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Blended Families - in it for the kids?

answered 07:36 PM EST, Thu June 06, 2013
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anonymous anonymous
I am in a long term relationship with a woman who brought children from a previous marriage into this relationship. Our relationship has grown increasingly unsatisfying mostly because she has developed a drinking problem that she struggles to control and she in treatment for depression and social anxiety. It is not her fault, but it is hard to live with someone who shows you no affection and who berates you constantly. After enough years of this I had decided I need to focus on myself for a little while. The issue is the children. I love them like they were my own. They were 1 and 3 when I moved in and they are in their preteens now. To them I am dad. Now, if I leave the relationship, my partner has made it clear to me she will not allow me access to her children. They are hostages that she is willing to use. Since we are not legally married and they are not my biological children I have no recourse. So I am stuck. I do not want to lose them and I can’t leave them with her. She doesn’t abuse them or do anything severe enough to cause her to lose custody but she is not emotionally available to them and they really need me to balance things out in the house. So it feels like my happiness and their misery or my misery and their happiness – neither choice is really acceptable to me. Can you think of anything I have missed to help me in this situation.

Delisted Expert Says...

Wow - stuck between a rock and a rock, it seems.  That is great that you have managed to bond so well with your partner's biological children, and great that she is in treatment, but not so great that it's not working for you.  It is not easy to make decisions when children are involved, so in that respect, I give you much credit for considering them - since very often even biological partner parents do not.  

I'm not sure when you say "focus on (yourself)" if you are set on leaving the relationship or just feeling like you need more happiness in your life.  Do you still want to have a relationship with this person?  Clearly you want and deserve a healthier relationship, and hopefully with her treatment progress that will come along.  If she is in treatment already, does her treatment include family or couples counseling?  Being able to address some of your relationship issues in that venue may help.

Can you seek counseling on your own?  I really can't say if I missed anything without more information and an in-person counselor should be able to provide information and support.  If nothing else, a therapist should be able to help you assess your situation and come up with avenues for self-care.  Some people see things in very "this or that" sort of terms; others see "shades of grey" so to speak.  There may be other ways to address your situation and other ways to operate in your life to get more of your needs met while preserving the relationships you desire.  If your partner's treatment program does not include couples or family counseling, then your own therapist should be able to provide these services.  Your therapist will need to have knowledge of other treatment providers for your partner (and vice versa).  

As for "staying in it for the kids" there are probably many opposing opinions.  Some might say that it is best for the kids to have at least one stable, caring adult.  Others may say you are doing them no favors by modeling this continuing unhealthy relationship.  That said, I do believe that relationships and people are capable of great changes, and that we are very capable of creating loving relationships and moving unhealthy relationships towards being healthier ones.  But, these changes are not always easy and most can benefit from outside, educated, experienced assistance.   There are no perfect families, no perfect relationships, very few perfect situations in life, in general.  And yet seeking health and happiness and improvement is always important - life is short, and the time we have to do the things we feel are important grows shorter every day.  

I am sorry for your current feelings of distress.  I would like to strongly encourage you to seek counseling or therapy as soon as possible.  Your family doctor, local crisis agency, or your health insurance carrier should be able to assist you in finding referrals.  Best wishes to you.    

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Page last updated Jun 06, 2013

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