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Should I leave or compromise? Step-family related

(131 Posts)
peachpower Sun 04-Jan-15 09:25:52

I’ll try to be succinct but my head is all over the place.

Been with DH 8 years, married 4.5. We have DD, 18m, conceived through IVF. Generally, we have a fairly good relationship. We are great friends, have similar values and parenting styles and have a good laugh together.

I have a DN, 8 who has been mainly brought up by my Mum due to problems with his mother. The plan is that when he is 11 and switching to secondary school, he will live with us as Mum is getting older and won’t be able to manage. DH does not want this, we almost split up over it after a year of marriage. He feels it isn’t how he wanted his life/family set-up to be and although he has accepted that it WILL happen, he told me last night when talking about it, he still feels very angry and resentful that he was ‘backed into a corner’ about having him (after a lot of soul searching and anguish, I realised I couldn’t live with myself if we didn’t have DN, knew I would resent DH and so ultimately told him this. However he had told me prior that it was divorce if I wouldn’t compromise on this so I guess we both felt backed into said corner). DH has since said this was in temper and he didn’t want to lose me but part of me feels that it was more he didn’t want to start over again and lose face after being married for such a short time so he agreed.

Since this point, we had come a long way. Discovering fertility issues, having treatment, having DD and also having a pregnancy loss. I thought we were a different couple for all this, have become closer and are very connected, and were planning ivf again this year. But, it seems that actually DH hasn’t moved on from his feelings about DN. If anything, having DD he said has made him realise he could never be really happy with the situation as he wants everything ‘right’ with DD and knows DN living here will affect his idea of a perfect family. I thought having a child would change these views, want to nurture DN as he would relate to children much better. He says he cares about DN, feels sad for him and loves him like he loves other members of my family but would throw himself in front of a bus for DD and there is no comparison between the two. Is this how people feel about step-children for example?

I am now in a position where I have to decide if I should leave my marriage because it seems when DN lives here, there will be conflict and resentment from DH – am imagining DN acting up for example which is perfectly normal for a child and how DH might react compared to DD – and the damage this would cause to DN who is already dealing with the complex situation he finds himself in. I know that to leave now would be better rather than leaving if it all goes tits up once DN is here.
On the other hand, I feel DD would be happier if we were together. DH is a wonderful Dad and they are very close. I worry for her if we separate. I know she is young but she will be growing up not seeing both of us every day and that hurts me for her. I feel like whatever I do I will be damaging either DN or DD.

I am also scared about separating as DH has said before he would fight for residency of DD if we were to split. The thought of not seeing her every day is awful enough to me, let alone if I were to only have 50% or less residency. DH has the financial means to go to court but I wouldn’t if we separated (would have to represent myself).
Other factors are, although he is great most of the time, he (IMO) has anger issues and a very negative outlook on a lot of things. I feel the separation would be bitter and this worries me, for me and for DD. And also for DN who is close to DH too and thinks a lot of him. I feel in such a mess.

I do love my DH, but realise our marriage isn’t as strong as it should be if I am feeling like this, and if he is too. But, this is where we are. Married, connected to each other, with a child, and I can’t see the wood for the trees and if it would be foolish to try and make this work or if splitting up our family now is the right thing to do or not.

Any thoughts or insights appreciated, thank you.

ruddygreattiger Sun 04-Jan-15 09:50:22

Op, sorry if this is not what you want to hear but I would be of the same mind as your husband and would not want to bring up another child that was not mine, even though they are family. I love my child to bits but simply do not feel anywhere as strongly towards neices, nephews etc and think this is quite normal. To initially drop this on your husband after only 1 year of marriage strikes me as very unfair and his views seem to have been considered irrelevant. You have hoped that after a few years he would come round to the idea and he definately hasn't.
You have both been through ivf and have a daughter together and are planning on doing this again so your husband obviously loves his own child and the idea of having more with you, you also say he is a wonderful father. I find it sad that you would be willing to end your marriage because he doesn't want to bring up someone elses child.

Tryharder Sun 04-Jan-15 09:51:59

What a difficult situation!

But your DH has 4 years to get used to it. Can you not include your DN into family events more so that your DH gets used to him as part of your family

But I wouldn't leave over this now although you may feel it becomes a deal breaker later on.

Your DH is entitled to his reservations and I think he is struggling to look outside the box so to speak and imagine his family as any other than it is today.

Have you tried discussing with him about how it would be if any of his family members need supporting?

Tryharder Sun 04-Jan-15 09:56:19

I don't think that anyone is expecting the DH to love his wife's DN as much as his own offspring.

But what about family obligation, loyalty, decency and 'doing the right thing'.

Should a boy who has already been through the mill be forced to go to to a foster home because the DH is essentially selfish?

The OP looking after her DN is what decent families do.

Madmum24 Sun 04-Jan-15 10:07:40

Very difficult situation OP. But I am in thinking with your train of thought. I could not leave a relative (child) to go into care because my OH wanted his "perfect" family. If my OH said that tomorrow his nephew had to come to live with us, I mightn't be overjoyed, but I would step up and do the right thing with a positive outlook.

As others have said though that 4 years is a very good £breaking in" period. Increase the amount of time that your DN spends with you as a family and hopefully your DH will come around to the idea.

however Sun 04-Jan-15 10:18:29

I would feel the same as your DP.

But, the fact that he has threatened to fight you for residency of your child and assumes that he can clout you financially rather than discussing residency amicably makes me think he can be vindictive when backed into a corner. Which makes me think he isn't a nice person.

heyday Sun 04-Jan-15 10:25:34

I do think that your DN needs to be slowly integrated into your lives now. Boys of 11 are quite often quite difficult due to the beginnings of puberty and he needs to get used to the idea of possibly moving away from his friends and home. If you see more of each other then your DH may come round to the idea. the teenage years will not be far away either and these can be particularly challenging times. Is there no way he could continue to live with your mum with perhaps more support given by you and DH. Is the boy's father not around to help at all?
It would be wrong to consider having another child whilst things are so unsettled.
If you did separate then you may be given joint custody of your DD. Could you cope with this?
I truly can see both sides of the coin. You are asking a lot of your DH but he is asking a lot of you to expect you to turn your back on DN. You are in an impossible situation. Perhaps sit down and ask DH if there is any way you can make the transition easier for him to accept but if he is dead set against it then I can't really see how it will work out as he will be resentful of DN which could then lead to arguments. I do not envy you in the very difficult choices you need to make.

GreerGarson Sun 04-Jan-15 10:27:30

I am just wondering who exactly it was who made these plans for you DN. Was it just you and your Mum, were other members of your family involved and did your DH have any input into the decision making process at the time ? Also, how did you decide that your Mum wouldn't be able to cope when your DN reached 11 ? Was it only down to the fact that that is the time he will change schools ? Can you or she predict what her coping skills will be like in 3 to 4 years ?

Writerwannabe83 Sun 04-Jan-15 10:32:06

What a difficult situation.

I don't love my niece and nephew as much as I love my DS but I do absolutely love the bones of them. I'm very close to my sister and I love her children so much just because I was hers.

If I had to have one of them live with me as opposed to Foster Care then I would do it in a heartbeat. I wouldn't expect my DH to be thrilled about it but he'd support me because he knows how much I love them.

If I was forced to choose between my niece/nephew or my husband (in your situation) then I would choose the child.

BathtimeFunkster Sun 04-Jan-15 10:40:00

If even in the good times you know he would be spiteful and unfair in terms of a split, I think that says very bad things about him as a person.

I'm not sure I could love or respect a man who would put a close chod into state care for such shallow reasons.

Cabrinha Sun 04-Jan-15 10:41:49

"Great most of the time but anger issues and a negative outlook" hmm

Anger issues? Every person I've ever heard say a partner has anger issues has gone on to describe an arsehole.

It sounds like an awful position with your nephew, but I'll leave the suggestion on that to the other good replies.

Two other things strike me -
1. These "anger issues"?
2. That you are talking about having no money to represent yourself. Why are you so financially weak in this relationship? Do you work now? My advice if you have a marriage with problems, and you do, anger issues AND your nephew, is to make sure that you work and have financial independence. Don't spend more money on IVF, lose more years at work having another child with him, if you can't afford to support yourself ALONE if you have to.

Annarose2014 Sun 04-Jan-15 10:48:23

I don't see any suggestion he'd go into care? OP, what happens if you don't take him - does your Mum keep going?

Tbh, it sounds like you are effectively considering becoming a single parent to your nephew, with shared custody of your daughter. I do not think thats a preferable outcome, really.

And you are considering going for IVF again, so you do want another baby. That dream would end with the marriage ending, too.

You may love your DS, but enough to break up the family for him?

And when was this "plan" even formulated? It sounds like it was a long time ago. Your DHs ambivalence was plainly just ignored, even though you were telling him he's going to be the parent of an adolescent he'd never lived with some day. And so, now suddenly here's no "Plan B" except "Be a Single Mother". Foolish.

Is there any way he can stay with your Mum? Can extra support/help be found for her? After school/homework clubs etc? Staying over at yours on weekends maybe?

Viviennemary Sun 04-Jan-15 10:49:20

I think it was quite wrong of you to agree bring a child into the family without the consent of your DH. It is just simply not on. It just makes for a very unhappy and resentful family set-up. I'd totally hate to be backed into a corner like this. I feel very sorry for your DH. He should never be put in this position.

BalloonSlayer Sun 04-Jan-15 10:50:54

Are you DD's primary carer? If so he does not have much chance of getting residency.

How will you manage financially if DN comes to live with you? a) if you and DH stay together and b) if you don't. Obviously he won't be expected to provide financially for DN.

Agree with the others - he sounds awful, threatening etc.

MuttonCadet Sun 04-Jan-15 10:55:35

I have two stepchildren and I'd row myself under a bus for either of them.
Your DN didn't ask for this situation, I can't imagine being with a man who couldn't compromise in a situation like this. No, it might not be ideal, but it's life.
What would his reaction be if (god forbid), something happened to you or your DD which meant that life was no longer "perfect".
In my experience this is when you find someone's true worth, I hate to say it, but in think your DH has failed to step up.

ClashCityRocker Sun 04-Jan-15 10:55:36

I think you're absolutely right that you can't bring dn into somewhere he isn't wanted. Having said that, I have some sympathy with the husband in this scenario - it's something I'd do for a blood relation, but would have reservations for a relative of DH, although I still think ultimately I would do it.

Is it imperative that he goes to yours at eleven? it seems such an arbitrary cut-off point, and I'm not sure a house move at the same time as starting secondary school would be ideal. Will he understand why he is coming to your house, or will he feel like he is being rejected by what sounds like the only stable home he's known?

Could you have him at yours sometimes to give your mum a break?

Other things you've said make me think your husband could be a bit of an arse. Is he?

peachpower Sun 04-Jan-15 10:56:31

Thanks for all replies.

Ruddy I really want to hear all view point and opinions, not just my own so thank you. It is sad that I'm feeling like this but the alternate of my DN going into care so DH has the 'perfect' family set-up screams all kinds of wrong to me. I think, that as we feel so differently about this, we shouldn't have stayed together and had a child but we did so need to decide what to do now.

Tryharder Thanks, this is how I feel. It isn't ideal but it is the right thing to do and I feel our family may not be 'traditional' but it can still be wonderful - if DH lets go of the resentment. DN does spend a lot of time with us already, and DH is very good with him, so I am surprised and hurt I think that his feelings don't seem to have deepened like I hoped they would.

But, the fact that he has threatened to fight you for residency of your child and assumes that he can clout you financially rather than discussing residency amicably makes me think he can be vindictive when backed into a corner. Which makes me think he isn't a nice person.

^ This chills me but I'm inclined to agree to an extent. I think he is very loyal, thoughtful and loving, but to the people he loves, not so much to the wider world. I think there is quite a cold side to him and if we split up I am pretty certain it wouldn't be amicable. I would be taking away his family - the thing he has always wanted - and he would understandably be devastated. But I feel he would react to this by fighting. I also think this trait is a big part of the issue with DN living with us, that it isn't what he would choose, therefore he can't move past it and feel positive, although I take the point from this thread that others would feel similar, and that doesn't make them bad people or anything.

Without giving too much detail, both DN's Mum and Dad are equally chaotic, unreliable and in no way responsible parental figures. There is no way he could live with them or they could offer support.

We live in another city to DN - neighbouring. See him as much as poss, but the move at 11 is so he isn't uprooted from his current school. I initiated the plan for him to live with us, talking to both DH and my Mum. She is in her 70s with a health condition. She is a superwoman but won't manage to look after him until adulthood, she should be resting now really. She is coping atm though and we help where we can with weekend stays. We also took him on holiday last year.

I feel the same writerwannabe I don't love my DN in the same way as my DD but do love him very, very much and feel as a child, he can't help being in this position, but DH can and is choosing ATM to not make the best of it.

This talk happened last night so I agree that IVF will be off the cards until we can try and sort something out. I hate the thought of my marriage being over but fear I will regret not leaving if things go badly when DN moves in with all his emotional baggage, puberty and adjusting if my DH is still resentful. This will surely cause more upset to both DN and DD, as well as DH and I, although am I potentially throwing away our family life for no good reason?

dirtybadger Sun 04-Jan-15 10:56:34

Wow. Difficult situation. I feel as you would. I am very close to my DN's and would "throw myself under a bus" for them. Oldest DN is 12 so similiar age to what yours would be, and him going into care wild absolutely break me. I can't see what compromise can be made; he lives with you or he doesn't.
The slow integration idea is good.

I can't really get my head around someone not wanting to help a child in the way you will. Of course it's difficult but in his position whilst I can certainly imagine the realities being challenging, I can't imagine thinking "I don't want him here". So long as he thinks that way, I can't possibly see how the reality will be pleasant...for anyone. I don't think it'll just be a bumpy ride or something he gets used to. He will be full of resentment. It will not play out well.

I also agree that it's better to split earlier than to try it out. If it feels inevitable then practically it will be much easier. Splitting when you have one child to care for is easier than with two. I would also consider that the closer to "the date" you leave it the more your DN may feel like it was his fault your marriage ended...

Do you feel like there is any chance your DHs feelings may change?
If you are very confident he will feel the same when the time comes then I actually agree you should consider what that means now...not bury your head in the sand.

Oh and the comments about residency stink of someone being a bully....

ICanTotallyDance Sun 04-Jan-15 10:56:47

Wow. I don't know who is in the right here and what the right situation is. This all sounds very tricky. Although, personally, it seems to me that your heart is in the right place and you seems to have a good outlook on things.

Is there any particular reason your DH doesn't want him (e.g. is he a problem child?) or is this not like that?

This may be a radical or unreasonable solution but, considering your marriage is on the line, would your DH be happier to have your DN "part-time" e.g. he lives with you some days a week or perhaps if he was a weekly boarder and was only home at weekends? Do you think your DH/DM/DN would consider boarding school?

I am a bit concerned about your mention of negative views and anger issues, that is a big red flag and sets alarm bells ringing, but it is a different issue to the main point in your thread.

Elllimam Sun 04-Jan-15 11:02:50

I agree with Annarose, could you offer a compromise? Maybe a couple of weekends a month would give your mum a break and let your husband get to know your nephew. Speak to your mum, is it really in your nephews best interest to be moved from his home to another home especially where his uncle isn't really all that keen. Teenagers can be very difficult as it is and if your husband isn't 100% to begin with it could be traumatising for everyone. I have to say in this situation, however selfish I would have to prioritise my own children at the end of the day.

however Sun 04-Jan-15 11:03:05

I can understand you wanting to step up for your DN, as he needs you.

I can understand him issuing an ultimatum.

I think, in an otherwise healthy relationship, the parties would split regretfully, but (mostly) amicably. With residency worked out in the best interests of the children.

Gosh, it's tricky for you.

ClashCityRocker Sun 04-Jan-15 11:05:15

What does your DH suggest?

Does he believe the child will go into care? Or does he think that your mother will manage?

Would he consider talking to someone outside of the situation (a counsellor, maybe?) about his feelings?

peachpower Sun 04-Jan-15 11:09:27

Missed other replies.

Yes, I fucked up with this, I know. When we were younger, my Mum in better health, my sister not a total mess and there was a chance of her taking DN back; I didn't think we would face this situation, this was pre-marriage. A year into marriage, my Mum got a health condition, sister completely wrote herself off as a parent, I became much closer to DN, I also grew up a lot I think and had a reality check about him going into care at some point if we didn't step up. If I could turn things back, I would.

He can be an arse, yes. Separate to this major issue, I have felt that his negative outlook and sometimes difficult personality and getting het up easily can be tough to live with and I have wondered if all his good qualities make up for these factors. I have felt some regret and that I didn't choose the right person, but that ship had sailed and I would make the best of what we do have - which is a lot - although I again realise older and wiser that there were flags earlier in our relationship that I didn't have the confidence to do something about.

So being honest, this is not a perfect marriage scenario with a DN thrown in messing things up. There are other bad things, and lots of good things. The bad without the DN thing is not enough for me to end our marriage over.

I realise if we split, it would be saying goodbye to another child probably, this hurts me but I don't think that should be a reason to stay. Financially, I am a SAHM so would obviously be going back to work, but he would be much better off than me (lots of savings and a well-paid job). It would be tight with DD and DN but we would manage.

Balloonslayer Yes am primary carer. Would DD's age also be considered? As no longer a baby, but still very young IMHO. I feel awful as my getting main residency would mean he didn't and this would be awful for him, but I feel DD would be better off as well as I would be better off (so am trying not to be totally selfish). I would want and encourage lots of contact and skype and stay-overs. Obviously this wouldn't be satisfactory for DH though and I feel he would fight.

Annarose2014 Sun 04-Jan-15 11:10:41

Also second the idea of boarding school. A lot of kids thrive in the routine and you could have him for holidays since you take him a lot anyway. The cost might not be as prohibitive as you think.

peachpower Sun 04-Jan-15 11:17:23

DN isn't a problem child, he is a little dote and adores DD as she does him. DH loves their bond and relationship, it is as perfect as it could be atm, which concerns me wrt DH's feelings as how will he cope when inevitably, things aren't perfect at times?

DH knows DN will go into care if not with us. He has agreed, but I guess the issues are.
A) He doesn't want DN even though he is taking him in and how will we live happily like this?
B) Ultimately, he would let him go into care but saving our marriage / family life is what's stopping him, rather than any duty to do the right thing for DN.

We had counselling a few years ago about this and it didn't get resolved. They (understandably) couldn't fix it, encouraged us to talk and in a fashion we reached this decision, but from DH's perspective, he was always forced into it. I feel I wrongly wanted counselling to help him look at his reaction and feelings about this 'ideal' family and reluctance to take DN but that didn't happen, I am starting to see now three years has passed, it is unlikely that he will soften. It is confusing because he has a nice time with DN and is loving towards him, he isn't cold or horrible or anything.

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