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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.

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.  


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.

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.

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.

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.