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What made you walk away from step parenting?
55

StefInTheLandOfCrazy · 26/11/2020 09:53

Hi all, I am relatively new on Mumsnet and I have been reading this board for a while. Even though I am not technically a step-parent, I was in a long term relationship with a man with kids (I have none), and I have experienced a lot of the struggles that this type of life brings. Eventually, I ended that relationship for three main reasons:

  1. The relationship became too imbalanced, as I was childfree and all the compromises and sacrifices were coming from me.
  2. My ex was completely unable to put boundaries in place with the mother of his DC, as well as with his DC (Disney parenting and all that jazz).
  3. I felt like a spare part in his life, like an outsider looking in whilst he was living his "real life" with his first family. I felt very lonely.

    In the end, it became too much for me, I was always miserable and I became resentful, so the relationship ended with lots of heartbreak for everyone.

    Although I know that at the time, it was the only possible healthy choice for myself, I still sometimes miss my ex and wonder what could have been.

    I'd be curious to hear the experience of other people who walked away from step-parenting, and the reasons why they did it. Have you ever regretted that choice? Do you think that that life could have been for you if you or your ex had done things differently? Are you glad you made that decision?
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LatentPhase · 26/11/2020 10:20

This is a post that sadly resonates with me and many on here. I’m so sorry you are feeling this loss still.

Step family dynamics are complex and unique, on one hand (requiring a truck load of emotional maturity to manage).

On the other hand its a car crash between gendered norms (all nurturing ‘motherhood’ and emotionally inept disempowered fatherhood).

Add in a crazy ex it’s a perfect storm.

Feeling reflective and solemn about it all today, too..

Funny old game.

Flowers

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LatentPhase · 26/11/2020 10:22

We are still together but I wonder how long for.

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Bedroomdilemma · 26/11/2020 10:23

Those are very good reasons, I think you were wise to bring it to a halt.

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Christmasbiscuit · 26/11/2020 10:27

So many reasons. I think I was too young for it all (started when I was 20).

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StefInTheLandOfCrazy · 26/11/2020 12:38

@LatentPhase sorry to hear you are struggling with your relationship as a result of the step-parenting situation. It really is so tough.

I would never get involved with a man with DC again.

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sassbott · 26/11/2020 12:48

So I was never an official step parent. I was however in a 4+ year relationship with a man who had children and there was a hope of there being a long term future together. I have my own children too with my exh.

Why did I walk away?

  1. his exwife was and remains exceptionally high conflict. When someone this pivotal is toxic - unless the ExH (my ex partner) can boundary that conflict/ toxicity - it permeates everything. Including genuine day to day happiness/ peace. As opposed to enjoying life and getting on with it, you wonder when the next grenade will land. It’s a miserable way to live.
  2. My ex partner as a result, got entrenched in the conflict and really could only show up when it came to his children. Lovely presents/ ruthlessly protecting his time with them/ ensuring their holidays met their needs. All his money and energy flowed towards them. I didn’t see any of that behaviour consistently show up regarding me and him as a couple. That’s pretty horrible to live with after a period of time.
  3. my exp himself had entitlement around his children and how others should be / should want to do around them. I hated it.
  4. he was a rubbish partner. It was all about him/ his needs/ his children/ his battles.

    Ultimately - I stuck with it because I hoped it would settle and some semblance of healthy normality would happen. Some 4 plus years in I realised there was no chance of that happening. And I either loved him enough to sign up to the relationship (scraps) that were on offer.
    Or I walked away in the knowledge that this wasn’t for me, and even if I didn’t meet anyone else - I would be better off alone and out of this.

    I picked the latter. The life ahead of me would have made me miserable. When two exes are stuck in high conflict, the lesson I have learned (the hard way) is that that conflict and misery will destroy any healthiness that hopes to grow elsewhere. I never stood a chance to be honest.

    It is heartbreaking; and I’m trying very hard to not be angry and regret years wasted on a man battling his exwife. Every part of me wants to shake him and ask him ‘what we’re you thinking? Look at what you’ve thrown away?’. Because there was love and we could have built a happy life, despite the antics of the exwife.

    But that would have required him putting himself and us first to some degree. And settling with what he has regarding the role in his children’s lives. He wasn’t able to do that.

    The real sadness lies in the fact that I think he will end up broke and alone if he carries on as is. No woman will put up with any of this long term.
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funinthesun19 · 26/11/2020 13:05

Lots and lots of reasons. I’ll name a few top ones:

  1. My ex. He was lazy and had no ambition for us. There is also a lot more to it than that. I grew sick and tired of having to play stepmum while being stuck in a bad relationship. I didn’t want to be with him, so I didn’t want to be “with” his child either. So yes I just tolerated it all.

  2. The ex wife. She thought she was my boss. It was liberating when she finally lost her grip on me. She can’t tell me what to do anymore and it feels fabulous.

  3. My children. They deserve more than a stressed mum. I decided to put my small children first and take the teenager out of the equation so that I could put all of my time and energy in to them.
    They also deserve more than being treated as second best by my ex’s family. I leave them all to it now. At least me and my family have no obligations to “be the bigger people” and include dsc anymore. At least my children are shielded from it now.

  4. I didn’t want to be part of the “next chapter” of stepparenting. E.g. dsc going to uni, dsc having babies, dsc getting married, dsc doing driving lessons, dsc getting a car, dsc getting their own place. Just more and more never ending expenses and experiences that I’d be expected to be part of.
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sowhatsnext · 26/11/2020 13:25

Wow! This resonates so much. I’m in a LT relationship (6yrs), we have a 2 yr old and his 19 yr old lives with us. She and her moods rules his moods. I’ve never been allowed / supported to “parent” in any way so I am expected to “roll with” the moods, being ignored etc etc etc. Plus financially I support us all (historical issues, too complicated). I’ve recently felt so resentful. I’m not supported by my other half, often put down and told “I’m not interested” (usually when try to talk about money / step kids behaviour). Seriously starting to think the only option is to walk away as I don’t see any relationship left between us. Sorry to hijack the thread - guess I’m looking for comparable situations which came good / didn’t to muse on xx

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StefInTheLandOfCrazy · 26/11/2020 13:31

@sassbott your experience resonated with me so much. Especially the bit about waiting and hoping for things to "settle", and the sad realisation that things were never going to improve (or at least not for a very long time like 10+ years).

I severely underestimated how long that type of dysfunction can go on. I got together with my ex shortly after he split with his ex wife, and initially I just assumed things were not ideal because the split was relatively recent and everyone had to get used to things. 1.5 years in, I started realising that I had been wrong, and even though things could improve marginally, they were never going to get to a point where I could be genuinely happy with the relationship.

Walking away was the hardest and most heartbreaking thing I had ever done. We have been split for nearly a year now, and I am still thinking about him. I am trying my best to move on with my life of course, and find someone who can put me first. But God it is hard.

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Itmaybeus · 26/11/2020 13:47

Not officially my stepchild however lived with ex over 4 years.
He was a Disney dad, only did the nice things with dsc (expected me to parent as I was parenting mine so extra one is nothing).
The ex wife was hard work but ex never stood up to her and so our lives were ruled by his ex.
It was one rule for dsc and another rule for mine. My dc were becoming resentful of dsc.
My ex wouldn't let us do anything nice when dsc wasn't around. So dsc had special days with both parents but mine could only have treats when dsc was with us.
We agreed a set amount to spend on each child at Christmas then he'd spend extra on his own child because he felt guilty but she also got presents at her mums too so was getting a lot more than mine and dsc made it known and became a spoilt brat.
My dc are older than dsc and I had a specific age when they were given a mobile phone he said I couldn't give mine a phone because his dc would be upset it was the straw that broke the camels back.
I'm so glad I left - my dc had a few sad days then they seemed much happier and so was I the house became more relaxed. I was thinking how tough lock down would have been with ex and dsc in the mix. I do miss him but overall it was the right decision for me and my dc.

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sassbott · 26/11/2020 14:28

@StefInTheLandOfCrazy my advice? Write down all the reasons you walked away. In complete detail. My post is super high level and if I was to share what I’ve actually been put through (for want of a better word) as a result of him and his exwife being highly dysfunctional, most people would wonder why I lasted 4+ years.

I’m sad too. But I’m also now deeply realistic and pragmatic. I am a mother, I have been through a divorce. My children have suffered a loss (of their parents separating). I now see my children 40% less and when I do have them, the burden falls entirely on me to fulfil their needs. I didn’t sign up to this life, but it is what it is. I’ve processed it, moved forward, built a healthy boundaried co—parenting relationship with the exh and am available to fully rebuild my life - including investing with another human being as a partner. In amongst this I manage to robustly parent my children and they get absolutely no slack simply because their parents don’t live together or because I see them less.

What I’ve done is not rocket science. It really isn’t.
But a portion of adults completely fail to do this. Instead preferring to myopically focus on their children and expect everyone to magically fall behind them showering them with rose petals and praise over how fantastic they are to parent so well. They also expect their partners to be magically fulfilled by their ‘amazing’ parenting.

Honestly. Every time I think about how much rubbish I tolerated (in the name of love) I want to hit myself with a baseball bat.

I may continue to miss him occasionally- love sadly doesn’t just die. But I’d set myself on fire before I allowed myself back into his myopic world.

If you walked away, keep walking. None of it gets any better.

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StefInTheLandOfCrazy · 26/11/2020 17:17

Honestly. Every time I think about how much rubbish I tolerated (in the name of love) I want to hit myself with a baseball bat.

AMEN!!

But I’d set myself on fire before I allowed myself back into his myopic world.

DOUBLE AMEN!

I honestly feel 100% the same as you. Sad and nostalgic (and still in love) on one hand, but also a million percent sure that I deserve better than that and I could never forgive myself if I put myself through that bs again. I have to take care of and prioritize myself, because he sure won't.

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sassbott · 26/11/2020 17:25

I’m curious. A year later are you still in touch? Or complete no contact?

And (if you don’t mind my asking), why a year later are you still thinking about it? Please, no criticism meant by that - but I guess I’m wondering why it still feels so sad for you.

I’m only a few months into the separation and I guess at times I do feel sad - that’s natural after such a long relationship. But more than that, I feel nothing short of relief. To no longer have to navigate any of his baggage / senseless drama.

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StefInTheLandOfCrazy · 26/11/2020 17:56

@sassbott we are complete NC and have been since March this year. I don't know anything about him, he doesn't have social media so no way to keep tabs even if I wanted to.

I am not sure why I still think about him. As you say, love doesn't just disappear. I still feel very sad that the circumstances didn't allow us to be together, even if I rationally know that he could have stepped up and made it possible, he just wasn't capable of that. He simply didn't have the emotional and psychological strength to put boundaries in place with his ex and DC.

Don't get me wrong, I have loads of good days, I am dipping my toes back into dating now, I feel optimistic about the future. I am only 31 (he was 14 years older than me), so hopefully I still have a good chance to rebuild my life the way I want to. I feel relieved when I read threads about stepparenting and I think that could have been me in x years. Especially when I read about regretful childless step-mothers who have agreed to forgo having DC because the DH didn't want anymore. That would have been my destiny if I had stayed with him, and the idea makes me shudder.

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Magda72 · 26/11/2020 17:59

This resonates sooo much with me too. I have 3 dc myself & was in a 5 year relationship with a man who also had 3 dc. All our dc were teens or young adults.
Like others I ended it because:

  1. his exw just could not stop with the drama & entitlement & even though exdp realli did work on his boundaries she still managed to infiltrate 'us' via the dc who had begun to adopt her behaviours.

  2. his ex refused point blank to work. I firmly believe this was done to keep him as the sole provider for the dc (& her) thereby maintaining her fantasy (& that of the dc) that he was still HER man. Meanwhile I was left with a permanently exhausted partner (12 hour days & weekends spent running around after his dc) who had energy for nothing.

  3. the absolute entitlement of his dc which was fed by their mother & even exdp's family. EVERY BLOODY THING at his end had to be centred around the "poor abandoned" dc who lapped it all up. Also my kids made great efforts to be friendly and welcoming to his who never afforded mine the same respect.

  4. like @sassbott my exh & I just got over ourselves & stayed civil for the sake of parenting our dc. And, despite his dw being the OW & them having 2 kids together myself & my dc have managed good relationships with her & their half siblings. With all this in mind I could not fathom how a woman who had happily spilt from exdp could be so greedy, mean spirited & vitriolic. To be quite honest it sickened me & the emerging behaviour & attitudes of his dc sickened me also.

    I stayed for 5 years because:

  5. I too thought it would settle.

  6. left to our own devices, or our own devices with my dc, we were a GREAT couple & madly in love. The only issues we ever had centred around his exw & dc.
    Although I never said it to exdp I could see he was happier & lighter away from his kids. He would return from weekends/holidays with them stressed & exhausted because they were so demanding on so many levels. I don't think he even realised this or if he did he just didn't go there in his head.
    By the time we split he knew a lot of their behaviours weren't great but by then they (the dc) were not for changing.
    I honesty just couldn't stand back & watch the shit show unfold any longer & it was not a dynamic I wanted my dc having any part of any longer.

    We still chat from time to time & I know he would like us to get back together but from what I can deduce there is no improvement in his dc despite them getting older & having their dad to themselves - in fact it seems worse to me.
    I too see him alone as he gets older as no one would put up with that crap.
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madcatladyforever · 26/11/2020 18:03

I've never walked away from step parenting because I'd never date anyone with kids.
It's far too much hassle.

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GalaxyCookieCrumble · 26/11/2020 18:06

You walked away from your relationship, do not get confused, you were not a step parent, very wrong to suggest otherwise.

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funinthesun19 · 26/11/2020 18:12

Don't get me wrong, I have loads of good days, I am dipping my toes back into dating now, I feel optimistic about the future. I am only 31 (he was 14 years older than me), so hopefully I still have a good chance to rebuild my life the way I want to.

I’m the same age op Smile And optimistic about the future after the 10 year relationship I was in. This year has been hard as I adjust to my new life, but ultimately a better and brighter future!
I’ve been thinking about who I might meet one day. It’s exciting that I can start from scratch again and meet someone better. But I really don’t want anyone with children ever again. I know this narrows my options down a lot. Unless his children are grown up and completely independent.

I feel relieved when I read threads about stepparenting and I think that could have been me in x years.
Yep! Life is just way too short for me to waste any more time on that.

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DeeplyMovingExperience · 26/11/2020 18:39

I was a step parent.
Fucking nightmare on elm street.

I do believe it's worse for women because they're expected to morph into a free childcare facility and are not allowed to say anything about the step-child's behaviour.

And it never gets any better...

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Magda72 · 26/11/2020 18:57

I do believe it's worse for women because they're expected to morph into a free childcare facility and are not allowed to say anything about the step-child's behaviour.
Yup.
I remember once saying to exdp that my exh cheated on me repeatedly. He then left with the latest OW after I finally caught him and asked him to leave. And yet despite all this I was able to coparent with him without bitterness & my children were encouraged to treat him (& his dw) with respect - because he was their father & she was his choice. It was therefore unfathomable to me that his exw's hideous behaviour (which had NO basis) was tolerated & I remember asking him why his dc's lack of respect for him & his choices was also tolerated when me & my dc were able, and expected, to behave like sane, rational people?
What made his exw & dc SOOOO special that bad behaviour was ignored?
I didn't ignore of course - I called it out, & initially at least, I was the worst in the world!
My kids were fine in his eyes (despite their dad & sm breaking up the family & despite their dad's alcohol issues) but HIS kids were poor beleaguered waifs who'd been dealt a bad hand! because they lived in a large, brand new house, had more technology than they knew what to do with, a steady father who catered to their every need & aunties & uncles who bent over backwards to facilitate them.
His entire family thought this & honestly it infuriated me beyond belief - my kids were just expected to get on with things but his were to be treated with kid gloves.
I honestly didn't have enough eye rolls in me.

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sassbott · 26/11/2020 18:59

@GalaxyCookieCrumble please do not contribute to a thread where your comment is judgemental, unhelpful and just plain vile. From here on in, I am going to start reporting every post on threads in this section until posters like you stop infiltrating threads.

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sassbott · 26/11/2020 19:15

@StefInTheLandOfCrazy you are so very young. And I admire you for walking away. Give yourself time as Covid has also been tough on dating etc.

@Magda72 it’s funny there are so many similarities to our situations. My ex would also say to me ‘your children are fine’ and I would look at him slightly askance. Yes of course they’re ‘fine,’ but somehow the fact that I had managed to put my issues with my exh to one side and continue to focus on raising our children mitigated the fact that they too had suffered their parents separating. The fact that I saw my children more than he saw his also apparently made my situation better. It was irrelevant that I saw my children nearly 50% of their lives.

On the pure basis that he and his continued to go at their messed up conflict, his children/ his situation needed more. Time. Energy. Emotions. Imbalance. He simply couldn’t see how skewed and unbalanced his whole axis was and what he and his ex are going to create.

We too were happy. In the early days, when no one knew. Then the EXW found out about me (via spies he had no idea she was in touch with) and all hell broke loose. She knew exactly what she was doing. And he just allowed himself to get swept up in the battles.

It is sad that these men have allowed themselves to end up in such situations. It just be hard to still be in contact.

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funinthesun19 · 26/11/2020 20:05

You walked away from your relationship, do not get confused, you were not a step parent, very wrong to suggest otherwise.

Yes she was. In today’s world you don’t have to be married to be a stepparent. A long term relationship will do.

Hope this helps.

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Stantons · 26/11/2020 20:43

@galaxycookiecrumble no need for that comment at all

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SonjaHeniesTutu · 26/11/2020 20:47

@GalaxyCookieCrumble

You walked away from your relationship, do not get confused, you were not a step parent, very wrong to suggest otherwise.

Ignore. Just a GF on every thread.
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