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Parenting Stepchildren/Problems with Boyfriend and Child's Mother relationship

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Hello Rick - Let me first say, I am not a step-parent, but its seems my issue and questions will be well suited to your expertise.

I have been dating my current boyfriend on and off for over a year now. He is legally separated from and has a 3-year-old child with this woman. According to him, she refuses to meet me. I am very uncomfortable with their relationship. They often plan “family” activities together that don’t involve me, trips to the aquarium, mini golfing, apple picking, etc. She comes over spontaneously sometimes to hang out when I’m not around to spend time together with their son. They have been separated for over two years, together as a couple for about 4 years and married only for 3 months. He claims that they have no intention or any desire to get back together. Yet, they seem to so enjoy spending time together as a family.

We have argued about this too many times (recently, every day), I have come to the point where I obsess about her, “stalk” her on social media to see if they’re doing things together that he hasn’t told me or if they have any interaction that I would think is suspicious and I even drive by his house to see if I find her car (I have on a few occasions). It is completely destroying me.  He tells me he loves me and wants to be with me, but is not consistent with his affection, he’ll be madly in love and talking about our future and moving in one day and then a few weeks later seems completely uninterested in me and needs space. He doesn’t acknowledge our relationship publically, that is, everyone close to him knows about me but I haven’t met most of his family (including his mother) and he doesn’t post pictures of us or stuff that we do as to not offend her (the ex) and make her uncomfortable/embarrassed maybe. He is completely fed up with me bringing up the issue of her and what they do together with their son. His only response to me now is, she’s coming here with my son, we’re doing this for my son and that’s it and he refuses to entertain my grievance any further.

You have to understand, there have been things that have made me doubt the platonic nature of their relationship. When we first started dating (I use dating loosely, we were just casually sleeping together but it slowly got more serious), they saw each other every day and at one point he ignored/stopped responding to me for three weeks. During that time, she stayed with him for a few days because of some incident that occurred in her apartment.  We do not cross paths, if she happens to be there and I stop by, I have to leave. He doesn’t pick up my phone calls and rarely responds to my texts if they’re together. I feel very disrespected and I am incredibly confused and suspicious. I have tried my best to be understanding, but I’m human, I’m insecure and jealous and I think for good reason. I would think that normally a woman would want to know who is spending time with her child but she doesn’t. She was dating, but is now single and living with her parents and working very little, thus not having the greatest dating prospects and making me that much more wary of her intentions.

So my questions to you are, does their behavior seem normal? Do you think I have anything serious to worry about? Is this a healthy way to co-parent? Can you suggest a better arrangement for everyone? How should I approach this issue so that he is receptive? I intend to write her a message on facebook if she continues to refuse to meet me. I plan to be honest, but not aggressive or mean and I’ll probably involve some flattery about what a great child they have raised. If it comes to this, what should I say and how should it be said?

I apologize that this is soo long and I thank you and admire you for doing this great service.

Best,
Madeline

Answer
Hello Madeline - yes, you all have something to worry about. Most U.S. stepfamily unions fail (over 50%) because [1] one or more co-parents inherits [psychological wounds + unawareness] from their parents; [2] they don't know how to problem-solve the many complex problems they encounter, and [3] they have unrealistic expectations about their stepfamily. Your sketch suggests to me all 3 of you are significantly wounded and unaware. See these for perspective:

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/gwc.htm

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/means.htm

http://sfhelp.org/gwc/1_traits.htm

http://sfhelp.org/cycle.htm

http://sfhelp.org/relate/mates/basics.htm

http://sfhelp.org/sf/problems.htm

http://sfhelp.org/sf/date/danger.htm

For all your sakes - specially the child's - I urge all three of you adults to study and discuss free online "lessons" 1, 2, and 7:  http://sfhelp.org/site/course.htm

If you choose not to, I fear all of you will experience major heartache and stress

Parenting Stepchildren

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.

Experience

I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.

Organizations
Former Board member, Stepfamily Association of America (SAA)
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC)Experts Council

Publications
Hundreds of Web articles on sfhelp.org ; I've uploaded over 150 self-improvement videos on YouTube; and have self-published 6 books. My ad-free Web site offers a unique, practical 7-lesson self-improvement course.

Education/Credentials
Stanford University BSME (1958) George Williams College MSW (1981) Hundreds of post-graduate seminars on a wide variety of "mental health" subjects

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of appreciative emails and comments on my Web site and videos from people all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked clinically with over 1,000 midwestern divorced and remarried family members, and have had over 800 stepfamily students in various seminars and courses since 1981

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