Living apart together and parenting apart together (Sort of)

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For us, the main reason for living apart and maintaining our own households is a difference in parenting styles and working on ourselves and our own households before combining them.  The alternative, of course, would be to just jump right into it and pray that everything works out for the best.

From the very beginning of our relationship, it has been clear that Gabe and I disagree on A LOT of issues regarding parenting and how a household should be run.  He is a lot more detailed than I am on some things.  He bases a lot of what he focuses on on what he believes others’ perceptions of him will be.  His focuses differ greatly from mine.  He will run around bleaching toilets and cleaning kids rooms before someone arrives (his house smells wonderful, by the way), yet he will not notice whether his kids have said hello to his guests or being unkind to the children guests.  I have known this man to change his bedspread in fear that people may notice that he always has the same one on his bed every time they visit.  I, on the other hand, will graze over my house quickly, pick it up so it’s neat (not necessarily bleached), threaten to ground the kids until their room is clean (enough) and give them a ten minute talk about how they are to greet everyone, be polite and include the children who are visiting.  He focuses more on being presentable and making sure everyone knows that dad has his stuff together, I focus more on guests feeling comfortable and having a good time.  If only it was easy enough to combine these qualities into one household.

We have two different experiences and two separate points of views.  I have been a single mom for about ten years.  I have had to force the boys to be independent when need be to a certain extent and to improvise.  Sometimes, there was no other choice and it has forced me to not count on perfection.  They need to make their own cereal, they need to get themselves dressed, they need to entertain themselves as well.  Over the years, I have not had the time luxury to do all of the little things for them that they can do themselves and I’m most definitely not their personal clown who has something to entertain them with every time they are bored.  They understand these things and they are still happy and well adjusted.  The best part is, when I do have the time to do something special or out of the ordinary for them, they appreciate it and they know that they are loved. Yet still, I have lots of room for improvement, I do try to focus more on smaller things and being a bit more detailed, it just makes life easier sometimes.  He, on the other hand is a widowed father.  His wife did all of the parenting when she was alive and he was the provider and the ‘hero’.  People don’t change overnight.   Understandably, to try to somehow compensate for the kids’ loss, he overcompensated with them by trying to become the perfect dad and caregiver.  To add to this, he is a people pleaser, he loves to make people happy and he loves being a hero to his kids.  The kids, again understandably, have become accustomed to being catered to and not being accountable for their own responsibilities and behavior.  He focused so much on the short term (cleaning the kids’ rooms for them, keeping them happy by not giving them consequences when they were rude or downright mean to him) that now, in the long term, he is slowly trying to undo these things and well, it’s hard.

Over the years, we have gone back and forth with each other about ways that we feel the other should change and also things that we would like to change about ourselves in order to become better partners and parents.  I am so grateful that we have been able to do this in separate homes rather than in a shared household where we would be making unnecessary and unfair comparisons out of frustration and anger.  We have been able to implement the changes with our own kids and households on our own, without the other parent having to be blamed or labeled the bad guy responsible for these changes in order to make life together not just bearable, but happy eventually.  It’s an ongoing process and I do believe that one day, we will get there.

 

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Blended families living together apart (LAT) and maintaining separate households …..Part Two

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I had a free day today but had SO much to do and catch up with.  So instead of writing a whole lot, I did some reading and came across this article about a blended family living apart together (LAT).  This woman spoke as if she were me, literally, and we are now besties, though she doesn’t know it.   Here’s the link:

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20161010/

ALL of it stuck out to me but this was the BIG one:  “Relationships that work can be fluid in this way.  We don’t have to all stick to societal norms.”   Amen Sista.

Dating and marrying a widower with children…my stepdaughter hates me and this is what I’m doing about it….

evilstepmother.jpgMy stepdaughter (soon to be) hates me because I am not her mom.  She hates me because I’m a constant reminder that her mom’s not there and not coming back.  She also hates change because it’s another reminder that things around her are still happening, even though her mom is gone.  Nicole is fourteen years old and her mom passed away when she was ten.  I don’t blame her.  I would hate me too.

Here is what I am doing about it:  nothing.  There is nothing that I can do about it.  I’m sure that in another life, we would have really liked each other, say, if I was a friend’s mom or something.  But I’m not, I’m her dad’s partner.  In the beginning, I tried to conversate with her, buy her cute things that girls like, I tried to win her over.  I believed naively that I could win her over, she would grow to like or even love me and all would be great in our world.  I didn’t know any better.  I was met with no response, screaming at me in public, staring at me through a window the whole time I was there and trying to throw me out of the house (oh yes, she has done that too), all while dad stood there looking like a deer in the headlights.  I refused to go back over until he was able to manage her behavior.  She doesn’t have to like me, she just can’t be disrespectful to me. So he took care of it.  She no longer does these things.  Actually, she doesn’t do anything at all.  She just stays in her room and doesn’t talk to me or anyone else really.  I feel sorry for her.

I think as women, a lot of us are people pleasers.  We automatically feel that if someone doesn’t like us, it’s personal and we can fix it by being our fantastic selves.  There’s that woman in the office who constantly rolls her eyes at you because you look a lot like the woman her husband left her for, or the rude cashier who doesn’t  like you after seeing you for a total of five seconds because your voice sounds just like her ex best friend who she now hates.  I would rather spend my time nourishing the relationships that I have with the people who have actually gotten to know me and appreciate me, life is far too short.  We have to accept that sometimes, the more you try, the more they despise you.  They have chosen not to like you.  And that’s okay.  I have spent a lot of time in the past reading blogs and comments from both widower’s wives and daughters of widowers.  The wives were so appalled that the daughters, (who are all grown up now) still hate them when they could not understand why, they eventually hated the daughters as well.  Yet, they would still give anything to reconcile with the daughters, if only the daughter would see the err of her ways and try to be grateful for all that the stepmother had tried to do for her.  From reading the daughters’ comments,  they still felt the very same way they had when they were children.  They didn’t WANT the stepmother to do anything for them, most of them commented that she had always tried too hard and they took this as the stepmother trying to replace their mother.  The daughters wanted the dad to be on his own and avoid moving on but if he couldn’t, they did not want to be bothered with the stepmother.  They already felt that the dad was betraying their mom, they were not going to (in their minds) betray her by actually liking the wife as well.

I have had some very well meaning, yet naive, friends make these comments to me:

“I have always wanted to be a stepmom!  She would LOVE me if I were her stepmom!”        Ummm….why?  It’s not very much fun.  Yeah…..no she wouldn’t.

“If I were you, I would make sure to go to her room and say hi and start a conversation every single time I went over.”                                                                                                              Yes, because I have never thought about doing that…..Too bad when you knock, she acts like she doesn’t hear the door.

“What you need to do, is go over there every single night, cook dinner, and act like you own that house.  She’ll HAVE to come around!”                                                                               That’s a great idea!  Because I don’t have my own house to take care of and I would just love to act like a squatter at my man’s house.  I’m sure she’ll just LOVE me after that! 

I do hope that things change, and that some day she ‘just comes around’, but I’m not holding my breath for it.  Sometimes, people never do come around and that’s okay.  I can accept that and I can also accept that I can’t fix something that I didn’t break.

The first year in a relationship with a widower….The merry go round…

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Firstly, I want to say that I refer to him as a widower for the sake of my posts, but I don’t really identify him in real life that way.  His name is Gabriel and he is a man who happened to lose his wife years ago.  Okay, going forward….

The first year of our relationship took off very fast.  I chalk it up to knowing each other in the past and feeling comfortable with each other already as compared to someone who you are just getting to know.  I feel personally, like there are core things about people that never really change.   It’s hard to describe feeling like you really know someone and feel comfortable with them and then, on the other hand, there are so many things that you are still learning about them, like you need to catch up.  There is also a feeling of obligation to someone that you have already known.

That first year we hid our relationship from most of the people he knows due to guilt and obviously the fear of hurting others.  We went out to eat a few times a week, we went on one or two day romantic vacations several times.  That year his in-laws were very involved with his children and I think he just needed an escape from what he was going through, which was me.  It was like being in love for the first time with so much underlying guilt and shame.

When I would go to his house, it would always be when his children were away or in school.  It is so strange to go to your guys’ house and yet, you are actually really in his and his wife’s home.  You have the family photos, you have the memorial pictures of her, and everything there is essentially her taste.  It feels as if you’re having an affair and it’s a very hard feeling to shake.  About a year in, we were on a short getaway and he asked me to get something from his wallet.  I opened it to see his drivers license along with a small picture of his late wife right beside his drivers license picture.  I do understand grief as a logical person, but oh, that stung.  There was also the time that he told me that if his sister in-law just happened to show up one day, he would really contemplate asking me to hide in the closet.  Ewwwww and ouch!!!  What are we, twelve???

On one hand, I was in this new relationship that I was sharing with my friends and family and was so excited about.  I could definitely sympathize with him but would feel such betrayal from him for hiding it.   And so it goes, it was a teeter-totter of joy, excitement, guilt, shame and being hurt, over and over again.

One of the best examples of that year that I can think of was his birthday.  We were coming back from a two day vacation that day, (his kids were visiting family in another state) and he had made plans the previous year for his birthday to go out.  I remember us driving home from our vacation and his friends calling him and me staying quiet.  He felt horrible, I felt horrible, but he couldn’t just squelch his prior commitments with his people either.  He went out that night with three of his couple friends and sent me pictures while I was at home.  Worst.  Feeling.  Ever.  I knew I had to be a logical adult but could not help but feel betrayed.

palaLast day of vacation leaving home on his birthday

I also longed for the day that we could have a “normal” relationship but dreaded it as well.  I wanted everything to be normal and to not have to feel hidden but I also dreaded the reactions from those close to him and the hurt and anger that I knew that it was going to cause.  To this day, I almost want to hide in a corner at times when it comes to gatherings with his family and friends, it can be so hard and at times, just painful.  I have found a whole lot of solace in certain individuals in his circle who have just accepted me and loved me unconditionally and that is one of the ways that I can still keep going and have hope for a “normal” life.

How it all began….How I unintentionally rekindled an old romance and began a relationship with a widower…

When I was 19 years old, I had a boyfriend whom I was madly in love with.  He was handsome, smart, funny and hardworking but he was also very young as well.  We were in a relationship for about two years when the day came that he butt dialed me and I very dramatically discovered that I was not the only girlfriend he had.   I was devastated.  I was also very young and dramatic.  Following that day ensued throwing out anything he owned that was in my possession and plenty of screaming matches and tears.

Moving forward, we both married other people, had children and wished each other well.  I would hear about him through a string of mutual friends and a phone call years later when his dad was seriously ill and he needed help navigating insurance programs as it was my line of business.

I divorced almost ten years ago and have been a single mom to my three boys since then.  I have dated and been in a relationship that did not work out since then but to be honest, it never even crossed my mind that I would ever run into this guy again.  Until one day….I’m scrolling through my usual Facebook feed and a mutual friend posted that his wife passed away. She was only thirty eight years old.  I was shocked and heartbroken for him and their children.  I sent him a text to see if they were okay.  Obviously they were not, I left him with the usual, “I’m here if you need anything” and left it at that.  In the weeks that followed, I thought about them a lot.  We had a phone conversation a few weeks later when things settled down a bit for him and agreed to meet for lunch before he returned from leave to work.

Fast forward a few months and he picks me up from work for lunch one day.  I had not seen him in over fifteen years.  He looked tired but surprisingly, he looked like the same guy I knew all of those years ago.  I surprised myself when I suddenly felt nervous there in the car with him.  We decided on Corner Bakery and sat down to eat and chat.  We talked about how he was feeling, how the kids were and how he was planning on juggling everything on his own.  He has always been an extremely resilient person who at least pretends not to dwell on things for too long and would rather turn the subject to the other person instead of himself in order to avoid looking weak.  He dropped me back off at work two hours later, we hugged and said goodbye.

Following that day at lunch, suddenly, this person that I almost never thought about for so many years was constantly on my mind and I didn’t want him to be.   We’re suddenly texting daily and I was anticipating hearing from him although I knew I was being crazy.  A week following lunch, he sent me a text, typical him style, “Hey, why don’t you let me take you on a real date out to dinner?”  And so it began……