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Showing affection in front of OH's children(152 Posts)
I'm in a hellish situation with a new OH (9 months, living together) and his 3 children, which I have asked advice about elsewhere.
The eldest child (20) and I had our first, good talk last night and I invited him to tell me what was bothering them all. The first thing, and seemingly biggest thing, he said was that all 3 sons couldn't bear seeing his Dad and I showing affection to each other in front of them, and this has had a big effect on their attitude to me and might explain why one child in particular has been so nasty to me.
I am stunned, OH and I had no idea. He said they can't bear it when they walk into the kitchen and OH and I might be cooking with our arms round each other, or sometimes they've even seen us giving each other a kiss as we pass each other. He went on and said they found it deeply inappropriate that when we're in the car his Dad and I hold hands, "I mean, you do realise you are doing in front of us, do you?", and then "OK, OK, you're forcing me to get really personal now, but once we even saw you rest your hand on his thigh as he was driving! That's not on!"
I am speechless. I should point out resting my hand on his thigh is just that, not feeling him up or anything. We do nothing more than occasionally hug if we're both standing over the cooker stirring pots, or we're chatting and he puts his arms round me. If the boys come in the room, sometimes we'll stay like that and chat to them and have a laugh, but obviously if they come in and we're kissing we stop.
I've always thought this was natural and a nice thing to be, and also a nice thing to show OH's children. OH has wanted (perhaps too desperately, I know) to create a nice family atmosphere for his children, and I think we always presumed being affectionate and warm like this in front of them was a nice way of showing we're together and happy and the room is filled with warmth. I'm aghast to think for all these months it's been viewed in a completely different other way.
This son said last night that we need to understand it's inappropriate and we need to stop, they're the children and if anything makes them uncomfortable then we need to stop it now.
What are your thoughts and experiences?
I should add he and the children's mother divorced over 10 years ago. OH has had a couple of mid-term relationships since.
Where is the line between 'nice family environment' and that rather uncomfortable feeling you get when you realise your parents have sex?! Is the point of crossing over that line the same for everyone? Should you adjust your own personalpoint of crossing because it makes others uncomfortable?
I don't think anything you describe is outrageous but I get why some people may be uncomfortable. It may hurt a child who is harbouring conscious or unconscious thoughts about his parents getting back together but would dropping each other the second a child is on the scene be any less hurtful?
I think you are kidding yourself if you thinking showing affection somehow makes you a family. Thousands of people in families have deep affection and love for another person or persons and don't show a thing publically. They are no less 'family' than those who do publically demonstrate affection. Showing affection is for you and your partner. Nothing wrong with that.
At this age most kids don't actually want to see their parents show affection towards each other let alone towards someone else. You've hardly been in his life any time at all and his kids are having to witness you being all over each other in the first throws of a relationship when they're at an age to know exactly where that affection is going to lead.
I don't believe that it's inappropriate to show affection to a partner in front of others but I do think that you need to bear in mind what the kids are going to deduce from that.
My ex told my fourteen year old that we had tried for a baby for years when trying to convince him that his having a baby with a new partner was all planned etc, and DC's response to that when he told me was "to be honest, that conjures up images which at my age I really don't want to know about." And that was in relation to his own parents.
Also, it's a bit naive to be wanting to create a nice warm family atmosphere after only nine months. You barely know each other and you're constantly all over each other in front of the DC who know that as soon as you're alone upstairs you're going to be having sex? I would cool it right down. Cooking with your arms around each other? Putting your hand on his thigh? Doesn't matter that you're not feeling him up, the twenty year old knows what it means.
How old is the youngest?
He has done you the honour of being honest about how it makes them feel.
I couldn't say it is 'inappropriate ' to be so physically affectionate, but that is different from how it makes them feel.
It may be 10 years since the divorce, the adults have moved on, but you can't magic away how children / young people feel about a split that occurred when they were 10 and younger.
Up to you now he has said it: you can be sensitive to their feelings or not.
Did you move in with them or the other way round?
I felt deeply uncomfortable when my step dad moved in with us. It made my skin crawl to see them being affectionate, touching and kissing. It sounds like the sort of things you are both doing. The younger two are lucky they have an older sibling who has spoken up for them all.
It's been 9 months, you're not their family yet.
Have you moved in together after only 9 months of starting a relationship, or have you been together longer but have only been living together 9 months???
I think you are kidding yourself if you thinking showing affection somehow makes you a family.
No, of course we don't, I just meant being affectionate with each other is a very small part of how we naturally behave, and - this was my OH's opinion - he really wanted his children to see that he was happy and that this was a home filled with warmth for them to come to (there is history about their mum's house (she remarried some years ago) which the children have always complained has no such warmth).
One of my step children would physically squeeze her 13yr old self in between us if we sat together on the sofa.
Now they all have partners and their physical displays of affection makes ME feel uncomfortable although I'm an extremely tactile and affectionate sort.
They've been open and honest with you. Respect their feelings and avoid what you now know makes them squirm.
Yes, we moved in quicker than most relationships, but not unheard of. We had an intense start to our relationship and knew we wanted to be together, we were geographically far apart, circumstances mean I have moved into his home.
There were existing problems with the children before I came along, the youngest is fine and sometimes comes up and cuddles me and us off his own back (despite what his older brother says) and we've had a really good dynamic, the middle son is having severe problems generally, and the eldest son is hardly here (away at uni) so obv it's more a surprise when he does come back in such a short space of time and sees his Dad and I hugging.
But really do you all think an OH and his partner shouldn't show any affection to each other in front of his children then? I'm thinking of all the friends I have who do what we do without this ever being mentioned as an issue (in front of their own children and stepchildren).
Well you know own the story, OP. Up to you what you do with the information.
He told you what makes them uncomfortable has to stop?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with how you're behaving, You are affectionate, not 'all over each other' or fucking on the kitchen table. (I think 'all over each other' like sitting on his lap, properly snogging, hands up/down each other's clothes understandably makes most people uncomfortable).
It would be different if they were little & their parents recently separated, but they're not. It's been 10 years & both parents have had other partners.
Are you their Dads age or much closer to their age? That might be part of the issue if you are. However, it's still not cause to change his you and OH are around each other.
Has your OH made an effort to do stuff they all used to do before you came along? Are they feeling pushed out and thus yes an 'easy' way of explaining their behaviour but not really the problem?
I echo a PP who said that your stepson being honest was good. I think if you acknowledge what he said , listen and follow that, it could really help your relationship with the SSs. It shows you care and respect their views.
It's lovely you get on with the youngest, he sounds happy enough so I definitely wouldn't change a thing.
Make sure OH is dong what he can to sort the middle ones problem out.
Tell the eldest to grow up & stop stirring the pot.
Except it's not their views. It's something he's said, that in my opinion, is just HIS view. The youngest seems happy enough & the middle one has other things going on. The eldest is coming home from uni & stirring the pot.
Why do you have to be showing physical affection in front of anyone? Personally, I feel uncomfortable when my siblings or friends are overly kissy and hand holdy with their partners in front of me. I always wonder what they are trying to prove..but then I am very anti PDA. If I hold my boyfriend's hand it's on a remote country lane or something! Would never canoodle in front of my dc. Ew.
Stop doing it and respect the fact that you are new to their home.
And holding hands while driving..? Concentrate on the road!
IfNot just because YOU are not physically affectionate doesn't mean other people shouldn't be. No ones trying to prove anything, they just like to be near, hold hands, whatever. It's now her home too. A visiting 20 year old doesn't get to tell her how to behave.
I was also a step child..no step child wants to see their parent being touchy feely with a new partner.
Ok im partially being tongue in cheek, but 9 months is VERY early days in a step family. It wouldn't hurt to be sensitive to the kids feelings. The 20 year old was communicating how the younger ones felt too (who presumably do live there).
The 20 year old also said he was really unhappy that I sat in the passenger seat for 2 days in a row, when we were on holiday, "I didn't like that, that's where I sit, but you know, I'll go in the back, that's fine".
IfNot we are not trying to prove anything! We're tactile, it's connection, it's an expression of affection. The handholding thing in the car (I get your point by the way, it's an automatic, but still.. ), was more during awful times when the middle son was causing havoc and the atmosphere in the car was oppressingly terrible, or when something actually went well and it was a relief... pure comfort and a feeling of togetherness in an otherwise hellish situation, quite frankly.
He told you what makes them uncomfortable has to stop?
This premise is something I am really struggling with. The middle son already has a very dictatorial manner (here and at his mum's house) and has behaved terribly and rudely when things aren't the way he demands. This very forcefully-put demand by his elder brother isn't quite the explosive equivalent, but still feels the same kind of "we rule round here, all adults must obey us" kind of thinking that I've been experiencing for months.
For example, they've said they disagree that tidying up is important. It makes them really angry whenever their Dad and I ask them to tidy up the mess they leave behind everywhere. Do we now roll over because asking them tidy up makes them uncomfortable?!!
It sounds like it's just all a bit too much, too soon for him. 9 months, from meeting to moving in, whilst not unheard of, is very quick. Especially when children are involved. They hadn't had time to get to know you properly and suddenly your all over their dad, whilst in their house. I know that's not necessarily the reality but teenagers aren't reknowned for their ability to be rational. Maybe just dial it down around them.
Surely this is just one of the consequences of rushing to move in with someone with children after such a short time? If things had been done at a more sensitive pace they would have had more time to get used to the idea of you and their Dad being together. Instead they have a woman moving on who they barely know, and are immediately supposed to be comfortable with seeing PDAs between you and their Dad.
Well, you asked! He's been honest with honest with you. You moved into their home, not the other way around. I cannot quite see why they feel uncomfortable. You can choose to respect that and dial it back a little or not.
I can speak from the perspective of those kids. My Mum remarried when I was about 19. At the wedding I averted my eyes politely from the proceedings, I couldn't bear to look. After that, any display of affection between them made me want to vomit. It was just so jarring and strange, and showed a glimpse of this entire new emotional life that existed for my Mum that didn't include us. Very upsetting when we had always been her main priority.
I can empathise with your DP's children. They're behaving badly (I did too) but I can understand why. It's not excusable but it's understandable. I also deeply resented this intruder into our home deciding to tell us when we were being messy or breaking some kind of manner rules that we didn't know about (he was very proper). We were and always would be loyal to our Dad, and resented having to pretend it was okay that someone was in his place.
Now in middle age I can see I was being a brat. I couldn't cope with my mother having feelings and a life beyond my own. People grow up a lot in their 20s and if you stay with your DP you might well find that the children apologise to you ten years down the track for treating you so badly.
In the meantime I would respect what they've told you, and what it implies which is that they haven't really accepted the relationship yet. It takes a long time.