and our family is considered a "nice" family. My DH's family loves my dd and she is welcome at everyone's house.

So, it does work. But it is very hard. As bio-mom, I had a lot of doubts (is DH doing this because she is not his... is this how he would react if she were... is dd having issues because of the divorce... am I doing the right thing...) and I had to trust my DH a lot, I had to surrender a lot of power and let him be the good guy a lot so that my dd would not feel attacked by him (she and I already had a relationship, she knew I loved her, but she didn't have that same security with him).

Also, we back each other up in front of her, ask one another what we think we should do, etc. It's play-acting, but it's reinforcing that we are unified in our decisions. Occasionally I disagree with DH, but if it's negative to his decision I don't do it in front of her. If I am being more strict, I do it in front of her.

I think as the years go on we will just get into a comfortable groove, she will love/trust him and it will be a little more natural, but we're laying the groundwork now. It's been three years and she is 7.

If BM is crazy, if you and DH don't agree on parenting issues... you will have a hard time of it. I would really consider things very carefully; if there are a lot of concerns this might not be a relationship worth taking to the next level. No matter what, discuss discuss discuss.


and you are wise to be scared...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 11:08AM
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Are you not a SM? I always was under the impression you had SKs.

In regards to the OP's question...

you are right to be cautious. A LOT depends on what your BF's relationship is with his ex and how effectively they co-parent.

As someone who has dealt with drama related to my DH's ex for the last 5+ years, I can say this---if there is drama NOW, there will be drama in the future.

If things are calm and cool for the most part, and if your BF and his ex get along reasonably well and are relatively *normal* things will be much smoother.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 11:44AM
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EVERY family has drama. And your stepfamily will be no different. Death, taxes and drama: all givens. But you're already doing more than many people do in your situation: thinking ahead. And because of that alone, you are likely to have a better situation, with probably LESS drama than if you went into this blind. But keep it up. READ as much as you can about stepfamily issues, TALK to as many people as you can, try to anticipate as much as you can what some of the likely pitfalls could be in stepfamilies, and most important talk to your partner about any & all of it. Come to agreements or at least be aware of where you might already disagree, have certain things figured out beforehand. It will save a lot of stress, unpleasant surprises and heartache for everybody. Also understand that generally speaking there is NO REAL RUSH to plunge fully into anything until you are sure that you're going into it with strong awareness and you know that you and your partner agree on most of the important stuff. Take as much time as you need to figure all that out beforehand, because the more you can, the more you can prevent a lot of problems and the better your marriage and stepfamily will be.

As for positive stories, you'll see several step-parents on GW who have very good marriages and very good relationships with their stepchildren (yes, even simultaneously!). You'll also see posts from adult stepchildren like me who have horror stories about one step-parent (in my case my SM), but also have great things to report about another step-parent (in my case my SF). You'll also learn ---the more & more stories you see--- that, for example, my experience is very common because of certain predictable patterns and issues in stepfamilies. For example, a stepfather often steps more readily into the role of "co-provider" (or in some cases even sole provider) because of cultural conditioning and gender expectations than a stepmother, who may be conditioned to have more reluctance to "provide" for children who are not her own or who anticipates being provided *for* herself. Certainly there are many exceptions, but this is one major reason why you will hear much more discussion by and about stepmothers than stepfathers. If you then add certain other patterns to the mix, the potential for conflict gets predictably higher (i.e. 2nd wives are more likely than 2nd husbands to be closer to the SKs' age, thus making it even more of a 'sibling' relationship; 2nd wives are more likely than 2nd husbands to want to have additional children, which adds another element; remarriage after death of a spouse can be harder than after divorce; but if divorce was nasty that too can cause major problems; substance abuse problems on anyone's part; CS issues, housework, chores, holidays, healthcare expenses, college expenses, weddings, funerals, wills, names, photos, in-laws, step-grandkids...)

Just because these patterns and minefields exist by no means indicates that it is the way things SHOULD be (especially some of these more rigid-seeming or even stereotyped gender roles), but the fact is that it often *IS* that way. But it also doesnt have to spell doom! ThatÂs where being aware and prepared comes in. Another thing you'll find in your reading and talking about stepfamilies is that there is no ONE official correct view on the subject. You'll see vastly different perspectives, depending on things such as cultural and religious differences, the circumstances of how the first marriage ended, socioeconomic status, differences in state laws, and the role of physical or mental illness in how things are approached. It's important to have an understanding of the most common problems and patterns and an overview of the various (and sometimes divergent) ways the issues are commonly dealt with. But at the end of the day, you and your partner have to be the ones to decide which approaches make the most sense for your situation, and most importantly you have to AGREE on it. If you donÂt agree, move on. In my opinion, they should make "required reading" on these issues mandatory BEFORE theyÂll hand out a marriage license, whether itÂs for the 1st, 2nd, or 50th time...

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 12:30PM
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Love, I am a SM. But on paper only. She lives with her BM and although I have met her she does not visit enough for us to have that relationship. Her mother is basically holding her hostage, lives in another state. Long story. He pays child support and has split custody but we don't even have her home address. When her dad does get to see her I do not go because they don't get enough time together as it is. Last time we saw her we all had dinner and then they spent the weekend together. She is a lovely little girl and I would like to get to know her better.

I'm not really sure what to do about the situation. I prepared an Easter Basket for her just as I did for my DD this year, I pick her gifts for Christmas, but I ask my DH not to put my name on because I don't want her mom to prevent her from enjoying them any more that she already is. Her mother is remarried,and has more kids. She has a stable home life although she is a bit spoiled.

Anyway, it's not the best situation, but it's kind of a non-situation at this point. I'm sure when we go back to court to get more visitation/custody split there will be plenty of horror stories to tell. But for now, I thought it was more helpful to tell this "scared woman" the successful side of step-parenting, and all that credit goes to my DH.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 1:02PM
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How much does your boyfriend see his child? How involved in the child's life is he, and how involved does he want to be? Much of your happiness and success as a step parent will hinge on how your boyfriend hadles the situation. I've learned a succesful blended family is determined much more by the adults than the child . . .

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 1:19PM
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You are wise to be afraid, and you are wise to try learning as much as you can. A lot depends on the BM, but much more depends on you and mostly the man you marry, who is the father. Before marriage, you can determine many of the answers yourself and hopefully decide then if marrying to create a stepfamily, or this marriage to create this stepfamily, is for you. It will all reveal itself before the marriage. It's up to you to heed or ignore the signs. Pay attention to how your intended handles, interacts with, and supports his child and the child's mother; how the birth mother deals with your existence and if she controls and runs the show because she will control and run you and your life too; whether your intended permits that or if he stands up to her; how the child deals with your existence and interacts with you. You can tell if s/he resents you, and you can tell how your intended responds to that. Make sure you receive respect and consideration, rather than ignoring those signs, only to end up unhappy and feeling like you don't matter with these other three people (the father, the birth mother, and the child) running your life. Scrutinize all these things beforehand notwithstanding the love you have for him, and you will also be able to determine if he loves you the way you need to be loved and respected, instead of just him saying he loves you. Good luck and I hope it all works out wonderfully.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 2:02PM
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I guess it all depends on how you adapt to change.

Could you adapt say down the road in 2 years if the girl insisted on living with her father and thus be thrust into your life?

In my situation, my boyfriend had EOW with his kids only. TH BM refused to let him see them SS5 SD2 any more than that. We got serious and set up a house with that arrangement in mind. About 2 years later, the BM decides she's done with raising kids and they moved in with us. BM travels across us with new boyfriend.

So the girl just turned 12 so it's been 8 years so far. BM is more settled now, but in a city that's about 4 hours away. There's no question of her ever getting physical custody, so we have them till their adults.

There's been more good than bad. I get to see them grow up and become who they are going to be. We have fun on vacations and playing games. We share all the little moments that make up a life.

The bad is you get more attitude as a SM. In my case the SD is very girly girl type. She bonds with me until the BM has a visit or she spends time with BM, then I get attitude when she comes back. The boy not so much.

Also SD is really sad about the BM seperation, so crys, throws fits when BM leaves. But then she's fine in a few hours and until the BM visits again. I don't think she'd be so emotional, if BM visited regularly, but BM can go 5-6 months without seeing her again for no apparent reason. We are hoping as she gets older SD can deal with it better.

Last time was much better, her BM got her a new phone and she immediatly showed it to me and talked with me all fine after BM left.

Basically you have to have the attitude "and this too shall pass" As long as you don't add to the drama and wait it out, while all the while only offering support, things will go okay. I'm lucky that my DH supports me when I express frustration while SD is rude with attitude. So the kids have always been shown that my feelings matter as much as his. But kids are kids, sometimes they act out on both of us!

I don't have kids of my own, so I imagine if you are going to, that might change the family dynamic. Good luck and be prepared for changes.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 2:32PM
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Stepfamilies can work if you go into the situation with your eyes wide open. You need lots of open communication with your spouse and you need to be on the same page with eachother when it comes to the kids.

One of the biggest problems I have seen is that some parents are parenting out of guilt...meaning they let their child get away with murder because they feel bad about the situation (divorce, etc.).

I do deal with bm drama and have argued with my dh over discipline, rules, fairness, etc. But the thing is we manage to talk things out and work through things and have pretty similar ideas on things most of the time. I have one bio child and my dh has 3 bio children. We are both the custodial parents so we have a house of 4 children. My skids mean so much to me and are wonderful kids whom I think of as my own. Most people on the outside have no clue we are not all a biofamily. If I had it to do all over again I would still be a stepmom.

Just read the issues on here and discuss them with your boyfriend. Make sure you have similar ideas when it comes to parenting and dealing with his ex.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 3:37PM
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You have every right to be scared. None of us can predict the future. The best advice has already seemed to have been given to you in the above posts. A lot of failures in step-parenting (and I speak fully of myself, here) come from being a selfish person. If you have the capacity to love openly and give unselfishly, then it will be good. If not, then not so much....

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 4:09PM
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DON'T be scared. This is a bit like when you type a company name into google with the word "s*u*c*k*s" in - you will always hear horror stories (ok some companies ARE worse than others) but never the good stories.

That's because, plain and simple, most people don't feel the need to vent/share when things are going well, whilst their good stories and advice are appreciated by those who are going through tough times, the former are, quite rightly, enjoying the good times, which we all should.

I don't think "scared" is the right term at all. That assumes things will be bad, and if you assume the worse, you will generally get it. What is being discussed in this forum is, for the most part, 100% about attitude. Think about it, for the most part, the difference between harmony and estrangement is, again for the most part, due to the attitudes of the participants - so to an extent we/the people are dealing with have choices. We don't always see that, though.

Cutting through the fog, taking the step back and looking objectively at ourselves and others should be simple yet is the hardest thing we will ever do. That's why I say pretty much everyone can benefit from some sort of counselling or therapy. Psychiatrists see Psychiatrists, you know.

Rather than saying 'be scared' with all its self-fulfilling negativity, I would say "it's a big step and you SHOULD think hard about it." I am a great believer in following your gut instinct, and pretty much 100% of the time, it's proven right, and when I haven't, I was wrong.

Two people in love ought to be able to adjust to the other's kids, and they to them. It's not always that easy but it can be rewarding too.

Why don't you talk to your BF about your worries, and perhaps go to some joint (or singular) therapy sessions?

You can probably read a lot of signs now - how is your BF with his child, and what sort of relationship do they have with the birth mother? How is he with his own family? Things have a way of repeating themselves, but we can also break that pattern if we choose.

Mom2emall has made some good points. Make sure you both agree on the main points, and study the relationship he has with his child. That's not to say that things can't improve if they have to, but backing each other up, whilst respecting each other's differences and opinions is important too.

Assuming the birth mother is involved, you will *not* replace her, nor should you try. You will at times have to bite your tongue and step back, but having said that, if you are involved in caring for a child and having them live with you, you should be treated with courtesy. I agree that trust and respect are to be EARNED but I believe everyone should be polite to each other.

I learned a lot of this from my first marriage, where I was not treated with either, but was kind of a whipping boy whose place as a father was not given much dignity. Of course I made many mistakes and assume my share of the blame, but the rule of 1) politeness 2) united front as couple/parents 3) respect did not apply.

When my now-wife met my daughter (I have two, one has accepted/has a relationship with us, which is now quite good, the other does not) the daughter vacillated between liking my wife, who is a lovely person and very likeable, and I guess out of guilt/loyalty to her mum, and told my wife "you aren't/won't be my mother" to which my wife replied "that's fine, you have a mother but I hope you and I can be friends" which is what they indeed are. Interestingly, my youngest who doesn't talk to me, asked her sister to convey a message to my wife that she has nothing against her, her issue is with me. I thought that was interesting but at least does have a positive aspect to it.

With the wisdom of a few years my daughter sees me in a different and better light, and sometimes confides in me when things with her mum are a bit rough, but I am careful not to be critical, but supportive. You don't want to buy into that game, even if the child is slinging off at the other parent - be understanding. That being said, the differences between me now, me when I was married to her mother, and my now-wife are pretty apparent so she can draw her own conclusions.

I have an adult step-son myself. I wish we had met when he was much younger, we may have developed a closer relationship, but as adults it's always different. He lived with us for a couple of years which was stressful because I didn't like the way he spoke to/treated his mother and he pretty much ignored our requests for things which were reasonable (like, clean up after yourself) and he in many ways reverted back to being a spoiled kid. I could understand it was awkward for him too, like I say our relationship is ok, but there are a few things I'd like him to work on. If my wife does have a fault, it is that she lets him run roughshod over her, and won't hear others speak their minds on it. Like I said, though, this did improve somewhat.

A relationship with a younger child should in time become easier, remember you're the adult, take the high road and set a good example. Always be cordial to the ex and live your life faultlessly (as much as possible) and if the other person is being childish, be twice the adult for both of you. If the father doesn't back you up, discuss this with him privately and calmly.

So, trust your feelings and remember there are many many happy endings, like I said, people don't write about them as much! There can also be a lot of pain and baggage in what people in our/this situation carry around so it's important to see all these comments in perspective.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 4:38PM
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I guess I have good news and bad news.

The good: I married a man with an 18 month old daughter. She and her mom lived in a different state, so visitation was less frequent than the norm, unfortunately. But I TOTALLY lucked out with a WONDERFUL stepdaughter who had a great mom. It was uncomfortable at first, but I give HUGE HUGE credit to her mom, who was adult enough to put her daughter first, and foster a relationship with not only dad, but me, stepmom. In retrospect, I can't imagine how hard it was for her to send her daughter many states away to a woman that she had ZERO CLUE about. Yes, she sent her daughter to dad, but of course there was a total unknown in the

Things worked quite well for all of us, and I can't give my stepdaughter's mom enough credit for being so great about everything. Heck, I even flew out there alone for SD's 8th grade graduation. (Dad had a work thing that he absolutely could not get out of.)

My stepdaughter was a joy. Not 100% of the time, of course, but I was spared the horrid stories you read here. Once again, credit to mom.

The bad news? We divorced a few years ago, (after 15 yrs), and I lost my stepdaughter :( We sort of kept in touch at first, but circumstances after our split were too much for her to deal with, so I haven't had contact with her in several years. I miss her terribly -- we had a great relationship. I still hope that some day she will call or write.

The most important thing you need to look at is the dynamic between him, his ex, and his child. If there are problems, multiply those by 100 and you might get a taste of how things will be.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 9:32PM
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I was married a second time. His children treated me with respect because they knew their father would not allow anything else. Our biggest problem was money, he couldn't say no to them. They paid it all back except the last couple of loans. My point is I had none of the serious problems people in her have had, BUT if I had it to do over I would not marry a man with children. It's not worth it.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 9:37PM
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Mom2emall said it:
"Stepfamilies can work if you go into the situation with your eyes wide open. You need lots of open communication with your spouse and you need to be on the same page with eachother when it comes to the kids."

I've been with my FDH now for 4 1/2 years and we are very happy. We talk a lot about the skids and parenting, and we are usually on the same page. I get along really well with my skids, two girls, and I don't have any kids of my own.
How old is his kid?

I was pretty nervous at first, not so much scared. Especially when I started looking after them in the school holidays by myself, it's a big deal to look after somebody else's kids, especially if the BM is NOT happy. In our case the BM is suffering from depression, and there's substance abuse, but we really suspect she has a persnality disorder. Plenty drama I tell you.

So I have ALWAYS had someone undermining me, bagging me, putting me down. Yet the skids have always liked me and have never been mean to me.

Over the past 6 months or so I've been angry a few times when they relay BM's b*llshit as if it's their own opinion (FDH not paying BM enough, or keeping them away from their mum, or 'force feeding' them blabla etc). It's probably because they are getting a bit older now and feel they neeed to speak up for themselves. It has done no good, me not controlling my temper. Lesson learned I think.

But having said that, we are now back to normal again and the girls are still fond of me, so the bond was strong enough to endure some hard times.

Also I think it's important not to push BM's buttons. I imagine it's always hard to see your ex re-partner and have that new person becoming important in your kids' lives. You can't control it and you can only hope that that person is ok. That must be very hard under the best of circumstances. So I've always made sure to take a backseat. You know, no need to rub it in BM's face.

In our own home I don't take the backseat of course, that is where I RULE Mwoahahaha...

I'm really proud of my skids, they don't have it easy and I'm learning that all I can do is be there for them.

I would do it all again in a heartbeat :-)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 9:58PM
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Thank you to everyone for your input; I think that one has to equip oneself with as much information as possible. I am not as afraid as I am nervous, it is a big deal.

For some background, my bf and I have been together for nearly 8 months. He was broken up with his ex when they found out she was pregnant. His little girl is nearly 7 months old. He told me about his pregnant ex on our first date and wanted me to know right from the get go that he was going to be there for his daughter and her mother. I was baffled at first as to why he chose to not try and patch things up with her when they found out she was pregnant, especially since he says that he grew up with both his biological parents and always wanted that for his own kids. He said that there was so much wrong with their relationship prior to the break-up and he just felt that they would do his child more harm than good by staying together.

My sister is a single mother, her babys dad sees his child once every few months. I see my sisters pain every single day. Thats why I am so happy that my bf makes time for his daughter, I could never have dated him if he didnt put her first in his life. Yip, I have come to realize that she does come first and always will, I wouldnt want it any other way. She is a little girl and so innocent in all this. So yes it is difficult sometimes, when I cant see my bf because he is spending time with his daughter. But I could never be the person that keeps a little girl from seeing her dad. So instead I use the times we dont see each other to complete my assignments (I work full-time and study Psychology part-time).

My bf is 26 and I am 25, his ex is quite young still, she is 20. My boyfriend only gets to see his daughter at her place as she didnt allow him to take her for the day until recently and then only every other Saturday. I got to spend one day with his daughter and it was a bit strange for me as it was the first time that I saw my bf in his role as a dad. He is such a great dad; the enormity of our situation hit me though.

If I have to think about the one thing that troubles me the most it would be the fact that BM is very dependent on my bf (financially that is), she was studying when she fell pregnant and living with her mom in not so ideal surroundings. So my bf got her a place so that she could have a decent place to live with their daughter. She started studying again but has made no move to find a job; she studies through correspondence, so she doesnt go to class. BM constantly tells my bf that she didnt ask to fall pregnant so basically doesnt want to do anything.
I have only officially seen her twice, the first was at the mall, my bf and I were browsing around and we just heard this person say really loudly "HELLO" we turned around and it was bm (I have seen pics of her), he said "Oh hi, I didnt see you", her response was "Clearly" and she stormed away. He honest and truly did not see her!

A week later I went to the university (she also studies there) and I walked past her (didnt see her thought), next thing you know she starts following me, I get to the humanities building turn around and shes like "dont I know you from somewhere", I introduced myself to her and chatted a bit, you know what is she studying etc. I didnt even leave the university yet when my bf called to say that she had just sent him a text saying that she ran into meand I was rude!! I could never be rude, not even to her, my mother raised me too well. Anyway the whole thing felt like high school, girls being catty.

BM had a raw deal, she was only 19 when she fell pregnant and wasnt with her babys dad, so yes I can only begin to imagine the pain she must be feeling. But I didnt not cause the break up, my boyfriend and I met each other much later. I am a good person with good values, I am still nervous about the whole situation as she sometimes can be a bit difficult and my bf does get very down about it. But I can do this, he has never made me feel like I am less important to him, he treats me with the utmost respect and he never ever says a bad word about bm even when she is being difficult. I have days where I feel, oh no I cant do this, and then there are days like today where I realize that I can do this. I pray for BM every single day, I hope that her heart heals.

P.s. I will still vent on this forum (there will probably be a lot of occasions where Ill need to vent) but I feel better equipped, thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 2:27AM
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Charmed, you sound like you have a very good head on your shoulders and you're trying to look at this from all angles. I wish you luck, and please keep coming back to vent as well as learn. Some of us have been there, done that for several years and have much to say about it! :-)

Take care, and keep your chin up. The high road is often the road less traveled, but on it you have a much better chance of reaching where you want to be.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 11:59PM
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Something that helped me years ago was something I read in a book.

Don't think of a stepfamily as a "blended" family. When you blend something, you would put all the ingredients, individually and still retaining their own properties, in the blender. You turn the blender on and it takes all of the individual ingredients and mixes them together to create something new that no longer has the individual properties of the ingredients. The individual ingredients are barely, if at all, recognizable. For instance, a strawberry smoothie. The thing is blended so that you can see that there are probably strawberries in there and you know yogurt was put in (and other things as well), but you can no longer tell them apart and you can't separate them.

Instead, think of a stepfamily as more of a salad; tossed together and mixed up, but each ingredient still retains its individuality. AND, on top of that, each ingredient is APPRECIATED for its individuality. Like a taco salad just wouldn't be a taco salad if it was missing any of its defining ingredients.

When I stopped trying to get everyone to conform to some vision of what I wanted, and started appreciating the individual traits and relationships that I had with each one, things started to go much smoother.

BUT.....BM has caused me a lot of grief and things aren't all that great with my SO's DD anymore. They used to be better. But I backed out of her life and quit communicating with her altogether when I realized that any good I thought I was doing was causing my SO more pain. It hurts me badly and I have to bite my tongue all the time, but BM uses me against SO to keep him away from his DD. And I can't have that.

Hopefully I have laid a foundation with her that she will be able to come back to later in life. My relationship with his DD has gone from being with her every weekend from the age of 7 to the age of 12 to a situation much like Silversword's.

Also like Silver, the situation with my SO and DS. They get along fairly well and my X is an ok father who likes to spend a lot of time with DS. He's very involved. And neither men are uncomfortable with the other. We have our little snags sometimes, but all-in-all it's pleasant and at the very least tolerable.

It's all about what your priorities are. You decide what you can handle and what you can't. You decide if you think the things that can't be handled will eventually change.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 5:52PM
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