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Moving in with Step Kids and a whole new dynamic

user2010808's picture

Joined this website bc I'm at my wit's end with all the BS but don't want to throw away my relationship just yet. My fiance and I have been together for 13 years. I have always known his 2 children, SD now 18 and SS now 14. But we have been living with his parents for nearly our entire relationship. We live in Hawaii and that isn't uncommon, not the reason I'm posting here. His kids lived on another island with Mom and flew to visit us on breaks and summers. Things weren't always great when they'd come but it was good for the most part. Looking back I saw red flags that I let go bc they were only there with us for a short time. We just bought our very first home, coming up on a year in August. It has been the worst year of my life. We moved islands to be closer to the kids. My SD "lives with us" meaning she has officially moved in but still stays at her Mom's for weeks at a time. My SS has been in our house a total of 4 times since moving. We saw him more before we moved than we do now, when we only live 20 minutes away. So not only are my fiance and I adjusting to living together alone for the very first time he is adjusting to "parenting". And I find myself feeling like a stranger at times. He refuses to show me ANY affection in front of the kids. Even though it was never like that when they visited. I have ZERO say on any type of parenting choices. I feel like I can't even run my household how I want to. Example: I asked my SD to turn off her bedroom light if she wasn't using it. Later that night my fiance called me a hypocrite bc I leave lights on all the time. It became an ongoing argument. To the point that I refused to pay the electric bill myself. We now split the bill. My SD just got a job after taking the last year off after school. But she got a job that is completely out of the way and closer to her Mom. Which was a surprise bc the plan was she'd work closer to us so my fiance and I could pick her up and drop her off, being she doesn't drive. I told my fiance she needed to look for a new job or we wouldn't be able to pick her up anymore. He said I was being mean and it wasn't a big deal. So now he waits sometimes 2 hours after work to get her so he doesn't have to drive back and forth. And when he DOES go back and forth he uses MY car. We pay for our own gas expenses. So it feels like I'm forced to just agree and shut up. I know me saying he can't use my car or to pay for gas will cause a huge fight. Idk what to do. Me and my SD were really close before we moved. She always complained about her Mom and told me things she couldn't talk to my fiance about. And now I can barely stand to be in the same room. I just hate that I "lose" my fiance everytime she comes home. She acts like a child whenever she is here but then wants to be treated like an adult when she wants to get her way. She inserts herself into all of our conversations. She can be clingy to my fiance. We took Xmas photos this year for the first time to make cards. My SD and fiance looked more like a couple than I did. They were hugging in nearly every photo and I was off to the side. Idk what to do. I've tried to just disengage and stay at arms length but it's soooo hard. I miss my old relationship with my fiance. Starting to feel like what's the point.

Winterglow's picture

"He refuses to show me ANY affection in front of the kids."

Ask him straight up what this is about because it's getting offensive.

"Later that night my fiance called me a hypocrite bc I leave lights on all the time."

He needs a wake-up call. You are paying the bills in your home and you have every right to ask those who are not paying the bills to kindly respect that. You were not being a hypocrite at all, just giving a reminder.

 "He said I was being mean and it wasn't a big deal."

No, you were not being mean. She is not your daughter and you have absolutely no obligation to do anything for her. If he wants to sit around waiting for his princess, let him. Sooner or later he'll have had enough. Don't give in on this one.

"when he DOES go back and forth he uses MY car."

Why doesn't he use his own car?

"She acts like a child whenever she is here but then wants to be treated like an adult when she wants to get her way."

I highly recommend you look up 'mini wife syndrome'.

"She inserts herself into all of our conversations."

Tell her it's rude to butt in.

"My SD and fiance looked more like a couple than I did."

Again, mini-wife.

Can you get him to go to counselling? Hopefully a third party can get him to take a loook at what he's doing, i.e. prioritizing his child over his partner. I hope you can because it sounds as if you are losing respect and love for him at quite a speed. If he won't go to counselling, take that as a sign he is not willing to fight for his relationship. 

user2010808's picture

I asked him to go to therapy last night. He is 100% against it. Says his philosophy is "if it's that bad that we need therapy then why be in a relationship". So I said does that mean I shouldn't be here? And he said that's not what he meant. But couldn't give any other reason why he won't do therapy. Tried to act as if nothing is wrong after the argument.

I have seen the mini wife thing on this site a few times. A LOT of it I can relate to. It's hard bc my SD can be very nice and does want a relationship with me. But my resentment is taking over and have distanced myself tremendously from her and my SS. Idk what to do. I know what I should do...just sad that the man I saw my forever with is choosing to let things like things push us apart. I've seen the term Disney Dad being used on this site also, this is veryyyy much him! I feel I'm doomed from ever getting my relationship back.

Winterglow's picture

"Tried to act as if nothing is wrong after the argument."

Ostrich tactics. He thinks that ignoring the elephant in the room will make it suddenly disappear. Poof! Unfortunately, the opposite is much more likely to happen - it gets bigger and bigger until it takes up all the space in your relationship, your lives. 

I agree with the suggestion below that if he won't go to counselling then go by yourself. 

Exjuliemccoy's picture

This is something so many stepparents have experienced some version of: you form a relationship with a divorced parent; they have partial custody and everything seems fine; then custody increases and you get the full monty on what an awful, guilty parent your partner actually is. Basically, proximity ramps up preexisting dysfunction, or reveals dysfunction  previously hidden.

I was married for almost eight years before realizing that my DH is a complete nonparent. Duh. I'm childfree, so I didn't notice some of the parental red flags. And I worked a lot, so his "every other weekend if the kids want to" arrangement didn't affect me much. It wasn't until he unexpectedly got full custody of his youngest that it became clear he wasn't going to step up and parent effectively. These "Visiting Dadees" are more like friendly uncles than true parents.

We both have men who have never fully developed their parenting muscles or parented solo. They have no preexisting template to work from, and just think they've "won the Daddee prize" without considering how to go forward in a way that's healthy FOR ALL.. He needs parenting classes, and you both need to get into couples counseling. If he won't do that, then accept that circumstances concealed his true character all those years and it's time to split assets and move on.

user2010808's picture

I saw a few red flags looking back. But I thought that it was ok since we only saw the kids on breaks. And with bio-mom being an awful human I could easily see her allowing the kids to "choose" to stay home with her on breaks if they wanted to. That was always his excuse for not disciplining them. And I was naive enough to believe it. None of that has changed and we live a few towns over. Still the same song and dance. Can't discipline them, can't make them do chores bc then they'll choose to not come over. So everything falls to me. I have to bite my tongue and pick up the slack. Or ask my fiance to do it and hope he follows through so I don't have to live in a messy house until he gets around to it. Or even worse I can't stand the filth and still end up doing it myself. He wants to be friends with the kids and I'm a firm believer in discipline and structure. So that alone is very hard for me to be around. 

Merry's picture

I can totally relate to this: My SD and fiance looked more like a couple than I did. DH and his daughter are holding hands in our WEDDING photos while he's standing next to me. We recently celebrated a wedding anniversary and I'll tell you I really had to control the flashbacks to all the old demons.

I did eventually lose it on DH and he figured out that I was his wife full time, 100%. The mini-wife behavior eventually slowed down thank goodness. I couldn't take it. SD was the mini-wife and SS was the friend-son. Zero parenting went on in that house.

If your fiance won't go to therapy with you, then you go by yourself. It will be helpful in setting boundaries, which you need with all of them. Just be sure your therapist is experienced in step family dynamics.

user2010808's picture

Wow!! The wedding pics situation has me baffled. I could easily see that happening to me. I have had conversations with my fiance many many times. Most of the time he just agrees with me to end the argument (yes he has admitted this. Said he doesn't actually agree but doesn't like when I'm mad.) So I think things will change but it doesn't. 

His involvement in household chores has improved which I appreciate. And he has been trying to include me in convos. But the affection is still non existent. People keep saying give it time...but we've lived in this house for almost a year with my SD, and been together for 13 years. I feel like we should have it together by now. And how much time is enough time to allow him to change.

I am in therapy, almost a year coincidentally. It honestly has made my relationship much worse. I notice things he does in a different light and it feels disrespectful. I come from a lot of childhood trauma. So I allowed things to go a certain way to avoid abandonment. Now it's biting me in the butt bc I'm ready for things to change. 

ndc's picture

Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel on a relationship if it's not working for you. It sounds like this one isn't, and your BF is not willing to make the changes you need to make the relationship tolerable to you. The 13 years is a sunk cost. Do you want to waste more of your time being unhappy in your relationship, or move on? I don't see things improving if he won't make the effort (eg, refuses counseling).  And the SD is already an adult, so waiting for that to happen in order for things to change isn't happening.

Merry's picture

Oh dear. So much is similar. My DH to this day (together 20 years) will tell his kids on the phone "A friend is at the door" when it's really me coming home from work. It's so stupid. And then other times he refers to me as his lovely bride or other sweet thing. He also would agree with me to shut me up, and nothing would change. Hence, me losing it on him. Essentially HE IS LYING TO YOU. Think about that. He'd rather lie to you than have an honest conversation.

Am I glad I stayed? Yes, usually. BUT my DH was willing to do the hard work of therapy and standing up to his kids and being an actual adult partner to me. He knew I had the means and the ability to leave, and he knows I would have if he didn't get his sh!t together. Old habits, old dysfunction occasionally creeps in but I can let it go since the large majority of our life together is really good.

Therapy hasn't made your relationship worse, you know that. Therapy has helped you see your partner for who he is. While none of us is perfect, your fiance seems unwilling to hear you or act upon the things that you need.

Survivingstephell's picture

Since he has 3 people to cover, his part of the bills should reflect that. He seems like a mooch.  Why doesn't HE have a car?  Do you bring more to the relationship than he does?  It doesn't sound like you are in to deep and should be able to pull out of this with minimal damage.  

user2010808's picture

When we agreed to buy our home we agreed he would pay the mortgage and I would cover the rest of the expenses that are shared. Like bills, household items and food. Our expenses are still separate but we each contribute about the same amount. I'd guess around 75% of our checks to the house and to keep it "running" if that makes sense. But he does earn much more than I do.

He has his own truck but since I work from home we usually use my car to run errands since it sits at home nearly all week. And he uses his own truck to commute to work. He pays for the gas in his truck and I pay for the gas for my car.

SMto3's picture

But if I were you, I'd start spending more time on things that make me happy. With people who make me happy. Let him see that you have a life outside of his. Help him put into perspective how fun it is NOT to be around him and his kids. 

Rags's picture

failed man, failed father, and his mini-wife.

Enjoy your new life adventure.

If he has not grown up and become a man during the past 13yrs, it will in all liklihood never happen. 

Don't waste your life and happiness to help fund his kid worshipping.  If he was doing this with another woman who was not his spawn would you tolerate it? If not, don't tolerate it from him with his mini-wife.

All IMHO of course.

Lillywy00's picture

Um unless he is gonna buy you a new car (considering all the mileage/wear and tear he's putting on it during his visitation pickups) I'd tell him to use his own car to tote his kids around. 

Is he insured on your car? If not then tell Him NO! Even if he is still tell him no so you can reduce your car insurance bill and decrease wear on your car  

You saw the red flags and ignored them for 13 years  

Please don't let another 13 years go by being second, third, fourth fiddle to his kids

Having an increase in custody and moving closer to step kids is a recipe for h3ll unless both bio parents (and their kids) are emotionally stable 

Good luck and stand your ground 

If it get too unbearable LEAVE!