When I met my boyfriend’s daughter two years ago, she was a sweet girl who was excited to meet me. I made her dad happy, she had never met anyone else he had dated, and she told him how curious she was about our relationship.
We proceeded with caution and he introduced me to her one Saturday afternoon before her mother picked her up.
But as with a lot of things in life, the honeymoon wore off after about six months and I noticed some changes in her. I come over one night a week while she is there, and she started running up to her room when I got there.
She no longer wanted to go out to eat with us, or sit and watch a movie or television show after dinner.
While she is a shy girl, our conversations have always flowed freely. I was pretty sure I hadn’t overstepped or come on too strong, but I wanted to be sure. Since my boyfriend didn’t mention anything and we don’t live together, I wasn’t sure if I should say anything or not. So, I didn’t. I chalked it up to puberty and maybe realizing that it wasn’t so fun if her dad had a girlfriend that was taking up some of his time.
I have three kids of my own and my hands are full with them — not to mention everything else that comes with being a single mother.
But as the weeks went on, I noticed she not only stayed up in her room the entire time I was there, she had started being incredibly rude and ignoring her dad when he’d ask her to do something like clean her room or do her homework.
She had previously been open to spending time with my kids, but that all changed and she refused to do anything with our two families.
As a child of divorce, I understand these feelings. When my parents remarried and I had step-parents, I wasn’t always thrilled about spending time with step-siblings so I never pushed this issue or said anything about it.
However, her attitude towards me and her father became increasingly worse and I found myself uncomfortable going over there when she was home. I knew there would be tension.
It took me a long time to speak up, but I had to talk about the elephant in the room.
This was such a tricky thing; I don’t live with them, nor will we move in together anytime soon since our kids go to different schools and have their own lives. But, it’s incredibly difficult to see my boyfriend get ignored, lied to, and hear the way she talks to both of us without saying anything.
It’s not like when you have a friend and you constantly hear or see something you wouldn’t do, or put up with, yourself as a parent. In that situation, it’s easier to ignore it, walk away and let them deal with it.
But, when it’s the person you love, and spend a lot of time with, it feels different. I began to feel like I was keeping something from him by not saying anything. I certainly am not here to tell him how to parent — again, I have my hands full with my own kids. I would want to know, though, if my kids were making him feel uncomfortable by being rude. It would also bother me if they ran up to their rooms every time he was here, didn’t say anything to him, and gave us both an attitude.
After I did talk to him, it cleared the air and he wasn’t defensive at all. Talking about someone’s kids to them is such a touchy subject but I felt if we ignored it (which is what he said he was doing, hoping it would pass), how would we learn to move forward as a couple and tackle problems?
I was also afraid I would come across as a know-it-all and make him feel like I thought my kids were better — I don’t. I simply wanted to figure this out because we couldn’t go on like this forever. For my sake, but also for hers, because she was obviously having some big feelings.
If you are dating someone with kids, I’m sure you’ve encountered this issue. It’s different when you are with your child’s other parent. You can talk about things without it feeling so personal and you know you have to try and solve problems together by getting on the same page really quick because you share a home.
Scary Mommy talked with Isabelle Morley, PsyD LLC who shared some helpful tips on how to navigate dating someone with kids.
First, Morley says the most important thing to remember is that each parent is responsible for their own children’s behaviors. “Neither of you should step into the role of disciplinarian of your partner’s kids.” It’s not easy when I hear my boyfriend say to his daughter, “I asked you to clean up your dishes from last night three times and you still haven’t done it,” and she responds with, “Cool,” in a snotty tone. I have to keep my trap shut and let him handle it the way he sees fit.
And if you notice that your partner’s child is being disrespectful to you or your kids, it is okay to speak up. Morley says,”if you’re serious about the relationship, you need to strengthen your communication and work on building a blended family where everyone is treated fairly and with respect.” But, you have to have a private conversation with your partner about it.
Is this fun? Absolutely not, but as long as you don’t address it and allow it to go on, it will continue and put stress on your relationship.
After you talk to your partner about this, it is their job to take care of the situation, says Morley. “It’s your partner’s responsibility to speak with their child about the issue, or to work with you on finding a way to improve things. Keep in mind, it’s probably every parent’s instinct to be defensive of their child, and you’ll both need to work on being receptive to hearing each other’s perspectives and feelings.”
I was afraid after my boyfriend talked with his daughter, it would make her like me less. I certainly don’t want to force a relationship on her or make her feel uncomfortable in her own home. But instead, it did the opposite. Instead of accusing her of being rude to me, he addressed her attitude as a whole, and told her that he loved me very much and I was going to be in their lives for the long haul and we’d love for her to spend time with us, but it was okay if she wasn’t up for it.
The experience did strengthen our relationship. Now we feel better equipped to handle future problems — which is good, because with four teenagers between us, there are sure to be many more issues.