I'm a widower, in a two-year relationship; my girlfriend has three grown children, ages 27, 23 and 19. Two live away, the middle child resides with her. She informed them of our relationship in August, though we suspect they knew long before then. I've taken her to dinner numerous times and on several trips across the States. I paid all expenses. I drove to Arizona to deliver her son's college items and bring her back. (I also paid for her
housing in Arizona for their initial visit and when she took her son to college). I've had her car repaired. During the holidays all three of her children were home. Two days before Christmas, she said that, since her divorce, she always had Christmas dinner with her children, which I accepted. I asked her to join me later in the day, after dinner, as I wanted to spend part of Christmas with her. She refused. Instead, she accompanied her children to visit an aunt who lives locally. After much debate she indicated that, if she'd agreed to come to my house, she would've felt pressured and angry about it. I didn't see her on Christmas. Was I unreasonable in asking her to spend a few hours with me?
- Ongoing Dispute in Chicago
You were NOT unreasonable, but you may be misguided in thinking she's committed to this relationship. I suspect that you two have yet to have The Talk. As a mother, she's holding onto her longstanding traditions with her adult children and she’s unwilling to change them, unless there's a defined agreement about where you're headed together. That's natural and self-protective, on her part. So where's your self-protection? You've
provided a lovely dating lifestyle and paid the shot, but need to confirm what you want out of all this. If it's a partnership, then tell her so, and insist that she respond. If it's mutual, start getting involved more with her family life.
I'm in a loving relationship with a man who's being badly hurt by his ex-wife. She emails abusive letters and uses their three teenagers to try to extort more money from him. He willingly gives her the child support amount specified by law, which works out to half his monthly salary. Yet she tells their kids that their father abandoned them, and she cannot afford to buy them anything. He's tried speaking to her but she's unreasonable. He did not have an affair. He was just tired of living with a woman he no longer loved and couldn't maintain a relationship with her without suffering himself. Her bitterness is affecting the children emotionally. I'm staying uninvolved, supporting him, but it's difficult. I advise that he have no contact whatsoever with her for any reason as it never has a positive result. It only causes him to suffer more. But he truly believes in the goodness of all people. He can contact his children directly without involving her. Whenever he contacts her, she only demands more money and accuses him of abandoning his children. She's even forwarded their email conversations to his daughter, regarding finances, and now his daughter is enraged because she feels he's jeopardizing her educational development. They have a separation agreement which she disregards and they've attempted mediation but she refuses to attend. How can we deal positively with a bitter woman after a year and a half?
Bitterness and anger is the way some people avoid facing the truth. Most divorces result from both people bearing some responsibility for the marriage's deterioration. Unfortunately for children, there are those who choose to wear the role of "abandoned" victim, for years and years. Your husband sounds like a decent guy who's being naïve. He needs to know and accept that his ex will never approve anything he does. So there's little to be gained by contacting her, if he can reach his children otherwise. If he's blocked from reaching them, he must go through the courts. Meanwhile, he must realize, too, that while children live with a bitter parent, they're conflicted over loyalty issues and generally choose the person that controls their environment, for the sake of peace. The good news is that these teenagers will be moving away from their mother in time. Their Dad must keep contacting them, writing, phoning, always telling them he's there for them
when they're ready.
Tip of the day:
Until a couple has The Talk, there are chances for misunderstandings and confusions about their relationship.