Long Time Effect of Double Standard

ulrike1May 21, 2010

Something has really been bothering me the last few months, and I don't think there is anything I can actually do about it, but would love your thoughts. I know there are a number of SMs here where there is a different level of friendship between each spouse and their ex-spouse.

I have posted before that BM has always wanted a great deal of contact with my DH. At first she was adamant that the two of them attend my SDs' events together, without me. Eventually she became accustomed to me and mostly doesn't complain that I am along; there have even been events where she and I have both gone, without DH. Very civilized, though I do not enjoy it for the most part, especially the way BM periodically cozies up to my DH. She also exhibits a great need to be known as The Mother (as opposed to me). Again, whatever. My SDs and I have a relationship that is quite different from theirs with BM and I treasure it.

Here's the thing that is nagging at me. I may have mentioned before that my ex-husband and I still co-own a business. This generally doesn't necessitate us spending any time together. We also co-manage a trust for our children. We are cordial, and his new wife and I exchange pleasantries. But it's definitely businesslike. Our families do not interact. None of the good friends of DH and I know my ex. When we went to the kids' activities, we didn't sit together.

Why the difference? Looking back, it was because I didn't want to spend time with him. In the earlier years he would invite me to go with him and the kids sometimes, but I said no. And here is the hard part--I said no because it felt disloyal to my DH. Why did DH not afford me the same thoughtfulness? I think he was afraid of BM, and to be fair, she was relentless in her pursuit of them spending time together. He would have had to be harsh and rejecting. I didn't need to.

Last week my two kids and my SDs were all at our house. BM came to pick up SD, came in the house, stayed for half an hour, followed DH into the kitchen chatting with him, the usual. I glanced across the room and saw my daughter watching them, and I couldn't help but wonder if the disparity bothers her. Of how much her SSs' mother is in our life, compared to how much my ex is not.

Do you think I should talk to her about it? I wouldn't even know how to start the conversation. Were any of you also stepchildren in a similar situation?

Thank you. I am sorry this was so long.

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Naturally kids of any age like to see their parents together at events, but I think as long as you and your ex are not hostile, it should be OK not to spend time together. I always assume my DD does not care but then once i overheard her talk to grandma over the phone how much fun it was to see mom and dad at the event together. But maybe she thought it is fun because it does not happen all the time-we don't live close by, maybe she would think differently if we would be in each other face all the time.

I am wondering if your daughter looked at DH's ex and thought of disparity in a way of: my mom's DH and his ex are nuts. Why is this woman here and why are they together so often? My mom and dad are so much more appropriate.

If you really want to know you could ask, but I would not assume your DD wants the same interaction between you and her dad. what your DH and his ex do always sounded inappropriate to me.

My ex is a big fan of acting like one big family, I could deal with it, but only in small portions. He could be inappropriate the way your DH's ex is.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 7:00PM
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I don't think I'd bring it up --
I mean, what good could it do?

I suspect you're right that Hubby's Ex is doing a little "He was mine first and he'll always be partly mine" mind game on you, or maybe even wants him to want her again in the old way -- just to prove she's still 'got it'.

Maybe your daughter sees that -- maybe she doesn't -- maybe she views it some other way. But if your daughter does see it, I'd suspect she'd feel it was kind of pathetic and not view Ex's predations kindly. So unless she senses BM's tactics working (which could make you 'a fool' for not challenging her BS), chances are your daughter thinks it's BM who's acting a fool, and that you're being gracious and 'the bigger person' for keeping the harmony for her kid's sake.

Discussing it with your daughter risks your spot on the pedestal. It would be very hard to talk it through without either getting catty, making lame excuses for BioMom, or being seen as a doormat for allowing behavior you don't like. But by remaining silent, you 'rise above it'. Consider also what a blowout there would be if your daughter, having discussed it with you, then discusses your views with her SS's and it gets back to BM. KaBOOM!

Of course, if she asks about it, you don't have to lie. Just say you were doing what you thought would be best for the girls.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 7:05PM
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It's not exactly the same, Ulrike but I know what you're saying. My SM would have her ex's family over, some would occasionally stay a weekend during summers or during a holiday. We also saw her family much, much more than my fathers side of the family. And anything to do with my moms family -- just NO. lol.

I'm sure she had her reasons and some of them were probably valid, but she did interfere in established and beneficial relationships that were there prior to her. And my father let her, of course. And at the same time forced her awkward relationships on others in the household. It was indeed a big double standard.

Everyone has adjustments to make with marriages and even moreso in stepfamilies, its basically walking on eggshells lol. I think different relationships (including ex relationships as co parents) require a different level of communication and the requirement depends on who is involved. The key is the players and it cannot circle around just one players needs and wants.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 7:09PM
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If it bothers her, is there anything you can do to change it? Why ask if you can't?

More important conversation to have is with your husband to let him know how it makes YOU feel... isn't THAT important to him?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 9:25AM
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I also do not think I would say anything to your DD. Like Ima pointed out, if it DOES in fact bother her, and you cannot change the situation, then why bring it up at all?
I also second Ima in that you need to discuss this with your DH.

I realize that different relationships have different levels of comfort but I am just weirded out by BM hanging out in your home for thirty minutes and wandering into the kitchen after DH, etc. I don't care how cordial/civil y'all are, that is just plain weird!

It's one thing to hang out in the foyer and chit-chat for 5 mins but to stay for half an hour just seems very strange to me. I personally think even the most civil of exes would not be comfortable doing that.

Did it make you uncomfortable? Or are you used to it by now?

I'm all for things being friendly and civil for the kids' sakes. But:

A.) Aren't your stepkids in highschool/college? They are certainly old enough and mature enough to understand that it's perhaps "inappropriate" for their mother to be hanging out in their father's home for an extended time.

B.) Haven't BM/DH been divorced for a looong time? My point is, this is not anything new to the kids and they've had plenty of time to adjust. You and DH have been married for a long time, as well, right?

Kids/teens are perceptive and they also do not need the disservice of people they love and trust putting on a show or pretending a situation is something it's not. It reminds me of whoever it was here whose BM wanted everyone to open presents on Christmas morning together. Ummm, that is just weird. If mom/dad are divorced, there is no reason to play one big happy family and act like it's something it's not. Kids can understand that parents are divorced and that logically means certain (even most) things will be separate. It's one thing for parents to both be present at a school performance or soccer game---something where there is only ONE time. But holidays/birthdays/etc can all be celebrated twice, with each respective parent.

IMO, this whole situation you are in kind of falls into this category of "pretending" and not setting/enforcing good boundaries. And it really is DH's issue that HE needs to address. BM is comfortable because he allows her to be!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 12:06PM
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agree with lovehadley, BM does it because unrike's and her own DHs let her, but also DH does it because ulrike lets him.

half an hour in the kitchen is not a big deal, i could easily do that with ex, but mutual celebrations of holidays that have nothing to do with kids, not graduations or weddings but national or religious holidays is bizarre. still remember DH wanting to go to ex for thanksgiving, him, her and the kids and ulrike stays home. it would be a deal breaker for many wives. and BM calling crying that he did not come over for Christmas...

SKs probably like it though because these are their parents, they probably like to see them together

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 11:10PM
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Thank you all so much for your thoughts. I know you are right, there really isn't anything I could say to my daughter - except my heart just wants to ask her if she is sad because she and DS don't have the same kind of "extended family" feeling that SDs must have about my BM and my DH. For some reason, that thought is just preying on me these days.

DH says, and I believe him, that I am the lucky one to not have to deal with my ex so much. BM makes him uncomfortable, much more than she makes me uncomfortable. You know how it is when you are DONE with a relationship, you just don't want to deal with it anymore, you want to move on. Upon the rare occasion that we are with my ex, I am very uncomfortable; DH seems more relaxed with him, ha.

I just think of my baby girl (in college, but still) and whether she is hurt that her life is more segmented than SKs. If she thinks that somehow they are more privileged or valued in the house?

It's causing me a bit of illogical resentment towards DH, which is stupid because the reason BM has been so "with us" is because she pushes for it, not because we would choose it. It's tempting to be angry that he permitted this degree of between-house connection. But I suppose I could have arranged for the same with my ex.

I need to stop projecting my own parent guilt onto DH, ha.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 5:47PM
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Ok, my parents remained very respectable after their divorce until my sister and I were grown. They even invited each other to the re-weddings (for our sakes they said). But if having the ex spouse around is causing strain in your marriage then it is definately something you need to be talking to your hubby about. My husbands ex has made threats against me. We didn't lose any sleep when she moved across the country. First priority always has to be the kids though!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 3:40PM
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ulrike, my mom and dad are politely friendly when the occasion calls for it, but have not remained friends. My mom did maintain friendships with a couple of men she dated after the divorce, when I was a teen. I realize this is somewhat different from what youÂre talking about, but I never felt somehow shortchanged by that or that well, if she can be friends and hang out with Gary, why canÂt she be friends and hang out with my dad? kwim? I think teens and older are able to see that different people are, well, different, so different couples have different types of interactions after a split.

As for comparisons to her stepsister, well, I donÂt (exactly) have stepsiblings (wasnÂt raised with any, anyway) but I think thereÂs no way around recognizing that if you have different parents (even if you sort of share some of them) you are going to have somewhat different family dynamics. ItÂs possible your daughter might be jealous of your stepdaughterÂs family dynamics, but itÂs just as possible that sheÂs jealous of a friendÂs family. Or that one child might be jealous of the stepsibling's other grandparents or aunt or something. I doubt she expects everything to be just the same, knowing that, while her and SS share your home and family life, they still have different families overall. You *canÂt* give them the same family experience, because they donÂt have the same family.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:26AM
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