Parenting Stepchildren/18 Year Old Stepchild
QUESTION: Within the past 2 months my relationship with my boyfriend has done a 180. He came back from working in Afghanistan and I received a new job in the city his daughter lives in so we had to move. We have been here 3 months and since then his 18 year old daughter who is a senior in high school has moved in because she and her mother had disagreements. We have a 9 year old daughter together that lives with us also. Since the 18 year old has moved in I feel like I've become the house guest and the kids run the house. They both were playing basketball so 4 nights out of the week have been dedicated to their games. I feel like the relationship that was once had is not priority and my boyfriend focuses more on what the kids needs verses our needs as a couple. He said he has a hard time holding his girlfriend as more important than his kids. His kids come first then everything else falls into place. So I'm often asking him what am I here for? Do you need me at all? I feel like his 18 year old daughter is the girlfriend and I'm the sidekick. He treats her like she is 10 when it comes to cleaning up at home saying she is not used to doing it because her mother pampered her but then treats her like she is 18 and says she going to spend the weekend with her friends. She texts him all day and seems to like to talk to him when I'm not around. There has been times I've heard them talking and laughing but when I come in the room she leaves and his mood changes. His excuse in the past has been she has a hard time accepting he is in a relationship. I feel its selfish because he deserves to feel love on a different level as far as a relationship goes its not all about her feelings her father has needs and feelings as well that cannont be fulfilled by her. We've been to the movies one time since we've been here and he sent her a text before the movie started, before it was over then called when we got out of the movie. He says he just wants to make sure the kids are okay because he isn't home. I've tried to have conversations with him on the things we need to work on and also giving the kids more responsibility in the house but he always says we have a difference of opinion then becomes distant instead of working at it. I've also asked him to read His Needs Her Needs for Parents with me and he said he doesn't like stuff like that so he doesn't want to read it. At this point I don't think he wants to work on it and our relationship isn't important to him. Its more important he has a relationship with his kids and if we don't work oh well. I find myself feeling lonely and misunderstood majority of the time and just wish I could get him to understand I won't the best for the kids as well and I want our relationship to be strong and last. Any advice on how I can get past the barrier he has put up between me and his children?
ANSWER: There is nothing I can do to help you change your boyfriend if he does not want to change. All I can do is help you with your feelings about what is happening.
I must assume that if you have a 9 year old daughter that you have been together for a number of years. Also from the sounds if it there have been many changes in your life and his over the last 3 months. Every change increases stress. My sense is that both you and your boyfriend are under a lot of stress right now.
Did something happen in Afghanistan to your boyfriend that could been influencing that way he is behaving? I do feel that you have some concerns about what your boyfriend is doing. From what you have said he is checking out of the relationship at the moment. What would be making him become distant and treat you the way he is? There are always two sides to every story.
As for your feelings... you have said above that you feel left out, rejected, not needed emotionally by your boyfriend, your stepdaughter is selfish in wanting his attention all of the time, and I sense a bit of jealousy of the attention your step-daughter is getting. These are fairly normal feelings that you are having, and they become more pronounced when you are stressed. Even in good relationships these feelings come up on occasion
You have a few courses of action:
1. you can confront him with what it is you are feeling and attempt to work it out, sometimes this works but often it ends up with arguments, hard feelings and and each other protecting the right to feel the way you do.
2. Let things settle for a while thus reducing the stress. If is surprising how effective the following is... you can often change how others are treating you by changing the way you are treating them. Even if the he seems to be distancing himself like you describe, and seems to have the issues, find nice things that you can do for him, and for the stepdaughter. Just keep focused on doing nice things rather than focusing on the feelings you described above, you will most likely find that things will change for the better in about 2 - 3 weeks.
Let me know how things work out for you.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: I totally agree with you that our change has created stress. With my new job, unpacking, helping the 9 year old adjust to a new school and homework while we both have no friends or family here makes it hard. He isn't working now so Im sure thats part of his stress as well feeling like he isn't contributing as much as he could in the past. I feel like my boyfriend feels guilty for going to Afghanistan for 3 years and not being around for the 18 year old when she started high school and played basketball and now he is trying to make up that missed time by letting her do what she want, stay out as much as she wants and shop as much as she wants. Her mother always talked bad about him and tried to keep the 18 year old away from him because they were not together. She made it very hard for them to have a relationship while he was gone and at one time the 18 year old would not take his calls or email him. He doesn't really worry about the 9 year old as much and I think its because she had such a strong support system in me verses what the 18 year old went thru with her mother. Even though he knows his relationship is suffering its more important for him to make up that missed time. He is such a great father to them but he doesn't know how to be in a relationship because over the years when he went thru ups and downs he always turned to his kids for peace when we were not together. So he is reverting back to that time but often forgets he has a support system in me as his companion but his mindset is I can do everything myself and dont need help because I did that in the past. I am jealous that all the attention is directed to her even when we are alone and he feels the need to interrupt what we are doing to check up on her. It would be so nice to have his undivided attention so we can talk about the future and how to make our relationship better. I've confronted him and decided I wasn't going to say anything about it to him again until some time has passed just to see if any changes will be made. I thank you for reading my concerns and for your advice. After I wrote down how I felt it released a lot of tension and frustration I had and now I'm more at peace. Since I've spoken to him about it he has shown more affection and is spending more time with me in the house. The 18 year old did clean her room before she left to hang out for the weekend but doesn't speak to me as much as she did before. She has actually become distant to both of us and I never wanted her to feel bad I just wanted her to consider the 9 year old needs his time as well as I do and we can all coexist as a family without it being onesided.
Even normal 18 year olds struggle with family time... I know I did. Wanting to be on their own yet knowing it is easier to stay with family. Just be as nice as you can, do little things that show you care and let time take care of the rest.
Also men do not seem to understand women's need for undivided attention, and often do not know how to give it in the way their partner needs it. I would suggest finding a copy of the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. even if he does not read it, you will learn how to give to him in a way that he needs, and let him know how you need to be loved.