My wife and I have been happily married 40 years. Our adult son is married to an ambitious, smart, very pretty, hard working woman. We have always been close with our son. The woman's family is lovely and welcoming toward us. She is indifferent, except when she is correcting or criticizing my wife. My wife is charming and funny, albeit strong minded, as is the daughter-in-law. I am more politic, but do have opinions. All of us are professionals. I bite my tongue more than I would like to in order not to make conflicts or make my son unhappy. I don't know how we can break through to the daughter-in-law. When we make inquiries about her work, she acts as though it is a state secret. They ask that we consult with them about our visits as they live in another major city. When we visit, we realize that they have work, but we are capable of taking care of ourselves with museums and such. I appreciate that there need to be boundaries, but I am concerned that these are becoming unapproachable borders. Help!
As the post title says, boundaries go both ways. As our children get older and bring new people into the family, we often have to readjust to new personalities and new ways of doing things. It may be that your daughter-in-law is insecure and that manifests itself as criticism, especially toward your wife. Daughter-in-laws often feel that they have a lot to live up to in their mothers-in-law.
That being said, you and your wife need to have boundaries as well and one of those boundaries should involve what kind of language (i.e. criticism) is acceptable in your relationship. If positive productive criticism is part of your lives, so be it. But if that criticism is a one way street, it needs to be addressed.
Given the tension that appears to be present in your relationship with you daughter-in-law, it's not surprising that the boundaries they've set about visiting are starting to feel like razor wire. That being said, asking you to consult them before visiting is a reasonable boundary UNLESS it starts impacting your ability to communicate with your son (though I will add here that marriage changes the dynamics of all family relationships so you may have to decide where you're willing to compromise).
OK, but back to the indifference and criticism. My suggestion is that you talk to your son. You frame your feelings in "when she does XYZ, it makes your mom and I feel XYZ." Stress how important it is to you that the lines of communication remain open. Reinforce the idea that you want them both to be part of your lives, but also that you need to make sure that everyone is being treated respectfully. You may suggest a get-together where you can talk (calmly and maturely) about issues that have arisen on both sides. If everyone can work together, you might be able to uncover the source of your daughter-in-law's behavior and take action on improving your relationship with her.
If either your son or his wife seem resistant to hearing your feelings, there may be a deeper issue. In that case, you might need to seek out a family counselor who can work with you and your wife (and possibly your son and his wife) on resolving those issues. But it sounds like you have a good relationship with your son and I expect he will be willing to work with you if you can lay out some parameters without letting too much anger or frustration seep into the conversation.
I hope this helps. The key here is mutual respect.
My girlfriend and I met in November 2013. Around about January 2014 she and her daughter had moved in with my son and I (although, at the time I had my son 33% custody as he spent the remainder living with his mum.) The first 6 months of our relationship went well and we often talked about having a child together. Around August she quit her bar job and started her Masters degree at a University. She had warned me how busy she would be and also that her main two priorities were her school and her daughter of which I accepted. Our relationship suffered a lot and I did feel very neglected but continued to support her through the end of her first semester. I also felt her personality had changed from easy going to non-stop complaining and criticizing me.
I loved her and wanted us to stay together but I could feel the relationship starting to fall apart so a few weeks before Christmas I decided to buy an expensive engagement ring and I proposed hoping it would keep us together. She accepted and things went well between us for about a week then the arguments started up again. She threw the ring at me several times and after the 3rd time I kept it but later gave it back as we found out that she is pregnant. Throughout our relationship I had learned rather quickly that my girlfriend and her daughter seemed very much attached to one another, very often when we would argue she often slept with her daughter and even when we didn't argue she would encourage her daughter to sleep in the same bed as us which I found very annoying. After several months of arguing about this situation I gave in to her daughter sleeping with us. Our sex lives were going down hill pretty fast by the time December came around. Another thing that hurt my feelings was my girlfriend would often want to have a one on one time with her daughter instead of the four of us. As I mentioned earlier I only had my son part of the time and I work 12 hour shifts night and days where neither my son or I was at home. So I did feel that her actions divided us up of what I thought was family. Furthermore, I realized she treated her daughter much nicer than my son and was a lot harsher toward him. This happened on a daily basis. This was getting out of hand that even my girlfriends daughter was recognizing she could bully or torment my son knowing her mum would side with her. My son would cry over the littlest things.
Suddenly, in December my son's mum was taken to hospital and for the next 6 weeks I had full-time custody of my son. This is when I noticed how much my girlfriend disliked my son. She was constantly mad at him and also me finding faults with both of us. When he was sick and I was at work she called me to say that she was put out and had enough she eventually moved out as she couldn't or rather wouldn't mind my son whilst I went to work even though I was paying for all the rent, utilities, the majority of the groceries and spending money on meals out and clothes for her child as well as mine. When she moved out I have to pay for a child minder now as she let me know that she wasn't a nanny. She has moved back home to her parents and says she will move back in if I get a bigger and better place for us to live as a family. We have found out that she is 12 weeks pregnant. She says she still wants us to be together but we only see each other maybe once or twice a week. We do not have any real romance/intimacy between us although I wish we did. I do find her to be very selfish, uninterested or liking me much let alone loving me...I don't know what to make of it all. She now wants me to join a budget website to see what my income is so she can see what I can afford for a nicer place for our family she says...until now we aren't even friends on Facebook as she still has me blocked from 6 weeks ago. She does not work as yet but mentions she would contribute from her child support or her school allowance.
I would let her go if I knew she wasn't pregnant but she is so I want us to work. If we do try to move in again I fear she will continue to resent my son (even though she denies this...but admits she can never love him like her own which I understand this. I just don't like her ignoring him or treating him unkind or indifferent) She also says she doesn't want to live back home but I feel she doesn't want to be with me or left with my son whilst I am at work...she recommended that I continue to pay for a child minder. I'm thinking she will probably move out in the New Year when she has her own income but I'm not certain...I just don't feel any love from her. Shall I continue with this dysfunctional relationship or surrender to child support payments...Your advice is greatly appreciated.
Blending families is a difficult process and it sounds like there have been a lot of complicating stressors in your relationship. You moved in together very quickly and you each had children of your own. Integrating two families like that is always a challenge and having your son only part of the time created an imbalance. It’s understandable that she wants to focus on her daughter, but being part of a blended family requires a lot of work on making everyone feel welcome and included. It sounds like that’s been a problem.
I could comment on a lot of the specifics of your question individually but I think it all comes down to the same thing. If you guys are going to be a family and live together, you’re going to need to get some help. And I would suggest getting the help before you move back in together. It’s hard bringing two families together and its okay to throw up your hands and say “what we’re doing isn’t working” and seek help in finding a healthier way to live. You now have a vested interest in making this relationship work, even if you don’t end up together because you’ll be sharing a child. And that’s not just about child support. That child will need you in his or her life just as much as your son does.
But here’s the bottom line, your first priority right now is to provide a stable and healthy home for your son. None of this is his fault, and he shouldn’t have to live in a home where he feels he is less important. If you get back together with your girlfriend, she HAS to understand that, for his sake. It’s one thing to have different feelings for your biological child vs. your step child. It’s another thing entirely to act on those feelings. As the adults in the situation, you both have a responsibility to provide safety and security to all your children and protect their emotional well-being as best you can.
I empathize with your girlfriend in that being a mom and a student at the same time can be maddening, and being pregnant on top of that has got to be hard. BUT, those were choices that she (and you) made and you need to figure out how to deal with those choices without being mean or disrespectful to one another or to the children you care for. I also understand where you’re coming from. You’ve got a new child on the way and you love your girlfriend so you want to make it work. But that’s just it…it has to work. And the way things are going, its not working. Find a family counselor who can help you deal with all the complexities of this relationship (and there are many) and maybe you’ll find that being a family is possible without all the dysfunction.
I've been with my boyfriend 12 yrs and have 3 kids. He s cheated sooo many times in 12 yrs but last one I found out hurt worst they were 20 mins from me and my kids. He drove and drives her van and in October I found they had been living together for last two years while I begged every night and day for him to stay with us. He wants to be together with me and for me to forget the past but we don't live together nor does he want me to know where he lives. I have the kids but living with family so he isn't allowed there due to their anger for my hurt from him. Other then a little bit of support, I’ve had to provide for me and the kids with very little help. He gave me his phone code to unlock it but gets mad if I look every once in awhile. Gave me his email passwords not Facebook password. He has female friends I don't know he's known and last 1 year or so. I tried to be friends with them but she ran and tell him everything we talked about. He talks to her everyday call or text but she has a boyfriend and her and my boyfriend work out once a week or so. Hard because I've wanted so long for us to bond and workout together but after 3 years of being a personal trainer he got me 7 day pass after 3rd day he never took me back using excuses. He takes me to school and brings me home spending more time with us. Says wants to take care of us but won't get a job that pays enough to do that. Nor wants to watch kids so I can get a job to help. Pays cheaper stuff but refuses to help with car payment and insurance. Talks about loves me and wants us together. I get jealous because he can do what he wants go where he wants hang out with whoever and I have kids every night and day. I’m not free. Love my kids and he argues he's not free he's home yet I do see his text talking about going here and there he doesn't tell me. Is this worth trying or just walk away even with kids? Please help so tired.
I’m going to lay down some hard truth here. Your boyfriend doesn’t understand what being in a relationship with you and what being a father to his kids really means. And I’m afraid you’re letting him get away with some pretty bad behavior. I can understand that you love him and want him to be a part of your lives, but you have three children who need more from him (and from you). They need a father who takes responsibility for them. That means paying child support and helping with the kids. These are really not options. The minute he fathered those children he became obligated to care for them. If he can’t understand that on his own, you may need to make things more formal through the courts or through counseling at the least.
But they need more from you too. They need you to advocate for them, to make sure that they are being taken care of because as they grow up, they’re going to feel the emotional effects of having a father who isn’t there for them. When you say that you’re stuck at home but he’s free, that’s partly because you’re letting him be free by not holding his accountable. I promise you no Judge is going to accept the “when its convenient” form of fathering going on here. But it’s going to continue until you put a stop to it.
This isn’t really just a matter of walking away. Whether the two of you are romantically involved or not is really just a secondary concern. First, get the situation with the kids worked out and that’ll give you a better idea of where you and he stand. Write down your expectations. Be reasonable and do what is in the best interest of your children. Create ways to hold their father accountable for taking care of them too. You’re going to have a relationship with this man forever, regardless of what it looks like so now’s a good time to start making it more functional and healthy for everyone.
And on a personal note, there’s never a good reason to have access to your partner’s email or Facebook account. If you feel you need access, then something is very wrong. And from what you’ve described here, I’d say he’s given you more than enough reasons not to trust him so whatever you’re looking for you’re likely to find. Don’t put yourself through it.
I know this is hard and I can really understand how exhausting this must be but the truth is that you’re going to have to be strong and insist that he respect you, if not as his girlfriend, at least as the mother of his children. What he’s showing you now is not respect and it is not love. You deserve better and only you can make sure that you get better.
I feel like I am being taken advantage of by my husband and stepdaughter.
My stepdaughter is in school full-time in the evenings and graduates in April. She is 23 years old and recently divorced with a 3 year old son which I babysit while she is in school. We pay for all of her and her child's living expenses. So we are on a very tight budget.
She has started another long distance relationship with an ex-boyfriend from high school. She spends a majority of her time on the phone w/him. She drops off her child early at my house so she can spend extra time talking to him on the phone before going to class. And comes back late so she can continue talking w/him after class.
She starts internship on the 26th on top of her classes. Which means I would have to babysit full time. For six months I told her to enroll him in child care, but refuses to do it. I've told my husband my concerns and says he will talk with her. No results. When he has talked to her in front of me, it's only to ask what she has been doing and that's it.
I feel my only recourse is to give up on my two online businesses that I have been building and go back out in the workforce. I already have submitted my resume and applications to a couple of places. This is something I don't really want to do, but what other choices do I have?
You do have another choice and its all about boundaries. It’s unreasonable for a 23 year old full-time student with a three-year old son to spend all her free time courting a new boyfriend. She has responsibilities. And while she may be going through a tough time given her recent divorce and her single-parenthood, you and your husband appear to have been more than accommodating to her.
So here’s what you need to do. You need to set your boundaries. Figure out what you are able to do to support her. What hours can you babysit without having to give up your own career? How much financial support does she actually need? And then you need to enforce those boundaries. She doesn’t get to drop him off early and pick him up late. She needs to be working with your schedule as much as you are working with hers. If the cost of childcare is an issue, I can assure you that there is a lot of financial assistance for single mothers out there.
The bottom line is that this is your life too and she’s not learning anything about being a responsible parent by delegating her parental responsibilities to you. I know you want to support her and your husband may not be good at establishing boundaries with her either but its something you both need to learn to do and to do together.
I have a ton of empathy for her (and for you and your husband). Having been divorced, a single mother and gone back to school, I know exactly how hard it is and there were certainly days when I was pushed to my limits. But life is about making choices and priorities. Her child is her priority. Her school is her priority. You can’t make her choices for her. But allowing her to take your support for granted is not only unhealthy for you and for her, but will affect your relationship with her in the long-run.
Stay calm and be kind but assertive.
My ex boyfriend and I were together for 9 years and we have a son together. We have been broken up for 2 1/2 yrs and he has a new girlfriend that moved in with him about 9 months ago. But recently we been kinda hanging out together Iike for our sons b day we went and had dinner with his mom and for Christmas eve I invited him and his mother and they came over. Christmas day my ex came and picked me and our son up to visit his family.
Anyways. We had a talk and he told me like this... " yes you know I have a girlfriend I do but its nothing. She's just there how can I say this she's just a convenience. I care, I mean I have feelings for her and I have feelings for you but more for you. I have feelings more for you. I still love you. I think about you everyday. You made me what I am today. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have my job. You did a lot for me and she knows that. I let her know that I don't talk bad about you. I have nothing bad to say about you. And I let her know that all the time! I don't want to mislead her or you. Right now I’m going through a lot too with her cause she knows how I feel about you. I don't take her around my family my mom hasn't met her nor my family no its not like that at all I won't take her around my family! " And as he was leaving he told me “don't worry I don't take her around my family!”
I’m confused because I feel like he's avoiding me now. He called me to be ready that he was coming to pick me and my son up for the anniversary of his father's death - they were having a mass for him - and he never showed up he just left me and his son hanging! This upset me. I tried calling him once, no answer. So my question to you is what is he up too? Or was it all just lies? I don't know what to think! Please help me I don't want to get involved with him again if he's not being honest with his feelings.
Let’s put things in perspective. Ok, so your ex has feelings for you. He probably always will regardless of whether you’re together or not. You’re the mother of his child and he should definitely feel love and respect for you based on that fact. And you will always have feelings for him, regardless of whether you get involved with him. So the fact that he’s telling you how important you’ve been in his life is actually a very honest admission, regardless of your relationship with him now. In other words, it doesn’t have to be so black and white. It could be that everything he said was true AND you shouldn’t get back together.
I have two main thoughts. The first has to do with your son. You should be thinking about how getting back together and possibly breaking up again will affect your son. Proceed with caution. There’s nothing at all wrong with reconnecting but make sure that you both are always thinking about your son first because the decisions you make will undoubtedly affect him. And it is important for both you and your son’s father to stick to your word. If he says he’s going to come see you or pick you up, he needs to show up. You need to make sure he understands that this is the expectation and that its unacceptable for him to say he’ll come and then back out. That’s just good parenting.
And then there’s the matter of your ex’s current girlfriend. I expect that he’s feeling conflicted, and that’s ok, that’s human. But, what does it say about his commitment to and respect for relationships in general when he tells you she’s just a “convenience.” My suggestion for you is this. If you even consider getting involved with him, make sure its after he’s made a clean break with his current girlfriend. Don’t be the other woman. It’s not fair to her or to you for him to be stringing either of you along. Understand that you deserve a man who’s going to be 100% present in your relationship and don’t settle for less. All relationships are complicated and take work so make sure you start out on the right foot.
I have a 20 year old daughter that is dating a 20 year old male. They have been dating for about 8 months. His childhood was not a good one from what he has told my daughter. I am starting to notice red flags (well in my opinion red flags). It seems over time my daughter is being taken away from us. I feel she is being isolated from us. She still lives at home with us but since dating him, she is with him 24/7. I believe she is also pregnant. I understand being in love and wanting to be together and all that but she is not herself anymore. Just last night we were discussing the holidays with the both of them and he stopped me from talking and said no, my daughter is staying with him at his mom’s (he still lives at home also) Christmas Even and morning and then they will be over for 1 hour Christmas morning. All of her time is with him. If they are not together, he is calling her. If he cannot get a hold of her, he is calling me questioning where she is. He has always been nice to us and our other children. I just feel uneasy about the whole situation. My daughter and I have always been extremely close but since she started dating him, we only talk maybe once or twice a week when she is stopping by to shower and get more clothes to stay with him. (she is not allowed to shower at his house). I am scared for her and the baby if she is pregnant. How do I address this with her? Am I overreacting? What do I do?
I don’t think it’s overreacting to feel concerned at this point. But I want to suggest that you try to stay calm for two reasons. One, because children (of all ages) notoriously are drawn to the things that their parents disapprove of and making a huge scene about this relationship may just strengthen her resolve to be in it. And two, because at 20 years old, it’s entirely possible that they are in that all-consuming relationship phase and that things will mellow out over time.
Ok, so let’s talk about communication and boundaries. The best thing you can do, I think, is to establish open communication with your daughter and boundaries with both your daughter and her boyfriend. Let your daughter know that you are feeling like she’s been distant and that you are really interested in reestablishing your connection. Don’t make it about the boyfriend. Make it about spending time together and bonding. And then draw some clear boundaries. For instance, if she’s going to be living in your house, its not unreasonable to ask her to spend some time with you guys…maybe some shared family meals or something along those lines. This one is tricky because if you push too hard, it may result in her moving out completely. But you’re going to have to accept the fact that she’s an adult and that may happen anyway.
Ok, now with the boyfriend. The next time he calls you to check up on her, let him know that you are not responsible for keeping track of her and that you’d rather he not call you for this reason. Be kind but firm. It’s not appropriate for him to be checking up on her, especially with you. If he had a rough childhood, he may be dealing with all kinds of trust and control issues. These do not make him a bad person but it does make it that much more important for you to maintain firm and loving boundaries with both of them.
If you can get the lines of communication running more smoothly with your daughter, then maybe you can find a way to address some of your concerns in a way that does not make her feel like you’re trying to run her life. You can have healthy relationship discussions in a more general way. The control issues may work themselves out once the intensity of the relationship dies down or they may get worse. Helping to equip your daughter with the tools she needs to recognize unhealthy relationship elements and deal with them is the best thing you can do for her as a mother.
I'm including a diagram from the-lookout.org.uk for your consideration. As you can see, some of the behaviors that you’re noting as red flags do fall into the unhealthy category but that may simply be a signal that there are things that need to be worked out, not that the relationship is ultimately bad or doomed.
Wishing you luck and patience.
Don't be shy! Say what's on your mind and get a good dose of perspective in return.