Extended, Blended Families and Kids

As of the last Census 21 million children or roughly a third live in households where the biological mother and father are not together. This includes remarriages after divorce, couples living together and single moms and dads who may or may not be dating.

Co-parenting is the process by which parents for whatever reason have chosen not to live together and the child is now split between two households. In that, every effort is made to lessen the impact of the separation, shield the child from the emotions of divorce and strive to establish a new relationship with the other parent that is supportive of the child’s needs rather than a source of negative stress.

Enter into the picture the new girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband. Living in the same household, these new people to the family will naturally form bonds with the children. But are there limitations to that relationship? Many times the new person in the family if they have no children of their own feel an overwhelming desire to become the parent. This leads to confusion and stress for the child.

1. Should the non-parent be critical of the parenting skills of the opposing parent?
2. Should the non-parent openly criticize the opposing parent in front of the child?
3. Should the non parent refer to themselves as the “New Mom” or “New Dad” to the child?
4. Should the non-parent take an active role in such moments like visitation exchanges or discussions of religion, education or health care?

By and large the answer to these questions is no. the non-parent while supportive of their partner should take a backseat to the primary roles of Mom and Dad. The Japanese have a phrase, “The Honorable Unseen One”. This is even more critical in situations where the parents are not on good terms with each other or even openly hostile. In such cases it’s the biological parent who must look within themselves to resolve their personal issues in a manner that does not impact the child. While Mom and Dad aren’t talking to each other there are times when the child must be discussed. Non-parents should not take on this role. “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” In a more direct sense, “Too many voices confuse the child.”

So what should a non-parent do?

1. Respect the rights and responsibilities of the of both parents.
2. Establish a relationship with the child that is independent of the parenting role. “I’m not your Dad but I Love you very much.”
3. Take a backseat during visitation exchanges and times of discussion. Literally. Stay in the car or another room of the home. This is especially critical in situations where infidelity is an issue. The mere presence of “That woman who stole my man.” can lead to problems if the opposing parent still harbors anger. The child does not need the drama.
4. The statement “They are my kids now” is not healthy for the child?
5. Never criticize the child’s parent if the child is in earshot. Remember that children regardless of age take insults of their parent as a an insult directed towards them.

Following the guidelines of Co-Parenting by all adults concerned has left a track record of success in Blended Families. Given time the children are provided with a larger support group of Love.

Surprise! Your Wife is Gay

The Straight Spouse Network (SSN) is an international organization that provides personal, confidential support and information to heterosexual spouses/partners, current or former, of gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans gender mates and mixed-orientation couples for constructively resolving coming-out problems. SSN also offers research-based information about spouse, couple, and family issues and resources to other family members, professionals, community organizations, and the public. SSN is the only support network of its kind in the world.

Good stuff at Straight Spouse Network

Len’s Story

In 1986, I married my best friend and the person I was to grow old with. The woman I had my children by. The woman with whom I shared my innermost being with and whom I thought I knew better than anyone. Little did I know that I did not know anything……..

The summer of 2000 went on as summers did, with me working and my wife having time off, since she drove a school bus. It was the perfect job because she could be there for the kids. This summer, however, things were amiss.

We were different…. no, she was different. She was spending an outrageous amount of time on the computer, but I thought she was instant messaging friends and shopping. She was coming to bed later and later each night. I thought it strange, but figured no biggie; she is off for the summer and just doesn’t need to get to bed when I needed to. One day, she mentioned she had found a friend online who had a lot in common with her and had three kids of her own.

“O.K.,” I said, “That’s cool.” And so she and her newfound friend were hanging out, going out, and having a grand ol’ time. (Oh, how dumb and foolish I feel now.)

One night, we planned to get together with some friends from church at a local restaurant that had a little band. My wife met me there, showing up with “the friend.”

I was not feeling well and after dinner said we should go home. She told me to go home; she would stay. I went home, fell asleep, and woke about 2:00 am. My wife was not home, it was unlike her to be out that late, and she was not answering her cell phone. I feared something had happened.

I drove back to the restaurant as they were closing. I knew a guy in the band and asked if he had seen my wife. He went silent and then said he needed to tell me something. He then proceeded to tell me how MY WIFE, THE MOTHER OF MY CHILDREN had seductively danced, made out with, and carried on with her “friend.”

I was sick and stunned. I went home and waited. When she showed up I asked her what the hell was going on and said I had spoken with the guy in the band. She broke down, said she was drunk and confused, and the friend made a move on her. I asked her what else took place, and she swore that there was no more than the kissing. I threw her pillow and blanket out of our bedroom, locked myself in, and went to sleep. That was August 15, 2000.

The next morning, I thought long and hard about my vows and the kids and everything we had been through and decided not to throw away 14 years due to a mistake. I told her how I felt and that we would work through this. “But,” I said, ”there is no way that you are ever to see or talk to that ‘friend’ ever again.”

She agreed. As days went on, she tried negotiating various ways of allowing contact with her friend, via email or instant message, and I said no way. Her next step was to get nasty. She told me I had no right to tell her who she could and could not see. I told her, “Either you want to be married to me or you want to be with her, but you cannot have it both ways. If you want the latter, pack your bags and leave, but understand that once you walk out that door, you will never come back.”

On September 1, 2000, she did just that. With no warning or chance to explain to our kids, she packed her bags, told them she was leaving, and asked them to do the same. They were, needless to say, shocked and stunned and crying. They refused to go with her (and for that I will be eternally grateful) and off she went. When the screen door shut, I realized that our lives had just changed forever.

My wife died that day. The person I married, who was caring and thoughtful and loved our kids, was no longer here. Her face and body were evident, but all shards of that woman were gone. She became erratic and moody with severe emotional swings, and her parental sense was completely gone. She was so self absorbed that she thought only of herself and her newfound life as a lesbian. Our kids were made to take it or leave it. Their first weekend with her she took them to the now-girlfriend’s house.

I filed for divorce and began a four-year battle. She told the neighbors she left because I beat her. She called the police and said them same thing. She accused me of a gay relationship when I invited a man and his two kids to live with us after their home burned down and they had no place to live. She broke into the family home several times by kicking the door in, tried opening credit cards in my name so she could use them, and caused irreparable harm to both kids. My daughter has not spoken to her mother in over six years. My son sees her once a week for two hours. This is the extent of her relationship with her children now.

I am happy to say I retained custody of both kids — unheard of in my conservative county where mothers are almost always granted custody — and got to keep the house.

Now I am a 44-year-old single dad of two teenagers. While I would not trade this for anything, I am angered that I was put in this position. She walked away leaving me not only to pick up the pieces, but also to mend them and heal our children, try to be a mother figure in some form, and wonder what will become of my life now. I do not communicate with her unless it’s necessary and related to the kids and only through email. I will never forgive her for what she has done to me but mostly what she did to two wonderful kids who deserved none of this.

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