The loneliness in being a stepparent, for me, anyway.
I don't know that I have anything specific that I'm seeking advice about... I think that being a stepparent can just be such a lonely situation, especially when one isn't getting the support they really need (and should have) from their partner.
I've been in my stepdaughter's life for 5 years. She is 12 years old, and she and I clicked immediately when we first met. She's a genuinely good kid with a warm heart, and unlike anything I'd ever expected, she welcomed me with open arms when I entered her life. Of course she has her moments, like all kids, but at the root of it, I got lucky in the step kid department. My parents were divorced when I was very young, and I hated anyone that stood between me and my mom, so I couldn't imagine myself getting involved with a man with a child. When I met my husband, I not only fell for him, but also adored his daughter, and we quickly became a family, however unofficially.
My husband and I got married two years ago, and our baby was born last year. While my stepdaughter was asking for a sibling for as long as I can remember, and she was excited for her sister's birth, and adores her, as expected, complications came along. My stepdaughter is especially possessive of my daughter, often overriding my parenting on the baby, while at other times she's very respectful and helpful. My stepdaughter has had to negotiate a lot of feelings and guilt surrounding her mom, as it's clear she feels being close with me hurts her mother in some ways. She is aware of the tension that exists between her parents, and by extension me (since I'm clearly on Team Dad), but I've done my best to be civil and positive where her mom is concerned, going out of my way to come up with special gifts and plans for her mom, etc.
Since I have known her, I took on an enormous responsibility where my stepdaughter is concerned. I do everything a parent does and more- I have planned her birthday parties, been up with her all night next the toilet when she is sick, been there for all of her school events, make all of her meals, taken her and her friends on special outings, planned incredibly special activities for her and I to share together, redecorated her room- the list goes on and on. I have treated her as though she is my own. When my daughter was born, I didn't want her to feel like I favored the baby over her, so I went above and beyond in making her feel special, creating special time for the two of us, even when I felt at times that I was missing out on key moments with my daughter. My stepdaughter was an only child until recently, and has a bit of an egocentric complex where she feels our world stops when she's not around. She gets upset if she thinks we're doing something fun without her- we didn't end up taking a honeymoon, but she was threatened by the idea. She was upset with my husband and I when we didn't want her spending our wedding night in our hotel room, even though she was of an age where she should have understood that. My stepdaughter loves the fun things we do together, but if she gets the slightest hint from me that I'm becoming authoritative (like when I tell her to clean her room, do her homework, don't give me attitude, etc.), I constantly fear the "you're not my real mom" comment that stings like no other phrase. I think as a stepparent, there's a desire to be liked, no matter how long you've been in the child's life, or how strong the bond is, and when you're clashing with them, it's a deep hurt and fear unlike anything else.
Going beyond all the things I do with my stepdaughter, I have also been a tremendous source of support for my husband. This includes spending hours upon hours multiple times working on legal papers with him as he fights for custody, working to understand his daughter's school issues so that I could help her when it's really his place to do so, helping him in communications with his ex, taking her to/picking her up from school, taking on an enormous amount of stress from situations with the ex and the custody issues, feeling trapped where I live so that we can be near his child, and personally managing the finances that surround all of the expenses related to child support and add-ons. You name it, I do it.
When my daughter was born, I had recently undergone a massive amount of stress related to the custody situation and losing a parent very suddenly. I was also having difficulty producing enough milk during breastfeeding, and needed support to accomplish something so important to me. I found myself suddenly becoming secondary in our home. My husband got such tremendous joy from seeing my stepdaughter with our daughter, that I found my daughter being yanked from my arms on several occasions, so he could admire that bond at the cost of my own. I felt like the compassion and consideration where I was concerned had gradually disappeared, and all that mattered was my stepdaughter's feelings surrounding her sister. My husband completely refused to engage in any discussion about the situation, other than to defensively and offensively dismiss me, and cast me out as a bad guy. Things got so terrible for a couple of months, I cried nearly every day, and felt so alone with my feelings and the treatment I'd endured, I didn't know what to do. I had no support, and no family or friends to turn to. I was too ashamed to talk to friends about it, and my family lived too far, and probably wouldn't understand anyway.
Although things never got completely right, they did get a little better over time, to the point where it was at least manageable. In the last six months, my stepdaughter has gone through a lot of changes where she's more like a teenager than the little girl we once knew, and this has come with attitude here and there, and more complicated issues from schoolwork to respect to selfish behavior. I've been losing my patience more than ever, and there have been times where it takes every fiber of my being to not explode on her. I've come close a few times. I'm not going to say that I've never yelled back at her- I have. My husband has too- far more than me, and far worse. But he gets to as the parent. However, anytime I feel disrespected or taken advantage of, he becomes very defensive, jumps to her cause, and tells me how I go too far or am too harsh on her, or he just shuts down on me entirely. Small issues that ordinarily would be over with in no time suddenly become monumental because he makes it out like I'm beginning to hate or resent her, when it's his handling that I hate and resent. Even when nothing has happened specifically, and I've come to him for support (something every stepparent needs- and by the way, my husband always concedes that he would never take on what I have), he will not hear it, and will instead point out how I am either wrong, too hard on his child, or he'll just get angry and shut down. I have begged and cried about how lonely I am, like this evening, and it's like he's not hearing any of what I'm saying. Every argument has been walking on eggshells as well, since he doesn't take too kindly to anything that could be vaguely perceived as the suggestion of divorce or an ultimatum. He whole-heartedly refuses to go to counseling with me, or to see a consultant that can help us navigate situations better with our kids. I am out of ideas completely- there is no handling my husband to get the bare minimum support from him, and it not only hurts, but it makes me very angry when I think about all that I have done for him and our family, and this is what I get in return. I don't want to even consider divorce- for one thing, I can't bear the thought of seeing my daughter only half time (and I could never have an arrangement with my husband that is anything but 50/50 custody, after what he's been through), and there is simply no money between us to support two homes. I feel stuck, like I am always walking on eggshells in my own home, or like an unwelcome outsider.
When I imagined growing up someday and having a family, I didn't think it would be one where my husband's ex lives next door, as I raised someone else's child. I envisioned having a baby with a man who would be sharing all of the same firsts that I did. I know I didn't sign up for the traditional family when I entered theirs. But I didn't know that I would be meant to suffer like this after putting forth so much effort, with such a lack of appreciation and support. I feel more like the (un)paid help than I do a valued member of my family. It makes me incredibly sad to think of how much of me my baby misses out on, simply because I'm exhausted, frustrated, and sad. I feel trapped, and I don't know how to make things better. I'm trying, but it feels like we both need to come together in this, and my husband is just not willing.
Has anyone else ever felt this lonely and unsupported by your partner? What did/do you do? Any thoughts would be helpful to me... I don't know many people who can really understand what this is like.