Married To Person With Kid From Previous Marriage: Guy Says His Wife is Putting Her Son Before Their Marriage – On Not Wanting to Date Single Parents
This following letter to an advice columnist (which is linked to and excerpted much farther down this blog post) is interesting, because I guarantee you had the guy written to “Ask Amy” of the “Ask Amy” column with the same concern, Amy would not have been sympathetic to the guy.
Amy would’ve raked him over the coals for not oozing with love and compassion for the misbehaving stepchild.
Amy, as I’ve seen, always sides with the kids or the biological parent.
If you are a person married to someone who has a bratty kid who is driving you crazy (and even to the point of wanting to divorce!), Amy will shame you terribly over it.
Amy will scream and yell about you being selfish, and she will ask you to empathize with the misbehaving, rotten kid.
(That I can recall in all my years of reading her advice column, Amy has never shown empathy to the adult who is stressed and whose marriage is strained over a hard- to- handle step-child.)
This advice columnist, though, takes the opposite approach and blames the biological mother; he holds her accountable for the poor marital dynamics.
Unlike Amy, this advice columnist does not suggest that the stepfather is mean, selfish, or unloving for being tired of the wife putting her son before him and their marriage, and for undermining his attempts at child discipline.
As a never-married woman in her 40s, I have no desire to marry a divorced guy who has children from a previous relationship.
I don’t want or need the responsibility (I was never too crazy with the idea about having kids of my own, so why would I want to raise someone else’s?), I don’t want ties with an ex-wife going on (which happens in these situations), I don’t want to do any parenting, I don’t want to compete with a spouse’s attentions with his kids – I could go on and on.
One of the things I find annoying are the number of single parents, men or women, who get really insulted when they hear never-married, childless adults such as myself saying my preference is to marry another adult who has no children.
This really offends a lot of single parents.
What makes this hypocritical is that some of these parents – the single parents – state on their dating site profiles that though they already have children of their own, their preference is for a childless partner!
They do not want to raise or deal with someone else’s children, but by damn, do they ever expect and feel entitled to child-free or childless adults such as myself LOVING the idea of dating or marrying them and helping them raise their children from a previous relationship. Such a huge double standard.
I’ve seen this topic come up quite a bit back when I used to lurk at child-free forums.
You have childfree women talk in childfree forums, about how, on dating sites, they are politely upfront about their preference on their dating site profile of not wanting to date men who have children – “no dads” – they are clear that they would prefer to date child-free men.
These women said single fathers on these sites are so offended that they have tried to get these child-free women banned from the dating site by flagging their profile as being trouble-making.
The single fathers, these women say, also send these child-free women horribly rude, insulting, vulgar-laced tirades in private messages on these dating sites all for not wanting to date fathers.
Nobody is obligated to date or marry someone else who they are not attracted to for whatever the reason.
Yet there are now (Link): many people in society who seem to think they are owed a date or marriage, and even in spite of them having a quality or situation that is (Link): a “deal breaker” for someone else.
I personally do not agree with the concept of putting one’s kids first in the context of if one is divorced and wanting to date again or remarried.
A regular marriage (first time marriage with kids) cannot survive that, let alone a second marriage (as even the psychologist below explains).
You cannot constantly put another person before your spouse and hope the marriage will make it, or that your spouse will not grow to resent it or feel as though their needs are being ignored.
It’s like when I was engaged to a guy who kept putting his mother before me.
My ex-fiance was basically already married to his mother, or dating her.
No, I do not mean to say there was literally any (physical) incest occurring, but there was what I’d consider “emotional” incest, in that my ex was closer to his mother than he was to me.
He’d call his mother several times a day, every day, and share everything with her.
My ex showed his mother’s needs far much more consideration than he ever did mine.
Further, even though I was always polite and kind to his mother, when she would fly into rages and bite my head off, and I’d later tell my fiance about it, and how much it hurt and angered me, he would simply shrug, as though it were nothing.
He would also defend his mother’s poor treatment of me and diminish my hurt feelings as though they were nothing.
He clearly put his Mom number one at all times, and there was no way I was going to walk into a marriage like that, so I broke up with him for that, among other reasons.
I have no reason to believe a marriage to a man who has kids who puts me second consistently like my ex did in regards to his mother is going to survive.
Swapping out kids for a rude mother in a serious relationship is not going to change the dynamics or make things better.
I could see that a marriage to that man would not work, because he was already married to his mother, in a manner of speaking, and I’d always play second fiddle. I would not get my needs met with him.
I can see how it’s the same thing with a marriage to a person who was married before and who has children, whether the kids are very young or are young adults (though I’d imagine the situation is worse if the children are young), and if the parent insists that “I always put my children first,” and “my children and me are a package deal.”
I’ve seen some single mothers online, and on TV shows, who wear the motto of ‘I put my kids first’ with a lot of pride when talking about dating as single mothers.
I realize if one is a single mother with small children or teens, one should be careful about the types of men one dates, because a lot of perverted men out there will date a single mother just to have access to her kids, so he can molest them.
Barring that sort of very specific situation, though, I think the whole “putting the kids” first philosophy is a marriage-killer.
That view point is also a turn-off to a lot of singles, especially singles such as myself who do not have kids already and who do not want to have kids, and who have no desire to help you raise your kids, or just have kids in the house-hold, hanging around, or dropping by for holidays.
And yet, and yet, a lot of single parents out there get immensely pissed off at childless or childfree single adults who would rather not date or marry someone who has kids already.
Notice that being married or being a parent are not guarantees of creating a healthy, giving, mature adult, as so many conservative Christians teach.
Here you have a marriage where the biological mother to the child is ruining her marriage by alienating her second husband, all because she keeps putting the kid’s feelings and needs ahead of her spouse’s.
Did being married (twice! – she’s on her second marriage now) or being a parent instill common sense or wisdom into the woman this letter below describes? No, I don’t think so.
As a never-married adult, I don’t have to be married to see how and why that (placing a child before the spouse) is hugely problematic for the health and survival of a marriage.
by John Rosemond, psychologist
I am stepfather to my wife’s only child, age 8, from her first marriage.
My wife always and in every way puts her son before our marriage.
We went through counseling several years ago and things got better for a while, but then began slipping back into child-comes-first mode.
Believe me, we have a near-perfect marriage outside of her putting her son first and not supporting me when it comes to discipline.
My wife struggles constantly to make him happy and it’s really hurting our relationship. Do you have any advice for me or us?
You’ve described what is in my estimation the number one reason why the divorce rate is so high (relatively speaking) for marriages where at least one party brings a child or children with them into the union.
Specifically, either the male parent cannot shift out of dad and into husband or the female cannot shift out of mom and into wife.
Said another way, for the person or people in question, being a parent trumps being a spouse.
A parent-child relationship of this sort is defined by the lack of an emotional boundary between the two parties.
Your wife experiences her son’s emotions as if they were her own.
Any unhappiness on his part makes her anxious and kicks her into high-enabling. Furthermore, his unhappiness is, from her perspective, indication of her failure as a parent.
The solution, she thinks, is more enabling. A vicious and mutually destructive cycle has developed.
The more she enables, the more helpless he behaves, and the more she enables. And around and around they go. That is, in a word, codependency.
The following is pure speculation: Your wife may have thought she wanted to get married, but in fact what she really wanted was a live-in male role model for her son as well as your income.
I admit to the cynicism of that, by the way.
Your wife would certainly take great umbrage over it, but if I was counseling the two of you, I would challenge her to prove that it is not the truth.
More often than not, responsibility for marital problems is shared fifty-fifty, but this is an exception. A stepparent who walked unknowingly into a pre-existing situation of this nature should not be held accountable for solving the problem.
He or she can certainly make matters worse (e.g. getting angry at the child), but the heavy lifting must be done by the codependent parent.
The good news is that your wife has in the past demonstrated some willingness to come to grips with the nature of her relationship with her son.
Since the prior round of counseling had a positive effect, it makes sense for the two of you to give that another try. Know, however, that this is one of the most intractable problems a counselor will ever encounter.
My question, therefore, to you:
Are you prepared to hang in there another ten years or so, in the hope that when said son goes off on his own, the “near-perfect” marriage you now have will realize its full potential?
That would certainly be my recommendation.
By the way, the problem of one or both spouses putting parenting in front of being husband or wife is not only the single biggest problem in step- and blended families; it is also the single biggest problem in first marriages where there are children.
Unfortunately, the child-centric family has become the norm.
That’s why so few husbands and wives these days are found on the same parenting page, or even in the same parenting book, or even in some cases in the same parenting library.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but agreement concerning parenting issues requires being married first, parents second.