Well, here I go, a very difficult situation. I am recently divorced, and have moved in with my girlfriend. I have an 11 year old and 4 year old daughter. My daughter's Mom and I so far have a good relationship and have worked well together in our parenting between 2 houses.
As best I can tell, my oldest daughter has handled the divorce well. They are in good loving homes at either place, and are in good environments. No abuse or anything at all like that, and they both have good loving parents. Our custody is pretty close to 50/50 due to my work schedule.
My girlfriend and I have lived together about 3 months now, and everything for the most part has gone well. It is still work in progress, and I realize it will take some time for family blending. Both of my daughters have known my girlfriend (former family friend) all of their lives, so I was not introducing my kids to a total stranger. They had both always been comfortable with her in the past.
Last week, my 11 year old daughter broke down crying and went to her room. She came home from school to my house that day with some attitude, and did say a couple of mean things. I had a couple of talks with her during the afternoon and evening, and there was no yelling or anything like that, but I think I just may have put her over the edge and upset her. She would not talk to me or my girlfriend either one. I did let her Mom know what was going on and suggested that maybe she call my daughter to see what was going on. She did so, and my daughter wanted to go back to her Mom's for the night which I agreed to (even though I do not want or plan to set a precedent). Upon getting to Mom's house, my daughter stated that she "just did not like my girlfriend". This was a shock and obviously devastating to me and my girlfriend both.
Here is where I am right now, and the questions I have:
1. I realize that is is early in the game and that I did move in with my girlfriend quickly. It was the best situation for both of us at the time, and both of my daughters have known her for years and liked her in the past. I never would have done this had my daughters not known this person and was a total stranger to them. Did I do the right thing?
2. This is the first breakdown that my daughter has had at my house. She is 11, probably hormonal at this point, a great girl, and so far has handled the divorce well. Do you think this is a normal situation?
3. I don't believe there is any jealousy issues with my daughter being jealous of my girlfriend, I spend time with both of my girls when they are not around, trying to make this transition go as smoothly as possible. It has been difficult for me to "ride both sides of the fence" in maybe letting my girls get away with a little more than normal, but I am trying to make sure they have a comfortable environment at my house and a relaxed, loving environment. Am I doing the right thing?
4. Along with #3 above, we are establishing rules, chores, and expectations at my house this weekend, and are going to let the 11 year old help us with that project. We have not done this yet, and we realize that is important, and hopefully will make things a little better by everyone knowing this. There may be things that she does not like about the rules, but they are "normal" things as far as we are concerned that should be included in house rules. Does everyone think this will help so everyone knows what to expect?
5. I keep thinking that with a combination of things, time will really help this situation. We are all getting used to each other and our mannerisms. Does everyone agree?
6. My daughter is afraid to talk to me about this situation and her feelings, and does feel comfortable talking to her mom, which I do understand. She says she has no problem with me "dating" my girlfriend, but does not like her. Should I talk to my daughter about it, or just wait until we get some other things in place and see how things fall in to place? I don't want to push her in to being uncomfortable talking to me about these issues, at least not right now, and don't want to make a bad situation worse.
7. My girlfriend and I are and have been going to counseling for family blending and we think it has been good so far. We can't make changes overnight of course, and it will all take time. We are taking advantage of every resource we have available to make this transition go well, and have a good environment for everyone. Is this transition time normal?
8. I do have to think because my daughter did not like some of the things I said to her the other night regarding being respectful, grateful, and such, and that I probably made her mad, could she be using my girlfriend as a scapegoat?
9. Is she possibly using the situation against me? She has told her Mom that she does not like my girlfriend, however, she cannot site a specific reason why. I have not talked to her much the last couple of days, and she did tell her Mom that she was kind of afraid I was going to "talk" with her again like I did the night last week. Am I doing the right think by just letting things calm down a little bit for now?
10. Her Mom has offered to kind of be the "middle man" for now since my daughter is not comfortable talking to me about this subject. She knows that this hurts me, so she doesn't want to do that, which I understand. I believe her Mom is empathetic to the situation, and I have agreed to let her Mom pass on information that my daughter may have. I do not want to do this long term and want her to feel comfortable talking to me as her Dad, but feel this is the only avenue I have right now. Is this acceptable?
11. Since this is the first indication of anything like this being said in the years of my daughter knowing my girlfriend, could this just be something that is normal and happens from time to time?
12. During the Holidays, my girlfriend and I decided to not do gift for each other, but to instead concentrate on the kids. My daughter insisted that we get something for my girlfriend. We recently put together photo frames for my daughters room, and she included photos of just her and my girlfriend together for these frames. My girlfriend and daughter do spend time together and laugh and joke together, and have had time with just the 2 of them the last few months. With the above being said, why would she all of a sudden not like her, this makes no sense to me?
13. Along with the rules from above, my girlfriend is a little bit more strict than I am, we are all still learning each others mannerisms. My girlfriend is a little quicker to "call" my daughter on something that she says that might be mean or out of context, and I don't think my daughter likes that and construes that as being mean. Could this be another reason for her saying that she does not like her?
IN SUMMARY, I realize there is a lot of information here and a lot of questions. I have read that a lot of this is normal in our situation. It has devastated me and also my girlfriend that she feels this way all of a sudden, or has just now said something about it. I think we are doing the right things, and going the right direction, and realize it may just take time.
I am looking for input and similar experiences from those of you out there, and any help would be "greatly" appreciated. I am hoping to get some great feedback and thoughts and suggestions.
Thanks for taking the time to read all of this and please don't hesitate to respond.
Dr. Laura always used to advise callers who had divorced not even to date until their kids are 18. I used to be surprised at this advice, but not so much perhaps because my parents divorced when I was 18 and my sisters and I had to cope with their new boyfriends and girlfriends, when all we really yearned for was the life we used to have as a family with mom and dad. I feel for your daughter.
You said, in terms of her talking to her mother about this instead of to you, "I do not want to do this long term and want her to feel comfortable talking to me as her Dad." But she loves you and you obviously care about this woman enough to move in with her. What could she possibly say that wouldn't be rude and insulting? A child cannot say to her daddy "I hate your interest in having someone else besides Mom, I hate your implied sex life, and I hate that you are acting like you care about this woman more than me and my sister such that you would bring her in no matter how we feel." It would simply not be possible for a good and loving child to say such things to her father.
It would be a different game if your wife had died, and the kids were lonely for a woman's presence in their lives, and if they had in essence pushed you to get together with this woman. They would sort of "own" it, then. But you did this and apparently they didn't get a vote.
I think letting your ex-wife talk to your daughter about all of this is really the way to go. She sounds like she is being sane and calm, and might be able to get your daughter through this.
ps -- I don't think your girlfriend should be 'calling' your daughter on her behavior. She is there as your girlfriend, not the children's mother. It's a fine line, but stepparents (or people who are there with the father) are really not in the best of position to come on as a disciplinarian or judge. They do much better in the role of interested and supportive friend.
This is situation you need to handle intelligently with your girlfriend and your children. It happens when children do not understand initially but I am sure they will understand it soon, if handled carefully. There age is sensitive and you need to care about them irrespective of any situation to make their life happier.
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