Unlike generations ago, most people who marry today are not in their very first romantic relationship. Because today’s newlyweds are likely to have an ex partner or spouse to contend with, it’s not reasonable to think that this person will never have an impact on the new relationship. In stepfamilies, the natural parent almost always has some degree of connectedness to their ex, even if their conversations never go beyond the care of the children.
Allowing Your Spouse Some Space
Except in cases where one parent is permanently out of the picture, both natural parents typically make decisions about the care and welfare of their children, even if the couple is no longer together. While it can be difficult for stepparents to set aside their feelings and concerns, it is vital that they do so in allowing their partners to have the space that they need to converse with their ex in matters regarding the children. Anger and even jealousy are commonplace, but in the best interests of the children (and marital harmony), parents must be allowed and encouraged to maintain healthy, respectful lines of communication with the other parent of their kids. Marrying someone with children almost always means making space for a third person in the relationship.
Backing Up Your Spouse’s Decisions
While the ultimate responsibility for decisions regarding the welfare of the children remains with their parents, stepparents are often unwittingly drawn into the decision making process. It’s important that stepparents provide support and back up to their spouses, who may be dealing with opposition from their ex. After all, the pair did not always see eye-to-eye or they’d likely still be together, so it is no surprise that they may have different ideas about childrearing. While their romantic relationship has been left in the past, they must find some common ground about raising the children that they brought into the world.
Contributing Your Opinions from the Sidelines
While stepparents need to be a source of support to their spouse regarding the care of the stepchildren, they need to avoid being outwardly vocal and should allow the children’s natural parents to take ultimate responsibility for decision making. Any opinions and suggestions that a stepparent has (and it is reasonable to expect that they will have opinions – they care about the children, too) should be voiced only to their spouse, and not to their spouse’s ex or even worse, to the children themselves. Offering a willing ear and a supportive attitude can be quite helpful to a spouse who feels pressured by an ex to agree to things that don’t feel right to them.
Respecting the Children and their Feelings
While emotions can often run high when dealing with what may seem to be an unreasonable ex, it’s important for all of the adults to focus on the fact that the welfare of the children is the top priority. There are many conversations that adults have that are not meant for children’s ears, so care must be taken when voicing opinions about the kids’ natural parents. Just because the adults have chosen to end their relationship, the children remain attached to both parents and have every right to love them equally. Saying mean or hurtful things about a child’s parent is disrespectful to the child, so no matter how strongly the adults feel, they need to learn to keep control of their emotions when dealing with an ex.
@Catbell - It might be that his son wasn't thinking straight and neither was his dad (who in fairness to him can't and probably doesn't want to cut himself off totally from his other life and his other kids). Families exist in all sorts of mutable forms these days and we need to relax a little. The thing is, he was asked and when you said you weren't happy about it he relented. Many people are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to decision making and being torn. It might be that he just actually wanted to celebrate with his son and didn't think of the consequences or how it may seem to you. You've made your point and it has been nipped in the bud. Couples have such disagreements, it's part of life. You possibly need to drop it now and move on. You don't say if you get on with his ex. If you do, the easiest way around it would have been for you all to go and help celebrate. My partner's dad has the new Mrs T and the former Mrs T (my partner's mum)under the same roof for such occasions. All are happy, as are the kids and step-kids.
JaneyT - 22-Aug-17 @ 12:31 PM
My husband of 5 years surprised me last week by saying his eldest stepson had invited him to a family meal to celebrate hisexam results.
When I say family I mean it would be him and his ex and their kids with the exclusion of myself and our daughter.
I said that I felt it was inappropriate and that I would be more than happy to arrange our own celebration for his son but that he needs to accept he is no longer part of that family. I also expressed a concern over it setting a precedent for future events e.g. graduation, weddings etc that I would be excluded from as well.
It caused a serious amount of friction for a number of days until he said he isn't going but won't talk about it. I believe the only reason he isn't going is because I'm upset about it rather than him being able to see why it's not an appropriate thing to do and I'm worried this is going to mean the unresolved issue leads to resentment which will bore a hole in our relationship over time.
I've suggested going to a counsellor but he says he doesn't want to talk about it with me or anyone else and I don't know where to go from here.
Catbell - 21-Aug-17 @ 8:54 PM
Chels - Your Question:
I'm married to a man whom I've been with for years and we have 2 sons together. Years before our marriage he cheated and got the woman pregnant. Now we're married he wants the child to live with us permanently. A lot of hurtful things have happened in the past; lies, deceit, disrespect. How do I now handle such a situation with this stepchild considering the circumstances. (I know the child is innocent but a part of me still hurts and the child is a reminder) please help.
You don't say the reasons why he wants his child to live with you and whether the mother consents to this. That said, it is still a very difficult question to advise upon because it is an emotional situation and there are no right or wrong answers due to their multi-layered complexity. The fact you have had two children together and have both stayed together counts for a lot and are the foundations to your relationship. More importantly, is the dynamic the child creates in the house and whether he gets on with your other children and whether you can forgive 'him' for being the son of someone else. If you continue to find forgiveness difficult, then you will continue keep hold of the the hurt and you will retain that anger - only if you let go will you be able to overcome these particular emotional issues. Therefore, it makes it almost impossible to give a correct answer, instead you have to go with the decision that feels right for you.
BeingAStepParent - 5-Oct-16 @ 10:29 AM
I'm married to a man whom I've been with for years and we have 2 sons together. Years before our marriage he cheated and got the woman pregnant. Now we're married he wants the child to live with us permanently. A lot of hurtful things have happened in the past; lies, deceit, disrespect... How do I now handle such a situation with this stepchild considering the circumstances. (I know the child is innocent but a part of me still hurts and the child is a reminder) please help.