dealing with adult children and step children

xericgardenMay 6, 2009

So- I have a little different problem than most blended families. My husband and I have been married for almost 8 years. He was single for a long time before I came into the picture. Consequently, his children welcomed me into their father's life with open arms. They remember me on my birthday, holidays and mother's day. Their children call me grandma.

On the other hand, my children have bought into the poison that my EX has fed them and treat my husband (and myself) poorly. They only call or come by if they need something from us. They seldom remember me on birthdays or holidays... and NEVER remember my husband. As a result, my husband does not enjoy being around most of my children very much... and neither do I quite frankly. All of the kids are married and on their own. I feel somewhat torn about trying to smooth things over between all of us... but after 8 years, I don't see that this is likely to happen. So I've decided to take trips with my husband over mother's day and holidays to save myself the heartbreak of not hearing from my children. Am I wrong to simply put myself and my husband ahead of the kids now?

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I wouldn't use the word "wrong", but I would call it perhaps short-sighted and lacking in awareness. You seem to have no idea HOW or WHY the problem between your children, your husband and yourself developed. Why is it that you don't have any insight into this? Have you ever tried counseling or even a good heart-to-heart with any of your kids? have you sat down and pondered what might be underlying their distance? (I'm not presuming you haven't, I am just asking.) The children you gave birth to are too important (and not just them themselves, but to YOU as their mother) to not probe this deeper. By insisting that you delve int the source of the problem, I am not necessarily assuming that your kids have a great reason for keeping their distance from you and your husband. Their reasons may range from completely valid to terribly selfish, or --if they're like most people--- some combination or somewhere in between. They would certainly not be the first children of divorce in blended families to have such mixed feelings, or to find it hard to connect with their role in the newly blended family. They also wouldn't be the first to have some unresolved anger, or an attitude about it, not necessarily because you or your husband have done anything so awful but simply because of the fact that their family is not what it once was. Often, unfortunately, this kind of deep-seated upset can manifest by the kids choosing ---consciously or unconsciously--- to keep their distance, knowing no other way to effectively deal with feelings they may not even fully recognize in themselves. You are asking for a reasonable amount of consideration from your kids, but I would ask on their behalf for a reasonable amount of consideration on your end as to what their underlying needs and feelings might be.

I don't know your kids, but maybe you don't know them as well as you could, either. It's possible they truly are despicable oafs who are no longer worth your time or consideration. But wow, what a thing to say/feel about your own kids. Is that really how you want it? I doubt it, or you wouldn't be on here asking about it.

I might also ask you at this point what sort of input your husband and stepchildren have on the matter of your kids. Do they encourage you to explore the issues or seek counseling or literature on the subject of blended families? Do they express any empathy for what it may feel like to have been in your kids' shoes, post-divorce? Are they welcoming when your kids are around? Basically: are they a force for trying to build bridges or do they encourage you to build walls? Again, I am not assuming they are or are not one way or the other... just that this can have a big impact on the cohesiveness of the blended family and either ease or exacerbate tensions and distance...

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 4:48PM
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You have given little background information of the circumstances regarding the start of your current relationship. You say your husband was single when you got together. Were you still married at that time?
Do your children perhaps blame your husband (and you) for the break up of their family?
Your ex husband seems to be very bitter, and has no doubt influenced the thinking of the children (which is a bad thing to do no matter how old they were or how bad he felt).
Are your children jealous of your closeness with your 'new-found' family?
It largely depends on what has been said and done over the years.
My gut reaction is that your children are now adults, and presuming you have always been a good mother to them, should find it in their hearts to accept that your life has moved on and to be happy for you, or at least accept the situation and be respectful towards your chosen partner.
To not acknowledge your birthday/mother's day etc is very hurtful.
Serenity is right when she says it is better to build bridges than walls. Have you ever had a heart to heart with them about everything?
If you have honestly tried and still they act coldly, then you must put your emotional health first and live your life without guilt, yet always leaving the door open for the future.
I wish you well.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 5:24PM
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I personally don't think you are wrong to want to go away for Mother's Day rather than to feel the sting of being forgotten by your own kids. I think Serenity came on like a Mack truck to you because she is placing more of the responsibility of the dysfunctional relationship between you and your kids on you. Stating that you are "short-sight and lacking in awareness" is a bit overboard IMO. You obviously have enough of an awareness to see the differences in the way you are treated by your SK's and BK's. It is also presumptuous for her to assume that and I quote,"You seem to have no idea HOW or WHY the problem between your children, your husband and yourself developed."

I do agree with Serentiy that your relationship with your kids should be valued, but if you haven't done anything to warrant such poor treatment by them, then I would have to say that they are the ones in need of counseling because they have the issues. Only you know how much you have contributed to the current relationship you have with them.

Go away and enjoy yourself if you can. When you return, you may want to speak with your kids and get everything on the table. Listen carefully to them and make sure that you are heard too. You shouldn't turn your back on this relationship if there is something you can do to improve it. If you try and there is no effort on their parts, then don't feel badly about things and don't let yourself be used.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 5:27PM
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If your children are grown and out of the house. Don't even worry about it!!!! Take vacation!
Everyone has a cell phone these days and they could still reach you that way if they wanted, to wish you happy mothers day if anything.
Your children are grown adults now, and should be acting as such.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 2:27AM
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I dont think Serentity thought OP was wrong, but saw this as a cry for help. It seems to me that OP is hurting, and Serentity was suggesting ways to get where she wants. Avoiding a problem wont make it go away.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 7:59AM
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I can see that I need to fill in a few of the details. During my marriage to my EX I was heavily involved in the religion that I was raised in. So was my EX... in church every Sunday, etc. After 30 years I discovered that my EX had a different life that I knew nothing about. I tried counseling, etc, but finally decided to leave. After the divorce, the church, which I thought would be my refuge, instead turned on me. This included family and friends. I no longer wished to be part of the church and left that shortly after leaving my EX. My father told me that I was on the road to hell after I respectfully declined his offer of helping me get salvation. My sister told me that it would have been easier to deal with my death than to deal with my leaving the church. One of my sons said that his dad was a good guy because he was engaged to a good upstanding member of the church (they married and were divorced a year later.) I was NOT a good person because I was dating someone who was not a member. Their father is still playing the game of good guy.

I give you this information as a way of explanation. To be fair... I DO hold some reponsibility in all of this since I was a stay at home mom and raised my children to think the way the church taught. And to be totally fair, of my 6 children, two have tried to involve us in their lives... which we appreciate. One wants nothing to do with us... or with his father... The other 3 have nothing much to say to us since we have declined their offers of salvation. Since the church is the center of their lives... not just on Sunday but even for activities from sports to dances... they have nothing else to talk about when they do call. They church is the predominant religion in this state.

Hopefully this clarifies things just a little.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 11:54AM
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oh my, well i have to say, after this information i would tellyou not to worry about it. Your adult children have their religious beliefs interfering iwth daily activity and i think you should go on vacation for mothers day and treat yourself.
If your kids do not accept your new spouse after so many years, its their perogative . you cannot force them or anyone to accept. And they are using the 'religious' reason for not accepitng? THis sounds a bit warped.
May i ask what religion yoru ex is practicing and why 'since you have declined salvation??? Salvation from what?
It sounds like yoru ex and some of your adult children are practicing very extremes religious beliefs and those who are not part of their religion are nto part of their lives. VERY WRONg. God above loves all as far as i am concerned.
And since they feel this way, i would go about doing as i please and not let this bother you.
Enjoy the two that accept you and as for the others...too bad....such a shame that they would treat their own mother like this.

your sister told you it would be easier to deal with your death than you leaving the church????? This sounds liek a cult!
Enjoy your life and leave people like this out of it. It is just a shame that they have to be relatives.
We can't choose who we are related to but we can choose the time spent!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 1:07PM
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That definitely does clarify some things. Such a pronounced "schism" between religious views is unfortunately very divisive in itself. And of course everyone is entitled to believe --or not-- as they see fit, so that's where certain things are just going to be irreconcilable. Especially if one or more sides (in this case, your kids) is PUSHING. I think it's really sad that your children are rejecting their own mother who brought them into this world simply because she won't change her beliefs on religion to suit them. I hope they grow out of the extremism of it. Maybe they will one day come to the same realizations you did. Meanwhile, all I can suggest is don't be guilty of the same rejection towards them that they are inflicting on you. That doesn't mean you can't spend Mother's Day exactly how you want (it is YOUR DAY). I just mean don't ---in a broader sense--- close your door fully to your kids like they have closed it on you. Ironically, this is the kind of unconditional love and forgiveness J.C. himself would have practiced. (I'm not a Christian by faith, but I do admire the tenets he lived by.) Not that it's a contest, of course, but that would make you even more "Christ-like" than your ex and kids are trying to be.

Live your life and do what you want, don't wait around for them to smarten up, but here and there let them know they're loved and missed. And if they ever come to you with open arms, let them in. That's all you can really do.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 1:21PM
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Thank you for your comments. I have never closed the door to my children. I send a gift and call on their birthdays... and their spouse and children's birthdays. My husband has a difficult time being around my kids and has no problem letting them know that talking about religion and trying to get us to convert are taboo in the house. We have a sign on the door that reads "Love is spoken here... not religion or politics" I am lucky that my children were all grown by the time I divorced their father. They are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves so I am free to be a little selfish and think about myself and my husband for a change. I had my 6 children before I was 30 years old so had no time for that when I was young. Thanks again... forums like this are very therapeutic!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2009 at 2:29PM
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