advise on adult stepfamilies

gma58July 14, 2009

I am looking for some advise with stepfamilies. I am getting married soon to a man with a daughter,age 30, she is his only child, she has no children. She is not happy about our marrage. He has been divorced from his Xwife, her mother for 25 yrs. His Xwife is remarried & has been for 15 yrs, lives in another state & has had 2 more kids of her own plus 2 stepkids. I have 3 adult kids, ages 29-35, My kids father died over 20 yrs ago. I remarried & have been divorced for over 5 yrs. My kids are married & live in other states & have families of their own. They are all happy about the additions to the family.

We went to high school together but I moved away from the area right after gaduation & went back for a reunion where we ran into each other & have been dating for over 2 yrs.

His daughter is upset about her dad becoming too busy for her & forgetting about her once we get married, yet she lives next door. They own the homes & he has lived there for 22 yrs. I moved into his home, 9 months ago, I travel in my work & gone most of the week.

Please give me some advise on what to do or say? How can I let her know I am not taking her dad away, she is just gaining more family.

By the way, her dad is 1 of 9 kids & has a really really large family already, so what is a few more people?

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Just give it time.

My mom remarried almost 3 yrs ago and honestly--I was less than pleased. I was kind of hurt. He lived in Florida and she lived here and they had a long distance relationship for a year. In that year's time, I only met him maybe 2-4 times and those were just for short dinners out or whatever. I was used to spending a lot of time w/my mom---weekly dinners, daily phone calls etc. and when her BF would come in town, she would *disappear* for 5-6 days at a time. I wouldn't hear anything from her, and what really bothered me the most was that her BF did not seem at all interested in getting to know me or my DD.

Anyway, on their year anniversary, they got engaged. I was SHOCKED. I had no idea they were serious like that. Anyway, it was just a huge surprise to me and, even though my parents had been divorced for 7 years, I was surprised that her remarriage stirred up a lot of emotions about that for me.

anyway, they got married and he moved here. It was definitely an adjustment, and things are different---but my mom is happy and that's really what matters. I have grown to think her DH is a good guy. I still am not WILD about him, he is not the most friendly guy, kind of aloof/standoffish, BUT he is pleasant enough and he seems to treat my mom well.

I don't know enough about your particular situation but if your future SD is like me---it could be that the thought of a parent remarrying is just stirring emotions up that she didn't realize she had. I was very surprised to find that I was kind of depressed about the FINAL loss of my family of origin when my mom got married. It was so weird to me b/c I really was RELIEVED when my parents got divorced---but I guess deep inside i had sadness about it, too, and my mom's remarrying really opened up that old wound for a time.

My advice to you is give it time---you sound like a kind woman who is concerned about her SD's feelings, and if you convey this to her through your actions, she will in time come around.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 1:46PM
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she is 30 and it seems like she needs to get her own life. although i do understand the feelings (and lovehadley explained very well), it seems a bit strange that grown woman would want dad all to herself.

what about intact families? do 30-year-old people spend that much time with their dads?

is she the kind that has no hobbies, no friends and is attached to dad? then it might be bad news. My BF's DD27 is a nice woman and she is getting married soon, but she has no friends and no hobbies and wants to spend almost all of her free time with dad since her future husband works a lot. it seems weird to me. usually people in their late 20s and 30s are busy with their own lives even if they are single.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 2:28PM
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"do 30-year-old people spend that much time with their dads?"

I am 28--29 in a couple months, yikes!---and I see my dad probably every other week or so. It's never anything big, just dinner at his house, sometimes we invite him to our house for dinner or we will all meet at a restaurant. Sometimes it is more often, sometimes a bit less. He travels often, and has a busy social life w/his long-term GF, work, golf, etc. We usually do some kind of activity every couple months, as well. For example, we all (me, DD, DH, SS, my dad, his GF and her kids) went to the circus last month. We all spent a day together at the pool in early June, as well. Just stuff like that. I certainly would not want to live next door to either of my parents, though! But to each their own...

I do talk to him on the phone almost everyday and I talk to my mom on the phone once, sometimes twice a day. I don't know if that is abnormal or not, it's just how my family has always been. My mom talks to her mom every day, sometimes more than once, the same way. We are a chatty family!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 2:33PM
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ok, this may come across as snarky, but I swear I don't mean it that way...

His daughter is upset about her dad becoming too busy for her & forgetting about her once we get married Your problem is that your fiance's daughter is worried that your existence/relationship/marriage is going to interfere with her relationship with her dad. And your solution is to... stick yourself into the middle of her relationship with her dad, trying to "fix" things, making it all about you? (How can I let her know I am not taking her dad away,)

imo, what you need to do is, basically, butt out. Let your fiance handle his own relationship with his own daughter. He can talk to her, or simply show her over time, that he is not forgetting about her or phasing her out of his life now that he's getting married. The only thing you can do is get in the way of that, or not.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 4:18PM
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gma58, Congratulations on your engagement. I agree with quirk's assessment that in this instance the only person who might reassure your future SD is her it might be a good strategy on your part to back up a bit and let them work this out.

The other thing I would recommend to you is a book entitled,
"Step Wars: Overcoming the Perils and Making Peace in Adult Stepfamilies." My DH has 3 children who were all adults when we married nearly 12 years ago...long before this book was written and published. I wish it had been available to me before we married. I think it would have helped me create a mental map to help me navigate my way around the emotional minefields for his children that existed and surrounded DH & I getting married. I found it very useful in helping me have empathy for what they might be experiencing and validating what I was feeling, too.

I highly recommend it.

Again, congratulations and good luck to you.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 7:07PM
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Tell him you want to start married life in a different home and neighborhood. No way would I live next door to my own kids much less steps. You need to talk to your BF about setting boundaries before marriage. Do not give her a key to the house. My friend had a step daughter living in their basement for years and she would bring home guys from bars and have sex in their basement. Her Dad couldn't say no to her. He almost died in a motor cycle accident in another town, my friend went the hospital to be with him. Eventually she went home to get clean clothes she caught the daughter taking their sports car and other things from the house. She changed the locks then.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 11:53PM
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Star -- OP did not mention anything that negative about SD. If I were OP, I would ask dad -- AND TELL HIM TO BE ABSOLUTELY HONEST -- how often he sees/talks to his daughter in a typical week. If I couldnt live with that, I would be concerned. If I could (say they have lunch every week, and talk once a day), I would tell FSD, I know dad has lunch with you once a week, that's good because I like to do [play bridge, golf, blah blah blah] once or twice a week with the girls. If I were OP I would share with FSD the activities I participate in that take me away from the house. I would also say you look forward to inviting her to join some of your familiy activities whenever she is ready.

Also, and I may get blasted for this, adult children of parents who are remarrying may be concerned about inheritance. You and FDH have to have an open and honest discussion about money and decide about a prenup and then decide if he wants to tell FSD.

Only children may present more difficulties as they have no siblings to share with and discuss problems with. Does FSD have a favorite aunt you could talk to?

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 8:37AM
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love I see my parents pretty often and talk on the phone a lot too, we live close by. But I don't want them all to myself.

Living next door is like Everybody Loves Raymond show, receipe for disaster.

I don't know, it all seems weird. DD's dad recently remarried and she couldn't care less, actually she is pretty happy.

I don't know about inheritance. i think it is selfish to not want parents to remarry because of inheritance. hopefully it is not the case wiht SD.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 8:58AM
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FD, your X was remarried once before this -- and thsi FSD lives next to FDH.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 9:06AM
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GMAs FSD must have been 5 when parents divorced, she has 2 half sibs and 2 step sibs..She chose to live next door to dad instead of leaving the state with mom apparently..The reasoning behind that would be important, I think, center of attention with dad, or did she stay behind for a boyfriend, job, friends? And I think of course money is a component..Not only is this intruder taking my dad, she s taking his (MY )money...

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 9:14AM
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Well, I pretty much agree with Quirk. Also, we dont know how she ended up living next to Dad. Maybe the house was for sale and it was his idea. It's not my cup of tea, but it may have worked for SD and Dad. And thats the whole issue, isnt it?

Sd wants to make sure her relationship with her father is not interfered with, it may or may not have anything to do with money and I find it saddening that so many people automatically jump to that conclusion. I can see maybe worrying about inheritance, but I seriously doubt most grown children consider their parents money "my" money. I think that we hear so many horror stories here that we automatically think that about every stepchild, but I'm certain money is not the case in every grown adult stepchild situation.

She is worried about her relationship with her father, let them work it out. Be supportive, welcoming etc. Thats all you can do.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 10:53AM
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Nivea, I don't think that most grown children regard their parents money as "my" money, but here's the rub. If there is no pro-active planning by dad, and he marries, and dies the next day, all his money goes to SM. Then she would have every right to use all the money and/or give to her kids. Does that sound fair to you? As women generally live longer than men, it is not unforeseeable that SM gets to divide up money. So yes, I think dad and FSM should discuss and plan. If you go to any estate/finanical planner, they would likely suggest a preunup and planning in the case of a second marriage with even adult children and some property.

But I do expect to get blasted here. Some SMs may say, I am wife, my right to decide if dad dies where all the money goes. Some may say, I will be fair -- but what if she remarries, etc.

I see the financial issues as important, but they should be able to find an equitable solution. Ignoring these issues may cause tension. And SM may have money to protect.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:23AM
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I think most people who will be leaving behind sizeable inheritances are pretty prudent about estate planning, etc.

My dad is well-off and has said to me on a couple occasions that if he remarries (he has a long-term GF) he plans to get a couple good-sized life insurance policies for which is wife would be the beneficiary--and his assets he would leave in a live trust to me and my brother. HE has brought this up to ME, I would never, ever dream of asking him, as I feel that is incredibly rude.

I do wonder---note, I said wonder, not worry---about my mom and her DH's set up at times. If I am being grandparents (mom's parents) are very wealthy, as in 20 million-ish probably, and at times---it did occur to me that her husband might have married her for her money. YIKES. I feel like I might get blasted for saying that. But it was a concern of mine when he proposed so quickly. He had a "business" in his home state that he was supposedly going to run from here, but in the 3 yrs they have been married, he has only been back there twice. He does not seem to have any money of his own. He was living with his mother in her pool house. Then when he moved here he moved into my mom's home. It all just seemed a little fishy to me. Now---I could TOTALLY be wrong here. BUT it does bother me---because my mom got a very hefty cash divorce settlement from my dad, plus a very generous alimony amount for 7 years....she is a wealthy woman right now even before inheriting money from her parents....get my drift?


I do know that my mom is extremely fiscally conservative, and VERY cautious with her money, to the point of sometimes being viewed as "tight." So I do not think she would do anything *stupid* in regards to not protecting her own assets. I just cannot see her marrying without a prenup.

So--while I don't agree that money is THE concern here, the bottom line is we don't know enough of the facts to know what SD's emotions are or the reasons behind them.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:36AM
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I see where you are coming from, KKNY and I agree with you. Thats a different story and it is important to discuss before marriage, I guess I automatically think everyone does that...

I was directing my comments towards the "my" money comment and the one comparing this SD (with her own house etc) to another SD that lived in her fathers basement. I guess I get tired of hearing the stepchildren are monster stories when the OP didnt even post anything remotely bad.

Its ok for a stepchild (even a grown one!) to be worried about how a remarriage will affect their relationship with their parent. Its normal. Its healthy. It doesnt make them a monster and automatically put them on a level with those other kind of stepkids. It also doesnt mean the stepparent needs to get involved and *do* something, its not their problem and needs to be resolved between the child and parent. #1 issue with stepparents is overstepping and this issue, imo, would be a huge overstep should the stepparent try to get involved. Theres no reason to give encouragement that OP needs to move or set boundaries to exclude the relationship SD and Dad already have, thats just adding fuel to the fire. Presumably she knew going in, she needs to let them work it out.

rant over

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:42AM
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I don't disagree with you, that many adult children would not want to bring this up, which is why I think FSM and dad should talk amongst themselves, and figure out what to do. I think what your dad is a good idea, as it can only decrease tension.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:46AM
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"Its ok for a stepchild (even a grown one!) to be worried about how a remarriage will affect their relationship with their parent. Its normal. Its healthy."

100% agree.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:49AM
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"His daughter is upset about her dad becoming too busy for her & forgetting about her once we get married, yet she lives next door"

The OP explicitly states why she is upset and the reasoning. I assume she heard from SD through Dad, but whatever only the OP knows.

Look, I get a passing worry or maybe a persistent one about a stepparent marrying for money. I have it, but I have never stated it. Its not my business and I assume my father is intelligent and savvy enough to know the score. But whatever, I am more concerned about my relationship with him than any amount of money. And I think most people in this world are this way, I refuse to believe that a few bad apples make all stepchildren money hungry monsters.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:50AM
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kkny, no he was not. he had a long term live-in girlfriend. This is his first marriage since we got divorced 17 years ago. He got married last August. My DD is not the type to interfer in our lives, and she is not the type to worry about inheritances. It is just not her.

I do not think it is such a normal thing to be upset if your parents remarry 25 or so years after divorce!!!! It doesn't matter if people live next door or not. DD doesn't live too far from X now, she lives very far from me. she certainly sees more of him than of me. But i don't see how it matters. i live close to my parents yet they have their own personal life and I have my own. this woman is 30, not 15.

I don't think it is normal to be that enmehsed in lives of your parents.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:52AM
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Sorry, my confusion.

I think everyone is different, and the important thing is for OP to first find out what the existing relationship is and then decide how and whehter she can live with some variation of it, or expect tension. My X BIL calls his mom every day, and lives in adjacent apt. building.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 12:27PM
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Nivea, I dont think we know why FSD is unhappy with GMAs marriage..It may well be it will affect their relationship, but at 30,it sounds a little too needy to assume dad will be too busy for her, I would hope she would consider her dads happiness .. If she spends all her spare time with him...As far as the MY money comment, I can only speak from my own experience, I dated DH for about 6 months(no clue where it was going at that point)and his DS said to my face, Mom says shes going to take all OUR money..And yes, after we married it became a HUGE problem of his PERCEPTION of me taking all dads HIS/OUR family money..He doesnt know how much money I have, or what I spend on myself, he ASSUMES I take it from his dad.He asked for things he doesnt need his dad to pay for, because the more they take from me the better..I do not make decisions on what my DH gives them, HE does, I have no input(which is fine with me)SS thinks I control the money and refuse his requests, I dont..I wish DH would flat out tell him, that was MY choice not to give you 5,000.00, but he cant because SS stopped speaking to him when he didnt get it...This is my situation...GMA hasnt commented on this yet...My post said I think money is a component, and it may be for GMA as well...It just wouldnt surprise me based on my experience as a SM..I m sure I m not the only one its happened to....

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 12:38PM
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I agree that it is important to find out what the relationship is and see if everyone can live with it. calling every day is OK, but then again if it is hour long conversation then I am not sure. SO's DD27 calls non stop, most of the time she calls to complain about her mother, sister, girlfriend, fiancee and his parents etc etc. SO's mood is bad every time after her phone calls and it takes toll on our relationship because I am the one to pick up the pieces. I don't find such interaction healthy but what can i do. Either put up with it or leave.

i agree everyone is different. I think OP has to observe their interaction and make her conclusion.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 12:44PM
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I reread OP's post and she has lived with her FDH for 9 months and she says she travels a lot for work. So it seems to me that this shoudl be workable and she is not complaining about SD overstepping. So it seems to me more like how can she reassure SD everything will be OK.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 4:52PM
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She is not happy about the marriage...How do I let her know I m not trying to take her dad away? This isnt SD overstepping, this is SD causing anxiety for her future SM..I think GMA feels troubles brewing, I tend to agree..Two camps, FDH reassures her every thing will remain the same, or new stepmom....Guess I d go with FDH...Lest SM gets accused of overstepping....

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 5:39PM
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Dotz, I think you are right, and Hadley, how your dad handled finances and discussing with you was good too.

Hadley, I know you said people with sizable estates generally have adequate estate planning. I think thought that in the nice sized, but not sizeable estate, that may not always be true. I think your dad's approach does work fine with the "comfortable" people.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 7:15PM
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I don't think it's so much about overstepping as being mindful of what the concern is. I'm taking gma58 at her word that she knows hte problem is SD is worried about how her relationship with her dad will change. And it is likely that it will change. That's not necessarily a bad thing; relationships (friends as well as family) change over time as the people in them change, grow, and enter new life circumstances. Getting married after being single for 25 years is a big change in life circumstances, it is natural to expect gma's fiance's relationships with other people including his daughter will change as a result of that. The fact that gma is not trying to take SDs dad away from her is of course a good thing, but her fiance's life is still changing and all that goes with that. So I just don't see how gma having that discussion with SD is going to be very helpful, and may come across as insensitive-- not recognizing that things are going to change for SD, no matter gma's good intentions.

If gma said SD was personally hostile towards her, that would be different. But if SDs concern is purely how her dad's marriage will affect her relationship with him, I think dad needs to be the one who deals with it.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 9:11AM
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Just speculation on my part, but I think if I know FSD is not happy about my marriage to her dad, I d consider it at least passively hostile..It would hurt my feelings. I keep thinking if dad pouted to DD we cant spend every Saturday at the park together because YOU RE GETTING MARRIED!!!Would be sort of twisted, wouldnt it?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 10:01AM
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I see what you're saying dotz, but a lot of the time parents do struggle or are less than thrilled at their children's life changes. Omg, my baby's graduating college I'm losing him; omg, my baby's getting married I'm losing her. It may not be the healthiest thing in the world, but it is not unusual. I know my mother was less than thrilled when I moved away, because my moving away necessarily changed our relationship even though it was good for me and made me happy. Of course she was nice enough to not give me a guilt trip over it, and she was also happy for me, even if she wasn't happy for herself. If gma's SD was the one posting here, I would probably tell her to suck it up and try to be happy for her dad, or at least act happy, if she can't manage to be happy. But "SD needs to suck it up" won't help gma any. And while it could be personal, I think it also might not be personal.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 10:44AM
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"And while it could be personal, I think it also might not be personal."

Thats what I was thinking. I really doubt it has anything directly to do with gma, but just plain old nervous about a new relationship.

Dotz, I see what youre saying and I do agree that it is a bit needy. Thats my POV anyway, I dont know anyone who would want to live next to their parents lol. And quirk pretty much said what I was thinking, the OP probably would have mentioned money if that was a motive of her FSD. But who knows

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 10:51AM
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Thank you all for the comments it has given me lots to think about.
We already had lawyers draw up papers about inherts before we started living together & all the kids involved know all the details. All was good until we set the wedding date. Than she started being unhappy & worried about being left alone. Yes, she lives next door, but we live in a small rural area & the yards are really 10 acreas so there is space between our homes.
But as I write this, another twisted has been added, I got a phone call from my daughter that FSD called her & asked for help/advise from her future older sis because she figured out that her unemployed live in boyfriend of 7 yrs has a drug problem & she wants to end relationship & kick him out & is afraid to tell dad what is going on.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 12:39PM
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Actually, look on the bright side, the FSD wants to kick out the guy. I would suggest your D tell FSD (and more good news, they talk), that parent should be OK if she is handling this the best she can. This may be part of problem that at tame time FSD is giving up long term BF. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 1:44PM
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wow. well that's good she is talking to your daughter, that is a good sign.

now her BF situation explains a lot. 7 year unemployed drug using BF doesn't sound like a good catch and doesn't sound like SD is a good expert on relationships. she probably has attachement/abadonement issues(otherwise she would not end up with such a boyfriend) so maybe that's why she is having such a problem with dad marrying: fear of abandonement. not to put SD down, we all have/had relationship issues otherwise we wouldn't be on this forum.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 3:38PM
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Gma, Sounds a little brighter than I had thought. You have a lot going for you already, Inheritance out of the way, Kids know each other and get along.TEN acres apart LOL Maybe FSD is stressed out about the boyfriend, and thats the source of her unhappiness, maybe you misinterpreted a bit?I hope so,with a little bit of luck, your future looks like you ll do fine....

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 3:40PM
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