How do I stop my attitude to his adult children ruining relationship?

(16 Posts)
Justus Wed 02-Jan-13 18:10:53

I have been in a relationship for two years with a guy who has 2 adult children who live some distance away. I lived/live with one child, now teenager, who has been ill, is getting better, but I'm very protective still. Partner knew my situation when we first met (I was tentative, was divorcing after long separation from disfunctional marriage, and I did not finding opening up easy) and yet he pursued me; kept promising to love me forever; proposed after six months.
Plan was for my divorce to come through (this year, finally) and we sell our flats then buy home together and get married.
My partner sees his ex (she left him for someone else who she's married to) sometimes and I have met her, though found that very difficult. His oldest got married this year but only invited her friends and parents to her wedding. He cancelled plans for a major birthday celebration as he knew I find his kids difficult and would not want his ex there. We had planned, too, a holiday abroad with the 3 collective children and their partners but now he's just told me he's going on holiday alone with his kids, will do something separate with me. That's what they want, they've booked it already. I reacted badly (is that unreasonable? I honestly don't know), he threatened to cancel it, and immediately saw this was the worst thing to do and tried to retract and say he should just go (which I am sure he will), but now he says this was Xmas ruined by problems created by me with his family.
For the last few months he won't talk about marriage, buying house etc. and says he sees only difficulties ahead. Writing this, it sounds like I should give up now, but when we are alone we have such a great relationship, and I have worked so hard to open up again with a man. I can't believe after 2 years, with him doing so much of the chasing, that he's cooling now and blaming me. It is like all he can see is negativity. But is it my fault? I wanted his kids to like me, for us to deal with them as a couple, not separate, and the more I don't see that, the more I know I sound desperate to be included every time they are in contact, which puts pressure on him. He says I've been constantly asking him questions about them for the last month and it's unbearable. He finds my child difficult too, and is anxious about her living with us in new home, though she's almost ready to go off to uni.
Why are step-relationships so difficult and can I rescue this? I probably have been unreasonable, but I also don't want to always be second best when his kids are involved. Same is probably true for him with mine.
Sorry for long post, but I feel pretty rotten now and would love to hear from others.

waterrat Wed 02-Jan-13 19:42:33

Is it the step relationship that is causing the problem or his behaviour and attitude? He didn't talk to you openly about his holiday problems - that's not a problem caused by the children but by him - it sounds (from what you have written) as though he is behaving selfishly and thoughtlessly, not putting your feelings at the heart of his actions - even if he has to weigh them constantly up with his childrens feelings, they should still be important - you are going to be his life partner.

you say that he is a good partner when it is just the two of you - but that's not what life is. It's not just being alone in a room together - your relationship has to work in the real world - in the context of the web of relationships you have with other people. That would be the case even without step children involved.

have you been onto the step family page? Lots of people can offer more specific thoughts. But try to look at his behaviour as his responsibility alone - not something 'caused' by his situation - he is an adult and if you are going to spend your life iwth him, he has to measure up. Don't commit just because you have come this far....that would be a mistake..!

Justus Wed 02-Jan-13 20:09:18

Thanks a lot for that. I am normally quite a contained person, but now that I've become emotionally open, allowing myself to believe we had a future together, I become insecure when he is unhappy with me and my circumstances. Insecure, or needy, is something I would never want to be.

I've been through so much with my own child, it was great to think I had a new adult life, but now I'm becoming worried. He says lovely things to me but he acknowledges too that he has a reputation for being difficult. I will check out the page you mention.

lopsided Wed 02-Jan-13 20:16:17

Why do you find his kids difficult? And what's the problem with his ex? It sounds like she isn't in your lives much and it's totally over.

lopsided Wed 02-Jan-13 20:25:26

Hmm I have reread your op and I think you have unrealistic expectations. As they were adults when you came into their lives and you have only been together 2yrs they won't deal with you together. They know their dad and you are his girlfriend. Imagine one of your parents meeting someone new would they be equal after 2 yrs? These things take time.

Misty9 Wed 02-Jan-13 20:43:51

I speak as an adult child of two parents who divorced and have both remarried when I was in my 20s.
I'm a bit confused by some of your post - you say your dp cancelled a major birthday celebration due to worries that you wouldn't want contact with his kids and ex (would find it difficult), but you also say you want contact with them?

One big thing stuck out to me - you said you don't want to be second best to him after his kids? But presumably your own dd will come before him?? When relationships are formed with adult children involved I think it can be tricky to get the balance right. Children are no longer 'dependants' and contact may also be sporadic - so it makes sense to prioritise the person you spend most your life with. But, children came first and for some will always come first. Both my parents take the former attitude as far as I can tell - which has caused some upset and hurt to myself and siblings.

I think your reaction to the change of holiday plans is understandable - but your dp needs to be communicating with you better. As a pp wisely said, this relationship does need to work within the context of your families - so if you're already worried it won't then there may be some serious thinking/talking needed before commitments like marriage and joint houses are undertaken.

In my case, I don't really see my parents new spouses as step-parents in the usual meaning. They just came into my life too late for that (meaning as an adult) but I do expect any contact with my parents to be with their spouses (holidays etc) although my mum lives abroad and does the odd new-baby trip here alone.

Hope my ramblings help somewhat - and good luck.

Justus Wed 02-Jan-13 22:39:36

thanks, people. Misty9, I do think your comments helpful. On my own dd, there is an issue, I agree. She needs a bit of looking after. We are very close (no contact with her dad) and I understand dp finds that difficult. She is unpredictable, not yet certain to be able to succeed on her own at uni, and he finds that very hard. It is a health issue.
And lopsided, there are a number of reasons - the way he is often waiting for promised calls from them that never happen - they are 'too busy.' I have to listen to his concerns and disappointments but am not supposed to criticise. The way he is dealing with health issues that I do all i can to help/support him with, yet when they come to stay he's sleeping on the floor. The way I feel (probably wrongly, I know) that they become centrestage simply because when they plan to come up, weeks go by when he doesn't know when they'll arrive, has no idea of where they are staying or what they'll be doing (meaning our plans are put on hold) and I never know if I am to be invited along for meals etc or not - it is all 'I don't know, don't keep asking me' which makes me feel crap; makes me nag when I don't want to. Then I get asked last minute to stuff and am seen as a trouble maker when I get huffy and don't want to go. I'll stop there - just small everyday, petty, things that work away at you, or at me, at any rate.

lopsided Wed 02-Jan-13 23:10:53

I can see it's tricky but I think your daughters ill health is sort of blinding you (in a nice way). I think you would feel the same whatever your daughter was like (even if she was uber independent) , and there's the rub so does he even if his adult kids can be a bit thoughtless.

I think it is very hard in step families to realise often that the married couple have different priorities wrt the children. It is more straight forward for many non step families because where they put the kids first they are both patents and its a shared priority.

Justus Wed 02-Jan-13 23:42:00

yes, lopsided, I think you are right.

Justus Thu 03-Jan-13 09:33:42

I spoke to him this morning and he's cancelled our evening out tonight with his son, says it's all too difficult, problem after problem. He won't reply when I say we need to work together, just refers to problems and says he wants peace. He wants to meet later today. Looks like he's about to cut and run. I cannot believe it. We had planned our lives together. This is like a living nightmare, in real time.

waterrat Thu 03-Jan-13 10:21:49

Justus - have you ever been on the relationships board here on mumsnet? It is a really good place for ongoing support in a break up or difficult situation. Better than parenting I think.

Have you had proper counselling for your marriage break up ? Now might be a good time to get some - to help you with dealing with whatever is going on - look at the BACP page for local support to you - it can be reasonably priced.

I can't recommend more highly getting proffesional support - it sounds from what you have said that you are going to find old hurts brought up by this - remember , if he can't be the support you need you are better off without him.

Hope you have real life support - dont feel bad that you opened up and trusted him - that's not your failing it's a strength!

Justus Thu 03-Jan-13 11:17:42

thanks Waterrat - I have just this morning found the relationship board and posted a desperate message.
I did get counselling after my marriage break-up and during it. I think I may need to again, but it is hard to find someone right for you.
I have very little in the way of a support network, am a private person really. My dd just caught me crying my heart out - she's never seen me like that before but I just couldn't stop myself. Am now off to wander round town until I meet him at 2pm but on the phone this morning he made it clear he wants out.
I am shaking, I am so heartbroken and sad.

waterrat Thu 03-Jan-13 12:08:15

poor you it's a horrible situation - yes, it is hard finding the right counsellor/ therapist - but really worth while. especially if you are private and don't really have others to talk to.

Remember to try and stay calm when assessing the relationship - fear of losing someone can make us blind to the reality of how that relationship made us feel and what it really provided.

Justus Thu 03-Jan-13 16:47:47

that's a good point W.
This afternoon we sat on a park bench and he talked about there always being problems and needing to take a break and step back. I was pretty stressed. He is meeting his own friends tonight now and says we will go out tomorrow. It is like day to day living now, that's as far as he wants to talk about the future. I wonder if he is just dragging it out but he doesn't use straight language, just says how miserable he feels.
I sat there staring at the grass thinking 'I don't want to come across as some pathetic, needy person, I am worth more than that' but came across in just that way. I am afraid of losing him but I see it happening.
If I took the risk of saying I should end it would that be better? I don't think I have the courage to do that but I don't want to be humiliated, hanging on.

waterrat Fri 04-Jan-13 07:25:49

I know it's easier said than done when you are in this situation and feeling the fear of losing him - but really try to take a step back and don't let him keep you hanging on like this, day to day. If you want him to make a commitment to you - then it would be better if he had the proper space to decide if that's what he wants to do - and you can think about whether or not he is treating you in a way you consider acceptable from a loving partner.

If living day to day with no idea of the future and a sense of unease is going to make you feel like crap (and of course it would!) then why not back away and tell him you want to be with him when he makes his mind up.....

Hope you can get things sorted out

MrsHoarder Fri 04-Jan-13 07:54:45

I know things have taken a turn for the worse, but would you be upset if these were his friends you weren't "gelling" with or would you encourage them to go out together, go away together and you have fun with your DD?

From the other side, both partners attempting to act like parents to "children" they have only met as adults feels weird, it will just never be that kind of relationship.

Hang on in there, try not to take the children's treatment of you personally, and why would you end it if you don't want it to end? You can ask him if you want, but don't you dump him because you think he's thought about dumping you.

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