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New as a Stepmother and Boundaries

(34 Posts)
cherokee54 Wed 29-May-19 16:14:01

Hello all and thank you for reading!

Mine is kind of an unconventional story. I met my boyfriend 6 1/2 years ago at the beginning of my extremely long and complicated divorce. I have three kids: 15, 13, and 11. He has a 15 1/2 year old daughter. He lives an hour away from me and we have always had it at the heart of our relationship that we did not want a blended family. I do not want to live with anyone as long as my kids are under my roof and he shares this opinion. We also didn't want to disrupt our kids' lives etc... BUT, we differed on one thing: I felt that we should at least be open with our kids about our relationship because I grew up with stepparents and had a wonderful experience with them and I also grew up with the idea that it's important to have many different people and influences in your life, the more the merrier. He grew up in a hugely overprotective environment, his parents are almost hermits who never socialize with anyone and he didn't come from a divorced background, so he was sceptical about stepparenting being positive. He thought it would create more problems than it being a positive experience.

His daughter always suspected he was with someone and I think my kids did too, we just never went any further. We would see each other every other week when our kids were with their other parent. And, honestly, it worked out well. When she turned 13, I started getting her gifts for her bday and she really appreciated it. She knew very well they were from me and she started hinting to him that she'd like to meet me, but he was never fully ready to take that leap.

His daughter has a very tumultuous and rollercoaster of a relationship with her mother, at times violent, and she finally came to live with him full time 9 months ago. This threw our relationship for a huge loop because he could only come and see me when she was sleeping over at a friend's, which was maybe once a month. I told him that it was maybe a good time for me to meet her, so at least we could do things together on the weekends.

I finally got that chance 2 1/2 months ago when he broke his leg skiing. His daughter openly asked to meet me and for me to come and help them so that his parents weren't coming all the time. I got into the routine of going out there one day a weekend and Tuesday and Thursday evenings to bring food and help with the house stuff on the weeks I didn't have my kids. I haven't spent the night yet, even though his daughter has hinted that she would like me to, but my boyfriend doesn't feel that she's ready for that. When he could go out again end of April, we started having outings together with his daughter. And, then he finally went back to work in May, so I wasn't sure where our routine would stand. So far, I've been going out there on the weekend at least one day and I still go out there one weeknight every other week, but his daughter always asks him why I don't come out on Tuesday like I did before.
I guess I've just been waiting for them to ask me, I don't want to impose.

I get along really well with his daughter. I'm a rather intuitive person and I'm gathering that she is looking for a female in her life she can put trust in. My boyfriend gets home from work very late, sometimes as late as 9:30 or 10 and I'm gathering that maybe she'd just like some company from time to time.

A couple weeks ago he asked me to pick her up from her music lessons because he couldn't get back in time. I didn't have her cell phone number to tell her where I was parked, so I had to go through him to call her. I thought maybe that was the ideal time for us to exchange numbers, but it didn't happen. We finally exchanged numbers this past weekend when she needed to send me something to correct in French (I'm a French teacher) and she asked for my number. And, here is where I'm a bit lost on the boundary issue.

I had a very close relationship with my stepmum and we are still friends even though she's no longer with my dad. We planned a trip together when I was 16, we called each other often...my mum or dad didn't really intervene in our relationship. So, I guess that's the model I had growing up. I feel like a child's relationship with the people in their lives is personal.

This morning, my boyfriend tells me that his daughter asked (again) why I didn't come last night. Well, no one asked me to! So, I told him that she could have texted me and she needs something she can text me. My boyfriend got a bit upset and said that it wasn't her place to text me, that it needed to go through him. I felt kind of weird, like I had done something wrong, after he said that.

I guess I feel like at 15 1/2 she's old enough to ask me to come over, which is what I would prefer, I don't ever want my presence to be a burden to her. I'd prefer it come from her. And by the time it gets to my boyfriend and he texts me, it's usually always too late.

So, now I hesitate to even write any text messages at all even to wish her good luck on a test or show her a shirt I found at a store that she may like (which I've been doing for years but it's always gone through my boyfriend) because maybe that's not the relationship that my boyfriend wants me to have with her? Or maybe that's just a boundary I shouldn't cross yet? It's a weird situation because I'm a new stepmom but at the same time I feel like I've known her for 6 years because I've known her through him. My boyfriend says he's so happy that it's working out and that she has another person she can trust in and that it was the right timing to introduce her to me and that's important for her to have me in her life.

I guess I just need help knowing my role and my boundaries. Do I try to connect with her or do I let my boyfriend lead the way? Do I give it more time? I'm just so happy to finally get to meet her, I feel like I'm making up for lost time, but don't want to go too fast because I want everyone to be comfortable. But, I feel like she'd like more involvement on my parent but maybe my boyfriend isn't comfortable with that yet.

Thanks for your advice!

OP’s posts: |
LikeARedBalloon Wed 29-May-19 16:37:11

No real advice sorry except to say that she sounds like she would really appreciate you around and you seem to feel the same....what is up with your DP that he is standing in the way of that?! Strange.

Teddybear45 Wed 29-May-19 16:43:21

Despite the length of this relationship as you aren’t living together you aren’t really in a committed / serious relationship in my opinion. For that reason I can totally understand why he doesn’t want her to develop an independent relationship with you.

As he’s the parent you need to respect his wishes and go through him. You aren’t a stepmum, you’re his girlfriend (know it’s hard to hear) and you need to understand your place.

magicBrenda Wed 29-May-19 16:49:15

I don’t think this is about his daughter at all. I think it’s about him not wanting you to be a part of that side of his life. He doesn’t want you two getting close because he won’t be able to control your relationship. This way he can. He has hidden this vehicle the need to protect his daughter when I think it’s really about him being able to break away easily if need be.

The not giving you her number when you actually needed to help them both is odd.

magicBrenda Wed 29-May-19 16:50:39

Vehicle? Behind*

PinkCrayon Wed 29-May-19 16:56:05

Your partners behaviour isnt normal here.
It sounds like he is trying to put barriers in.
I would ask him about it.

TanMateix Wed 29-May-19 16:57:16

I think his attitude is out of order, you have been together for years. I would say that he is perhaps following on the hermit steps of his parents so although the girl will benefit of having you around you really cannot go against his dad wishes no matter how unreasonable they are.

overdrive Wed 29-May-19 17:20:27

How do you see his relationship with your kids panning out? And how will they feel about your relationship with the daughter?

RagingWhoreBag Wed 29-May-19 17:25:00

He seems to be trying to stop you from developing a natural relationship with her for some reason.

As others have said, it may be a way for him to control the narrative both ways, but it seems very odd that she hasn't been able to at least text you to thank you for a gift or in the case of being picked up, make sure she knew where to meet you. That's just basic acquaintance stuff, it doesn't mean you'd be overstepping any boundaries.

I've been with my DP a similar amount of time and like you, don't live with him, but I do have his DCs' phone numbers and they send me the occasional message to thank me if I've done something nice for them or I will send them a happy birthday etc.

We're not close by a long way, as DP & I spend our evenings together at my house when he doesn't have them with him - he's 50/50. Given that your DP's DD is now there all the time he's going to have to let you in or you just won't see him, he can't keep you separate forever. In my eyes its mad that it got this far and took him being injured for you to be in any way involved in her life to be honest.

He may be happy with a more casual relationship, but if you're not then you within your rights to ask for more and if he won't give it, move on. You're looking for a partner and he's happy with a girlfriend. sad

cherokee54 Wed 29-May-19 17:53:45

Thank you everyone for your replies!

I forgot to add that the decision to not live together was mutual. I absolutely do not want to uproot my kids' lives and I don't want the extra tension of having a blended family under the same roof. I don't think you have to live together to be in a committed relationship. My parents have been married for 30 years (stepfather) and they don't live together as my dad works in another city and they only see each other a couple times a month. My boyfriend and I have a very loving and solid bond and it's really his psychological blocks from his upbringing that prevented him from being more open before. I don't regret anything to how we've done this. His daughter came to him because she was ready to meet me. I would much rather it this way than forcing a relationship that she wasn't ready for. She has had a very difficult relationship with her mom and the timing just wasn't right. As for my kids, it took me 7 years for my divorce to be finalised. I can now finally envision the possibility of them meeting my boyfriend, but, again, I really do not want a blended family situation and have no plans of us doing things like taking vacations with all the kids and stuff like that. Just because we don't have to if we don't want to. If it happens where we get the kids together, then it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I am going to try and have my boyfriend come and meet my kids this summer, though.

My boyfriend does refer to me as his daughter's stepmother. I even went to drop her off on a school trip with him. He was going to have me wait in the car and she told him "Dad, she's not our Uber driver, she can get out of the car and stand with us!!!" I've met his daughter's friends, I've picked her up from music. I think her dad is still unclear about my role, so maybe he just prefers controlling everything for now? I remember the first time I met her I said to her that if she ever wanted me to come, she needed to tell her dad. But, I think she hesitates. Just like she's made several hints that she'd like me to stay the night, but he insists that she's not ready. I have really good intuition and I pick up on that.

I still hold my ground that I find it normal that if she's at home alone in the evenings and she wants me to come on a week my kids are with their dad, it's normal that she send me a text message. We are supposed to be training our kids to be independent and move towards the adult world, so she's old enough to be making those types of decisions IMO. But, I think this is all new to her dad and he's maybe also trying to figure out my role in all of this?

I think I will continue my baby steps with forging a link with her. I remember being 15 and loved having other woman in my life who weren't my mom who I could confide in. It's important for a young woman. My girls have a stepmother and even though I don't get along with her, I'm glad they have other female influences in their lives.

OP’s posts: |
magicBrenda Wed 29-May-19 18:03:10

It isn’t about his daughter.

KTara Wed 29-May-19 18:17:21

Hmm, this is very strange.
I think you were right to take things slowly whilst the children were younger and your divorce was so messy. But now you are talking about a young woman who really should be able to make her own decisions about her friendships and role models, which is a different matter. She seems to wish a closer bond and your partner is putting barriers in the way. Why?

You say maybe he wants to control things right now. But why? Why would he want to control how you and his DD get along? I understand the need to protect the children when there is upheaval and uncertainty and the relationship is new, but you are six years in and things are settled. So why the need for control? Texts to his 15 year old DD do not need to go through him.

I cannot think of a positive reason for this, really. Either he accepts you both as independent people or he doesn’t.

KTara Wed 29-May-19 18:19:01

PS i would clarify this with your boyfriend before you introduce him to your DC. You need to agree on a way forward for all DC, I think.

cherokee54 Wed 29-May-19 18:33:11

KTara, I think you hit the nail on the head: I don't know if he accepts us as independent people. Somehow he sees our "relationship" with his daughter as it being all 3 of us, for now at least. (And this is just speculation coming from me). And maybe that was the only way for him to mentally get past his psychological barriers for me to meet her. I've only known her personally her for 2 1/2 months, so I'm confident that with time, she'll grow and mature and he just won't be able to control that anymore.

The positive thing is that she has my phone number now, so she can contact me when she feels comfortable doing so. I mean, I think we're still in the "getting to know each other" phase. She told him that she didn't want my Instagram because she didn't want HIM seeing pics of her with her friends and if she knew I wouldn't share them with him, then she'd give me her Instagram.

As for my kids, I do think all of that needs to be clear too. Mine have a stepmother with their dad plus 3 other brothers and sisters, so I don' think they will really think much of it. I just think it needs to be clear what we expect from bringing the kids into it, do we expect them to meet? Do we expect them to do things together? To be honest, I like of enjoy how it is now just hanging out with him and his daughter when my kids are with their dad. But, I do know that my girls might like to meet her and it would be fun to do things with them.

OP’s posts: |
magicBrenda Wed 29-May-19 18:48:24

Dont you think your children might wonder why your investing so much thought and energy in to building a relationship with another young girl they know nothing about.

Personally if my children where never going to meet my boyfriends child even after six years I wouldn’t be investing in it myself.

How do you think your kids will feel if they ever meet this child and see you acting like her step mother with a close relaxed relationship when they have never even set eyes on her? confused

Maybe that’s why your boyfriend wants to pull the reigns back because this wasn’t part of the deal?

You say he considers you to be her step mum but was fully expecting you to stay in the car - out of site...

The whole thing is just a bit weird for me sorry.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he calls time on this soon

Summersunshine2 Wed 29-May-19 18:50:24

I think op and all pp are completely ignoring some major things here.
You met her 2.5 months ago?
The dad is trying to protect his dd. She has had a massive upheaval by leaving her DM. She will be traumatised by their relationship. The dad is probably worried about her forming a close relationship with his girlfriend. You don't sound like partners and you are no where near being her stepmother. He hasn't even met your children.
Sorry hope that doesn't sound harsh.
You sound lovely so just give it plenty of time and very small steps as Dad needs to feel safe with this too, after all he is the ONLY reason you will know this girl.

KTara Wed 29-May-19 19:29:24

Well, to be fair summersunshine the 2 and a half months was only mentioned after most people, including myself, had posted! Unless I missed something...

I think two and a half months into a face-to-face relationship with your step DD sounds like things are moving at about the right pace.

However, I agree with magicBrenda that your DC may potentially feel excluded, so things need to even up ideally in terms of who is meeting who. You have basically got this whole life going on your DC know nothing about.

There is also something slightly odd about the fact that your DSD does not want her dad seeing her photos with her friends but would share with you. I don’t think you can be in that position, to be honest, because if you saw something that concerned you, you would have to tell her dad.

How is her relationship with her dad? She came as a result of things going badly with her mum, rather than because living with her dad was what she wanted or because her dad had sought residency - if that makes sense. If the relationship with her mum was that bad, why was dad not seeking residency at an earlier stage, rather than EOW? You don’t have to answer these questions, but it does not sound like your DsD’s relationship with her dad is 100% established yet so there is potentially an issue there if he thinks you are going to get on better with her than he does... (though leaving her alone when she wants company is not a good solution to that either)

I think two things

1. I would as I said previously clarify the situation with all DC meeting in the summer. Only do that if everyone is on board.

2. Step back a bit with DSD and see what happens. Also if he is being controlling, DSD might kick back and it could be messy. I think they need to navigate things through a bit more themselves first and you might not want to be the ‘fixer’ here. I think there does need to be some clarity around your role now but I would give it a bit more time.

cherokee54 Wed 29-May-19 20:20:06

KTara I appreciate your thoughts. Also, I know my situation sounds odd from just my typing it here, but there is actually way more to it than these posts. 6+ years of a love story that has been pure bliss.

I was in a very, very messy divorce situation on my end and was very careful about not giving my ex any fuel against me in court. The divorce was official just a couple weeks ago.

My kids are fully aware that I'm with someone, but just like his daughter up until a few months ago, I was never really open about it. They'll ask me questions from time to time. I just don't want routines to change out of force. Meeting his daughter was very natural, so I'd like it to be that way with my kids. Also, if his daughter would like to meet my kids, of course we'll be willing to do that and I'm sure her dad will be too, but we're just taking things very slowly with that. After all, we're really in no rush. Our mutual goal has always been to nurture our relationship on the one hand and preserve the kids and not force anything on them this second time around. The divorce wasn't their fault and yes, we have the right to be in a relationship, but this doesn't mean we have to change their lives. This has worked out beautifully for us and we've been able to really build a solid relationship as well as be there for our kids. But, yes, I do think that we've gotten to a point that it's only fair for my kids to be aware of the situation. On my kids' dad's side, their dad has his own little life when they are with me with his new children and stepdaughter and yes, their dad goes on vacations with just them. I think that's a part of second times around. When the kids are with the other parent, you have your life to lead. Eventually our kids will meet, it's all about the timing.

Also, I'm very involved in my own childrens' lives. We spend lots of time together and if I'm asking these questions about my stepdaughter, it's not because I want to ignore my own children and focus on her, it's because my relationship with my own children is solid and I don't need t ask myself those questions.

The daughter and her mother have always had a conflictual relationship and my boyfriend started taking his daughter to see a psychologist a few years ago. He always wanted to try and make things work because he felt it was important for her to have her mother in her life, so he would be the mediator. A year ago, the mom and daughter got into a huge fight and the mom put a hammer to her head and threatened her. She went to live with him. Beginning of Fall she tried to see her mom only on weekends every other weekend and again, a huge clash. She's now spending this weekend with her mom for the first time since then. But, yes, it was completely the daughter's will to go live with her dad and the mom didn't contest much. She did threaten to see the judge, but never followed through. My BF and daughter have a great relationship, very close and it's nice to see. But, he is more overprotective of her than I am with my kids.

OP’s posts: |
magicBrenda Wed 29-May-19 20:49:22

So why hasn’t he met your kids?

KTara Wed 29-May-19 20:50:14

Okay, so it sounds like you just need a bit of guidance from both your boyfriend and his daughter where the boundaries are or should be. Can you all sit down and have a chat about what works, when you should do around, swapping numbers etc? Maybe speak with your boyfriend first?

It sounds like you have all had such a lot going on, that it will take a while to settle. But if you can speak openly and honestly, then you will have good foundations going forward.

magicBrenda Wed 29-May-19 20:54:36

You want to be involved with his daughter but still keeping him away from yours.

The only problem you see here is that he won’t let you get involved independently with his dd. Yet yours are still completely in the dark.

Bonkers

You need to take a step back.

cherokee54 Wed 29-May-19 21:25:05

magicBrenda, As I explained in previous posts, my 7 year very nasty and messy divorce was finalized just 2 weeks ago. Out of one of those weeks, my kids were with their dad, so theoretically I've only had a week to put something together for them to meet my boyfriend! Yes, he could have met them earlier, but putting my divorce case at risk? Was that really worth it? Even now, I hesitate, knowing that my narcisstic ex husband will just have something else to use to try and get to me. I've always kept the policy the least he knows about my life, the better. Of course, my kids deserve to meet my boyfriend, but when you have spent 7 years in a nasty divorce after a 10 year verbally abusive marriage, you are very careful about giving more fuel to the ex husband and sometimes it's just better to keep some things to oneself.

Last summer my whole family from all over was together. My parents have met my boyfriend several times and invited him to come to our rental. This was before I found out that my final court case was postponed until October. My family was very understanding that it was not a great time to have him meet my kids. In fact, they were the ones who advised me to wait. As did my lawyer.

It's really easy to say how "bonkers" this situation seems, but I also had to protect myself and in turn my kids in the court system. As I mentioned above, I have plans for my kids to meet my boyfriend this summer when his daughter is on vacation. No, I don't think it's right for her to meet my kids straightaway without him meeting my kids first, which is why it's been difficult finding an ideal time because his daughter is always with him. I feel that out of respect for the kids, we need to do things in baby steps.

OP’s posts: |
Magda72 Wed 29-May-19 21:26:02

I'm with @magicBrenda on this one. Honestly op you are in love in a vacuum. You cannot have a full bond with someone unless you open up all aspects of your life to them. You are both parents & yet for 6 years you both have been behaving like you're not. I get that, I really do - we'd all love that but it's not realistic. And in my opinion what has happened now is that your dp's hand has been forced by his accident & his dd's situation with her mum; now he has to parent on your time & in your company if he wants to see you & that changes the whole blissful, relationship building zone you guys were in without kids in tow. He obviously liked keeping the two parts of his life separate as did you as evidenced by you keeping him away from your kids.
Dp & I were like two teenagers when we met but after 8/10 months we knew that behaving like we didn't have kids wasn't sustainable; that we had to see the other side of each other's lives if we were to progress as a couple & to be honest my kids would think is totally weird if I had a bf who they never met - esp after 6 years.
I actually think it's very damaging for both his dd & your kids that they have been excluded from your relationship for so long. Imo that's not a good relationship model - you're encouraging them to keep secrets & compartmentalise & it sounds like his dd is the only one calling you both out on it. How would you feel if down the road it took one of your kids 6 years to introduce you to their partner? My guess is you'd feel hurt & excluded.
Continue with this level of separateness if you wish but realise your time together will either be compromised as he's now a ft parent, or build a relationship with his dd which you can be sure will hurt your kids when they see how close you are with her while they've been given no chance to get to know your partner.
I don't mean to sound preachy & harsh but I honestly think the two of you are living in fantasy land.

Magda72 Wed 29-May-19 21:31:46

Also - not trying to be funny - am genuinely interested/confused: how could your divorce be in jeopardy if your exh has a partner & more kids whom your kids see regularly? If he has moved on then you moving on also could hardly tip the balance? I too had a protracted divorce but my exh wouldn't have had a leg to stand on if he'd queried my relationship status as he was already in a relationship.

cherokee54 Wed 29-May-19 21:53:26

I really didn't come here for judgement, just for some ideas as to what to expect for boundaries as a new step parent.

To each his own how he or she chooses to live. We chose to do our relationship this way, others choose other ways, that's really not my place to judge. My BF's daughter thanked him for choosing to wait to introduce us until she felt ready. I have absolutely zero regrets as to how we did it. If I had met her sooner, it might have gone really badly. As for my kids they are absolutely aware of my relationship. My youngest asks me all of the time about my BF, whose name she sees popping up on my phone. She told me about a year ago that she just didn't want to change the way we live, she liked just living with me. A year ago, she said that she didn't want to meet my BF. But, about a month ago she said that sometime she'd like to meet him. My kids aren't going to be shocked or surprised just like my BF's daughter wasn't shocked or surprised, especially after we had a conversation with her, both of us, about why we chose to do it how we did it. I think if you are honest with your kids, they appreciate that.

As for my divorce, I just didn't want it to come up in court. Of course I had every right to be with someone, but my ex husband didn't need anymore fuel to add to my file and I think that's my right to make that judgement, especially when my lawyer is telling me to lay low until the divorce is finalized. BF is a law professor, by the way, and would always go with me to meet my lawyer and we would always discuss our family situation with her and every time she would say "If I can give you one piece of advice, keep the kids out of it as much as you can and wait until you are divorced to do anything." I had been in a very toxic marriage and even to this day, I am very reluctant for my ex to know that I'm in a relationship just because I don't want him knowing anymore about my life than he needs to know.

OP’s posts: |

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