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I am just trying to understand where it went so wrong

dessy101's picture

With the holidays coming up I am in a bit of a mental bind. I read up on disengaging and honestly is seems as if my SKids are the ones who have disengaged from the family. They are polite and we have a very superficial relationships. If I texted them for example I would receive very short responces that hints no further conversation is wanted. As of late I haven't spoken to either of my SKids since the wedding in person. As for texts or calls; it's been months. I guess I am writing this because I have reached an epiphany. Unlike most of you, my SKids don't drink, use drugs, aren't in constant need of money, don't come into the house unannounced (in fact the last time SS was in our home he was 16; he's 24 and SD was 17; she's 22). I and DKids haven't been invited to my SS new home either. I have SKids who went abroad to teach French to disadvantage kids, or spent time doing humanitarian work in refugee camps abroad, have high paying city jobs, went to Ivy league schools and have very good jobs. Therefore if I complain about them to others I am the stereotypical evil SM. 

As for DH, he mostly has to intiate activities or calls. They do call and send gifts for Father's Day, his and DKids birthdays but never mine or our anniversary. Sometimes they may even go out to dinner with us if invited, if not the gifts are mailed; we live 20 minutes apart 30 tops and get mailed gifts. As for holidays since they've been adults, they go to IL's gatherings and that is where gifts are shared usually the day after or before christmas. They usually get everyone gift cards and holiday cards. My parents get holiday cards mailed as well every year.

I think there needs to be a turning point of a discussion of sorts as to why or I just need to find a way to accept this. It is getting harder because SKids are both living in the area and the IL have been making an effort to be in their lives with positive feedback per MIL. MIL has been helping SDIL decorate her home. Apparently she is doing a wall of pictures of both SS and her different relatives. She asked MIL to help find pictures from DH's side of the family. SD and MIL have done a spa and lunch in the city and SD spent a weekend at the ILs and she cooked for them too.

For those of you wondering, I have never banned SKids from our home. And everyone in DH family, including DH just always seem to want to talk and boast about these kids (imagine the holidays with the lot of them). On top of that some neighbors and friends also ask and talk about how cool was that, that SKid did that. And sometimes I did not even know they did those things. Any thoughts on a discussion as to why or how to come to terms with this is much needed.

justmakingthebest's picture

It sounds like it is time to just let go.

Stop trying to reason it out. Just raise your kids with your DH and if the Skids show for a dinner out or something, great! If not, oh well. Just try and come to some sort of peace with the fact that there is no hostility or drama, and be happy in your family. 

ESMOD's picture

I'm not sure what your complaint is really.  Is it that the kids don't pay enough attention to you and your DH?

From what you posted, your Skids are well launched from the home and are living productive lives.  Many young adults move on without total enmeshment with their parents.

If mom was the primary caregiver parent.. and if perhaps your DH was the one to decide to divorce (or it was made to appear this way).. it may be clearer why the kids are not as aligned with him (and by default you).

I think it is a mistake to stir things up at this point.  I would continue to be cordial but you need to look for your "family" elsewhere.  These people don't appear to consider you a parent.. or grandparent etc.. so find a circle of friends that do value what you have to offer.

But having some confrontation on what was done "wrong" or whatnot is likely to end up much more poorly than you realize.

dessy101's picture

My complaint is there seems to be very strong walls that every one else but DH and I can break through. I just would like to know why I guess. SKids are very enmeshed with BM and her family especially their Grandpa.

ESMOD's picture

To be honest.. it is not at ALL unusual for kids to align with their MOTHER.. who is seen normally in the nurturing/caregiving role by their children (and society).  It may be that the kids feel that way and perhaps they are aligning with mom.. if they think your husband was the one at fault for splitting up their parent's relationship?

Maybe the fact that they are very enmeshed with them just doesn't leave much other time/energy for much with you or your husband.  

I just can almost guarantee if you try to stir up a nest of bees.. you are very likely to get some answers that are very hurtful.

I think you are best off accepting the state of things as they are.. find other people to fulfil your emotional needs.. these aren't the people to do that.. they don't owe you their attention.

Petronella's picture

I understand. You may not particularly want to be close with the Skids, but it's kind of weird and hurtful that they spend time with others in the family but not your husband, their actual father. Mailed gifts when you live 30 minutes apart, is bizarre. I would be hurt on my husband's behalf too.

I also understand that it would be wearying to have to hear about everyone marvelling over the achievements of these EXTREMELY privileged and lucky young people. When people are barely in your life it's boring to have to hear about them all the time. I'd much rather talk about my own children! 

Best advice is to try not to dwell on it. If your husband wants to be closer to his older children, he's welcome to try. 

Petronella's picture

That's true, I love that about Amazon! Still find it sad that the adult skids have no interest in getting together in person for birthdays though.

dessy101's picture

Petronella exactly, I don't get these kids. They want to say that they sent gifts and they were always polite. The excuse is usually that they are busy.

I have wanted to say of course they did that they're rich and privileged bit then I get side eye because I am jealous. The truth is I am tired of hearing about people who do not care to hear about me constantly. And hey maybe that is selfish but it is the truth!

Petronella's picture

Yeah, definitely sounds as though they care a lot about appearances. My advice is, just play along but don't agonize over it. I would maybe try a little harder to invite them over for special occasions such as birthdays. Just keep asking and just keep letting them be "too busy." You'll always be able to say that you tried. 

When they start having babies, I will be interested to see what happens then. Hopefully they don't shut out their dad and siblings completely at that time.

Oh forgot to add - I think it's rude of them to acknowledge everyone's birthday but yours. You've been married to their dad for years, you're the mother of their half siblings. They should send you a card same as they do the rest of the family. 

dessy101's picture

Well I personally do not get them birthday gifts as I get none. I intend to also not recognise SS anniversary either as DH and I's aren't. I acknowledge them for Christmas as they do me as well.

As for for birthdays if it is outside of home the will come but if it is in our home they will not come. 

ESMOD's picture

how long has this "i don't get them bday gifts as I get none" been going on? since they were kids? adults?  has your DH told his kids that it would be nice to celebrate your BDay?  Do they even "know" the date?

dessy101's picture

When they were kids they would get me gifts. I think it was more DH taking them and they putting their name on it. As teens, I and DKs would only get a gift or acknowledgement if they were on DH time else nothing. DH it was hit or miss if they got him something outside of his custody time. They had allowances and were quite stingy or cheap about money in those days. As adults they do get nice, thoughtful gifts for DH. DKs get gift cards mostly. I am a New Year's baby so there is no forgetting that. They tend to get us a family New Year card but it has no mention of my birthday.


STaround's picture

You seem to  have a pleasant, polite but not close relationship.   You complained when your DH wanted to invite your SD to live wih you guys.  My guest is the GPs would allow her to stay with them. Why would you not expcet them to be closer with the GPs? 

Concentrate on your own kids, when people say stuff about them, smile and nod.

dessy101's picture

I would not mind if she stayed a weekend. We have invited her to spend weekends in the past or dinners. I don't know, I guess I don't understand why they are so distant from us as adults.

dessy101's picture

I wouldn't because of the distance and cold politeness. If she did not behave in such manner and her job and was no finacial burden; I would let her live with us. I just have been trying the pretend it doesn't bother me and they'd come along. That is why I didn't want him to ask. However, I am getting the sense that they aren't getting that message. 

I am trying to ignore it honestly but it is very hard to not feel a tinge of sadness when I hear their names.

STaround's picture

But at this point, it is what it is.   Your stepkids are getting older, and have their own lives. Nagging them to get what you want (like at weddings), will likely only result in them still being polite, but putting up more boundaries. 

RLJ's picture

In the 30 years I've been married I've had a wonderful relationship with my elder stepson and an abysmal relationship with the younger stepson.  For years I had trouble accepting this difficult person's manipulative and distancing behavior toward me, and the way he would isolate me from his very close relationship with my wife (his mother) and his two children (I'd hoped the birth of his children would help to bring him and me closer, but he used them to do the opposite).  So now I'm finding I just pay as little attention to him as possible.  He almost always "forgets" to send me a birthday gift, while my wife sends his family birthday gifts and his family sends my wife gifts, but not me.  So I've just opted out of this very negative and manipulative situation and am trying to get my wife to understand how hurtful it is when I am part of a gift-giving club where I'm the only one who doesn't get a gift every year.  Basically I'm just polite to him when I absolutely must see him (he lives far away thank God) and I've let him and all of his weirdness go.  That's his business and I don't need to burden myself with the why's and wherefore's of it. 

Hope you can manage the same!  It's worth your own sense of self-respect and self-worth, because Skids with poor attitudes can sure wear you down!  My older SS is an absolute dream, and he and his wife and two kids and I get on wonderfully and exchange gifts as normal, decent people would do. 

ESMOD's picture

OP.. can you give us a bit more background on your situation... it might give some hints to what might be the reason.

How old were Skids when parents divorced? when you came in the picture? when you got married?

Where did the kids live FT?  What kind of custody did dad have?

What is the balance of wealth? is BM's family relatively BETTER off than your DH is?

What have you done to foster a close relationship with the skids?  

What about your own children? what are their ages vs the skids.. do you think your Skids feel pushed aside by your kids?

ARe any of your kids also DH's kids? or are they all from a prior relationship?

In the end.. knowing the WHY most likely won't make a difference in the relationship.  


Petronella's picture

The background is very interesting indeed. Read the OP's other forum posts.

ESMOD's picture

Ohhh... I think the picture is pretty clear now that I went back and looked.

I am still not 100% clear on whether her DH ended the marriage or not.. and whether OP may have been involved..

It seems that OP's DH got alimony from BM and didn't pay CS.   Because BM is rich.

I know it seems wrong but these kids likely know exactly which side of their bread is going to be buttered.  They were living primarily with their mother.. their rich mother.  They align with that side of the family.  Due to proximity.. resources.. the position of "mother" vs weekend father.

OP, looking around, you actually have a pretty sweet situation.  Your Skids don't really bother you guys too much.  They seem to be pleasant to you both.. but are not overly close or enmeshed.  I have a feeling based on situations like the SD wanting to live there that you actually wouldn't like THAT anyway.

If you need to seek counseling to help you get past this.. do it.. but I have a feeling that blowing up your husband's relationship with his kids is not a great plan of attack.


Petronella's picture

DH had an affair and BM and her dad paid him to go away. Basically. 

OP was not involved in the affair or their separation.

It seems clear from their actions that the SKs know all about the history. 

dessy101's picture

DH has apologised when they found out and went to counselling with them. SS even said that this is past tense in their relationship.

hereiam's picture

Well, what they say and what they feel can be two different things, even if SS really wants it to be in the past, emotions tend to rule.

This probably has really nothing to do with you, personally. I feel bad for my DH, that his relationship with his daughter is so strained and barely existent, but I don't feel that it has anything to do with me. Despite the lies that BM has told her, I don't believe that SD dislikes me. Sometimes, I don't even think it has much to do with DH, himself, as much as it is about BM and SD's fear of BM cutting her out.

ESMOD's picture

I see...the more I read here.. the more I get that their father is not who they pay their primary parental loyalty.

Therapy or not etc..

Mom was cheated on.. dad was the reason the relationship ended.

Mom's side has valid reason to not like DH for the hurt he caused his EX.

Mom is wealthy

Mom was the primary parent/caregiver.

So.. for all of these reasons.. the kids are much more aligned with BM and her side of the family.  The fact that they don't HATE their father is probably surprising to a certain extent.  It seems that while he may have been somewhat forgiven.. all is not forgotten.

And.. I get it.. OP.. you were there for them on weekends growing up.. but their primary loyalty was always going to be to their mother.  I will say that in a few instances.. you have kind of displayed a detached and semi cold response to the Skids.. so not sure if it is a chicken/egg thing.. where you are cold in response to their coldness?

But again.. they are adults.  It is their choice how they live their life and who they are close to.  Perhaps it is simple as you are just not their kind of person.. your personality.. likes/dislikes don't mesh with theirs.

It doesn't mean you are a bad person... but not everyone in the world is going to get along with everyone.

It seems that the kids have AMPLE reason to be closer to their mother and her side of the I don't think it's that surprising.. but I understand you do feel hurt by that.

Please get yourself the counseling you need to get past the desire to chase after these adults... no amount of dredging up past will help I don't think.  

It is likely that it will make things worse rather than better to have some huge confrontation


dessy101's picture

I think I tried the cold, ignoring way to see if they may change their stance. I wanted them to see it from my perspective. However, I was met with a continued indifference. When SKs do open up we really do have nice conversations or even heartfelt laughter. There have been times where I have felt we had a moment or something and then it is again met with distance. It would be a lot easier for me if I didn't have to constantly hear about them from DH and his family too. It is hard to explain to people why we are not cohearant without me sounding like a jealous or evil SM. DH tries to pretend that SKs don't behave that way but I can tell he is sad about it.

Petronella's picture

It is sad. You don't owe anyone any explanations. I hope people don't pry into why you and DH are not closer to the SKs. It's nobody's business. 

When the marvelling over the SKs gets too much, change the subject. Ask them about their own kids, or start talking about your own kids.

dessy101's picture

I don't think people outside of family know the realities of the relationship. However, I guess since I was so particular in trying to make SKs feel comfortable and accepted I took stance that they were my kids aswell to friends and neighbors. Now these people are asking me about them or when next will they be visiting and so on. I learnt that lesson.

STaround's picture

that your stepkids are within the range of normal closeness to DH and you.  Some adult kids are closer, some not so close.  

dessy101's picture

They're parents were separated when SD was a baby and SS was probably 2 for the most. They were 3 and 5 when I met them. We had a lot of changes in custody honestly. It was supposed to be 50/50 for the parents. However, DH got a job in the city and the commute as well as taking them to school during his time wasn't feasable time wise. DH agreed to take them every weekend instead so long as BM did not put him to court for child support. 

BM and her family are very well off.

I have tried to foster within our home the idea when SKids were younger that we are all  family. I have insisted my family treat them like they treat my kids. They have even been flower girls and ring bearer in my family weddings. I went to their parent teachers conferences, done homework with them, projects, went to their endless sport events and competitions.

I am not saying there weren't conflicts there were especially with BM's father. He could not stand DH and did everything to upstage him. They were a lot of power strugles with the Grandfather trying to erase DH from the picture. As for my kids they are 15 and 17(twins).

hereiam's picture

More than likely, they have been told some very unflattering things about their father and whether true or not, they have chosen to align with BM and her family. My SD did the same thing. I don't sweat it.

Rags's picture

Even good kids with strong connections with their parents can fade away when they are adults.  Don't lament their absence. When they want to, they will connect. If they don't at least they are not driving drama in your marriage.

Enjoy your empty nest years and you and DH engage in your life together.

Panther1's picture

I also have had a great SM for over 40 years.  I do not really acknowledge her birthday every year.

I also have no idea what day my dad and my step mom married.  It is not an important date to keep in my memory banks.

I also didn't really remember the dates of my step-dad's birthday and his and my moms anniverdary.


Panther1's picture

my step mom for my dad does remember and acknowledge my birthday.

She is better and more organized than I have been.

Once I retire, I want to get better at sending cards.  I am just not good at it.


Petronella's picture

It would probably mean a lot to her and your dad if you could send her a card or even call her on the phone on her birthday.

Panther1's picture

It is just a very confusing time of year.  There are 4 birthdays in a row.  I think my child is the 3rd one.  The other 3 I get confused about the dates and order.

STaround's picture

My BIl's birthday is July 4th and my sisters is December 23, they both hate it, as they feel others celebrate their birthdays, but no one remembers others not on the holidays.   My sister begs up to forget hers, and my BIL goes away the weekend of  his birthday. 

Panther1's picture

I am more like your sister.

I think that the 4 dates are as below

July 19 - My stepbrother

July 20 - Either my step mom  or my EXSIL

July 21 - My son

July 22 - Either my EXSIL or my step mom

July 23 - My SO's sons

ndc's picture

OP, I wouldn't put too much time, effort or thought into the relationship with these stepkids.  You're right - they've disengaged, and you, your DH and your kids are never going to be a big part of their lives. 

I don't want to be harsh, but from their perspective, it makes some sense.  Your DH cheated on their mother, gave up his 50/50 custody because it wasn't convenient once he got a job in the city, didn't pay any child support for them and received alimony from their mother.  That meant they spent the vast majority of their time with their mother and their mother's family.  Under the circumstances, it's easy to imagine that there was no love lost between mom and her family and your DH.  I'm sure that even if the kids weren't actively PAS'd (and maybe they were), they realized that their mother and grandparents had no respect for your DH.  I suspect the grandfather viewed your DH as a no good, cheating freeloader, and it would be hard for the skids not to pick up on that, especially since he was likely the main male role model in their lives.  The skids have been raised to be polite, so they recognize DH's birthday, invite him to the weddings, etc., but I doubt they have any real need or desire for him in their lives.  They're just trying to maintain social norms and appearances.  And they certainly have no need for you and your kids.  I think you just need to reach a point of acceptance with that, move on and not worry about them and their treatment of your family.  Just be glad they *are* polite and successful, because that definitely makes things easier for you.  Focus on your husband and your kids.  Smile and nod when people talk about your stepkids.  And most important, do not have any expecations about a relationship with the skids, because more likely than not there never will be anything more than a superficial one.

Panther1's picture

1000%. this is spot on.

A man sucking alimony off of a woman, not paying any child support to the mother and not having any visitation with the kids does not get any respect from the BM's family.

Be happy that they are polite and cordial.  At least this BM raised them right.

tog redux's picture

Why should he pay child support to HER if she makes way more money than he does?  We don't ask women to pay child support to men when the man makes scads of money.

tog redux's picture

Please. NCP women RARELY are ordered to pay CS and if they are and don't pay, they are rarely held accountable for it.  But if a man doesn't pay, he should be punished with the loss of his children.

STaround's picture

And he did voluntarily reducte the time he spent with them.

I think the time the adult stepkids spend with their dad is in the range of normal.   I dont think they were aliented.  I just think the stepkids are more comfortable with the life of their mom and maternal family. 

Petronella's picture

Where I am the parent with less custody absolutely is ordered to pay CS to the parent with primary custody. Even if the CP doesn't technically need the money, even if the percentage of the NCPs earnings is just a paltry amount. 

tog redux's picture

Yes, I agree, though I suspect they did alienate and badmouth DH through the years.  The skids are heavily aligned with BM and  her family, and probably will be for a long time.  As they get older, they may realize how BM and her family damaged their relationship with DH, or they may not.

At any rate, they do at least have some relationship with DH, but they clearly don't view you as a parent figure.

My SS was alienated to the point of no contact for 3 years, and while he does now speak to DH, he doesn't acknowledge his birthday or father's day or Christmas, or any thing of significance to DH.  Alienation has life long effects on the kids and their relationship with the other parent.  Unless they get a lot of therapy, they often remain superficially connected to the alienated parent.

As for me, SS of course does not recognize my birthday and I don't expect it. To be honest, my siblings and I never gave my parents an anniversary card or gift and they were married happily for 60 years, so that seems a lot to expect.

I think you have to just let go, be civil to them, and accept that they don't view you as a stepmother. As long as they are polite and respectful, that's good enough.

Anonymity's picture

Great news! The stepadults aren't your responsibility or problem. Focus on your husband and your mutual children. Put the stepadults and anyone enmeshed with them out of your mind. 

Rags's picture

When DH cheated on BM he also cheated on his children.  That they have any interface at all with DH after that monumental betrayal is about as much as he and you can expect.  They obviously want a relationship with their father but they do not trust their father.  I have to say that if I were in the same situation that his kids are in with an adulterous father I would be hard pressed to have even the minimal and strained relationship that your SKs have with your DH.

You are not the cause of this situation. Your DH is.  I would recommend that you stop both being a victim of DH's past character issues and the facilitator for you own pain with your efforts to facilitate a relationship with DH's children.  

This is his issue to address if it is going to be addressed.  Though it probably isn't worth the effort considering the history DH has saddled his children with and burdened his relationship with them with.  It is what it is. Let it evolve over time with zero expectations so you won't be disappointed. Focus on the family that you and DH have together.

IMHO of course.