Need advice - guilt keeping me from fully embracing stepkids

joenatSeptember 1, 2013

I'm a remarried dad with a 12 year old daughter from my first marriage who lives with her Mom; she's with us every Saturday. Her Mom and i divorced when she was 7. My second wife, a wonderful, patient woman, has two kids, a boy and a girl, 13 and 9. For the most part the kids get along pretty well, and there are no major issues there. The problem is me.

My wife recently pointed out to me -- in the kindest way possible -- that I exclude myself from family activities unless my biological daughter is with us. That my unspoken rule seems to be that we can't be a family until Saturday when she's with us. And it's true. I don't do anything individually with my stepkids. No going out and doing things together. And the reason is this: tremendous, tremendous guilt that I am in some way betraying my daughter.

I love these two kids. They're good kids, and in my heart they are like my own. We get along very well and they both look up to me, especially since their biological father is the classic abusive narcissist. Long, long story.

But despite how i feel about them, I have held myself back from getting close. From taking my stepson fishing, or to a football game together. Or going out with my stepdaughter. Or doing anything where it's just them, my wife and me. The only time I suggest we go somewhere and do something is when my daughter is with us, on Saturdays. So again, I am putting life on hold, only allowing us to be a family when she's there.

This isn't good for any number of reasons. It hurts me, it hurts my wife and although they don't show it I am sure it hurts them. They have to see that I only get involved when my daughter's around.

I have to do something about this, I have to stop it. Have to let to, forgive myself, whatever...but I have no idea where to start and am in desperate need of advice. If any of you have similar situations or have found ways to overcome, please tell me what worked for you or what's in the process of working. I'm sick to my stomach about this. Gratitude in advance for any wisdom gained you can share.

This post was edited by joenat on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 16:05

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A counselor usually listens to you and then tells you what the problem is and maybe ways to get past it. You know what the problem is and I think you just need to just get over it. Would you like it your present wife felt the same way about your child? This is not a mountain you have to climb it is just loving the kids who live in your home. I love all kids, they don't have to be related to me.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 5:15PM
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You need to model for your daughter the kind of person you want her to be. What kind of person do you want her to be and what kind of lessons do you want her to learn?

I want my grown kids to be the kind of people who are generous of heart, loving and kind to all who are in their family circle. I want them to have a generosity of spirit that believes that love is not a pie to be sliced and there is only a certain amount of love to go around. I want them to believe that love expands and encompasses, and when someone else joins our family circle our love expands, not detracts from everyone else's share of love.

For your daughter's sake, you need to be that person. You need to model that inclusiveness so she will have good relationships with both families - yours and your ex-wife's. If your stepkids love you, have a good relationship with you and value your opinion, then hopefully they will love your daughter because they love you.

Think about the woman you want your daughter to be, suck it up and model those values. Do you want her to grow up to be a person who is paralyzed with guilt, or do you want her to grow up to be the person who takes a situation and makes the best of it with joy and grace, forgiving herself and others?

Whatever you wish she would do in your situation, you need to do it. That's your job. She will have difficulties in life, make mistakes and struggle. It's your job to model how to get through those times. Even if it's hard, you have to start doing your best to do what's right. Once the actions start, the heart will follow.

My husband is the type of person who has fun everywhere he goes. Whatever situation he's in, he will make the best of it for himself and everyone else there. Over the years we have all come to appreciate that rare and wonderful trait so much. Give that gift to your daughter if you can.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 5:29PM
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daisyinga -- your reply struck a nerve, and I cannot thank you enough for writing it. I've re-read this a couple times now and it rings true. I need to fix this. I've debated about seeing a therapist, but at the end of the day I don't know if that matters. I'm the one who has to ACT, to do something to break the cycle.

"Whatever you wish she would do in your situation, you should do it."

That may possibly be the best piece of advice anyone has ever given me.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 7:08PM
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There is love enough to go around. Guilt is useful because it recognizes we have done harm. Shame keeps us from loving and putting ourselves out there. Therapy would be a good idea.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:50PM
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I have posted in the forums about the step father to my girls and I believe that what joenat said at the beginning is what I'm dealing with when it comes to my fiance. He has pulled back from my girls and now wants to split everything 50/50 but doesn't want to spend any quality time with his step kids because of his bio kids. I know because now that is the excuse he gives every time that I ask him to be with me and my girls, he will say, "its not fair for my girls"? Even though they have a new step dad also, that to me appears pretty good and involved, I can't get my fiance to be an involved step dad to my girls because of guilt or jealousy regarding the new step dad??? At the beginning, he was involved and contributed in spending quality time and finances when he can afford to (he pays child support for his other children), on my girls. Now he has done a 180 flip and is pulling out all the way and gives excuses related to his girls and what's fair to them.
I don't know how to find the medium to just not allow my girls to receive what's fair to them also. He lives with us, but is not really with us anymore. It's all justified about and for his girls now and never mine. How am I supposed to say that that is ever going to be ok? We have needs to.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Daisyinga's words "love is not a pie to be sliced and there is only a certain amount of love to go around. I want them to believe that love expands and encompasses, and when someone else joins our family circle our love expands, not detracts from everyone else's share of love."- truer words were never spoke. Loving one person doesn't mean you can't love another as well. If you had had multiple children with your first wife, would you have loved only the eldest, and not the others?
It's kind of like saying, "Because I love chocolate cake, I can't eat any other kind." Banal analogy I know, but real love expands, not contracts. And if anyone ever tells you, "If you really loved me, you wouldn't love ---", they are being very smallminded and jealous. It's an unworthy request.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 11:47PM
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You have a distort logic to say the least. Yet you did not even follow your own twisted logic of "loving other (kids) is betraying your daughter" otherwise, you should not remarry.

But you remarried. Isn't the day you remarried, you have made commitment of loving and taking care of your current wife and the step kids?

Envision you have a conversation with your daughter: âÂÂI have never done anything with your step siblings and your step mom to make them happy and fulfilled that is because I donâÂÂt want to betray you.â Do you really want your daughter agrees with your thinking? It is hard to find a more effective way of teaching a child to be a narrow minded, self centered and uncaring person.

If your daughter disagree with you and believes that you should be a good husband to your wife and a great father to your step kids, then you are using her as an excuse for your own inability.

Again, following your own logic, Jesus would not have sufficient love just to cover his 12 apostles, let alone the entire world.

Good thing you have a wonderful wife and two great step kids. They could have blamed you for not fulfilling your commitment, and also blame your daughter as the roadblock for them to have a happy family life with you.

Have you heard âÂÂShared joy is a double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrowâÂÂ? I believe âÂÂshared love is an exponential love, with more people you share your love, the love becomes stronger, broader and deeperâÂÂ.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 11:44AM
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I think you sound like a great dad, husband, and stepdad. Good for you that you are recognizing this. I have no doubt that you will figure it all out. Daisyinga's advice is as beautiful as it is sound.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2013 at 4:58PM
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I read your post with great interest as it is a perspective less talked about on these forums. You know something has to change, you're recognising that and I believe that where there is good intent, the love is unlimited.

Your post kind of touched a nerve with me as my boyfriend practically lives with us and is adored and loved by all of my children. They will tell me and sometimes him in an offhand way that they love him. I know that they are desperate to hear him say it, I know he loves them, but he will never tell them. I wonder why, if it's guilt. It preys on my mind a little. Total respect to you OP for recognising that something needs to change. Most of us are living with these damaging situations because we don't know how/want to change.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 6:34AM
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