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How do I disengage to save my marriage (sorry, long!)

mommyblues's picture

Hi Everyone.

Married last summer, gained 2 step daughters (11 and 13). Have a 6 year old son of my own. I'm 10 years younger than my husband.(I'm 33, he's 43)

The girls are mostly sweet and respectful to me so I am grateful. 

From the beginning, I was noticing that the girls had absolutly no routine or sense of responsibility. The house was a mess and the sleep schedule was off. Since he works long days, his kids would be left alone home all day on tv emptying the snack cupboard. When we got married and moved in together, things have changed, and for the better:

I've fought with my husband tooth and nail on regulating the schedule and setting a routine along with boundaries.

Rules and boundaries that have been set are that the house should remain clean, everyone picks up after themselves. No kid shall wear my clothes (his girls are tall, they are my height and weight) and most of all, stay out of my room. Everyone has their own room with their own space.

Yesterday, he was saying he was sad that his girls aren't able to sleep in his bed like they used to ever since we got married. I told him that if they had a nightmare or needed him, he could go to their roooms and sleep/cuddle there. But he said that he felt a little resentful towards me because I set the boundaries that no kids in the room.

We've been fighting since this last night about this because my thoughts are that I need my privacy and alone time with my husband (plus, I sleep naked), I'm 10 years younger than him so I HAVE to set boundaries up as an adult in my home to not blur the lines as well.

Beyond this fight, its just been a struggle  that I will suggest or implement things and then he will fight me on it. We'll have a huge fight where he'll accuse me of being a tyrant and being unfair ect... only until later on, he'll realize it was for the best and sheepishly admit to being grateful to have me around.

I'm at the stage where I feel like I'm growing old being stressed about his kids. I miss being my carefree self. I'm EXTREMELY present with my own kid and although hes quite energetic, he's well behaved and I'm teaching him to be responsible and self-sufficient. Hes 6. Meanwhile, if i dare make ANY suggestions as a woman seeing young girls grow up, then I'm the bad one. 

I've talked to him about the girls hygiene, I've talked to him about their sleep schedule, I've talked to him about all these things that I would address if I was the actual mother of a young girls, and he's somehow twists it like I'm just too much. Now I'm seeing his girls turn into lazy, unhygenic people and I just want to leave it alone.

But he sees how I am with my son so it feels like he'll just use it as ammo that I dont treat his girls the same.

How do I just let him parent his own damn kids without being mean about it?


Its to the point where I dread the weeks where we have them. I'm in Ontario, Canada so the lockdowns make it impossible to get away as I have all the kids at home with me and I also work from home.

JRI's picture

I was wondering what their visitation schedule is, not that it matters.

You have a big ole DH problem.  He's acting like a kid, rebelling against mom.  That remark about resenting you for keeping the girls from sleeping in your bed while you are naked would be the last straw for me. And, he doesnt have any business being in bed with 12 and 13 year old girls, either. I would suggest marriage counseling.  He needs a big wake-up call.

advice.only2's picture

Sounds like he needs a therapy session or two to understand that his relationship with his children SHOULD be different than the one has with his spouse. How long was he single for? It would appear he made his daughters emotionally surrogate girlfriends while he was single. Bottom line he needs to learn how to be a parent and not a partner to his children!

WwCorgi7's picture

You just stop. They are not your children and they are not a reflection of you. He can't use his lazy parenting as ammo against you for taking care and teaching your child when he won't do the same for his own kids. Don't ever let him try to blame you for his girls turning into dirty slobs. As for sleeping in bed with his teen daughters, absolutely not. That is so unnhealthy. It sounds like you are doing a great job parenting your son. You obviously tried to help and he fought you, so step back and let him reap what he sows.

SeeYouNever's picture

It's really hard to disengage with some kids while your son is in the house and you are fully engaged with him. If you're stepdaughters are raised without rules responsibilities and hygiene then your son is going to very quickly figure out that there are double standards for the kids in this house and that puts you in a really difficult position as a mother.

So your husband wants you to take care of his daughters but not really parent them and he expects you to know where the line is drawn? I would tell him that I'm not a mind reader. 

I think the best thing you can do is to have parenting strategy talks. Maybe started off with talking about raising a son and getting the male perspective and then try to get him to take your female perspective for raising daughters. 

This doesn't work when you just have to stop caring. Try to contain their filth and mess in their own spaces somewhere where you can close a door. 

Stepdrama2020's picture

So your DH misses having his sweet precious DD's sleeping in your bed, unhygenic ones to boot. GROSS on both counts.

I am focussing on this aspect, seems like you have got some fantabulous advice otherwise.

Sleeping with pre and teen girls is IDK creepy. Not saying anything going on, but it is violating boundaries galore. Unhealthy. Do these girls act like mini wives? Are they ok with you? 

Not to mention it would cross my mind like WTH you sleep with me and cuddle nightly but you miss doing that with your DD's. Ummm hello what am I the last prize at the pig show.

Sorry lady, your case may not be like my horror at all. I just get triggered reading this. So if I am overboard my apologies.

CLove's picture

There is a disengagment manifesto somewhere around here. Some more modern ways of describing it is "nacho method" meaning nacho kids, nacho problem.

Heres a good link I like to share:

- Understand that you cannot care more than the bio parents. Teeth rotting? You cannot care more than the parents, and try forcing skids to brush teeth. Overweight skids? You cannot care more than the parents and force skids to eat healthy and excercise. Skids failing classes or getting D's? You cannot care more than the parents (read my blogs to see how I know this one too well) and nag them to do their schoolwork.....

- Understand that if your partner is parenting out of guilt or is a lazy parent, you cannot step in there to "fill in the cracks", because as you have found out, parents who are parenting from a place of guilt or just super lazy take it as a personal attack when you dare to critique their precious spawn.

- And speaking of THAT topic, it sounds like your partner is really enmeshed in with his kiddos. This is where he is seeing them not as themselves independently, but as reflections of himself. You need to nip that whole "miss sleeping with them", and help him understand that it is in THEIR best interest to become independent individuals. They will become emotionally stunted if they are held back by his enmeshment.

- About the housework. I cannot answer to this one because I am not an overachiever in this area. BUT I do know that when I disengaged from SD22, when she was 15-17, when (not if) she would leave messes, I would say to my partner "hey can you clean your mess? Oh not yours, Sd's? Oh can you take care of it?" Have your partner clean everything his precious poopsies mess up, and perhaps he will get tired of it and start asking THEM to. Works for me.

Disengagment looks differently for different families. You will have to tell him that you arent going to argue about your boundaries, your boundaries are what they are and its a hard line for you.

I myself do not like anyone in my bedroom but us, and when SD has gone in briefly to get the cat or whatever, I get sort of jumpy. As well, I do not go into her room at all, to demonstrate what I expect.

Rags's picture


If your DH is such an idiot that he would take exception to the differences in how a 6yo is parented and how an 11yo and 13yo are parented..... up your standards in a mate and find one with more than Amoebae level intelligence.

Kids in the MBR- He can choose, he sleeps with his beautiful 10yrs younger buff sleeping bride... or his stinky pre-teen/early teen daughters.  His call.  Either way... they are not in your room.

Hygiene - No stinky kids in your home.  DH can either manage the hygiene of his odiferous spawn or .... he can take them in the backyard with the hose and DAWN dish soap and scrub them down.  Either way... no stinking pubescent spawn in the home.


Summerhell19's picture

Anyone feel guilty for disengaging? I feel like it's the best thing for me to do to keep my sanity. But my husband sometimes makes me feel guilty about it, saying, "we are a family." "If you aren't with us, what is that doing to the family unit!" 

it's so annoying because my stepson is only here for the summers (2 months). Husband is trying to rewrite all the wrongs the stepson's mother has done in raising two months. It's so unrealistic and annoying and I try and stay out of it. But I just hate how he makes me feel when I try and stay in my lane. 

Tips on how not to be stressed out about this are greatly appreciated. 

failuretolaunch's picture

Standard step parent issue. Bio not parenting their kid, expecting everyone else to do it and getting annoyed when someone else isn't interested in doing the job he should. 

Them sleeping in bed is just weird. My daughter is eleven and she would find it weird. Maybe if she was very poorly or had a bad nightmare but I would probably leave the cuddling to mum.

Just stop doing it all, but that is also hard when you see poor parenting happening all around you and you also have to live with these kids. This is why I played a part in raising my skids because there was no way I'd have wild animals running around the place. I probably did more than I should have and if I didn't maybe the BM would have sorted it out but my thoughts are they would have just taken the piss even more.

set your boundaries and every step of the way make it known what you will do and won't do but if your partner doesn't step up you are just going to get wound up and it's just going to cause arguments because it doesn't sound like you're going to be on the same page, at least you can try to prioritise you and your son.

its very simple in my eyes. Kids do what you tell them to do, end of. I'm firm but fair I'd like to think and instill discipline and keep on top of my kids. It really isn't bloody hard. If they don't listen there are consequences. WiFi gets cut off, iPad removed etc as they turn 18 plus, respect the house and rules or go live somewhere else.  But when it's skids you are not only fighting with the kids but the BP too and  they will resort to 'You calling me a bad parent' guilt tactic quickly. Well, yes you bloody are for whatever reasons you have.

Good luck.

Winterglow's picture

"DH, don't you care that your daughters stink? Don't you care what other people think about them? Then effin' do something about it!"

About not wanting them in your bed - ask him how he'd feel if they were in bm's bed with her new man ... and let it sink in.

Harry's picture

I really don't think talking to him will do anything.  He needs help,  he needs to see someone First.   you then need marriage counseling.  Or this relationship isn't going to turn out good .