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what to do
August 31, 2000
3:08 pm
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heyarnold
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I have an issue that has risen as a result of a 2nd marriage. First the backdrop, i am divorced and have since remarried. I have a daughter and my new wife has a daughter. they are a year apart (7 and 8). My wife does not like my ex. My ex has caused problems (infringement, control of my daughter etc.) To make a long story short, My wife and I have hard pretty fierce arguments regarding my ex-wife and the behavioral response my wife expects from me. My daughter has been witness to some of the arguments at which my wife ahs made some non too complimentary comments about my daughters mother. My daughter has harbored resentment and now doesn't look forward to my weekends with her. I tried to deal with the issue by having us discuss our feelings as a family unit (mistake #1) at which I urged my daughter to express her feelings to my wife which is dislike. My stepdaughter was present and she was offended by that and my wife has basically stayed clear of my daughter in terms of interaction. What problems I have are the following; 1) my daughter doesn't like my wife, 2)my wife has issues with my daughter, 3)my stepdaughter and daughter are not as close as they use to,4) I asked my wife to sit with my daughter and help mend the relationships. In a nutshell, she says it is my issue to deal with. She doesn't think that my daughter wants that from her. I want my daughter to want to look forward to seeing me. I believe that she loves me very much. My wife has a strong will and bascially says what is on her mind. My contention is that the children don't need to see and hear everything. My wife tried to explain to my daughter that the issues aren't with her but my ex-wife. She was not short on words on how she feels about her. My daughter is very defensive of her mom and me. What do I do? How does this get better? Does it get better? I love my daughter so much. I also love my wife. This is very stressful.

August 31, 2000
4:09 pm
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cd
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hey arnold, there is a site on webmd. that is devoted to step-families. Most advice is going to tell your wife she is TOTALLY in the wrong. Regardless of any problems your wife has with your ex it is wrong to express any part of them to a child. The only way I can see for you to ever find any peace on your weekends as a family is your wife proving that she is the adult in the situation, apologizing to your daughter and she may even have to go as far as finding a couple of nice things to say about your ex so your daughter is seeing an honest effort on her part. Your wife will also need to watch what she's saying around her own daughter. The two girls are really young enough that with peace in the house they should find a way to mend the fences between them, but you don't want her daughter telling your daughter bad things your wife may say. Things can get alot better, I think the girls are young enough that things could be really great. Your wife may be a wonderful woman in every other way but in my opinion she is failing in her duties to your daughter. She didn't just marry you she married a package and really needs to take on her responsibilities. Your wife is an adult who can fend for herself but your daughter is still young enough that if you don't protect her feelings above all else she'll carry the scars around with her for a long time and create a lot more havoc in your home someday.
I really don't mean to sound so harsh to your wife but she really needs to get a grip on this. If she needs to vent about your ex then you have to set rules. Go on a car ride, take a walk somewhere where there is no chance of either of the girls hearing you. If she needs help finding something positive about your ex remind her that the woman did give birth to the little girl that you love so much.

Best of Luck !!

August 31, 2000
4:42 pm
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heyarnold
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CD:

Thanks for your input. I understand all that you said and agree. I can tell you that I haven't handled things well with my wife in terms of dealing with my ex. So, my wife harbours resentment towards me for that. I don't blame her. I really don't know how this will get better because I don't see my wife helping. Either way I am commited to both (also my stepdaughter). I hope there are some suggestions that I can pick-up to assist me in this matter

September 1, 2000
12:19 am
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cd
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Can you approach you wife from the viewpoint of putting herself in your daughters shoes. No matter what you never put down a childs parent in front of them. I'm sure your wife wouldn't pick up a whip and lash out at your daughter and if she did you would stop it. Your have to realize that emotionally that's exactly whats happening. Just because you can't see your daughters wounds doesn't mean their not deep and emotional cuts take alot longer to heal. Your wife may not want to help but she can't be part of the problem either. I divorced my boys father when they were 6 and 3 and decided that I had to love them more than I hated their father. You can take a lot of "junk" when your doing it because you love a child. I really think that if you work hard during the week to reassure your wife of your committment to her maybe that extra security will enable her to control some of her feelings about your ex (at least in the presence of your daughter) Put your foot down about what happens around the kids and then be open to listen to her side of things when your alone. Sometimes a woman doesn't want you to solve their problems as much as they just want you to wrap your arms around them, and tell them that you understand why they feel the way they do.
I've remarried to a wonderful man I love but I have let him know that until my boys are both over 18 they have to be the priority in my life. I hope that's one of the things he respected about me before we married. Let your wife know that your daughter is a priority but right up there close behind is the family you are creating, maybe even explain how much stronger your family will become once you overcome these problems. You have to believe it yourself though you can't just repeat my words to her and expect her to buy it, us women can be really smart that way.

September 1, 2000
12:26 pm
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Molly
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The comments re:the bio mom in front of the child must end, but she needs to feel supported, and I get that some how, she is feeling less than there fore the act out. Been there and done that, sorry I was/am human. The situation we had just got so bad, the bio mom was truly trying to sabotage our relationship through the boy. He was only 8 when he started to come over, she told him to not eat any thing that I cooked, she told him he would get sick, she told him he did not have to do anything I suggested, even down to tying his shoes, and pulling up his pants. he would toss a fit any time we went any where, stating his mom never got to go. His dad co-signed everything out of fear, and guilt!! It got to the point that the bio mom, boy, and dad went to therapy, the boy was told that his dad had a new family and that he had to adjust to it. The boy even admitted when he was 13 that he did it on purpose, and played it out so well. he soon became the one that was in controll. Well no one got a family, the following years he only came over Christmas dinner. he was the same age as my youngest. My husband dissappeared every weekend, took phone calls in the bath room, we never had a family vacation after the first two tries, and it became me and my daughters, my husband and his son, it was hell. My husband couldn't sit at a dinner table with us, (guilt). He did not participate with my girls even though they lived with us, they felt rejected, I was never invited to the boys functions, or my husbands celebrations, ie., birthday, or even Christmas with my husbands family because the ex was still going over.I was left home every Christmas morning, as my daughters went to their father's house. I felt so left out of such an important time , and had to make all the financial sacrifices of the other child. I tried everything but was completely left out, or it got twisted with an argument. We seperated for 18 months, one of the final straws for me was not being allowed to stand with my husband at the high school graduation for the boy, after sacrificing his tuition to private school, and my husband insisted, with out an argument to be at the girls graduation, I had just had it with the double standard, and rejection. When we reconcilled we took a family trip, and the most amazing thing to me was the boy now 20 came up put his arm around me and said I was a very very wierd kid huh!My daughters are still angry, but comming around, they really got the short end of things , but the boy, he e-mails daily for advice, is open and loving and that comment ment the world to me. Its so much more that what his father has ever taken responsibility for so, be careful, seek counseling make sure the wife is involved, beware of agendas, the kids know how to butter the bread on both sides, and usually end up in controll when there are so many adults in turmoil. Just make sure that you don't retreat to seperate corners, I should have left years before due to the constant void, or fighting, it was truly hell on my daughters. But at the time I did the best that I knew how to do, with some one that was deaf dumb and blind except for what his son, and ex wife had to say.

September 1, 2000
1:41 pm
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Cici
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Attachment parenting has this idea behind it that children are naturally good and all we need is to nurture that goodness. In reality, cognitive and behavioral assesments of children find tha thtey are capable of manipulation, though not out adn out lying, from about the age of 3! Lying develops later, and is reinforced through peer interaction adn daycare/school, where they learn that they can behave one way out of their parent's sight, and another way in their parent's sight.

Why all this rigamarole? It's the worst tragedy when parents split up and children are caught in the middle. They learn how to be manipulative in order to get what they want from whatever parent.

Unfortunately, your daughter is at a very vulnerable age, a developmental stepping stone from which she must learn how to interact with people in a positive way.

I agree that children shouldn't be privvy to parental arguments. Sit down with your wife and make some ground rule about behavior in front of the children. As for interactions with your ex-wife, you need a mediator. An unbiased, outside person unrelated to the problems who can look at what is being said logically and keep everything in order. This is what amarriage counselor does, but any psychiatrist or psychologist has learned the same skills.

I think you should think about having a mediated discussion with your daughters, too. That way things can't get out of hand or ugly.

September 5, 2000
11:09 am
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heyarnold
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Thanks to all. I have recently had a discussion with my ex that I feel puts us on a path to peace. Unfortunately, there is 5 years of some unpleasant history that my wife still deals with. I try to look at her side of things and sometimes I agree with her thoughts. Other times I don't. This is where I get frustrated because she then tells me of our "fundamental" differences and that we can't parent together because of this and this creates 2 sets of standards for our kids. She is harder on her daughter than mine and harder on her daughter than I would be. I look at things as kids will be kids and they will misbehave (nothing too bad) and that part of them growing up is developing their own identity that with parental guidance will determine who they are. Anyway, the real problem I have is that my wife is soooooooo miserable. I am too. However, I can move beyond the arguments and try to start over. She , admittedly, can't. The easiest thing for me is to get out of the marriage. This sounds so awful, but it is true. I can live in peace and spend 100% of my focus on my daughter. But, I don't want this. My wife thinks that I have this fantasy of an all-american family, and I do. She says we can never have it. She is right but we can make it a lving home. My wife is just so bitter and hostile. I am ususally a very patient man, but have recently lost that. It seems that my wife pushes all the right buttons and I explode. Part of this is because for 5 years she has griped about either my ex, my daughter, or me. I often ask her (and myslef) why she married me. I want help. I want things to be worked out. I wnat my wife to check her attitude at the door and work with me. What makes matters worse is that I have a commuting marriage. We only see each other on weekends. So, if we are together and we have a tiff, the weekend is ruined.

Am I wrong to want it to work? I know it won't be a typical marriage or family life. I feel that I have so much invested in this marriage. I just don't feel that she is working at it with me.

September 5, 2000
12:41 pm
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Molly
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Since you say that you only have the weekend to gether, is it possible for a few that the two of you could spend it alone? the other, if she is strict, and today that is hard to do, and be consistant, and usually better for the kids, would it be to strenous for your daughter to go along with the rules of this house, then she can have rules for that house( her mother) I doubt if the strict rules are abusive, and it would make your wife feel heard, supported, and resourceful. We had the same situation in our home. I was the bad guy, My kids went to bed at 8:30 when the prince came over he did what he wanted, his dad and mom's rules, I wasn't even allowed to ask him to remove his cap in the house far less at my dinner table, so needles to say all our Brady bunch was destroyed in the beginning. I can tell you that it requires so much comprimise, that if it is not stopped now it will destroy you, I still have so much unresolved anger, that I think I have let go, until something popps up, then it is there like a fierce flame. Now my girls are in college and working and no strange piercings, they graduated with honors from the private school, and his oldest after a run with drugs, and jail had to get married, now with 2 kids, one came with the package, and his youngest, got kicked out of high school, and is unemployed, living with mom, trying to be the next marilyn manson, with tatoo's piercings, and dress, sorta, his butt crack is always showing, but nooooooooooo I was the bad guy. Like several years ago, I was denied contact withthese boys, because I wanted to have his cap removed at the dinner table, and my girls don't like to come around, as these are the type of folk I used to warn them that they would turn into if they did not focus, on top of that I am the really bad grandma, because I flat out refused to provide the child care for the two grandkids, because of the past, so it needs to be delt with now. Some times we for get that marriage is a business, a partnership, and love doesn't always work in the family process if its not a family.

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