Am I just overreacting?

busyb101August 20, 2013

I've been in a relationship with my boyfriend for about a year now and I knew going into this relationship that he had a child. I'm 25 and he's 30 so there are some differences in experiences that we both don't share. From the beginning I was criticized by a lot of friends about going into such a relationship with a child involved. I was out of college, getting into grad school, and starting "my" life as they would say. I would always here how I shouldn't be bogged down by such things, but I never listened to it because I've always loved kids.

Before we started dating, I never thought I'd become involved with this man. We are completely different, but somehow I fell completely head over heels for him. But now I'm kind of confused and not sure what to do anymore. Over time I learned he had a terrible longterm relationship with his ex with whom he had a child with. I've heard so many stories of how he was told to stay away from a relationship with her because she already had a kid from a previous relationship as well. However, he stepped up and took care of him as his own. Later on they had his daughter, but she resented having another child, but played it up when needed. I didn't quite understand, but people are different and react to different situations. When we first started dating she apparently found out information about me, which is obviously okay since i'll be around her daughter. However, she went to extremes to find out my name, where I went to college, what I'm doing now, etc etc. It scared me, but he assured me that there is no worry and that he told her how great I was and there was nothing she could take from that.

Back onto my relationship...I feel like i'm inferior to his ex for some unknown reason. He's told me many times they don't speak unless through text message about their daughter. When we first started dating he hid texts from her saying they were from his daughter using her phone... I got really upset about this. He finally got mad and showed me the text messages. I thought I had moved on until recently he texted her then ranted on facebook about it and didn't tell me they contacted each other about a certain situation. I explained why I was hurt and he said that the situation was about his daughter and he had no other concerns but that at that time. He didn't want to talk to me or anyone about it he said. Then he went on to tell me that nothing else mattered except his daughter, she will always be his #1. He always says i'm his life now and he loves how great I am with his daughter and how wonderful it is that we get along so well... but something just is setting right with me. I have a lot of insecurities myself, but I'm trying to make him understand my side of things. He only gets her on the weekends and I spend time with them when he wants me to. He invites me to everything and sometimes I try to give them space to be together, but he always wants me around. So why am I so concerned about things? I just don't understand and I'm overthinking everything to the point i'm confused.

I love this man dearly, but I'm just confused as I've already stated! He makes it known his daughter is #1 which I understand, but what has me feeling so down? I keep thinking maybe he has a thing still for the ex when in reality she has done him so wrong on so many levels that why would someone want that? Then I worry that what happens if a situation would arise where he would just care about his child and leave me high and dry? I know I shouldn't be thinking these things and i'm desperately trying to work on my end so I'm not worrying myself sick anymore.

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Looks like he is telling you that certain areas are off limits. I'm inclined to think that if your gut is telling you things aren't right, they may well not be. It's lovely that he cares so strongly for his daughter, but he's told you that effectively you'll always be #2, which means that if his ex decides to poison her daughter against you, and daughter plays up, you could find yourself on the losing side with no backup from your BF.
Decide if that's what you want out of life; if you decide to move on (if you were my daughter I'd hope you did) there are plenty more, unencumbered fish in the sea.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:22AM
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You'll get a lot of different advice here....many will say "leave him, you don't need that baggage", because their situations didn't work out wonderfully so they project their past mistakes onto everyone elses situation. Let's face it, we are all on a "Step-parenting" forum for a reason, not because everything in our lives is just perfect.

Only you can know whether this man is worth the "baggage" he comes with. I put that in quotes because I actually hate that term when it is used to describe someone who has kids and an ex. I am sure you do not in any way have any issues with him having a kid, from what I can tell. Other than probably getting involved in the child's life too soon, which is the most common mistake made by people with kids when the start dating again, you seem to have a pretty good grasp on your role as a GF to someone with a child. Giving them space to be alone is must make him take you up on this, even if he wants you to always tag along.

But I think you need to re-evaluate your position on his ex. Lets face it, she is his ex for a reason, and you probably only know part of the story, I'm sure there is plenty you dont and might never know. But, she is his ex, and unless she abandons the child, will be in his life in some way constantly for many years to come, like it or not. If this is something you cannot ever come to grips with, you really should re-evaluate things. He should know that you understand that she needs to be part of his life, to raise their child correctly, and he should be encouraged to communicate openly with her, not feel he has to hide things. This is the only way this will work out for you in the long run.

And his expressing that his daughter is #1....bravo for him. If you cannot accept this, please move on. This doesn't mean he doesn't love you and think the world of you...but it means if you have plans, even big plans to do something, and she calls and needs him...he will be there. So many men (and women) don't put their kids first....please don't look at this as a negative, it's not. My long time (5+ yrs) GF and I have had this happen many times...plans foiled by a change in plans regarding the kids....but we both have the same view on priorities, so we have learned to accept it.

Good luck

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:29AM
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I agree with Colleenoz you should listen to your gut. So many times we ignore those gut feelings only to realize later on we should have listened to them.

The line "my daughter is #1" is a red flag for me. I think a child’s NEEDS come first, but his WANTS don’t always. Sometimes kids come first, sometimes your spouse comes first, sometimes your sister comes first, it all depends on the situation. But to unilaterally say his daughter is always going to be #1 and you are always going to be #2, well, that’s not a good sign.

I’ve known SOME men to use that line as an excuse whenever their SO complains that they’re spoiling their kids and/or are neglecting them.

For example:

I only see my kids every other weekend. I know you need to get new tires for your car, but my daughter wants to see that new movie and go eat at that new expensive restaurant for dinner and, you know, my kid always comes first.

I can’t take you to the doctor, because I have to take my daughter to get new shoes, and you know, my kid is always #1.

Now, I’m NOT saying your BF should still take you out for dinner when his kid is running a 100 degree temperature, but a parent should not use “my kid(s) are #1” as an excuse to not put any effort into the relationship the two of you have.

If the two adults in the relationship are always putting the child first and neglecting their own relationship, when that child grows up and move out, what do they have left?

And always putting a kid first is not doing that child any favor either. Parents who make their children the center of their universe raise children who expect the world to revolve around them.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:06PM
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And sorry, Kroopy, but you know I disagree with you about waiting to meet the kids. That is one HUGE mistake I made in my previous relationship.

I know most people say wait six months to a year before introducing your kids to someone you are dating, but I think that is the worst advice in the world and part of the reason why so many blended families fail.

It usually takes a few months for a person to fall in love with someone. So if you wait six months to meet the kids it’s too late. You've already fallen in love with the parent and want the relationship to work so you turn a blind eye to any problems that may exist with the kids.

I made this mistake. I waited a year before meeting the son of a man I dated. When I finally did meet his son, I saw that he was spoiled brat. But I was already so far into love with his father, I ignored all the red flags.

The relationship continued for another year before I wound up breaking up with the man. The main reason was because of his son's behavior and dad not wanting to parent his son. I could have saved myself a lot of heart ache had I met the son before I had become so emotionally attached to the dad.

You’ll hear it said, my kids and I are a package deal. Well, how can you know if you want to be with this person when you’ve only gotten to know one part of the package? I think the best thing to do is meet the kids once you start to feel there could be a future with this person, but before you develop strong feelings for this person.

I understand the theory behind why the "experts" say don't introduce the kids so quickly, to protect the kids from becoming attached to a parade of people. But when you think about, people you are dating aren't the only ones that your kids will grow attached to in their lives. Teachers, daycare providers, friends, neighbors, are all going to come and go out of your child’s lives.

And the parent doesn’t have to introduce you as “daddy’s girlfriend”, either. The parent can simply introduce you as a friend so you can get to know the kids and see how dad interacts with them.

So in my opinion, it’s better that you get to know the kids sooner than later. Because emotions are not clouding your thinking, you can view the situation more rationally and make a better decision as to whether or not you feel the relationship will work or not.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:14PM
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Amber I think you may be taking it too's a concept, not an all-out condition of how you are going to act.

If I have plans with my GF and my son calls and wants me to take him somewhere to buy something because his mom said no (we have 50-50 custody), I'd be a lousy BF, and a sucker of a parent to say yes, just because he asked. Being my #1 priority does not mean I don't know how to say no, or that I can be manipulated by my child.

Anyone who uses that line (kids are my priority) as a way to be a lousy parent, or an inattentive spouse/BF/GF is just looking for an excuse, and you'd probably get rid of them soon enough anyway.

However there are times where having an understanding of this concept does help...I remember I think it was my GF and my one year anniversary of our first date...I was driving down to the city to take her out (lived about 1.5 hrs away at the time), and my then-10 year old girl called up, crying wanting me to come back and pick her up, she wanted to stay with me. At the time, my kids were still going thru the duress of my ex and I splitting up, and there would occasionally be some very emotional outbursts like this, in both directions, especially by my daughter. Even though it was my ex's night with the kids and I had plans, I turned around and spent the night with my kids. My GF was of course upset, but understood and it didn't cause us any issues. She knew that my relationship with my daughter had always been (and unfortunately continues to be for some reason), a bit strained...and I was not going to reject her during one of the few times when she actually wanted to see me.

I am sure many women would have thrown a fit that I literally turned my car around and canceled on the spur of the moment, but we had discussed stuff like that beforehand and she's had to do similar things over the years.

So you guys can yell "red flags" all you want...and I don't know the OP's guy from a hole in the wall, maybe you are right and maybe you aren't. But just because someone state's that their child is their 1st priority, don't go jumping to a conclusion that it's got to be for the wrong reasons.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:31PM
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Amber, I agree with you on one point, when I talk of not involving the kids too soon, I mean with an understanding that you are BF/GF...that type of stuff. Surely, depending on the age of the kids, there are ways to be coy about it and have the other person at least meet the kids, without the understanding that this is the person that you are replacing his/her mommy or daddy with.

Most people argue this to protect the is very harmful to little kids to see a parade of people over the years in and out of their lives as their mommy/daddy's partners.

A little discretion in how it's handled can prevent a situation like you described...surely. It's just that I hear so many cases where people go on a couple dates and are already involving the kids, etc...totally inappropriate I still think.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:38PM
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As I understand it, you are not married, yet. I can offer you some great advice, but you must be ready to accept it for it to be at all beneficial. You have already been offered good advice by many "responders," but I am in the thick of it, much older, and can definitely be viewed as a hypocrite. I am going to give you the best advice that you could get. If you want to speak with me more, we can do that. I can listen to you and I can guess that you are much like me (btw: I have college degree, have held the title of directory of children's ministry, have worked in the fashion world, have raised five children and will be a "Gigi"/grandmother next month). I have 3 daughters and 2 (step)sons. Let me help you. Let me know if you want some solid advice! : )

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 4:38PM
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Yes, I meant to use the word "hypocrite," but only as a sort of humorous and sarcastic remark. Just wanted to clarify a bit. I know that comment may be a little confusing...sorry, weird sense of humor, I guess...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 4:44PM
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You sound so smart, but you just aren't trusting your judgement. You know that something is NOT right. You're right. You have a loving least, take a break from this. If this is where you need to be, you will figure it out. If you need to move on, you will find that answer. Step back. You are too smart not to take a break. There IS someone in your future who will thank you for waiting.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:32PM
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Thank you for the advice! Yes talking to someone would be great but I really feel lost and get thrown in so many directions. It's just really rough.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:52PM
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I thought that there was a way to send an email on this site. Maybe not. Anyway, you can contact me at Maybe I can help you...give you some "food for thought," at least...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 8:45PM
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Kroopy - I don’t think I’m the one taking that phrase “my kids are #1” literally, I think it’s the parents that use that phrase to justify dumping their SO whenever their child snaps their fingers.

I don’t think any reasonable person is going to be upset if you have to cancel a date because a child is sick. However, using that line every single time your child has a temper tantrum and doesn’t like that you’re giving someone else and not them your undivided attention 24/7 is wrong. You’re going to raise a child that thinks the world revolves around their every whim and not only does that hurt your relationship with your SO, it’s also harmful for the child as well.

What raises a red flag for me, is a person that is always proclaiming their kids are #1. I mean, if you have kids you don't have to remind anyone your kids are important, that goes without saying. I've never had to tell my BF that my kids are #1 or that they come first. In the two years that we've been dating I've only had to cancel a date one time because something came up with my kids, and I never had to justify myself to him. And there's been times when my BF and I had plans and my daughter wanted me to take her somewhere at the same time. I had to explain to her that I already had made plans with my BF and I would take her the next weekend where she wanted to go. It's really all about balance, which I'm sure anyone would agree is reasonable. To unilaterally say my kids come first, all the time, is just not reasonable or realistic and it seems the ones that are always saying that line are really just using that line to make their partner feel guilty for daring to ask that they give a little attention to the adult relationship.

It’s just something for the OP to look out for. Like you said, it may apply in this situation, it may not, but the OP should keep in mind what is reasonable and not feel guilty for asking that her BF put her first some of the time as well.

This post was edited by Amber3902 on Wed, Aug 21, 13 at 11:17

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 8:35AM
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Thanks for the input! I voiced my concerns with my boyfriend last night and we talked for hours about it. He simply explained that the situation that happened between his daughter and his ex caused him to say "she'll always be #1." I believe that bc the situation was very serious and I'm not going into detail about it, but he was upset for hours over it. He then went on to say that yes she is his #1 because she is his child, but on the flip side i'm his #1 partner/other half. Hearing those words without me begging for it made me feel better. I simply put it as I don't know if I'm cut out for it and here is how I feel... After I explained myself, he did not go into a tirade or make me feel guilty in anyway. He for once in our relationship communicated the best we ever had. So maybe that is a good sign although i'm sure others would still have some doubts, I'm glad I spoke up and we talked things through like the adults we are.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 2:41PM
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Glad you were able to talk things out with your BF. I like how you framed it --- I don't know if I'm cut out for this and here's why --- I think that was a very good way to address your concerns.

Good for you!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 3:30PM
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You are very wise to be cautious and not to rush into anything. In order for a stepfamily to survive, the adult partnership has to be given top priority. The children are very important, of course, and sometimes the adults have to put aside their desires in order to accommodate the needs of a child. However, the adults have to be a team, and neither one can ever be made to feel like an intruder or an outside. You should trust your feelings and your instincts. If you don't feel good, there's probably a reason.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 4:11PM
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