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How do you talk about the past with step children (about divorces, exes and so on)?

(15 Posts)
MonkeyPuzzle2017 Thu 08-Jun-17 10:55:13

So, I have a small child with my husband and two (very nice) step children (11 and 13) who live with us part of the time. Background is, he divorced their mum then started a new relationship with a woman who also had a child and she moved in with him, it went wrong and after a year she and her child moved out. I came along a few years after that, we eventually married and had a daughter as mentioned. Children get on great, mostly it's working out.

However....obviously there is quite a past there, and for me, that's been a lot for my step children to take in over the years, you'd expect questions...but in five years I've never heard them mention this ex-girlfriend and child who were a big part of their lives for quite a while - until last night...

Over dinner my step daughter started talking about them as I'd mentioned a local event, and she said 'we've been before with dad, X (his ex-girlfriend) and Y (her child), we rode on a tractor, etc. Dad, do you remember?'. No answer, he just glared at her, and so she repeated 'do you remember who I mean?', until he said 'no, I don't remember'..... which is ridiculous (in my view). At this point, I blundered in and said 'It's your ex-girlfriend and her son, isn't it? (to him)', 'don't worry, I know about it (to her)'. Long silence, he got up, walked out with a face like thunder, left me at the table babbling about tractors to try and smooth it over. When I tried to talk to him later, I was told 'get out of my sight', called 'nasty', I took my daughter off to bed and had an early night at 7.30, and he slept downstairs for the night. So, we handled that well, didn't we?!

What do other people do in these situations? I'm always happy for the kids to talk about their mum (much as I'm not massively interested), as I take it as a sign of a trustful, healthy relationship. His ex-girlfriend I'm less enthusiastic about, but again, it's surely natural they want to talk about these things, especially as they get older? I'm not the kids' parent, so it's not my call, but I suspect even more difficult themes ("why did you and mum get divorced"', for instance) will come up as they enter their teens. Has anyone any experience of handling this well? Sorry for the long post!

ImperialBlether Thu 08-Jun-17 10:59:09

What on earth is up with this man? Was he trying to pretend his past didn't exist?

OrangeJulius Thu 08-Jun-17 12:24:36

I was told 'get out of my sight', called 'nasty'

Wow, he talks to you like that?

stitchglitched Thu 08-Jun-17 12:26:40

What an absolute prick. Tries to gaslight his children and then verbally abuses you.

sweetbitter Thu 08-Jun-17 12:27:15

He's being really stupid, of course the past exists and his children might sometimes refer to it!

sortingmylifein Thu 08-Jun-17 12:29:36

So, we handled that well, didn't we

YOU did.

He, on the other hand, acted like a complete prick.


SisterhoodisPowerful Thu 08-Jun-17 12:36:10

That's a really spiteful way to talk to you. I'd be making me sleep on the couch until he apologises to you and his child. Banning names being mentioned is a shitty way to live. He needs to get a grip.

BrianCoxWithBellsOn Thu 08-Jun-17 12:39:14

To put this into perspective will involve a me-rail.

I met my OH a few years ago, 3 months after he'd finally called it quits on a 20 year relationship with the mother of his children who's alcoholism and associated risk-taking (plus infidelity) had destroyed the relationship and also led to her losing her children.

I have 2 children to 2 fathers, substantial age gap.

So we both have history.

The last few years have been horrendous as his ex's problems spiralled out of control and the split was far from amicable. She lost her battle recently and we have 2 children to guide through a very confusing time and undoubtedly in the coming weeks, months, years there will be many questions.

I too have questions. All of which he answers and if it's too hard we leave it and maybe discuss via email anther time (we don't live together so tend to chat online of an evening)

Never once have I been made to feel like I shouldn't ask questions. He has never slated his ex to me (I have, her behaviour was appalling toward him and the children at times) and the children often talk to me about past holidays where their mum did xyz (happy memories).

I think your husband has issues, even if his past relationship is painful to talk about he shouldn't deny its existence and he definitely should not be turning on you when you try and encourage healthy conversation with your family.

chopchopchop Thu 08-Jun-17 12:39:41

My parents divorced when I was small, and my father - who I lived with - refused to talk about anything before the divorce. This did me a huge amount of damage that I'm still dealing with as an adult with children of my own.

You did exactly the right thing and you need to talk to him about how this isn't healthy for his children. His emotions don't matter as much as looking after them.

WateryTart Thu 08-Jun-17 12:50:01

Awful man, you did nothing wrong.

MonkeyPuzzle2017 Thu 08-Jun-17 12:59:54

I'm really grateful for these messages. I've spent the entire night thinking about this. BrianCoxWithBellsOn, I like your name, and your story has really made me think. It sounds like you've had a lot to deal with but everyone can still talk, even when it's painful.

I want to keep this marriage going, it's not always as horrendous as yesterday evening, but I think, much as I don't like the idea, it's going to have to be marriage counselling or something formal like that because I'm at a loss. At least if we can talk properly between the two of us , that might help with the children too.

swingofthings Thu 08-Jun-17 17:45:42

So his ex is mentioned once in years, in a totally appropriate context since it was to highlight the fact they'd been there before and he reacts like a chastised child? Why? Very strange behaviour, even more to take it out on you.

In terms of history, a lovely tale. My father's dad left my dad's mum/his wife and ran away with his -young- secretary when my dad was 15. Understandably, she and my dad were left quite affected and my dad lost touch with him as he moved many miles away.

My grand father married her and they had two children together. When I was about 5, my dad's HB contacted him and somehow contact was re-established. When I myself became an adult, I went to visit them. His wife was lovely and welcoming as were my half aunt and uncle. A couple of days after I arrive, their mum got the family photo albums out and to my surprise there was a photo of my grand mother and dad. When I expressed my surprise, she said that she always considered her and my dad as part of the family and raised her children to see it so.

My grand father passed away, but she remained very present in our lives and I'm very close (as his my dad) to my uncle and aunt. It's not my business to question why he left my grand mother but I have always been very grateful that she raised her children to consider my dad and his family as part of their family and was always totally opened with them about their father's past.

FeedMeAndTellMeImPretty Thu 08-Jun-17 18:09:00

He sounds odd! Whatever the situation between them, to make his DD and you feel uncomfortable for mentioning her is just strange. His words to you were well out of order and he needs to apologise.

My DP and I both have a reasonable amount of contact with the exes and of course they crop up in conversation with the DCs. We just talk about them matter of factly, there's no weirdness.

Obviously I don't love chatting about their happy family times, or him mine, but it's part and parcel of step families.

Your 'D'P may well need counselling but I'm not sure it should be a joint venture. The way he has handled this shows some deep seated anger about something that is obviously nothing to do with you. flowers

Tearsoffrustration Fri 09-Jun-17 12:17:14

I agree with other posters - this could have easily been handled with a matter of fact answer & that would have been the end of it.

LemonSqueezy0 Sat 10-Jun-17 08:01:19

This is ringing massive alarm bells for me. Does he often speak to you like that, or treat the children that way?

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