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Family / normal counselling

(24 Posts)
theredhen Thu 04-Aug-11 07:24:21

Has anyone had any experience for this for a difficult step family situation?

I am increasingly feeling that I simply can't do this anymore. I am constantly stressed and it's got to the point that I am actually ill with all the worry that our situation brings.

My first thought is to go back to my own home but I am fairly certain that DP would give up on our relationship if I did that and I would really like not to loose him as we do get on well aside from the hassle due to ex wife / kids / his own doing. I stay and keep hoping that I can "learn to live with things" but I simply can't and any complaints by me about anything to do with the step kids / ex wife are met with "you are trying to stop me seeing my kids". This of course, instantly shuts me up because I hate the thought of him or anyone thinking that.

So I see counselling, as possibly, the only way forward. Anyone got any experience?

glasscompletelybroken Thu 04-Aug-11 09:58:01

I have had counselling on my own to try and help me deal with the situation with my DSD's and their mother. The main problem for me - which I think also applies to your circumstances - is that I know there is nothing I can do to change anything. I used to hope there was but now I know that is not the case. I had counselling to try and help me live with things as they are and I also had hypnotherapy.

The main problem was convincing the counsellor/hypnotherapist that my situation can't be improved as when I explained it all to them they were incredulous and came up with all kinds of "strategies to implement change" All good in theory but not in reality!

Once I got past this I have to say it was good to get it all out and talk fully about it - which I never get to do in RL or even on here for fear of being outed and making things worse. Other than that though I have to say it hasn't helped and just cost me money I couldn't really afford.

Sorry not to be more positive but this is my honest experience. it doesn't mean it won't work for you though and it is worth a try if you want to stay with your DP.

theredhen Thu 04-Aug-11 10:12:30

Thanks for your reply, and honesty.

That is my main issue - that I feel I have no control at all over the situation and how it affects me. I feel that DP ex wife controls my life and that of DP and DS. He moans and complains and gets upset and angry and then does exactly what she wants while I have to sit back and say and do nothing but accept the situation and I simply can't do this!

I wondered if counselling together would help him see how his actions not only affect him and his children but also me and DS too and we are not just bystanders.

I've told him that it's only the thought of losing him that stops me going back to my home. I don't know what the answer is but I can't continue like I have been and it's not just going to get better. Yes, I can "put up" with it to an extent but I am constantly stressed and that can't be good for me or DS.

WkdSM Thu 04-Aug-11 11:09:14

When our youngest SS came to live with us (at 13) he had quite severe issues that came through after about 2 months 'honeymoon' period.

We went to Relate as they have specially trained family councellors - they were very good.

Initial meeting talking to all 3 of us and then speaking to DH and I on our own and then SS.

They then decide who to see and in what mixes. We went once a week and they ask for payment in accordance with your income.

The lady we saw was excellent - she gave us some good advice as we had never had a teenager live with us full time and gave us guidance on what was 'normal' or 'aceptable' behaviour and what we should not accept. She was also professional enough to say when she thought that SS's issues were outside her scope of expertise and recommended going to the GP and getting him some more professional help, which we did.

One of the best things she did was recognise the emotional damage that SS's behaviour was having - that there was a limit to how many times you can say OK that has happened - lets draw a line under it and start again. She made me feel less of a freak in that I could not love (or even like) the person he was. She explained this as perfectly normal to my DH - and that has helped us enormously. She advised me to detach emotionally from SS and his actions and I think that probably saved my sanity.

Bottom line - I would recommend Relate to anyone who wants to look at family councelling.

notnowImreading Thu 04-Aug-11 11:19:58

When my stepdaughter moved in with us it was just bloody awful. I went for counselling on my own with a really nice woman who worked locally. She was a CPD practitioner but I just wanted to talk and get things off my chest and she did let me. Once or twice she tried to get me to act out scenarios where I could take more control but I just couldn't bear it so after about 4 sessions she said that she might be a counsellor but she was also a mum and that actually what I ought to do was XYZ. The kind advice was massively more helpful than the questions about my own parents and feelings etc. If I were ever in the same situation again, I would ask a counsellor to think about doing that - it was so nice for me to have the combination of a confidential sounding board and a wise person with one or two helpful ideas each week.

Only warning, though - when you talk about the situation for an hour, you're pretty much guaranteed to get to the bit that really upsets you just before the end of the session so you might well go home tearful and furious each time, which can be a bit alienating for your other half. Maybe plan it so that you can have a bit more time to yourself afterwards before going home.

theredhen Thu 04-Aug-11 11:43:06

Oh my goodness, the thought of dragging 5 kids along to counselling fills me with dread. In fact taking 5 kids anywhere fills me with dread now as it's such hard work as they are so negative and whingy. Ex wife would love to think we were having problems and it was down to her, so I don't think this could ever happen anyway!

Because of the way I behave (biting my tongue, putting on a happy face, getting on with it, being supportive) no-one else is unhappy in our family. All the kids seem fine including DS. DP has his happy family unit and I am the one awake all night stewing on it all because if I say anything then, I am messing it all up and I am the baddie. Every now and again, I explode, then I feel better for having let off steam and things just carry on again. I need to break this cycle and I really feel the need that I need DP to listen and understand. I think it suits him not to understand and I am scared he will run off and find a woman who CAN put up with all this - a better woman than me. sad

Petal02 Thu 04-Aug-11 12:12:57

Redhen, it makes me sad to read you fear your DP may leave you for a woman who can cope with his situation, yet I think the fear should be the other way round - as I think 99% of women would run to the hills rather than get involved with a man who had four children practically living with him. And your DP is damn lucky to have you.

Hypothetically, if you did move out, would he make any changes in order to get you back?

brdgrl Thu 04-Aug-11 12:35:20

DH and I went to (still do!) Relate. There was a bit of a wait before they could get us an appointment, but once we were 'in', we had a weekly appointment. In reality, it has worked out to about every other week - mostly down to the counselor's days off, bank holidays, etc....Getting DH to go wasn't THAT difficult, but I did have to insist on it, as he didn't see the point particularly.

DH and I have both (in the past) had separate counselling - DH saw a grief counselor after First Wife died, and I saw a counslor when I was having some health and personal issues. The stepkids have not had any kind of counselling, and refused to go to any after their mother died.

Our Relate counselor did want to meet them, and thought it would be good to see them too, but in the end, it has been just DH and I. The kids went along once and the Relate counselor met with them separately, then we all talked together at the end. That was a good session, and quite helpful I thought, but the kids have not wanted to go back. I am OK with that as really I would like to keep the focus on DH and I's relationship - after all, usually I am not so much in conflict with the kids as in conflict with him over how he deals with the kids, IYSWIM.

The Relate counseling has been a mixed success. We are actually trying right now to decide if we will carry on with it, or if we have gotten all we could from it.

Honestly, for me it has been most helpful in that it provides a reality check! Before we were seeing anyone, DH would just tell me that I was over-sensitive, or he'd deny that anything strange was going on. It took an outsider to make him see that he was being a DisneyDad, or to realize that our couple relationship needed more time and effort, or that his relationship with DSD was unhealthy. There were things which seemed obvious to me, but which he couldn't hear from me without becoming defensive, but which he could hear at Relate. I don't think he would have ever made the shift to wanting to make changes, without the counselling.

As for me - the Relate counselor mostly just reminds me of how far things have come, and tries to get me to focus on that instead of the things that are still problems. I'd rather we spent more time on practical strategies, instead of just 'acknowledging' our progress - so I get frustrated - but I do think that the counselling was helpful, and without it, we probably would have split up.

theredhen Thu 04-Aug-11 13:01:01

Petal - Because DP doesn't appear to be stressed by having his kids (possibly because he is often not here!) then he gives the impression that anyone who does get stressed has a problem. hmm My gut feeling is that he would just walk away from me if I went "home" and go looking for someone who can put up with things. To be fair, I think one of the issues is that I don't want lots of kids (anyones) kids around me most of the time. I like my time and space alone or with DS. Perhaps some women would welcome lots of children and noise and people being around all the time?

DP says he feels like piggy in the middle and I do feel for him trying to not upset anyone and that's why I feel the need to walk away, so I don't put that pressure on him, but he doesn't want me to move back home because then he feels he isn't getting what he wants. I can't seem to get him to see a compromise.

I sit back and watch his children treat him appaullingly and can say nothing. If my DS behaved like that to me, I'm damn sure it would not help DP and DS relationship at all. Everytime I try and point out that his lack of parenting is damaging to them, he tries to tell me that DS is difficult too. hmm

Three people in the last week have commented on how well mannered, well behaved and ambitious DS is and yet DP seems to be oblivious to this and wants to point out the negatives to make himself feel better.

If a counsellor could make him really see things as they are, we might be able to get somewhere. Just don't know if it's possible.

Sophye Thu 04-Aug-11 13:21:55

Dear theredhen, I know exactly how you feel - my partner's ex controls my life through her control of my partner's and their child's. The truth is that the situation won't change because she won't change - why would she, she has everything right where she wants it, dangling on her string.
I went for counselling and the practitioner taught me the Emotional Freedom Technique. The point being that it removes the emotion I feel from a situation without needing to change the situation. Has its roots in acupuncture but without the needles! It really works. By removing the emotion I feel less stressed about things, it's very specific and can work on any situation - big or small. It frees up your mind to not stressing but thinking of the solution or more importantly just freeing up space for the rest of your life. One of the best things he told me (though difficult to do) is to put things into perspective - I think about how much I hate her and what she's doing about 80% of the time - how much does she think about me - big fat zero! How much does she actually affect my time probably about 20%. It's a whole waste of energy! The other option is to leave, which I've considered on lots of occasions, and haven't ruled out - it is so hard!! Good luck smile

Petal02 Thu 04-Aug-11 14:25:04

Sophye – the Emotional Freedom Technique you describe sounds like “detaching”. And I was interested to read your counsellor’s thoughts on perspective, because it’s all too easy to spend your days seething about the situation, and wasting too much energy on being angry. But I agree that it’s easier said than done – I’ve been quite good at not getting involved in SS/access/ex issues of late, but it doesn’t stop my brain doing over-time. So whilst I’m outwardly detaching, I still spend a disproportionate amount of the day feeling angry and frustrated. But I have started going to Boxercise classes, and that really helps.

Redhen – you say that you don’t want lots of (anyone’s) kids hanging around you most of the time; and whilst I wouldn’t either, I’m not sure how counselling would help you with this, because I’ve often thought the crux of your problem is amount of children involved. I’m not being critical because I would have jumped off a tall pier by now if I were in your shoes However the ‘head-count’ element of the situation is not changeable, and that’s what worries me. Even if your DP had an epiphany, and started parenting sensibly and didn’t jump every time the ex clicked her fingers, you’d still have four step children.

It’s rather like having a house you really like, but in the wrong location. You’d like is to be in Penzance, but actually it’s in Preston. So you either accept the situation, staying in the great house in the wrong location, or you up sticks and find a scenario that ticks all your boxes.

I’m not trying to be flippant, but maybe you should join me at Boxercise?? You can’t change you present situation, but knocking seven bells out of a punch bag could make you feel a whole lot better ……….

tokenwoman Thu 04-Aug-11 14:35:45

red hen what are you doing looking after his kids if he's not there? thats a no win situation no wonder you feel fed up and think about it who the hell would he find to take your place if he had to spend his time looking after his kids, he wouldnt be able to go a-hunting for a replacement
Ive kept my own place and I go back to it when it all gets too much and Ive also just read why men like bitches and this has helpped me not only with DP aka disney dad but in my relationships with other people and learn how not to just sit back and accept bad behaviour from those you love and the good thing is its done without any nagging just quiet withdrawal until you get the respect you deserve - try it you'll love it and it works

Petal02 Thu 04-Aug-11 14:52:40

Tokenwoman – lots of us end up looking after stepkids when their father isn’t present; the father wants access, collects the kids, has to go to work, and therefore the new wife/partner is left with them. When this gets excessive, I think it’s totally wrong, and call it “access by proxy”. The father thinks he’s having access just because he’s (a) removed them from the BM; and (b) placed them under his roof. The fact that he’s not there doesn’t seem to enter his head.

Poor Redhen has to endure this far more often that is fair or reasonable, and has tried every trick in the book (apart from murder or moving out) to get her DP to change his stance, but he carries on regardless, and (conveniently?) doesn’t understand how much stress this causes.

When you get to the “I’ve tried everything” stage, your choices are limited – you either stay put, in the knowledge that it’s not going to change, or you leave. I think it’s great that you’ve got a bolt hole to withdraw to, and in an ideal world we’d all have that, however economics dictate that very few of us can keep a ‘spare’ home to nip back to, whenever we’ve had enough. So whilst I totally endorse your “quietly withdraw til you get the respect you deserve” plan, it only works if you have a second home.

theredhen Thu 04-Aug-11 15:00:33

Petal - These kids supposedly live with their Mother, but are more often than not with us for most of the week right now. She tries to get in a few overnights at hers so she keeps maintenance, I suspect, and then they come back the next morning with DP sometimes doing 3 or 4 trips to pick them all up at different times. If the kids were to come at regular times in the holidays, then I would know how to plan my life. DP's ex just lives on a whim and expects DP to drop everything to pick up the kids - which he does! I could cope with being a part time step mum, if that is what I am allowed to be.

Tokenwoman - No-one is looking after the kids most of the time. They are mostly old enough to be left alone and older ones "babysit" younger ones. DP ex wife just doesn't want them in her home. So literally texts DP in the morning unexpectantly and expects him to run round and pick them up and he does. He then leaves them at home all day, I come home from work and never know if I am coming home to 1,2,3,4, or 5 kids. DP will still be at work. DSC think their Mother is Mother Teresa and will often tell me how much better she is and how much more fun they have there!

Sophye - It is the waste of my emotional energy that I have had enough of. I am not concentrating on my life and although I know not to waste energy on this all of the time, it's not always easy to detach and there is ALWAYS something, whether it be DP kids not answering his calls, a "surprise" request for an errand run, a snotty e-mail or text, every single day there is something.

colditz Thu 04-Aug-11 15:06:20

Go home. Switch your phone off. Your partner is beng GROSSLY unfair to you.

theredhen Thu 04-Aug-11 15:12:39

Colditz - Not quite that easy. Removals to book and tenants to remove from house etc.

He would argue that as I have my son home all the time, what's the difference in him having his kids there all the time?

WkdSM Thu 04-Aug-11 17:51:27

What's the difference?

They are not your kids.

What's the difference?

Feeding 5 kids instead of 1

What's the difference?

Does he do their ironong and washing and clean up after them?

Seriously, I would stop feeding / shopping / washing / cleaning for them and let him get on with it. Then ask him what the difference to his life is.

allnewtaketwo Thu 04-Aug-11 19:45:29

theredhen - I have read a lot of your posts over a long period of time. Believe me, your DP will not find someone who is more patient than you, or more willing to deal with being lumpted with 4 extra children to look after at the whim of his ex. Frankly, in your situation, I would have been off a long time ago.

I don't know whether counselling would help, I have no experience. What does seem clear though, is that so far, your DP hasn't listened to anything you've said. Is he any more likely to listen to a counsellor? I think you've been unbelievably patient, and imo, it is your DP that needs to change. Do you think he can? If so, then go for the counselling and give it a go?

I live under a very strictly controlled access schedule. Ridiculous as it is though, at least we are not subject to the ex's whims. DH has, over the years, learned not to allow her to have any say over our lives at all. That's one thing that has kept me sane tbh. There is no way I would have my life dictated to like that.

Good luck, I really do wish you all the best

Smum99 Thu 04-Aug-11 21:35:59

redhen, whatever happens I do think you need counselling to support you as you seem to have reached a low confidence point, anyone would struggle with 5 children and it's completely unrealistic and hostile of your DP to even suggest otherwise. If he can cope - fine but it's not a failing on your part.

DH & I went to counselling, but I would stress getting the right counsellor is key, as fit is important - someone who has children or a step situation would be ideal. I had similar issues - DSS was an angel, perfect but absolutely above correction or any discipline. As a result he held too much power and egged on by ex he started to have bullying behaviour. DH couldn't/wouldn't see it. A counsellor helped him realise that it was real and he needed to deal with it. It was a gradual process of change but it is resolved and now I can raise issues and DH will deal with them, he also identifies DSS's behaviour earlier on so I feel supported. DH had to learn that soft parenting isn't good parenting, he also had to learn that his behaviour was damaging to me.

Ironically by standing up to DSS he actually has a better relationship with him, prior to that I believe he was seen as a soft touch and that isn't healthy.

I really hope you get some process - would your DH support counselling? If you and him can have a joined up approach then you can both deal with the children. Divided the kids get to rule the house which is what you have now.

tokenwoman Fri 05-Aug-11 08:19:35

redhen get your life back on your terms, organise to move back home with your DS (how far away is yours from DP?) is it workable without too much disruption for your DS? I think you need to have a plan if only for 6 months/a year its unfair of your DP to expect you to have a house full of his children esp if its always unplanned. I totally sympathise with your feelings but you will end up with a breakdown if you continue like this.
like most of us you get the domestics but not the discipline my DP expects me to intereact with his rude bad mannered DD ('you're the adult deal with it') but refuses to even acknowledge Ive got 2 DS and god forbid my parental duties interfere with any of our plans but Im/was expected to drop everything for DSD
In the early days I wanted desperately for us all to live together but Im gald nothing came of it and nothing would induce me to put us all uder one roof until the children are adults and living independently. Its hard and I seem to be in perpetual motion from one house to the other with double the chores and organising but its on my terms

chelen Fri 05-Aug-11 19:37:48

Hi Redhen, I really feel for you having read your posts. I've been to individual counseling and couples counseling.

I can't advise you but I can tell you counseling really helped me.

My OH & I had a marriage from hell. Basically we had so much stress - SS/probs with ex, my own son had a life-threatening condition, plus my OH had probs at work and we had to move. My OH became a nightmare, we fought constantly, agreed on nothing & I could have left him any day if not for the kids and the thought that there used to be a great man under all that stress.

I had individual counseling following my son's illness. One thing that came up time and again with my counselor was that if I was angry I had to show it. Not in a psycho way but just to say 'that is not ok, I am not going to do x or do y because of what's happened'. Basically I had spent too long gritting teeth and saying 'that's ok' when inside I was squashing angry feelings. It was very hard to change because it seemed harder on me, I often ended up spending the day alone with my own son, when I wanted to have a nice family day out. I think for a long time I thought the pretence of a happy family was better than the admitting the reality of being an unhappy one. It seems grossly unfair to me that you say you are the only one unhappy in your house - if they are acting in a way that makes you unhappy then they should know it.

My OH & I also went for couples counseling. That was mostly good. We just found someone privately. It gave us chance to really talk. It forced my OH to listen to how hurt I had been when he had failed to follow through on certain things. I also had to listen to a few things I didn't like to hear. We are in a much better place than we were, I think the counseling was so vital because we set aside time to say we really want this to work, we want to focus on our relationship, we want to listen, we want to be honest.

I echo what some others say about how hard counseling was, sometimes I felt worse after the sessions than before. But overall its saved my sanity and my marriage smile

I really hope things improve for you, I have also felt just desperate sometimes and its so so hard. I'd like know how you proceed and what happens for you. All the best.


Message withdrawn

theredhen Thu 11-Aug-11 16:51:53

Well, we have had a brief discussion or two and he has agreed to counselling and I think I am going to go for Relate rather than a private counsellor. He doesn't really want to talk about things to me and when we do, we just go round in circles.

I feel it's worth giving counselling a try, although I am feeling very sad about the whole situation.

I do know that he WANTS to do all the running around and has no problem with being treated like a doormat by both his ex and his kids. I suppose I just want someone else to point this out to him too and that then perhaps he can make an informed decision about what to do when various situations arise rather than just automatically feeling like "they say jump so this is what I automatically do".

Thanks to everyone for your ongoing support, I really appreciate it.

slimbo Fri 12-Aug-11 20:27:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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