I didn't go

ulrike1September 9, 2010

Just an update about the college weekend. If you recall, DH and I had planned to drive YSD to her college, which is two hours away, drop her off, and travel a bit farther to spend a couple of nights at a shoreline cottage. Then we were to return to the college, attend a presentation, kiss YSD goodbye and arrive home late Tuesday night. Then at the last minute BM decided to come also and stay near YSD's dorm at a B&B, and in order for DH to spend that last time with YSD, BM would have to ride with us (YSD would choose to ride with "poor B" otherwise). BM's presence would also pre-empt my spot in one college activity.

Some of you suggested that I just bag it and stay home, and I was tempted but I thought oh well, guess I better suck it up like a good second wife once again. But then I started to think about what it would be like at the cottage for those two nights. Tension, probably, since DH and I had not yet determined who would be on that boat ride and I would find it challenging to hide my resentment, and who knows what annoying thing BM would do on the ride there which would also have to be processed.

And then at the last minute, my own DD found she would be in town a couple more days. I decided that was the perfect excuse to just bag it. So after trying to manage everything and juggle the arrangements for a week...I opted out! I told DH we could go to the cottage another time. And then I didn't say another word, I didn't try to figure out the logistics or anything, I just went silent about the issue.

Never in the 13 years we've been married have I disengaged to this degree from DH. I knew I was leaving him in an awkward position, as he had offered BM a ride and she had booked a B&B for herself. And YSD had definitely planned to check into her dorm Sunday.

He was angry at me, of course, for putting him in that position. But I said "I am sorry, I would love to have gone with you and was looking forward to it. But adding BM to the mix is something I had not anticipated. And it would be too awkward to have me, or you, remain behind during the boat tour. We'll go another time."

He threatened to just not go. And I realized this has been something of a pattern. He uses me as a buffer between him and BM. He wants me to do all the talking so he can remain distant from her. And I have been somewhat willing to do that so things are friendly. I said, "YSD will be disappointed," calling his bluff. He huffed out of the room and I went to the office.

So things are distant right now. Literally because I am out of town for work, and of course emotionally. He, BM and YSD did go, though YSD agreed to check into the dorm Monday instead of Sunday. BM stayed at the B&B and DH stayed with a friend. The three of them went on the boat ride, then DH and BM drove home together.

I'm working on processing this. First of all, this is not at all OUT of the norm for our stepfamily. We have done things with the exes like this before. I have been called upon many times before to step aside so DH can spend time with his daughters, and more often, to come along so he feels comfortable doing so.

There was just something about this time. The straw that broke the camel's back, maybe. I can't totally blame DH, since this kind of thing was an arrangment we all have lived with. I just feel like something has changed. I go home tomorrow and wonder how we will be.

My main goal is not to ask him any questions about the weekend. I am sure all present thought they were a lovely family of three but I am trying not to let that trouble me.

To make it more complicated, YSD called me this morning to say how sad she was that I couldn't come along and to ask about my DD. I love that girl so much and I feel bad I couldn't set aside my exhaustion with BM to spend that time with her.

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UGh. I'm sorry DH is angry at you.

YOU did not put him in any position. He put himself in that position a long time ago.


I'm glad you were able to spend some time with your DD, and I do hope things smooth over with DH. I forget--have you guys been in counseling ever regarding SF issues?

I hope your YSD wasn't too disappointed. That is sweet she called you!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 1:02PM
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Hi Love. We did go to a couselor during the first few years of our marriage. The counselor specialized in stepfamily building and was very helpful. Although I am feeling the need for a booster dose just now. I would like to ask the counselor about what I am going through right now. At his advice, did we create a monster that will never go away?

Our counselor said that effective stepfamily building must simultaneously support and nurture children AND the new marriage. And that if it was only the marriage, cutting off ties with ex-lovers is usually appropriate, but if there are children, the next best thing is to incorporate the old relationship within the structure of the new marriage. Like, the ex-spouses should respect the new marriage, but likewise be respected as the other parents of the children. And that the new couple needs to establish boundaries about which is which.

One of the deal-breaker rules is that the ex-spouse must treat the new spouse with respect and treat their former spouse as part of a married couple, not as their own mate. (In your case this isn't happening and it makes me growl on your behalf, ha!) And at that point, THE COUPLE welcomes the ex-spouse as co-parents. The ex-spouse can't single out the new mate of their former partner.

Well, that has all worked well until recently. We did co-parent energetically with BM and her DH, lots of contact, etc. But I realize that my DH thinks everything is just fine because BM is friendly. In theory it is. In practice, I am getting burned out!

Thanks for listening, Love, and I hope you continue to be able to listen to your own heart, as well. Your DH and mine both sound like they would be the ideal mates, if it weren't for their conflicted loyalties. My DH would love to never see BM again. Yet because of my SDs, it seems like she will always be in our lives.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 4:52PM
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Mmm, such a difficult situation, but I think you handled it pretty gracefully.
You've told him before you weren't comfortable with this arrangement. She's not your ex wife, you didn't put him in any postion. You gracefully bowed out.

Yes, that was very sweet of your SD to call you. I can see how this situation could become very tiresome, even when all are getting on fine. It's kind of like a three person marriage, not two. Even now that the child is grown it hasn't evolved into you two just being a couple first and foremost.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 7:26PM
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Hmmm. Interesting thoughts from the counselor.

I agree 100% in theory, but implementing that is another story. Did your counselor have any suggestions as to HOW to make that actually happen?

Talk is talk, you know? But actions speak much louder.

I mean, in theory, I know my DH would agree with all of that.

I think Stepfamilies are just HARD period, no matter what the situation or how *amicable* things are.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 9:47AM
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You can't know how good your kind words felt, especially when I was kind of beating myself up for being petty about this thing. I'm thinking that if I back off more from facilitating the overly friendly (because yes, I now think it is) relations our household has with BM, that DH will not be stepping up to the plate so much. And that's a good thing.

I think what will happen is BM will continue to attempt to do things with him, which we have always converted into doing things with US (as the counselor suggested). But if I just quietly don't participate, I am pretty sure it will lessen, because DH counts on me to help make it all work with condiality, etc.

If I make it so he spends more time alone with her, I suspect he will end up spending a lot less time with her, period.

I am wondering whether to actually discuss this with DH? Or just let it happen.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 7:52PM
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Really good questions, Love. I will tell you how DH and I managed to make it so that I was his top priority--without shortchanging his daughters. One of the realizations we got from the counselor was that it did not hurt his daughters at ALL if they saw that he cherished me and respected me. That this was a model all children thrive on. Counselor said that in stepfamilies, the kids need to see that the ex-spouses respect each other and wish each other well. But they also need to see that remarried parents treasure their spouse.

Counselor put it this way: "Even if kids have a reunification fantasy and desperately wish their parents would get back together, it doesn't do them any good to see their father [if it's a dad] putting their mother over his current wife. This is a model of a cheating spouse! Kids don't need that model."

Counselor also pointed out that even when parents have been divorced for a long time, the arrival of a new spouse for one or the other is a time when they "divorce further." And this can be emotionally difficult for both of the exes. The one who has not remarried isn't really motivated to change things, and may stir up trouble in the new marriage. For the one who has remarried, this change may bring up feelings of guilt, even if he/she loathes their ex-spouse. The key to making it work is for the one who has remarried to in effect say to his ex: "I am married to Susie now, and we hope we will have a good relationship with you that will support the kids."

And then, the remarried spouse should still expect repeated attempts for their ex to seek inappropriate emotional connection, but should fend those off. And (here's the part your DH needs to hear!) should repeat like a broken record to their ex that they are remarried and their new spouse comes first--and that the ONLY way there is going to be anything but distant, businesslike conversation is if the ex respects the marriage.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 8:02PM
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