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I made a mistake getting married to a man with a kid.

A-Girl7's picture

Sorry, this is a very long post.


Hi, I'm new here. I just got married 4 months ago. I love my husband very much and we get along great. Newly married and in lockdown felt more like an extended honeymoon than anything else. 

The problem comes in with his daughter (age 4). He was previously married. It was an arranged marriage and he was quite young at the time. A lot of family pressure to stay together even when he expressed that he was very unhappy in the marriage. They had separated and he found out she was pregnant during the separation. They tried to reconcile because of the baby. Although they eventually divorced when she was 2.

The child was a mistake, (his words), but he is obligated to her and has a responsibility towards her which is only right.

I was living overseas when we first met, I had come home on vacation and we started chatting. Things just clicked with us. I am in my late 20s/early 30s and I've never had a connection with anyone like the kind I have with him. We just get each other.

I hardly had much interaction with his daughter previously. The few times that I did interact with her were ok enough. I really didn't think the situation through. We planned to live together in another country once we were married (his idea). I have never been married before and I don't have any kids of my own. 

The mother has primary custody of the child but she visits once every week and stays over on alternate weekends. Due to lockdown I'm stuck in the country and it has been a nightmare whenever she comes over.

I think I'm a terrible person. I've taken an almost visceral dislike to her. I'm tense and uneasy whenever she comes over, I dread her visits and can't wait until she leaves. I try to be out of the house for as long as possible when she's around. I am not coping at all. 

We discussed children and my role in her life before we got married. I want a kid but only after 3 years. I'm not ready to have a kid around the house right now. I wasn't supposed to have this much involvement. I think I was naive and didn't really grasp the magnitude of this responsibility.

She whines a lot and doesn't listen. She follows me around and is messy. She doesn't have a bedtime and wants to sleep in bed with us. She doesn't even have her own room to sleep in and sleeps on a mattress at the foot of our bed and yet she still wakes up throughout the night and cries for my husband to sleep next to her. 

I feel like I'm suffocating. I hide out in the room as much as possible. I know she's just a child but I wasn't prepared to be living with her.

It's brought up all these thoughts of priorities and how I, and any child that we may have together will never be a top priority. He co-parents with his ex and this sometimes involves long ass conversations that annoy the hell out of me because they just seem unnecessarily prolonged. She also video calls to speak to the child half an hour after he picks her up  and throughout the weekend so he has to sit there with his phone while they chat away having family time.

He tries to include me by telling her to hug me, cuddle next to me when we watch TV and kiss me on the cheek but I feel the forced closeness and intimacy that he tries makes it even worse. I actually cringe at the thought of it.

Most of the stories I've read on this site say that it just gets worse as they get older. I don't think I'm cut out for being a step mother. 

I am probably being selfish but this wasn't the life I envisioned for myself. I don't want to take him away from his daughter. I love my husband but divorce seems to be the only option because I don't think I can do this.

tog redux's picture

Well, the first step is to have a serious conversation with him about how you are feeling and that you are considering divorce.  The next is to see what he is willing to do differently - ie, set better boundaries on phone calls with BM and actually PARENT his child effectively. Maybe he would take a parenting course with you, since you plan to have kids. Figure out a way to take charge of the time she's in your home and make it more pleasant.

It's worth a try to make these changes before you throw in the towel.

ladybug3's picture

I understand what you're going through, I didn't like a lot of the things that went on with DH, SS, or BM when we first got married. Sitting down and having a good heart-to-heart can do a lot, and I would definitely give that a try before divorce. DH has changed so much since we got married a few years ago, but only because I let him know things needed to change. I told him just how unhappy I was and he started to work on the issues. Good luck!

Miss T's picture

I'm normally all in for step moms, but in this case I have to say first--poor little girl.

Poor you, too. Definitely talk to DH. You're newlyweds, so he'll naturally be contrite and will promise to change. But be on the lookout for backsliding. Make sure he knows that if (actually, when) any degree of backsliding happens, you're out of there, and be certain in your own mind that you'll leave immediately at the first sign that things are not going well.

I'm so sorry you got into this. You are a young woman with your whole life ahead of you. Do not waste time trying to turn this ship around. Please please please do not spend years waiting and hoping and trying to effect change that is, sadly, unlikely to stick if it even happens in the first place.

hereiam's picture

You're not selfish, you just jumped into marriage too soon, without having all of the facts.

When marrying a man with kids, it's very important to spend enough time around the kid and get to know the dynamics before committing. Just loving the man is not enough.

Cover1W's picture

Get him a good parenting book, now.  If he doesn't want to read it and discuss the (proven) ideas with you, you've got more problems coming your way.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

Don't be too hard on yourself. This is something that has happened to many first time brides who've married a man with children. Because you're not a parent, you didn't know what red flags to look for, or what a relationship killer having a partner who's a weak parent would be.

As for cringing at cuddling with the child, this is normal, so don't assume there's something wrong with you. We females are wired to be territorial, and rejecting another female's young is an atavistic response. But we are also wired to be relational, which makes us wonder why we aren't more accepting. Blending takes time, and you are essentially strangers. Some men assume that all women love all children, and that their new partner will easily take over the mother role, but this is simply not true. Your H should allow you and his daughter to get to know each other gradually and form your relationship organically. He is the parent, you are not, and he should be the one caring for his child.

It sounds as if you and your H did not discuss in great detail what your day to day life would be like, or who would be responsible for what. You seem like a person who appreciates structure, so having a spouse that doesn't parent well must be very hard on you.

You need to have The Talk. Tell him this isn't working for you, why, and that you're considering leaving. See how he responds. Hopefully the two of you can work on this together, but if you can't, don't feel guilty. Steplife is not for everyone.

SteppedOut's picture

Fix the mistake.

There is nothing wrong with making a mistake... we all make mistakes. 

What is not ok, is knowing you made a mistake and doing nothing to correct it. 

Do not waste your life and ruin your health wallowing in misery. 

Iamwoman's picture

I tried hard to like and love my stepsons. They have been awful horrible human beings and although outwardly have gotten better (or lazier), inwardly they are worse and it all comes out through passive aggressiveness now from them.

My DH has been a fantastic parent, but neither he nor I (nor anyone really) can fight parental alienation.

If your DH is willing to step up his parenting, set boundaries for his child, and stop interacting with BM so much... and if BM is not trying to turn SD against you and DH, then it could work.

That being said, if you are cringing right away, it may be best to cut your losses.

ldvilen's picture

Yes!, and this has to go.  Co-parenting is OK, but hanging out with the ex- like it is the good ol’ days is not:  “He co-parents with his ex and this sometimes involves long ass conversations that annoy the hell out of me because they just seem unnecessarily prolonged. She also video calls to speak to the child half an hour after he picks her up and throughout the weekend so he has to sit there with his phone while they chat away having family time.”

Also, I think what happens sometimes, is SMs see their DH exhibiting bizarre other-family behaviors that they are uncomfortable with or haven’t seen before, and since this type of activity seems to revolve around the child, they wind up “blaming” the child rather than speaking with or confronting their DH about it.

And, you also are dealing with multiple cultures.  Perhaps in DH and BM’s culture, this is commonplace, where the ex-/ BM has permission to intrude, so to speak.  Now, that in no matter, shape or form means you have to suck it up and take it, but there are many layers here to navigate.  Even more than usual for a bioless SM.

All you can do in this situation, as others have suggested, is have a heart-to-heart talk with your DH.  Do not try to blame his SD in any way.  She is young and innocent.  But openly discuss what you see as your role and what his expectations are for your role.  Meanwhile, you can discuss what you see as his role as your husband and bio-dad.

But, at the end of the day, it may come down to you just can’t stand it.  On the other hand, marriage is about compromise, but compromise by both.  By no means should being a SM ever translate into a SM having to “suck it up and take it.”

Miss T's picture

"Perhaps in DH and BM’s culture, this is commonplace, where the ex-/ BM has permission to intrude, so to speak."

Sounds like you're expected to accept the position of junior wife. At least in theory, we don't have junior wives in Western society. DH needs to hear loud and clear that you will not accept this position. You'll have to figure out just how to bring him to this understanding. Unless he's done extensive post-doctoral field work in primate sociobiology, he won't have a clue what you're on about, and if you try to break it down for him he'll think you've gone round the bend. Remember that you don't have to explain or justify your feelings. "This makes me very uncomfortable" is all you need. He doesn't want you to be uncomfortable, now, does he?

The ex is probably driving this, but I'd be willing to bet that DH enjoys having two women competing for his attention. It needs to stop yesterday.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I'm dealing with a different culture, too. In the beginning i was so careful to respect their culture but i found that the "culture card" was trotted out when it served them but at other times, those same issues weren't important when it no longer served them (enmeshed SO and his ex.) I noticed that none of his brothers' wives had to put up with their exes intruding, either, and all of his brothers have previous ex-wives/BMs. I called bullshit and so should OP. Her DH hasn't done anything to change because this situation suits him just fine. In my situation, i feel like my SO also enjoyed women fighting over him. Instead of directing my anger at BM, i pointed it his way. It wasn't so fun for him anymore. I was also not married and willing to walk, though. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

It sounds like the (understandable) feelings you have toward the situation are being transferred to the child. She is not responsible for the enmeshment your DH has with his ex, but she is *used* as the reason you should accept it. And she is not responsible for her bad behavior at this age. Like with a dog, it's been trained into her by her parents. Your DH allows her to sleep in your room and interrupt your sleep. He must cater to her whining, otherwise she wouldn't do it (not as much anyway.)

It doesn't have to be this way. Your husband makes it this way. If he is willing to set limits with both her and BM, it can work. He has to be willing, though. I would suggest telling him honestly how you feel, and proposing solutions. Specific behavioral changes, and i would start with the sleeping situation and the excessive communication with BM. That's just me, though, as those are my personal deal-breakers. You will have to figure out yours. If he isn't amenable, at least you can say you tried before cutting your losses.

Full dosclosure - my experience with setting limits on kids and bioparents is that i am a bioparent and i set limits with my kids and ex, because i want to. My SO is still working on it and that's why we don't live together. The parent in the situation has to want it. 

nappisan's picture

the truth is things will only get worse if they arent disscussed.  please dont feel guilty that you do not like his daughter nor do you want to give affection to her etc,, this is his job to parent her and should not try to force anything on you.  As far as the communicating with the ex as a family ,, this will only cause major problems for everyone involved,,,,, first of all if the BM is constantly calling the kid when she is with you ,,this kid is going to have seperation issues.... my ex-DH and the BM would every night call to say goodnight to step brat,, im sure they still do and the kid is turning 13 and has major seperation issues ,, he cant go a day without speaking to mummy and daddy at bedtime and doesnt go to sleepovers at friends houses cos he will miss them too much,, hes super clingy and plays them off also.  Youre life is only going to get harder as the child gets older and more demanding and before you realise ,, your whole life is dictated by a bratty kid and a munipulative BM

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Your situation just illustrates that it's 100 percent the parents who create these issues. They have trained the kid to think the world will end if he doesn't get to say goodnight to both parents every night. At 13! It's sad. 

relationshipguru's picture

You aren't a bad person. You just jumped into a marriage way too soon. I always highly recommend living with someone who has children for at least 3 years before considering marrying them. Over time yes these situations just get worse. I am so sorry. I was with my ex for five years and we lived together for a little over two years before I called it quits. I cared about his kids immenselt but the reality is they were two entitled spoiled brats who wanted to split us up and did. They were like this because of Disney parenting by their parents and extreme coddling by their grand parents.  It was just too hard and not a good quality of life for me. 

1wonder woman's picture

Normally when you marry a man that's divorced and he has an ex-wife and a kid it is a package deal.. This is why it is called a blended are now part of a blended family!! You not only have to bond with your husband no you will have to bond with this child too and your husband will need your help in raising his child when he does have her. You now are a step mom not just a wife.... When you married this man you were not just marrying him. Nope the kid is included too and sadly his ex-wife will be calling him and texting and that can cause you to become jealous I know been there done that. A DIVORCE causes one thing for sure it will make everyone in this family unit feel UNCOMFORTABLE. I am sure your husband and his ex-wife and the kid too also feel the same feelings as you are feeling UNCOMFORTABLE. Not fun I know! Plus a relationship like this will cause all sorts of other feelings too. Sounds like you really need to sit down with you husband and have a serious conversation with him... honestly it sounds like you want a divorce. You are not happy... When you marry a man that has a ex-wife and a kid too you are entering a relationship that not everyone is cut out for... every relationship takes hard work in order for it to work out. But a relationship with divorced man and a kid and an ex-wife will take even more hard work and again not everyone is cut out for it. Plus the older the kids become the harder things get trust me yes it becomes even harder! Plus when his ex-wife sees you becoming closer to her kid she will become very jealous of you and then the real fun starts!! You need to really do some thinking!

Trust me I started dating a newly divorced man 5 years ago and now we are living together and he has three kids and a ex-wife. I was clueless in the beginning... I had no idea why he divorced his I do she is narcissistic no she is crazy... I never knew the hell I was walking into. Nothing so far has turned out in our relationship the way I envisioned them to be today. But I am willing to go through the hard work, stress and uncomfortable feelings and the hell to be with this man because I know when the kid is not around we are perfect for one another things are great! Someday the kid will be an adult and it will just be the two of you. But can you wait that long?

Now I have read on this site where there are many step moms that have choose to disengage...  when the kid comes to visit their Dad these step moms will take off and go some where else for two days. This could be a solution for you... You do not have to be there honestly when he does have his kid. This does work well for many step moms.  Plus it would give you some alone time for yourself per week just a thought.  

enjoyyourdowngrade's picture

When you marry a man with a child his kids and his ex are a packaged deal. There were other suitors who very likely came and went before you came along. It is a good idea to live together for several years before contemplating marriage for this reason. The kids will most likely try very hard to split you up over time for a number of reasons. His kids may be ncie to you now but it is too soon. They won't be as nice ot you later on down the road. They know they have the power in the household to split people up and will use this power.

ldvilen's picture

So I just wonder what is meant by the term "packaged deal"?  That term is used a lot in step-situations, but going by the Webster's definition, it means: 1 : an offer or agreement involving a number of related items or one making acceptance of one item dependent on the acceptance of another 2 : the items offered in a package deal.

If it is: "Making acceptance of one item dependent on the acceptance of another," that is pretty broad.  I mean, is it like buy the house, knowing and accepting that some of the appliances might need replacing; or, is it buy the house, somehow knowing and accepting that it'll be nothing but a money pit and soak up many of your resources for years to come?  The former you could anticipate before the buy.  The latter, however, there is no way you could anticipate that until you are are well into the deal.