Have we gone about things all wrong?(18 Posts)
DP is a single dad, been dating for 1.5yrs. I have spent the odd day or weekend with his kids but nothing major as (a) we both wanted to just be a couple for a bit (b) he didn't want to rush into anything with the kids (c) he has supportive family who provide childcare so he uses that time to get a break and to see me.
But for the past few months we have been trying to see whether we could really have a future together, and that means spending time me, DP and his kids. I am just having a really hard time adjusting - obviously I got used to this life where we are just a couple, spend our time together as we want, go out when we want etc. I really really miss my DP which sounds stupid - I see him just as frequently but it is usual for a whole day to pass where we might only get 10 minutes sat down together before one of the kids needs something. Equally a whole day might pass where we don't actually seem to talk to each other - either talking to the kids, about the kids, through the kids, if you know what I mean. It feels like we spent too long without the kids being around, and I got used to that life, and now I feel like I am in a relationship with a completely different man.
I miss the time just the two of us - DP says that in the future he would be happy to have the odd night away again, but that at the moment he wants the focus to be on all of us spending time together as a family, to see if it can work. I understand that but how do I feel happier and stop pining for the life that we had? If we are going to have a future together then I can't live life hoping for a babysitter all the time, I need to learn to be happy with family life. But I find it really dull - the days have never seemed longer and by midday on a Saturday I am usually already counting down the hours until bedtime (/wine).
Tips anyone? How long do I stick at this before accepting that perhaps a man with kids is not the man for me?
I am assuming from your post that you do not have any children of your own and that prior to you meeting the children his parents used to have them so that you could effectively "date" your DP.
When I met my DP I made sure that we had time on our own and arranged a baby sitter once a week so that we could go out and get to know each other. My DP has a DD that he sees a couple of times a week and I have a DS who lives with me full time.
Now that we live together it's very easy not to make that time to spend on our own together and it seems that either or both children are there all of the time. Our children are a bit older (10 and 12) so to be honest they are reasonably self sufficient and don't require much looking after. I still wish that we could have a bit more time on our own but as I have a child myself it is a bit easier to cope with.
What I am saying is that if you don't have children yourself then this could become an even bigger issue than it is right now. Resentment could easily fester here if you don't talk about things openly and honestly. Don't pretend that you don't mind never seeing your DP on his own. Talk to him, try and ensure that you get at least one night a month where you go out together. And in the meantime don't feel as if you have to spend every waking hour with him and his children. Make sure that you go out with your friends, spend time doing things that you like, even if it's on your own. Make time for you.
I would try the above and then review the situation in six month. If you still feel like this then it may be time to move on.
Yes - I have no children, we have so far effectively had a relationship quite like those I have had in the past i.e. getting on with our separate lives in the week and doing fun things at weekends. DP says that we have done lots of nice things together that some couples don't get a chance to do and that I should be grateful, and I am. I don't want to give up everything that I enjoy - and am happy to do things on my own, but do feel the void a bit when it is something DP and I would have done together before. Perhaps I am too selfish for this sort of relationship.
I am a single mother and have split up with someone recently for exactly this reason.
I don't know how else you can start a relationship though if you have children, you can't introduce family life immediately!
But what you describe is exactly why family life is so hard, you get swamped by the children. And yes it can be dull.
As your dp is used to doing it all himself (and probably feeling pretty lonely), he is probably finding life easier sharing family stuff with you. Whereas you are finding it all quite a shock, understandably.
Communication is key to surviving this I think. And go easy on yourself, you don't have that bond with the dc yet to mean you can weather the crappy parts.
I take it dp's ex is not around? So the only child free tme is grandparents? I think you need to ensure you have time to yourself and couple time. Everyone needs that, not just new relationships. See it is time to re-charge.
I don't think you have gone about it wrong, it sounds like you have been very sensible about it. It does unfortunately sound like this relationship is not right for you though. From what you have said here it sounds like your DP wants to move things on and start to move towards having a family life with you and the DC. It sounds like that is not what you want at all. I would have a serious think about whether this is the relationship for you.
The reality of family life with dc is that often you won't get a break from it because you don't have babysitters to hand to look after the kids. The difference is that the kids aren't yours and you have been thrown into each other's lives.
tbh this is one of the reasons why i think a year is far too long to wait to start to introducing kids, because by then a certain kind of relationship has been established and that changes drastically once children are entered into the equation.
I agree that you should be honest with your dp, but bear in mind that because the children are biologically his he may not be as open to the idea as you are as talk of wanting time to yourselves could seem like a rejection of his children on your part.
Tbh this doesn't sound like the right relationship for you. You haven't done anything wrong, but taking on someone else's children when you don't have your own is a massive commitment and one which cannot be taken lightly but which is not for the faint-hearted.
I would walk away now before things can develop further...
I did want to move towards family life because we couldn't carry on like we were indefinitely - I do want to settle down with someone at some point and not waste my late 20s on a relationship that is going nowhere, as much as I love DP and our time together. And I want the happy family picture that I have in my head, where I enjoy and take the same pride in the children as DP does - but wow it is a lot harder than I imagined.
I look at other parents on days out and things and think - they all look happy and contented, surely they can't enjoy soft play centres any more than I do? So it must purely be that they get their happiness from their kids being happy. I can go on a day out that is child-orientated, and be enthusiastic, and paint a smile on, but inside I feel a bit stifled. I would like to overcome it and to attain the happy family that DP and I both want(ed), but I can't seem to find true happiness when we are a 5 at the moment.
I'm answering my own question really aren't I.
I didn't marry until I was 34 and that age I found there seemed to be more divorced men with children around than single ones. I always knew that I would never be able to settle with someone who already had children. I wanted the 'child' experienced to be personal and unique to me and my [then] future partner.
And I've always known that much as I love my own children, other people's children really don't interest me very much and so I too would have been stifled, bored and unhappy.
It think this is a case of "know thyself". I'm not passing judgment!
I am pretty sure you are right, nobody likes soft play centres. I think a lot of people on child centred days out have painted on smiles, but you have it spot on that there is a lot of pleasure to be got from watching your children have fun. You can't make yourself feel that for someone elses children. It might come with time, but then again it might not.
You don't mention the mother of the children so I'm assuming that either she isn't around or that she has passed away. Sometimes separated dads are looking to recreate the family by having a woman in their life, forgetting that she isn't actually mum. It is very easy for a woman in that scenario to want to make everyone happy, sometimes at her own detriment. So for example she will take over the cooking/cleaning/parenting
and general running of the house and dad will go back to doing whatever he was doing in his previous relationship. Order is restored and he feels that the family is "normal" again.
It is hugely important that if you stay in this relationship that you do not fall into this trap if you don't want to play that role. You need to think about what it is that you want out of this. That is not to say that you don't love him or his children but you need to recognise what your own limits are. Love is NOT enough to sustain a relationship when one person feels that they are not recognised or valued. Would anyone get involved in a relationship if they knew that they would never get any time on their own with their partner.
The children are hugely important, that goes without saying, but no relationship can survive without time to develop it properly. You have had a false impression of what it means to be with someone who is a parent, because you have spent 18 months as if you were dating a single man with no responsibilities. That is not the reality and only you can decide if you want a long term relationship with a single parent. It's hard work and requires a lot of compromise on both sides.
I also think you chose the wrong time of year for the experiment. I at least enjoy children more when they/we can go out and about, enjoying a bit of sunshine. No matter how bonded you are with children, cold, rainy days in are a drag for everyone concerned, IMHO.
Even those of us who have kids of our own paint a smole on at the lids play centre. Wish I had earplugs & an irish coffee sometimes.
Really useful thread, thanks. Any practical tips on developing a bond with the ss? They seem to enjoy having me around but i often feel like I'm in a play, just acting a part. What I'd really like is to be genuinely totally enjoying them too.
Being a step parent is really hard, my situation with my DH was slightly different because I already knew my husband as a friend before we started dating and his son was very young - and there was only 1. However in the early days I really questioned whether I wanted to be with my DH because I wanted him to myself. I hated sharing him with his other family and I guess I did not really adjust until I had children of my own.
Children are hard work and draining, but with your own you love them and so it does not feel that way. Until you form a bond with your stepchild that can be intensely irritating and it can feel as if they are just in the way or that as sbstepmum says that you are just playing a part.
Do you not have time alone with DH without your stepson, does he have time with his Mum. I am not sure that I could have coped without that.
You did the right thing- getting to know each other first seeing if that works - it did.
Then you introduced the kids seeing if that works - it doesn't.
I'd walk away now if I were you.
How old are the children? If they are under about 7 then it is pretty full on, difficult to get adult time except in the evenings (and even then sometimes you're too tired anyway). Once they are all (or almost all) over this stage, it's a very different kind of feeling.
I definitely agree that it's harder to enjoy spending time with kids at this time of year. Much easier when it's warm and dry and the light is better, somehow. I wonder if you could do more "adult alone time" for now but ease into the "family life" thing a bit more, rather than doing the extreme immersion your DP wants to do. (Though I can see why he has.) Do you want children of your own?
Things to try:
- Engaging with each child one on one. Not a whole day or anything, but just a conversation or individual interaction. Getting to know them as a person, rather than a child, can help to build the relationship and see the potential future relationship, which could be key.
- Is there anything at all that you have done with them that you did enjoy? Sounds simplistic, but do more of that, and less of soft play (etc.)
- Introduce them to things that reflect your own interests, or things you enjoyed as a child. It can be magical to see a child enjoying something that you used to love, like seeing it for the first time all over again. And it's really really hard to get enthusiastic about football practice if you can't stand sport and would be happier messing about with paints, or vice versa.
- Ask them (individually) to show you how to do something which is new to you. They're going to have interests you know nothing about and getting them to show/teach you something makes them feel special and valued and can be a way in to something that you'd never really thought about doing before.
- Revel in the fact you don't have to do any of the less fun parts, like discipline, bedtime, homework etc!
Lastly this might sound odd but I feel like the way you describe about my own child, especially when he was younger - it's getting better now he is six. Perhaps in some ways it's better that you have a chance to see this before making a lifelong commitment. But equally you might just find small-child stuff dull, and it might be worth gritting your teeth for a couple of years if it's likely that they will grow out of that stage fairly soon.
theworkofsatan is right.
Also I really feel for you and can tell you love your DP. Do you currently live together? If not, I think that could be part of why you feel a bit funny - because you're only visiting when you go over, and you kind of are in their life as a walk-on part. If you really like him and want to give it a go then maybe you need to move in, ironically maybe creating more of your own space by doing so (i.e. then you can say you're going off to have a bath etc / cinema on your own whenever you want rather than lockdown of playtime til bed).
How old are the children? Is he a widow?
You are being very sensible to consider your feelings. I think being a stepmum is actually harder than being a mum so your feelings are completely understandable.
You will have a different and more difficult life if you marry a man with children as you step into their 'family' group and it will be you, mostly, that has to make the adjustments. It doesn't suit everyone. I am a stepmum to 1 dc and despite having my own children I find it very tough. Only you can decide if this man is worth the effort but if you are not enjoying the time now then I think you need to seriously reconsider this relationship.
If your partner is a good dad he will prioritise the children and there is nothing 'wrong' with you if you don't enjoy or bond with the children. I met dh when his daughter was young, she is very different to myself and my own children, not in a bad way (introverted and serious) but it means we don't naturally hit it off . I (as the adult) have to work hard to have a good relationship. It is very draining and after some weekends I feel exhausted.
I was at your stage about 2 years into the relationship but ASSUMED it would get easier..it didn't. However on balance I think my DH has been worth it but at times it certainly hasn't felt like I made the right decision.
If your dp has 3 dc's will he want other children? If you do then maybe this is a deal breaker.
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