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UPDATE: MY PARTNER QUIT PLAYING "HAPPY FAMILY" WITH BM

FWSM1964's picture

I have been with my partner for almost 5 years, while he has been separated from BM for almost 15 years. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she has invited him to play "happy family" at the matrimonial home with their BK's while I sit home alone.

This year, he put his foot down and did not attend Thanksgiving. As has been the tradition, BM asked him to go this year, and possibly pay for 50% of the food (as he has done in previous years) and he said "no". He seems okay with his decision and rationalizes that even though his kids are important, his future is with me.  I'm sure he misses hanging out with his children that day, but he wanted to send BM the message that he no longer is her "happy family" puppet.

However, I feel really sad that SD24 and SD20 do not want to meet him outside of the matrimonial home where they both live with BM.  He tried to arrange a meal out--just him and SD20 around her birthday this summer, and she said she was too busy as she was hanging out with her fiance's family at their cottage.  He tried to arrange something from SD24 for her recent birthday a week ago, and she said she was too busy to meet him but that she would see him at Thanskgiving.  He told her that he's not attending Thanksgiving this year..

This is typical BM behaviour in that she requests something from my partner, he says "no", and then she gets one of the children to ask the same thing or presume it will happen even when my partner has already said "no"  (eg. asking for my partner to give her a ride to SS33's wedding, asking for my partner to attend Thanksgiving, etc.) 

Further, BM had an emotionally incestuous relationship with SS29 when she cried on his shoulder for years after my partner left her.  He had to tell her to stop doing that as he was only a 15 year old kid.  Moreover, it appears that his daughters may feel resentment against him because he is the cause of BM's crying  (more so in the early days of separation) on a regular basis as she still wants him back to this day.  I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of parenting alienation while my BK's were teens, but we have excellent relationships now that they are in their 20's.

Anyways, I am proud of my partner for standing up to BM and refusing to play her "happy family" games.  However, it hurts me that his two daughters refuse to meet up with him outside of the matrimonial home.  I gave up on anting to meet them and have fully disengaged, so they know he would be alone when they would meet.  My partner is willing to accept his fate as the ball is in their court to visit with him. 

Perhaps it's none of my business, but I wish for my partner the kind of relationship with his daughters that I have with my sons and that he has with his sons. Even my partner has great relationships with my sons. What steps can be taken for my partner to save his relationships with his daughters?

tog redux's picture

It's not so much "none of your business" as it is out of your control. BM has been working on these kids to "take her side" since they were born, most likely.  The only thing he can do is keep his spine intact, but keep reaching out to them periodically to let them know the door is open. No begging or pleading, no buying their love and no caving to their (ie, BM's) demands so he can see them.  They may come around as they get older, but it may all get worse in the short term once BM realizes her control over your SO is ending.  

All you can do is support him in moving on. It makes me sad that my DH has so little relationship with his son, but I didn't cause it and there's nothing I can do except be there for him. 

Kes's picture

Agree with the above from tog, 100%.  It is out of your hands now, whatever relationship your partner manages or doesn't manage to forge with his adult kids who seem very enmeshed with their mother.  A bit like my SD23 and SD25, in fact, who still live with NPD BM.  I imagine them sitting round the cauldron casting bad spells on us!  

FWSM1964's picture

That's exactly what I see too, Kes.  The BM in your life, SD25, and SD23 are precisely similar to the BM in my life, SD24, and SD20. One of the posters likened BM to a spider with her BK's in her web and also to Jabba the Hut.  Now, I will imagine her and SD's as witches around a cauldron.  Halloween is coming up. 

In regards to NPD, I wouldn't be surprised if the BM in my life could be labelled as such.  Some of the vindictiveness, spitefulness, and control issues she has demonstrated led me to that conclusion. I guess her enmeshment with her daughters, and to a lesser degree with her sons, is to be expected.  Sad, really.

FWSM1964's picture

Very well said, Tog.  I am sorry that our SO's do not have wonderful relationships with their offspring. Even my partner's sons are controlled and guilted by BM to the extent that they feel uncomfortable hanging out with me.

My partner texts his children from time-to-time; his sons call back and have lengthy conversations with him while his daughters ignore the texts or tell him they are too busy to see him.  This breaks my heart, but you are right. 

Thanks for the warning about the fallout from BM's loss of control.  It is out of my control and I am pleased to say that my partner doesn't blame me for his fractured relationships with his daughters..

Merry's picture

Your partner is changing the long-established script. No surprise that he's being punished.

I'm sure he's hurt that his daughters dismiss him so easily, but he's taking his power back as a parent and setting healthy boundaries around his own life. They can accept that, or not, but ultimately he's doing the right hting for everyone.

There's really nothing you can or should do, other than support him in having a healthy relationship with his kids.

FWSM1964's picture

Thanks, Merry.  I appreciate your comments and I do support him.  I just feel badly for him. Hopefully, his daughters will realize how wonderful he is before it's too late. 

Every year, they write such beautiful father's day cards about how amazing and awesome of a dad he is and that they appreciate how he taught them morals, values, patience,  love, and understanding. 

Yet they don't have time for him. I guess talk is cheap.

tog redux's picture

My SS20 hasn't wished DH a Happy Father's Day or Birthday in 6 years now.  So if he's getting Father's Day cards, he's a step ahead of my DH. 

FWSM1964's picture

Wow, Tog!  I'm sorry to hear that your DH hasn't heard from his son in 6 years.

While SD24 and SD20 send beautiful "heartfelt" father's day cards, their words mean absolutely nothing as their actions are completely contrary.

I know that I am not alone, and appreciate your relevant advice in these forums.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

This sort of cognitive dissonance is common in dysfunctional families. The words and actions don't match, because they're all committed to propping up the false paradigm that has existed for so long.

Change is messy, and bad behaviors ARE going to ramp up now that your bf is no longer going along with the sick status quo. You can expect that there WILL be pushback, and you WILL be blamed by all as the cause of this "happy family" breaking up.

As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

FWSM1964's picture

I definitely agree with you, Exjuliemccoy.  I am the obstacle that is standing in the way of BM getting her man back.

The adult SK's are upset that their "happy family" no longer exists, especially SS24 and SS20 who do not want to be reminded that their father has moved on.

SS24 has no problem visiting her husband's family at their home or eating with them at a restaurant.  SS20 has no problem visiting her fiance's family at their home or cottage or eating with them at a restaurant.  Only their father is not permitted their company outside of the matrimonial home. The matrimonial home is the only place where they can deny their father has moved on. 

In 2019, SS24's wedding party and guests were allowed  plus ones; even casual friends with benefits could fulfill this role.  The only person who was forbidden a plus one was SD24's father, as BM has not accepted that my partner has moved on, and will never return to her.

I can see the bumpiness already.

Kaylee's picture

The "beautiful fathers day cards"......nope, talk is cheap!

The daughters don't mean a word of it if their actions don't follow through.

My ex's daughter treats him like a piece of crap, yet birthdays and Fathers Day he gets presented with a card with a sickening message professing her love for her "wonderful dad" who "does so much for me".

In fact she manages to make the message in the card all about her!!

FWSM1964's picture

Wow, Kaylee! It sounds like my SD"s took a page out of your ex's daughter's book, or is it the other way around?  Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone.

SteppedOff's picture

I agree....Tog has is precisely right.

I hope he is prepared to accept his fate with his daughters. It is difficult and sad...boundaries would not be necessary if they behaved well. 

We do not create these situations. Most examples can be traced back very long before we came on the scene.

FWSM1964's picture

So true, SteppedOff. The situation in which we now find ourselves was long in the making.  It's just that it took my partner by such surprise and really gobsmacked him! Thanks for the wise words.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I love it, "We do not create these situations." When you walk into a trainwreck of a situation and create the boundary "I will not live in a trainwreck", don't even feel a little guilty.

When i came on the scene, my SO's BM2 pretty much only saw her kids when she came to play house in the matrimonial home. She would come and go whenever she felt like it (no call, no knock, every 1-4 days). She would cook family meals, clean up, go through drawers and cabinets. She collected child support the whole time.

When i cooked a meal for his daughter's birthday (this daughter is by a different BM), BM2 walked in and started eating off the kids' plates and talked only to them and my SO. I left the room and said basically it's her or me in this house. I even felt guilty about it for a while! Fk that, though.

I'm still mad that my SO expected me to put up with it and i had to "pitch a fit" to end it. I'm done with the guilt. It's his mess. Your SO's situation is his mess. The stage was set for this dysfunction looooong before you came on the scene. Don't stress even a little!

FWSM1964's picture

Thanks for sharing, Rumplestiltskin. I'm glad that you are done with the guilt.

You are so right.  I didn't create my SO's mess.

However, I am surprised that he didn't see it coming. However, now that he understands it, he has created appropriate boundaries.

I will support him and try not to stress.

Harry's picture

He should NOT be going over BM home to see his kids.  Either he see them outside her home, or he doesn't see the,.  He agreed to be divorced, that means no relationship with the ex.  
His kids don't care about him.  He has to face that fact.  Damage from divorce.  
As his SO. I would put my foot down about this 

FWSM1964's picture

That's right, Harry.  I had this exact discussion with him when I signed up for StepTalk a couple of months ago.  It gave me the confidence to do put my foot down.  I saw that I was not alone and that others had successfully navigated the waters of stepdom.

However, I feel badly that since his daughters refuse to see him outside the matrimonial home, so he will not be seeing them.  He realizes that the ball is in their court and that they coud meet with him elsewhere like his sons do.  They choose not to, and that's what is hurtful in this situation.

Hesitant to try's picture

And since they're in the 20s, there is still time for them to change their minds. Now that he's no longer playing happy family, maybe they'll start to see things a bit differently and over time, maybe they'll figure out that they do want a relationship with their dad, away from crazy BM. But it's up to them, nothing you can do, and very little your partner can do in the meantime. I hope you both just enjoy your life to the fullest and stop fretting about those two for a while. 

FWSM1964's picture

Thank you, Hesitant to try.  I will stop fretting about something I can't control, and enjoy what I can.

MissTexas's picture

this is "normal" SD behavior. Their rationale seems to be, "...if daddy can't be at my beck (beckon) call, then I will punish bad daddy by not rewarding him with my presence and magnificence." Who cares? You can't make them LOVE their dad, or be there for him. All you can do is continue to love him and be his soft place to fall. He will get used to his "new normal" eventually. As with all changes, it just takes time and reframing your thinking.

Their disengagement really is a victory for you and for him. It is THEM not you, NOT HIM who is making this decision. He has to focus on his sons and be careful not to alienate those who those who are  "at the table" for the sake of those who choose not to be. "Que sera sera."

FWSM1964's picture

This is excellent advice, Miss Texas. I will carry on and work on reframing my thinking. 

At least, the SD's actions show what they really think about their father.  He is disappointed, but no longer surprised. 

As a PAS survivor, I am onto BM's tactics.

Kaylee's picture

Also wanted to add that I feel sad hearing you say that your husband went to his exes every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, leaving you to sit home alone.

That is inappropriate  in my book! He should have put the foot down long ago.....it's not as though the kids were very young when you came on the scene, is it?

He should have arranged to spend time with them for part of the day, offsite (eg not at his exes house), with you present if you wanted to be. And if you didn't want to be, then he should have had his visit then come home for the two of you to celebrate together with your family and friends!

I'm good at telling people what to do, lol :-) 

In an ideal world, right.....

Dumbfounded's picture

EXACTLY THIS. 

NO MORE VISITS PERIOD with the ex!!!

You are ONE,    holidays are to be shared as a ONE CURRENT FAMILY UNIT.  You are THE ONLY EXTENSION of your spouse!  

YOU are the one who decides if you will attend or not!  NEVER NEVER ALLOW any one to usurp your RIGHTFUL  PLACE beside your husband.  

If the invitation doesn't include you, he's to DECLINE!!!!!PERIOD.

Their going to continue DYSFUNCTION,  if you want it to stop, YOU MUST LEAD THE  CHARGE OF ("""CHANGE""") to WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL,  RATIONAL and COHESIVE. 

FWSM1964's picture

This is exactly what my partner is now doing.

SS33 and his wife invited him, SD20, and her fiance to Easter today, and he declined. 

He said that his place is with me and if SD20 still doesn't want to meet me, neither he nor I will be attending.

I would have been okay going if SD20 wasn't so deadset against meeting me out of loyalty to BM. 

My children are with their paternal grandparents today, so my partner and I are at home alone.

To his credit, SS33 realized that it was a lose-lose situation as he and his sister would miss hanging out with their father as well getting a chance to know me a little bit better. 

FWSM1964's picture

Thanks for your concern, Kaylee.  It was pretty terrible for the first couple of years (2016 and 2017).

The third and fourth years (2018 and 2019), he would stay just for the meal with his kids and come back to me within an hour or two, so that I did have part of the day with him. 

Alas offsite would not work, as I had asked him to host Thanksgiving and Christmas at his place or at a local restaurant that is well known to serve holiday dinners. His daughters refused to attend.

He stated that he felt like he was between a rock and a hard place because SD24 and SD20 would not (and still do not) meet him outside of the matrimonial home, so he felt that Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only times he could spend with his daughters.

He now realizes that it is his daughters who are pushing him away, and he is no longer content with begging them for their crumbs of affection.

 

Kaylee's picture

I'm so glad he is now putting his foot down, and also not going cap in hand to the daughters anymore.

FWSM1964's picture

Thanks, Kaylee.  It took a while.  I gently spoke to him over the last couple of years, and encouraged him to think about how disrespected I felt by his BK's, how respectful my BK's are towards him, and how neither of us deserves to be disrespected.

Only when I started reading StepTalk forums did I gain the confidence to support my partner in putting his foot down.  Prior to that I sat alone for the whole Thanksgiving and Christmas days or sat alone for 2-3 hours while he "played happy family". 

I knew it was wrong, but he was so desperate for the crumbs of affection that his daughters would throw his way. I had hoped that they would have appreciated his crumb scrounging, but instead they became even more belligerent.

Harry's picture

Do you want to live this way.  Having his kids control yout holidays?  That you don't do thanksgiving dinner with your SO.  Or any other holidays.  His kids make it as they are more important then you. That after divorce the kids still want there happy family even through it it really does not exist anymore.  
How you live is your choice or who you live with. 

FWSM1964's picture

I agree, Harry.  This is why I had the hard conversations with him over the past couple of months, for which Step Talk gave me confidence.  That is so true what you are saying about the pretend happy family. 

As long as my partner doesn't feel resentful that he and I are spending Thanksgiving Sunday together and with my sons the next day, it should be good.

As long as my partner doesn't feel resentful that he doesn't get to see his children on Thanksgiving Sunday since they won't leave the matrimonial home on that day, it also should be good.

That's the part I feel badly about.  The fact that his relationship with his daughters has been destroyed by BM, along with his previous desire to go chasing for crumbs of affection from SD24 and SD20.

However, they are all adults and I had nothing to do with it. I hold my head high and enjoy the time I have with my partner and biological children.