Dear John Letter to fiance widower with children

pitypartyDecember 9, 2010

I have been having doubts about marrying a widower with children -been widowed for 5 years with SD 9 and SS 10-, been engaged/dating for over 2 years. In the beginning, things were wonderful and still, when we have time together without the children, they are. However, with the demands of his new job, I have been spending exponentially more time with his children than him and what little time he has left is spent with all of us together. I do not have any of my own children and becoming instant mom is very stressful on me. He is out of town one week out of every month. Even though we have a nanny, she is not live-in so I shoulder a lot of the childcare responsibilities in addition to my full time job. I also end up having limited time to spend with my friends. Right now he is currently out of town.

I hope I am making the right decision. I feel very torn about this. I have been paying mortgage on a home I barely reside in and have made a New Years Resolution to live at my home so that if he needs childcare, he can hire someone. Can a relationship work with someone if you don't want to live with them and their kids full time? When I didn't live full time with the kids, I enjoyed them much more, I was more like the fun Aunt. I long for the good old days when I could come and go. He is coming into the relationship with a lot of baggage (kids, late wife, etc) and sometimes I need a break from it. Otherwise I can feel trampled and suffocated by the weight of it. Is this normal? I love him and don't want to end it. Has anyone had this sort of arrangement and gotten married later on when the kids were more independent? Next post will have the letter.

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Dear Fiance,

SD wrote about what she is thankful for Thanksgiving. She discussed being thankful for the earth, her house and family. -I appreciate my family because I have a dad that loves me and my brother that is funny. My dad gives food to me and my brother.- It struck me that after all the time I have spent with her, practically living here, and dinners we have made, I am left out.

It has been a sad realization that my rose-colored fantasy of what could be has shattered little by little, day by day. The more I open up to them and try to create a solid foundation, the more pain I feel. I wish I could hug your children and feel like their mother and love them unconditionally. When I read things like --no person, grandmother, sister, brother, Lady Dianna, mother Theresa et al can replicate what Late Wife provided to me and the kids...I had a gorgeous women look at our children with eyes that just gushed love. Only a mother can possess that look of absolute, unadulterated love for her children-, I can't help but feel like s--t and wonder why I am here.

As much as I love you and enjoy our time together, being in a role of stepmother or surrogate mother is taking a toll on my identity, redefining me into a second rate role fraught with loss and insecurity. I wish the word --mother wasn't even part of stepmother. At every developmental level, there is bound to be confusion about my role, their loss, and who their mother was. You will also mourn that Late Wife did not witness pivotal moments of your children's lives. Your children will ask you, ---Tell me a story about mommy?--- I honestly don't know if I will ever be fully comfortable listening to your stories or hearing Late Wife's family tell stories about her. After all, if she had not died, I would not be a part of your lives. It is hard to live daily with this cold reality, when it is normally, first comes love, then comes marriage, then children.... Every day, I am confronted with reminders of a past intact happy family: love letters, pictures, furniture, christmas ornaments, her recipes, dishes et al. I find it emotionally distressing to reside among visual representations of my secondary and outside position, yet I know I should just suck it up and be mature about it.

To be in your lives, I have to suck it up a lot more than you may realize, dealing with grief and loss that predated me. I think that marrying you and adopting your children is premature and unrealistic, and unfair to ask of anyone, when I do not believe that you have grieved enough. If you had, I would be offered more drawers than what LW's belongings occupy considering I live in your house most of the time.

Throughout this experience, I realize that the stepmom/potential adoptive mother role is based on a lie, that I will be the --mom.--- I can help raise SD and SS; help with homework, feed them, clothe them, and drive them to school. But I will never be their mom. Building our relationship so that we have a solid foundation also takes up time you can spend with your children when they have already have lost a parent. Your children have had to adjust as you bring a stranger into the house. They struggle to feel secure and form an attachment when they already have abandonment and identity issues. That's why they cling and then pull away from me. I too struggle to fully embrace children who I had no hand in raising during their formative years and who are not mine genetically. It is difficult to not be able to see myself in children I am trying to raise, as parents sit around a table discussing their children and see themselves in them. It is difficult to know when to act like a -parent-, when to be a -friend-, and when to be your girlfriend. It is hard to explain the difficulty of such a task until you walk in my shoes.

And what about you? You feel exhausted because you are trying to spend time with me to keep me happy and spend time with your children to keep them happy. It is draining trying to please everyone while having a demanding career. It is a tug of war instead of the cohesive unit you had when you were in an intact family and which you so often refer to in your writing as ---wanting back---. While you are only marrying me, I am also becoming wedded to your children and LW's sainted memory. If I move in with you, I will forever be surrounded by mementos of your past. If I put them all together, they wouldn't even fit in a bedroom, and we would be downsizing and hopefully moving some of my stuff into the new home. How can that possibly happen? At present, there is no room for me in your life, that space continues to be occupied by the love of your life. I feel like an interloper as I lay here on a bed frame with the love of your life's name written on it.

SD mentioned today that her New Years wish is for you to smile all day and be happy. I think right now we are working so hard to be happy, it is causing us to get sick and tired. I am being kept awake projectile vomiting and probably can't go to work tomorrow.

I love you and want to stress that I have never loved someone so fully. We however met under unfortunate circumstances and poor timing. I want you to be happy and I cannot do that for you. I am adding complexity to an already complex situation. My self-esteem is also crumbling under these conditions because while I know that is not your intent, I feel second best. I want to have firsts with the man I marry. I also feel selfish for wanting time with just you, limited time taken away from time you can spend with your children who need a parent. This tug of war would not occur in a marriage not involving children and is not something that can be prevented under current circumstances. I am truly sorry that you lost the love of your life. I cannot fathom the sorrow you feel. I wish that she was still alive and with you. You would be smiling all day. I hope someday to have someone love me as much as you love her and to be the only woman, the first lady, in a man's life.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 2:00AM
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Pityparty, I feel so badly for all of you. That is a very well-written letter and seems to explain your feelings very clearly and understandably without laying blame.

I don't have any specific advice to offer, since my DH was not a widower. I can sympathize with your feelings of loss of identity and stress at being "instant parent" as that's been difficult for me as well. That's been the toughest part for me, I think. But gradually DH and I have met in the middle; I've become used to having less free time and he's realized that I require the occasional evening out with friends.

One thing that I have learned is that sometimes we are too hard on our ourselves. Of course you want to spend time with your fiance, and you feel guilty for taking that time away from his children. But even (or especially!) happily married parents sometimes do things without the kids. And your fiance's late wife was not perfect either, you know. All we can do is our best; we cannot be flawless.

It is commendable that your fiance is trying to ensure that his children do not forget their mother, since they must have been fairly young when she died. But it is very hard on you to have mementos of the happy family everywhere you look.

I really don't know what to say - you're in a very tough position. If you think that your fiance is the man that you will spend the rest of your life with, then you can make this work. It's not going to be easy, will probably take years, and will never be what you imagined your marriage to be like when you were a little girl.

We are always recommending counseling on here; you all sound like counseling would be very helpful. I know it can be expensive, but at minimum your fiance and the kids should be able to find support groups if nothing else.

There is a widower who posts here sometimes and I really hope he responds as I'm sure his advice would be very helpful to you.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 8:39AM
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My uncle dated his current wife for about eight years (maybe longer) before he married her. I used to think to myself (as a kid) that he wasn't very serious about her but not long after her last child left home, they planned a wedding & were married. His kids were older & left home long before hers did, but they are still happily married 10 years later. (They've been together at least 25 years because I was in high school) so I think it can work out if the parties communicate & agree on what they want.

I'd also respectfully disagree that "This tug of war would not occur in a marriage not involving children" because we never know what lives in the heart of someone else. We all have a past & may or may not have had a "love of our life" that may have gotten away. The difference is that most people don't have a houseful of momentos and possessions from their past.

Has he & the children had counseling? Whether you stay or go, it would be a good idea to see a counselor. If you've been seeing their father for two years, that is significant & leaving abruptly could affect the kids who probably already have abandonment type issues after losing their mom. It could also help him to work through moving on in a healthy way. But, the most important thing is that you have thought deeply about what you want & it's important to listen to that. Too often we move forward hoping things will come together, things will work out, or he'll change once you're married or have children... so it's good that you have a realistic view of your situation. However, you do assume quite a bit (unless he tells you) when it comes to his feelings for his late wife. Unfortunately, when someone dies it becomes easy to martyr them when the truth may be things may or may not have worked out if she were still alive... she may or may not have been a great wife/mother... because she died (young), thinking about the loss of potential in a favorable light is easier than any problems they may have had, so it's truly hard to live in the shadow of the sainted late spouse. Maybe counseling would also help him see things realistically because if you leave, he will eventually (most likely) want a relationship with someone else & if he doesn't deal with these issues, it will continue to affect his relationships.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 9:05AM
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You deserve the kind of life you want and by your statement "Only a mother can possess that look of absolute, unadulterated love for her children" - this is not the life for you or these children.
I think imamom is right - don't just walk away. These children that have suffered a horrible loss & deserve/need better. Go to counseling with the family to help them get through another drastic/terrible change in their lives. It is possible that your fiance may see through counseling he too is hanging on and may learn to let go.
I don't personally believe in your statement about only a mother can have the absolute love for her children - But there is nothing wrong with your feeling it and all of you deserve better.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 10:14AM
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I did not write the only a mother statement, he did to friends and family around 9 mo before we met. This among other statements about lw are too much to live up to. It is really hard not being someone's first.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 11:21AM
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What is DH? SS ? SD? sorry. Im also new here. want to confirm it first before posting. thanks!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 1:23PM
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DH is husband, LW is late wife, SD is stepdaughter and SS is stepson. Sorry for all the acronyms. What I wish is for him to spend more time with his kids than I do and to go out on dates with me.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 1:29PM
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I am married to a widower ( 4 years engaged, 2 years happily married) I read your letter and it hurt me so deeply that i felt helpless trying to put myself in your shoes. For the sake of your love to your fiance, you sacrifed your own life to make the family in good shape. My respect, I`ve gone through your situation, and I know it is tough accepting what you are now encountering.

I believe that you are a strong matured young woman, with full patience and perseverences. But.....exercising the role of ``SM to-be``, has also it´s weaknesses.

Have you been honest to yourself? Are you fair enough to play a role which you know that would fits you and makes you happy?...or are you prepared to be a future SM? Did you made immediate decision to save your love to your fiance and sacrifice everything to support him and descriminating your ownself? , or do you like to show your fiance that you are better than the LW?. and how long would you endure this adjustments in a long run if you are not comfortable and unhappy? have you ever thought about yourself?

As a wife of a widower, I had encountered difficulties in adjusting in the early stage. The only solution I made when I asked my husband if he is prepared and willing to give everything up from his past (of course with the LW) and embrace a new beginning to spend his life with me for the rest of his life. I was fair and honest to tell him that his past must be locked in his heart and mind, and I asked him sincerely to keep only for himself and no need for him to open or utter about the LW again because it would only hurt me. I frankly told him that if he (my hubby) decidely s lives ``in his Past``, then there would be no more hope to continue our relation, and I believe that there are still worthy men in the world who are deserving to be loved. ... Period, and there was silence....few days later, he called me up and he changed to a ``new`` man... We had a long talk, we exchanged views and moreover, we planned more about our future for us to see .I am now happily married with him and still now, he never opened undesirable topics about the LW. the case is closed.

My dear John.....take a break and think twice, we paddle our own boot, if you go against the current, you would never know and expect where you will one day land. Life is adventurous, Taste it, experience it, make your best to the fullest.....and be happy!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 5:59PM
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