I feel lost in my life

SwishFishJuly 8, 2011

I am looking for some objectivity and support for a situation that is deeply affecting me. I have a lot of emotion invested in this, so I'm sorry if it's jumbly and wordy. I've not written in a forum like this before but I could use some input from women who've 'been there'.

Quick version: I was a divorcee with 2 children who married a widower with an adopted son. We're both educated, capable people trying hard to make this work. The issue is, we're miserable!

Here's my drawn out version: I divorced an abusive man at 24 and left with a 5 yr old son and a 6 month old daughter. During my single years I worked, went to school, and rebuilt my life on my own as I had nothing from the divorce. I do not have family that I can count on, so it was largely a struggle I carried alone.

After 7 years of singledom, I married for the second time after dating for 8 weeks. Nuts, right? This wasn't typical of me, but I fell hard. I realize how ridiculous that short of a dating time is- but I felt with such a long previous marriage he'd had (21 years), our age (I was 30, he 45) and his church track record (we're both non-fanatical Christians lol) and with our happy attitude, we were a hit! I'd also waited a long time to remarry despite a lot of dating and felt he met the proverbial checklist. Also, ultimately, like anyone in love, I felt 'it would all be GREAT!'

Another key factor in marrying quickly was that I also felt some pressure as my best friend was dying of leukemia and I wanted her to meet him and know after years of struggling, I would be okay. It was always a deep wish of hers to be at my wedding if I remarried and I wanted to share that with her before she passed away. Our elopement allowed her to meet him and be a part of it. I'm glad we did that when we did, as she died shortly after.

However in that time period, due to the rush and circumstance, I also let go of something that was a source of so much hard work, late nights, expense, and sheer backbreaking struggle- I had one semester left of nursing school (I was class pres. too) and I quit so I could elope with my husband. 7 years of hard work down the drain. The program doesn't allow for any absence due to placement demand, so it was literally, stay or go. If I stayed in school, my friend couldn't have been there and I wouldn't have seen her that last time, but I could always go back to school should my husband and I marry at that time. I chose the marriage.

So, with all that hullabaloo, we became a family. I regret not being wise enough to take the time to truly get to know my spouse and decide if what I was jumping into was feasible for me. Not finishing school has left me feeling incapable of supporting myself should I need to. To go back and complete it, I have 3 years full time to finish as you have to start over. Ugh.

Once married, I moved to a different state to the home my husband shared with his first wife. She had died in 2006 of cancer and from all accounts my husband and she were inseparable- a bit of the dynamic duo. I felt intimidated by that- they had been married for 2/3 of my life span! That home was a difficult place for me to feel comfortable. The wallpaper was 80's and I felt guilty for hating it. The photo albums of them were all over, the SAME sheets, AUGH! My husband wasn't thoughtless, he just didn't realize it would bother me so. It's not like he knew what to do either. We were both very much winging it.

Also, the neighbors were nosy and would ask personal and tactless questions like, "What's it like to live here- does [enter first wife's name] ever visit from beyond?" or they would show up and cry and ask to be let in so they could mourn her and look around and cry...etc- really awkward for me. I tried to be gracious to the memory, but at the same time I felt it was tactless and odd and RUDE.

Not to mention that the first wife's family was very present and I always had this sense that everyone wanted to be nice but it was awkward. How could it not be awkward? No one was rude or unwelcoming- but I felt like the accidental turd in the punch bowl. Besides her family, every social function was with my husband's friends and often discussion would be of memories I had no part of. And when I go home, there's more memories to visually contend with. I had no escape and I was always in a room of strangers. It got old so quickly.

I felt guilt for taking over this woman's life she'd wanted to live for and guilt for being glad I could have it to myself, or guilt for wanting to change what she'd created.

I'd moved to not only this house but an unfamiliar state where I knew no one and couldn't find my way around. I was literally and emotionally lost.

My husband tried to help, but I think he was in shock too. I think he thought I'd just fall into place. He'd had his life down pat after 21 years and figured things would just carry on. He didn't have to uproot his whole life for our marriage like I had and I don't think he realized to what extent I carved myself up to fit. I didn't clean as much as he'd hoped (but I was paralayzed- couldn't clean, this wasn't my house- it was weird) and he felt I wasn't doing my part as an equal partner and he was almost having to care for me like a parent as I wouldn't even go to the store. I tried to explain I couldn't find it and was really struggling to even shower I was so miserable, but he felt that if someone could accomplish what I did as a single woman, I could find Wal-Mart and just get on with life. He really did try but I think for the most part he just wanted me to grow a pair and dig in.

I was depressed and mopey. Where did that sexy, perky girl go? Our intimate life tanked. And soon the fighting took over. I was drowning and sadly, he was harsh and confused and then I got sour and angry and became resentful. It was really awful that first year. I even packed my bags a few times. I don't know how we survived it- other than I had nowhere to go so I stuck it out. In a lot of ways I'm glad I did, but we're still so unhappy.

My husband and I also decided that from the get-go I'd be a full-time stay at home mother to his then 5 yr old (who he and first wife adopted as she couldn't conceive). I tried to bond with this boy, love him, be there for him as he'd been given up for adoption and then his adoptive mother passes away and I felt the heaviness of that role. I didn't want to let him down. But I couldn't fake love. To be honest I'm ashamed to say, with everything else going on, I spent a lot of time crying and he watched a lot of tv. I just didn't have it in me to be 'mom' to a child I didn't know and was suddenly at home with 7 days a week. I also had my own children I had to help adjust. It was a lot to take in. I really did try, but I felt like I couldn't connect to my stepson beyond a caregiver. I felt like I was babysitting.

Also, no one would really focus on my children. But boy, everywhere we went, the adopted son was SO smart, funny, advanced, handsome, wow and so big now! And then the conversation would pause and I'd get the squinty confused look and be asked, "What's their names again?" as they stare at my kids. I think if it had been more balanced with people I knew, I wouldn't have gotten so upset about it. But it was always the husband's crowd- all older than me as well...lots of 70's bands in the background, lol. I began to be resentful to the boy and my husband for being on such familiar ground while my children and I were the outsiders. I wanted my children celebrated too. I began to get protective. I just didn't want my kids lost in the other son's wake.

Extended family didn't help. It hurt that the first wife's mother would only ask for the son to be invited to her home without my children- after husband and I explained to her for unity's and the children's sake, it was all or nothing and she'd agreed to that. One year, she'd given us one Christmas gift for the whole family. It was an album of her family's genealogy with a huge intro page of the first wife and my husband, complete with grinning family photo and at the bottom of the page it read, "Now [husband] and [myself] live in [our city]." Like I was some postscript to his fabulous life with her. I was so hurt...and my husband got mad, but I think part of it was mad at me for my reaction. I began to refuse to go to events with them because it hurt and I was tired of feeling like a wallflower with my children. I couldn't take it anymore. My husband understood and tried to help but was frustrated and torn and wished I'd just man up so to speak and go anyway. But he never had to do that for me. I never had anyone I knew around. It was so one-sided, this mountain of sacrifice. It was also obvious my new in-laws were so joyful with the son and my children were strangers. So holidays with them are weird not only for that but because they have shared opinions on whether husband and I should be together because it's been so hard. I can't win! It made me angry after a while. As though I felt I had to prove my kids and I were worth loving or something. I got tired of hearing the stepson be regaled and praised while my kids were just there. I got sick of defending being married to a man I gave up so much for. Why wasn't anyone fighting for me?!! Why did we have to suffer so? I resented my husband and stepson although I knew full well it wasn't anyone's fault. We were all trying. It just couldn't be helped! But feelings aren't always rational.

Thankfully, we sold that house and found a beautiful home we both love. That helped tremendously- no more wallpaper she'd put up, no more photo albums all over...it was my own home. After being married for some time and counseling and some change on both our parts, our marriage has stabilized somewhat but I feel scarred and distant. There's been some really hairy fighting and words and I feel like I can't truly emotionally trust him as I didn't feel supported when it was hard. Attraction is down to nearly nothing. I'm often wishing I could literally just leave. Thankfully socially, people are more used to us now and with a new neighborhood it's not a trip down memory lane every week, but by no means do I feel like a legitimate family- it's very much a feeling of a patchwork quilt. We're all trying, but coming apart at the seams.

My husband does love me but I don't feel much for him most days. I struggle with the age difference, we're both overweight and our communication style doesn't match. I really feel isolated and I miss my old life. It's all very raw. We are just so war-torn from the struggle of making this work. He wants me to get out of my funk and get over it. The best way I can explain it is that I just don't have any gas in the tank- but I want to! HELP!!

As for the kids- my two children are 100% accepted and loved by my husband- which is such a relief, but at the same time makes me feel even more guilt because I don't love his son no matter how much I try. But I feel like if he were home all day with my kids and living in my state with stories/photos/mementos of my ex's all over the place he'd be on the verge like I am too. But as that won't happen, I get the lion's share of the hassle. I'm just so fed up.

So I get that it's me. After 3 years, I don't love my stepson and at times he grates on my nerves and I find myself wishing I didn't have to be his MOTHER when I know in my heart of hearts, I'm not. At best, I can be a friend. I just don't see how fabulously wonderful everyone seems to think he is- he's just a kid and then I feel like a jerk for thinking that way about a child. I don't treat him awkwardly and I do all the things a mom would do: toys, haircuts, events, etc...we get along. I just don't love the boy. I just married his Dad and that act didn't automatically create a maternal love for this child in my heart. He just happened to come with the man. Now I know people will say families are a group deal, how would I feel if husband felt this way about my kids, etc...but it doesn't ease my struggle. I still just find myself looking at this boy and feeling awful that the only mother he'll know is me and I don't love him and I'm sick at myself for not being able to give him what every child deserves: A 100% die-for-you Mom. I feel like I'm babysitting- I like him, but I don't want to eat him up like I do my own children. It makes me feel like a heel. I hate the lack I seem to feel for this child.

But from what I'm reading, it must be very typical to adore your biological children and tolerate kindly your stepchildren.

I just wish I could love my stepson without reserve. It only makes my hard marriage harder and creates a huge wedge between my husband and I as he's angry and resentful and gets upset with me for my feelings towards his son. I try, but I can't fake it. I don't know if having adopted his son it makes him easier to love my children and if we had a child together it would be different and he would see where I'm coming from...I don't know. All I know is I feel like a jerk for not loving this boy while he loves my kids and I spend a lot of time wishing I'd not done any of this and I'd finished school.

I hope someone can relate. I'd love to hear thoughts. However, don't just blow me off and say I need counseling and I should've known. No one can predict what a situation will be like and I'm actively trying at this every day. I just don't know if I can fake this and be unhappy for the rest of my life in this situation. There's gotta be some hope, right?

Best to you ladies-

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Is there any reason you can't go back to school now...the SS is in school fulltime (except summer). Why sit home in an empty house? Finish your schooling, work, get into a social setting (office, hospital, clinic) where you'll meet friends and do lunches with co-workers.

Not to be mean, but Lady you worked far too long and hard to be sitting home miserable. Sign up for exercise classes if you'd like to meet people who might be walking/running buddies. Share recipes with and start feeling good about yourself. You are special, you count and you sound quite capable of being a every social good friend. Don't waste yourself staring at walls all day.

You sound so very depressed. None of my business but if you are taking something for depression that can sometimes snag your sexual interest away (as can just plain a sense of low self esteem and feeling of total despair). While you've done the counseling route, have you had a good physical (blood work, checked for diabetes, blah blah)?

It is possible that you are having the hard time 'loving' the SS because of the way your new marriage started out. Kinda placing the blame of your unhappiness on the child? You didn't say you dislike him or that he's a brat child or anything...that's a postive. How do the other children feel about SS and do they all get along?

While you may never 'love' the child as you do your own children, I'm not so sure that is really something to feel guilty about. You're good to him, care for his needs...maybe if you get yourself up and out of the house and find some happiness and enjoyment in life you'll find the little guy is kinda likeable.

You got smacked from being an active working woman with friends and comfortable surroundings to being the outcast and living in the shadow of a deceased first wife. You felt lost, alone and having serious second thoughts and on top of it all got handed an instant 'son' and told 'here, love him'.

How is your anxiety levels. You mentioned several things that could point to problems there. Actually not knowing where a store is located should not be reason enough to not go...perhaps if you really wanted to go you'd figure it out fast enough. Are you using not knowing as an excuse for hiding. Again, none of my business and you certainly do not need to clarify for us, but sometimes depression meds (if you take any) do little for anxiety.

It's really all up to you. You can stay and be miserable just as things are. You can explain to husband that you no longer see a need to 'babysit' a school age child (put him in daycare during the summers)and go out and meet the world again, or you can pack up and go back to where you came from and hope you can pick your old life back up again.

Your posting was one of the most honest and saddest posting I've read here in quite a while, you poured it out from your heart and I'm not sure anyone here can actually advise you...only you know what you must do and only you can find the strength to do whatever that is.

I wish you all the best and hope you can somehow find yourself again.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:37PM
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I don't see how you can "make" yourself love your SS. You are putting so much pressure upon yourself! Yes, it's a family unit - but with SS, it's more like an arranged marriage than a love match. As such, I think it's more one of those "you'll learn to love him given time" things than bang, now you're married, now you're a SM, now you'll wildly love your SS unconditionally things. Of course it would be fantastic if you loved SS - but I think the harder you try to force it the less chance there will be of it happening (like when you were a kid on Christmas Eve and would concentrate so hard on falling asleep quickly that you'd actually stay awake longer!)

Do you have a strong objection to counseling? I think it might help you because to me, it sounds like you are putting such incredible pressure on yourself (with the help of others) and it is difficult to imagine any human being living up to the expectations you seem to have of yourself. Of course, the perfect deceased uber-Mom first wife no doubt could have done so with one arm tied behind her back, while baking homemade cookies and writing a doctoral thesis... I suspect first wife was not nearly as perfect as people seem to portray her to be. I'm not saying she wasn't a lovely woman (I don't even know her!) but just that memories of people's minor flaws tend to fade away much more quickly than memories of their strengths.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 12:24PM
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I think Justmetoo is right. There's no reason why you can't go back to school now.
Go back to school, get a job, get OUT OF THE HOUSE!!

Once you start making friends and a purpose in your life, you will start to feel better. Not saying it will cure everything over night, counseling and possibly medication might be in order to help you. But I think the first step is to go back to school. So it's going to take another three years to finish, what else are you doing with your life?

Exercise is good for depression, too. Try it.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 3:02PM
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You say you can't love his son. But are you saying you really dislike the boy? Or you just don't love him. Love is a funny thing and no, you can not force it to happen. So you don't love him accept that and move on. Like him and treat him with the respect you want your children to be treated with. Be fair with him and nuture him..
Sounds like theres more going on and making you unhappy then not loving his Son!
Go back to School! Get your degree so you can support yourself and your children if you need to get out of this marriage

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 10:53AM
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Thanks for being so forthwith and responding.

I do like the boy on a generic level- I see he's good natured, intelligent, funny, etc, but I just don't feel a connection other than annoyance most days. It's as if I wouldn't mind if I didn't see him for a long time and it's a chore to be with him day in and day out with no break. That's why I feel guilty- just a sheer lack of interest whatsoever mingled with that annoying sense of 'please go away now'. Add to how much everyone else tells me how fabulous he is and I start feeling like the wicked stepmother. I try not to let it show, but I know it's radiating and I don't want to hurt the little boy. I realize it's not his fault.

I think a lot of my problems are depression. I'm not currently taking anything. I have begun exercising, but I struggle with consistency but plan to keep at it. I'm also applying to go back to school in the Fall. It was a headache to get the husband to truly support it (he feels we can't afford it) but at this point, if I don't complete my schooling soon, I will leave him to do so. I don't want to divorce, but I won't sacrifice my well being for anyone.

I feel like we're not a family. I am envious of women who have children with the men they're married to and have that connection. I don't want to have children with my current husband. I don't feel enough for him to have his child.

Dynamics-wise, the children all get along and no one outside of our home (besides people that know me well) can see what a struggle we're having. I think I push to make this work to create stability for my children as they love their stepdad. As my husband hasn't comitted any dealbreakers and is a decent guy, I can't leave him without good reason.

Mostly, I think I'm not happy in my marriage and it's trickling down to my feelings for the stepson. If I'm not interested in the father, how can I be interested in the child? My husband does try. I just feel like we're oil and water. Something in me shuts down when I'm around him and I can't pinpoint it exactly. Logically, I see how much he tries to be happy and friendly and helpful to me and I feel like I live in this unhappy place of watching the world go by. I haven't always been this way- this has only come about since my marriage. If I could say it in one sentence, I feel like I'm married to my Dad- the looks, the behavior, it's all such a turn off for me. I want something equal and stimulating, not to feel so dead inside. I am sure I sound spoiled, but I assure you I'm not. I think I just should've finished school and not married this man, best friend or no.

I truly believe I just need some familiar ground for a while. Too much isolation, too much first wife/husband sociality with zero on my end...imagine three years of not knowing anyone at all!

Thanks again and I'm going to set a goal to leave the house at least 2x's a week. Even if it's just going to Wal-Mart lol, I have to. Life is worth living.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 8:11PM
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