Hi Dr. Buckingham,
I have been married for six years. My husband and I met while on vacation, and it was as if we knew each other for a very long time.
Two years into the marriage, I found out he had a daughter, whom he fathered while we were engaged. Mind you, it was a long distance relationship for two years. Since I found out, he has seen his daughter maybe 10 times in the past four years but talks to her often. But, here’s the thing, I have never met her.
Every time he has gone to see her, he goes without me. I have never spoken with her on the phone, and yes, it has made me feel some kind of way about the situation. We have had plenty of arguments, and I eventually told him I don’t care to meet her anymore. He has told me it’s not him who doesn’t want me to be a part of his daughter’s life. His baby mother does not want me in her life.
Because it is the baby mama, he forgets about my feelings and pleases her. So, I told him she should accept the fact we are married now, and I should therefore be a part of her daughter’s world, too, especially if he is going to have a present father-daughter relationship. However, if she refuses to accept this and continues pushing me out, then he needs to walk away from her.
Now, was I wrong for saying that? It is just how I feel. And I believe he needs to address it if he wants this marriage to work. We are supposed to be as one, yet we are divided on this issue. That has caused a problem for me, and he seems not to care. Also, I admit, I perhaps feel stronger about this because I am struggling to have kids. Please help.
I am sorry to hear about your current marital distress and childbearing challenges. I believe those emotions associated with your personal challenges regarding childbearing are contributing to heighten emotional energy around the issue. Your relationship with your husband should be the focus of your marriage. Becoming an active stepparent is not automatic when you marry. Step-parenting is an arrangement that involves mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities that typically occurs between two biological parents.
As your husband stated, he cannot force his daughter’s mother to accept you as an adult figure who will be involved in their daughter’s life. Getting into arguments with your husband over a situation he cannot control is counter-productive and unhealthy. It is not my intent to come across as being insensitive, but you are focusing your energy in the wrong place.
Instead of fighting with your husband, here are a few things you should try:
Do not try to force your husband to choose between you and his ex.
As long as they have a child together, he will need to co-parent with her. Instead of telling him to cut her off, you can explain what you expect and desire in regards to boundaries. Understand parents have strong bonds with their children and will tolerate a lot to be a part of their lives.
Avoid bad mouthing his ex.
Instead of talking about her, discuss with your husband how you can be supportive to him. Bad mouthing his ex is not going to change how she feels about you. And any animosity toward her will likely further his reluctance to bring you into the picture with the baby mother and daughter.
Don’t demand acceptance.
You and your husband are one. Acceptance into his daughter’s life is not something to be demanded. Know his daughter will eventually get to make the decision about who plays a part in her life. For now, love on your husband and hopefully a relationship with his daughter will blossom in the future.
Seek professional counseling.
It is unfortunate you found out about the child two years into the marriage. Counseling could help you heal from that major life change. Additionally, you should definitely speak with someone about grieving associated with your childbearing difficulties and frustration with the situation. I highly recommend marriage therapy because communication appears to be a problem between you and your husband.
Becoming a stepfamily is difficult because both spouses do not have equal access or involvement in children’s lives. If you try the few things I listed above, you might find peace in what appears to be an uncontrollable storm.
BMWK, what boundaries do you have in place for your stepfamily? How active are stepparents in parenting the children?
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to [email protected]
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.