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Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

Posted by Shey02 (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 5, 14 at 7:15

I am really struggling with a situation that has developed over the course of two years. I am divorced and live with my 4 children, we are very close and have an amicable relationship with their father, no dramas. My boyfriend of two years pretty much lives with us and gets on really well with the kids, they love him and he does them (I think), he is very caring towards them and because of the time we all spend together there's a close bond and lots of shared activities and fun times. They are all loving and affectionate and when we are together, someone looking in from the outside would probably think that we were a nuclear family. From day one they embraced him with open arms and he has had it very, very easy, compared with most of the stories that you hear about. Likewise my exh is fine, he causes no trouble. I feel very proud of what we have achieved there post divorce.

On the flipside, my boyfriends exw is controlling, abusive towards him and me, she lies, gossips and coaches the kids to hate me. Strange, when I didn't even know him until 4 years after they split (instigated by her). So there's no grounds for all that at all, I don't deserve it, neither does he. From day one, his kids have been cold, distant, the oldest one rude, dismissive. I have been asked to not attend events in case it upsets them or their mother. The kids will say behind my back to him, do we have to go there (to my house), can't we just spend family time with you and not her... etc. etc. All the usual things that year on the forums. So nearly two years in, my boyfriend has decided to spend alone time with them mostly, sharing with me and my kids only a few hours alternate weekends. He is scared to lose them, ignores the coldness and behaviour, yet I totally understand that. I understand it's not their fault. So everytime I see them, it's a big smile, helloo, sometimes a hug (even though the middle one pulls away), I ignore the rudeness if it happens and I plod on. No affection comes my way, no chit chat comes my way that I don't instigate. I am constantly putting in an effort to bond as I love my man and would dearly love to love his children. I support his decision to spend alone time with them, I try not to feel rejected, I try not to show it anyway.

I read somewhere that step parenting is different to normal parenting as there is no biological or familiar bond, so often the love/effort you give is not reciprocated. But the way to look at it is you give in one direction and receive in another. That totally hit the nail on the head for me! It was a eureka moment and I no longer felt bad inside, I give attention/affection to the children and I receive my gratification from my partner in his recognition of my efforts. A + B = D. Fantastic!

The reason for my post is that over the years there have been many arguments centred around the children, like most parents, to him his kids are perfect. However, I can see how frustrated he is with his life, the children at times and his dysfunctional ex. I am getting the blame more and more and starting to lose hope. If the oldest boy is in a mood and doesn't want to be near me of a day, the next day according to 'dad' it is my fault, because I didn't do this, that or say something else. He constantly picks holes in the smallest of things and even when we have a day when everything goes great, couple of day later he will critique something. He has spelt out that I am letting him down, that he wishes I treated his kids as he does mine. I have felt so low about this, unappreciated, how am I able to do that in the space of a few afternoons a month? His children give very little back, so is he being unrealistic or am I letting him down? Feel so down and totally at breaking point, after all the efforts I made over Christmas during which I thought we had a good time. I would try, try and die trying to bond with the kids as long as my boyfriend appreciates my efforts. But it's clear he doesn't or is it me? So confused.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

I think your BF is being unrealistic. I also think you should show him this post, as it sums up nicely and unemotionally your perception of the situation. Perhaps if he could see the issue from your perspective he would be more realistic in his expectations.
Then again, he might not, and if he continues down the road he is going you may have to re-examine your relationship and decide if it is worth continuing with. You should also tell him that.


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

Thank you for the reply, I really am at my lowest point over this. It feels like a foreign language that we are speaking and I cannot see a way through. I'm really just venting now and feel like I'm losing it. I try, but clearly I fail. Is it my failure or a combination of other factors, I really don't know anymore. So sad.

What I dearly wish he would feel and say is (in my dream world);
It must be hard when you hug xxx and they pull away...
Must be a bit frustrating when you cook something special for them and they don't eat it...
I'm sorry they ignored you today when you came in and you tried to talk to them, I appreciate that.
When xxx said in earshot of everyone that they wanted to go home and didn't want to be here, but you ignored it and carried on, that's amazing.
I really hope that WE can help the kids to settle in with us more, with our routine, with our lives, so that we can all be happy together.
I know you are sensitive about the children because of all the negative things that have happened, so I'll keep you in the loop more, suggest more things, take the initiative.
We should spend more time together as a family so that we bond more.
I wish things were a bit easier but with time and familiarity... we're a team and we'll get there in the end.
It must be horrible to hear that my exw gossips and has told the children lies and negative things. You never retaliate, you keep the peace. Peace! :)

What I get is this;
You don't hug the kids enough, you're not affectionate with them.
But they're picky eaters you know that, I don't want them to go hungry!
You were really quiet with them today, what's wrong with you?
They're struggling with their mother, what am I supposed to do, lose my kids?!?
I'm going to have 'family time' with the kids separate as that is what they have asked for...
You always wait for me to suggest something, don't you want to see us?
Let's spend less time together because they need me.
Why don't you treat my kids like I treat yours!?!
Well, I can't do anything about what she says or does can i!

Told you, losing it! It's not like I need an apology from anyone, but if you receive little gratification from the child, some acknowledgement from the parent would make up for that in bucketloads. My children aren't perfect, I see their flaws, if the situation were reversed, I'd like to think I'd nurture my partner along as a team, us together raising the kids. Seems like it's him, them and then me and my kids. Thoughts of marriage seem such a distant memory now. :(


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

I'm so sad for you, Shey. You are NOT a failure; I'm amazed you keep trying in the face of such a lack of support. It is not failing to not be able to achieve the unachievable...would you consider yourself a failure if you tried to fly by jumping off the roof, and didn't fly?

You should also show your BF this post, it is so articulate and sums up the disconnect between your attitudes well. But I was thinking of some answers you could give to BF's accusations as well. I've regrouped them a little as some pretty well fall into the same territory.

You don't hug the kids enough, you're not affectionate with them.
Why don't you treat my kids like I treat yours!?!
You were really quiet with them today, what's wrong with you?
- Because they don't care to be hugged by me, talk to me or even to spend time with me. This is evidenced by the fact that they never initiate conversation with me, ask me not to be at their events, and ask to be alone with you. I would love to be more affectionate with them but since they don't like it I try not to irritate them by offering unwanted hugs or chit chat. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells in my own home, but I do it because I know you want to stay close to your children.

But they're picky eaters you know that, I don't want them to go hungry!
-Well, I don't want them to go hungry either. If you have a better idea of what they'd like to eat, why don't you cook while they are here? I'm trying my best to make meals they will like, but clearly it's not working. Let's try a different tack.

I'm going to have 'family time' with the kids separate as that is what they have asked for...
You always wait for me to suggest something, don't you want to see us?
Let's spend less time together because they need me.
-I would dearly love for us all to spend time together but if your children prefer not to then I am content that they should spend time alone with you, since I don't want to upset them. It's hard to suggest things to do when I know they would prefer I was out of the picture altogether.

Well, I can't do anything about what she says or does can i!
-No, you can't, but it would be nice if you were more sympathetic to how it makes me feel so that I felt you were on my side.

They're struggling with their mother, what am I supposed to do, lose my kids?!?
-Of course not, but I feel this issue is driving a wedge between us that is going deeper and deeper. I feel you think I've failed somehow and I don't know what else I could do to encourage your children to like me. What would you suggest? If this situation doesn't improve, I feel it's going to eventually turn into our discussing whether our relationship is worth continuing with. I am very unhappy with things as they are and would dearly love for things to improve but for this to happen we both need to be on the same side and working together toward the same goal.


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

Thank you colleenoz for posting up such a helpful reply. I couldn't have written it better myself, you've shown great understanding of the situation. I feel really emotional and yes, something needs to be said, as I am really suffering here and feel that my relationship (and sanity) is on the line. Thank you again. :)


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

It is not your fault. It is your boyfriend's fault. Your kids are loving and affectionate. His kids are surly and self absorbed. Maybe it's the mother's fault. Maybe they have serious mental health problems that will get worse as they get older (like my stepkids did). Either way, it's not your job to turn them into functional beings. It's your job to be welcoming and polite, and their job to reciprocate. It sounds like you have done your job. Now, it's their turn. If they don't do it, it's up to your boyfriend to insist on it. If he fails, then he is failing in his duty to you as a partner, and to his kids as a parent. If he keeps letting you down, you will soon lose respect for him.

Also, I recommend that you keep your friends and relatives close. It helped me to have a reality check of healthy people around me, who reminded me regularly when the behaviour was inappropriate and no longer tolerable. Have friends over for dinner when the stepkids are there. Ask the stepkids for help setting the table when the friends are in kitchen. Be sure that your boyfriend is nearby to get the odd looks when the kids are rude. If your boyfriend responds by being rude to you, you will soon hear about it from your friends. You will stop questioning yourself when your friends and relatives start demanding better treatment for you.


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

Thanks for that reply, I appreciate it. I can take the behaviour if you know what I mean (because I know that alot of it is frustration from the mother) if I feel he is on my side. Alot of it does happen out of his sight and earshot and recently it was in front of my relatives, they all commented on it and I felt so embarassed. He was unaware though and still is about that incident.

I just feel so low down in the pecking order of his life and his inability to nurture our relationship and mine with his kids is just breaking my heart. He says I'm not, that he wants us to be together always, but no actions seem to back up these words. I feel he should be trying to help build the bridges between us, instead all the pressure seems heaped upon me.


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

"It is not your fault. It is your boyfriend's fault. Your kids are loving and affectionate. His kids are surly and self absorbed."

stepmomof3...if you recognize that there might be contributing factors (the mom, potential mental illness....), why so quick to cast blame on the BF? Sorry, but I guess I am a little sensitive to this concept. As someone who has a child that while growing up was always well behaved, a high achiever academically, and generally a pleasant child...who as she passed thru adolescence into her teens has become the antithesis of all those things, I more than most understand that you cannot blame all a child's behavioral issues on parenting.

My ex and I (on good terms, no drama, joint custody, both educated and have good careers) have over the last 3 or so years done everything possible to keep this from happening. She is loved by both of us, and we have tried so hard to deal with her issues, thru normal parenting techniques, and also various forms of therapies, medications, etc. It has pretty much consumed our lives during this time..and yet she continues to struggle in so many ways.

I can speak for my ex too, when I say that both of us are getting so tired of hearing from all these parents with more "normal" kids when you discuss the issues, when they start with the "well what works with my kid is...." We are both to point of just wanting to scream at these people for not understanding... not everything that a child does is due to freaking parenting tactics...ugh!!! I am so glad for all these parents who's uber-children are so wonderful...but jeez how about just appreciate the fact that you got a very workable piece of clay to work with....we, unfortunately, didn't.

BTW our son (3 yrs younger) is as normal as can be, loving, sensitive and intelligent. Do they think we parented him differently?

OK...stepping off soapbox now....just had to vent on that a little...


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

I think, mkroopy, the BF is getting the "blame" as such, is not necessarily for his children's behaviour, as his lack of support for his new partner, Shey.

If, for instance, your daughter was rude and mean to your GF, would you say to your GF, "Well, it must be all your fault. You aren't affectionate enough," or would you say, "It's not you, it's DD's condition, and thank you for not making a fuss and keeping on smiling" ? I would hope the latter, and I don't think Shey is out of line for wishing it was like that either instead of the former.

_That_ (his _own_ behaviour) the BF can control.


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RE: Cracking under the pressure, unrealistic or am I a failure?

Thanks for the other perspective of the children's side and yes some do struggle for reasons that remain a mystery, it's not always the divorce battleground, sometimes it just is what it is.......

I actually don't have a problem with the kids as I don't blame them, in my situation, I know there are major anger/bitterness/controlling issues with the mother. Again, for reasons unknown to any of us. So I'm willing to take the rough with the smooth, although the smooth is so much nicer! Those children have also been raised the same, the more deeper problems exist really with only one of them. Obviously I wish they were more receptive to me.... my role would be so much easier then. I can take the bad behaviour, if only my partner would give me a little encouragment and even just a hug/kiss if I felt a bit sad about it. Rather than tackling the bad behaviour, he chooses to keep us separate mostly and/or grate on me about it rather than 'parent' his kids. He is making me sad and no matter what I say he sees nothing but his perspective. Maybe it's a guy thing!?!


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