Shut up and mind the hamster?
May 14, 2017 10:33 AM   Subscribe

My partner's daughter has never accepted me, and has refused to meet me. This has caused upset and some conflict, but I've sort of made my peace with it. But today I found out that she has told her daughter that we'll be minding the child's hamster when they're on vacation. I realise all The Stuff is landing at the little furry's door, and how I'm feeling is not purely about minding a hamster, but how do I approach this when I'm really, really mad?

My partner left his wife 5 years ago, when his daughter was in her 30s and living in her own home with her small daughter. We have been together officially (long story) for about 3 years. She has constantly refused to meet me, refers to me as "that woman", and will not let me meet her daughter. My partner is really close to his granddaughter, especially as her own Dad is not and has never been in her life. It causes us both a lot of sadness that I'm not allowed to meet her, but every time he mentions to his daughter about any kind of meeting with her or the child she goes crazy, shouts and calls him selfish and toxic, and the last time he mentioned it (Christmas) she said if he ever mentioned my name again she would cut off all contact. Last year she went on holiday for a week at the last minute and asked him to move into her house for a week to look after the child. He said no as she lives half an hour drive away and he was working, but that she was more than welcome to stay with us, (the child's school is closer to us than her home), and she went ballistic, and refused to speak to him for three months, saying it was time he "faced his responsibilities", so it's not just idle threats. They only resumed contact when he got death threats from her ex (true story) and he had to let her know.

He did not leave his wife for me, and they are now divorced with a cool but civil relationship, but daughter says that she will never forgive him for "walking out on us". There is also an age gap between us (I am only about 5 years older than her) and she has said that is really wrong. Despite all this she constantly uses him for babysitting, house maintenance, and emotional support, ringing him for hours about work conflicts which she is always involved in for example, despite never asking after his own life, health, job etc. She had trauma in her youth and so I have tried to make allowances for the fact that she often acts from a defensive place. I have had to swallow a lot of feelings about her, and accepted that I can't make her meet me, and I have no right to meet her child if she doesn't want that, even though I'm sad about not being able to watch her grow up. He feels like his hands are tied because he is afraid of her cutting off access to the granddaughter if he forces the issue.

But now the little girl got a hamster, they are going on holiday in a month, and she told him today "Mom said you're minding the hamster while we are away". I am really, really angry. He lives with me in my house, which she knows, and the idea that she would expect me to take an animal into my house for her while I am not good enough to even say hello to has filled me with stupid but real rage. Part of me wants to say that's it, that absolutely no way am I doing her a favour when she has snubbed me for so long, and the other part of me thinks oh for goodness sake, causing World War 3 about it isn't going to change anything, just mind the damn hamster. He said he wants to confront her with it, but he's also afraid that it will lead to another few months of no contact which he finds really stressful, and I hate his access to the child being interrupted because of me. It feels like such a rude and presumptuous thing to expect of someone without asking - she doesn't know that I think hamsters are cute, for all she knows I'm one of those people who thinks they're basically rats and get them the hell away from me - and that's even before you factor in the fact that she refuses to accept my very existence.

So what do I do? What would you do? Take it and shut up? Stand my ground even if there is fallout and say she will have to meet me first? Convey through my partner that I am disappointed that she would not meet me first but I will still accept it into my house while they're away? (Passive aggressive ftw) or something else I'm not considering?
posted by socksually active to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
While I totally feel you and agree it's unfair and presumptuous and all those things, I don't think anything good would come of you forbidding your partner from minding the child's hamster. He lives with you: it's his home too.

I know she's rude and it hurts and I'm sorry. It's not fair. But this is ultimately about a little girl and her grandpa. You don't want to be the villain in that story.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:39 AM on May 14, 2017 [43 favorites]

Shut up and mind the hamster. And then get into therapy with your husband to work on the best ways to move forward with this very, very difficult situation. I feel for you, but the hamster is not the hill to die on.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:39 AM on May 14, 2017 [67 favorites]

I think the daughter is clearly crazy and you and your partner really need to think of the granddaughter here. I know it's hard and you can't let her walk all over you but she sounds really quite mentally ill or something and there is a child involved. I would say that you watch the hamster and send it back with a nice note and be the bigger person here while also having some boundaries: like not answering calls before 8am or after 9pm and not spending more than x hours per week helping her out. That way maybe she can develop some coping skills but honestly, it sounds like she might not. Once the grand daughter is grown and on her own you can take a harder line.
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 AM on May 14, 2017 [17 favorites]

Oof. So many issues. So he lives with you and you are only five years older than his adult daughter. His adult daughter seems like she is a person who creates a lot of drama. I can't imagine you would really want her closer to you. And all this drama stresses out your partner which stresses out you, yes?

I hear ya. First off, be the better person. Be the best person and remember that compassion is free. "Of course we can watch the hamster! It is no problem at all. Have her bring it over at X time/day which is when I'll be at work/shopping/getting a massage/at the movies." If you take this opportunity when you have the upper hand to rub it in their faces, you are making a choice that might feel good in the moment but in the long run serves no one, least of all yourself.

You cannot win in this tug-of-war and your partner needs to figure out just what the heck he is doing. Therapy, yes. He needs to get some tools in his toolbox for how to repair his relationship with his daughter. And he needs a therapist to turn to when his first relationships are stressful and not air things out with you which clearly stresses you out. Of course it would! It's stressful! But you can't fix it and trying to fix it or make it better is just going to result in wheel-spinning for you.

This daughter has a lifetime with her father. Whatever relationship you have with this man doesn't mean much in the context of her perspective. It's rare that a divorce just comes up after decades of competent parenting and partnership. Usually there's history there. History that you can't know and won't be able to understand. So, the daughter doesn't have to do anything about you or like you or talk to you or anything. So, just drop that. You can only influence the relationships you are in and that's with your partner.

Don't let him use you as an emotional dumping ground because you can't take it on anymore. It sounds like things are now at such a pitch that you need to set a boundary with your partner so that you don't find yourself on your front porch screaming at a hamster!
posted by amanda at 10:49 AM on May 14, 2017 [19 favorites]

You are right that refusing the hamster will not accomplish anything positive. Whatever has gone wrong here predates this hamster-sitting situation and choosing it as the hill to die on will fix nothing.

It's really horrible that your partner's daughter uses his granddaughter as a bargaining chip. But barring some miraculous change, your partner needs to be in it for the long term goal, which is a good relationship with the granddaughter while she is a child so that when she is older she will want to continue it of her own volition. She is just a child, and if her mother is as you've described her, she could certainly use more, not fewer, loving influences in her life.

It doesn't sound like having the hamster in your house will be detrimental to your health (no allergies or rodent phobias), so I think the best thing is your partner takes the hamster and LOOKS AFTER IT HIMSELF.

Because while I don't think you should present an ultimatum or refuse the hamster, I also don't think YOU should be responsible for its care at all, given the circumstances. It will likely lead to resentment between you and your partner and that's probably what his daughter is hoping for. Don't give her the satisfaction. Be gracious and take the high road--but also, make sure you don't get saddled with hamster duties.

And yes, therapy for you and your partner so you can learn coping strategies for the future situations that will continue to arise.

Good luck!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:52 AM on May 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

This is not about the hamster. If you make it about the hamster, then your partner's daughter adds "freaks out about a minor favor asked of Partner, not even directly asked of you" to her list of grievances with you. On this specific thing, let it go. If the hamster makes you crazy, then you certainly do not have to care for or interact with the hamster in any way, but let your partner keep the hamster in the guest room or whatever and you can just ignore it.

But, yes, couples therapy for you and your husband and probably individual therapy for you, too, because you are in a shitty situation here that's not long-term sustainable and you need some assistance, both individually and as a couple. You bottling up your feelings until they explode over what is ultimately not a big deal is not great for anyone involved.

(Frankly, father-daughter family therapy would probably be the absolute most helpful thing here, with a neutral third party, but that's obviously not something you can make happen.)
posted by Stacey at 10:52 AM on May 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

He lives with me in my house, which she knows, and the idea that she would expect me to take an animal into my house for her

A hamster stays in its cage most of the time, and it can be looked after by a single person with no help from anybody else (hence its suitability as a starter pet for young children.) since he is the one with a relationship with the hamster owner, your husband will be doing all of the care/feeding/cage cleaning. I understand it's more of a symbolic affront, but you don't have to do anything at all for the hamster yourself.

there is a curious passivity to the husband part of the account, where he was informed of a favor he would be performing, presented it to you for outrage, and is deciding between conveying said outrage back to them or not. it was for him to say "Oh, your mom needs to talk to me about that first before making plans." he can confront his daughter about assuming vs. asking without bringing you into it at all -- why would he need to unless he actively wants to set her off? also why would he have to "confront" her instead of just talking to her.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:56 AM on May 14, 2017 [41 favorites]

On reread, I left out a kind of important word, so just to be clear:

You bottling up your legitimate feelings until they explode over what is ultimately not a big deal is not great for anyone involved.

is what I meant. The feelings, in general: Totally legitimate. But I do think maybe they're welling up here because they happen to be able to get to the surface here, not because this specific thing is where the actual problem is.
posted by Stacey at 11:06 AM on May 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

she told him today "Mom said you're minding the hamster while we are away".

plus! every child born knows how to translate "Ask your grandfather if he can look after the hamster" into "Grandpa, mom says you'll look after my hamster" with incredible ease. maybe this isn't what happened, but it's as likely as the idea that the mom is deviously using the kid as a coded messenger of contempt. no insult to the child intended, but two parent-figures who don't communicate well with each other directly are a golden opportunity for "Mom said"-s.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:10 AM on May 14, 2017 [17 favorites]

Are you sure you're getting the whole story here? Given that you haven't met, I wonder if your husband has not...perhaps elided some history with this woman or her mother that would explain some of her rhetoric?

Yes, sometimes people are just crazy. But I feel like this daughter is coming across as so bad, and your husband as so innocent, that it puzzles me. He was, in fact, her father when she was a child, and he bears a lot of responsibility for her childhood and her behavior.

I say this because directing all of your frustration at someone you can't talk to or interact with or influence seems really stressful. It seems like there has to be some role that your husband is playing in this dynamic, and it's worrying to me that he seems to be so notably free of responsibility.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:36 AM on May 14, 2017 [89 favorites]

I'll admit my biases upfront, that whenever I hear a story where one person is a villain (your partner's daughter) and another completely blameless (you) it immediately sends my Spidey senses tingling that maybe the blameless party isn't quite as blameless as they want to think. Very rarely is relationship toxicity entirely due to one person. You might be contributing to the toxic dynamic with her more than you realize or want to admit. In the end, it doesn't matter much what exact apportionment of blame is on you, it only matters that you can only control yourself, so the best course of action is to admit that in some small way you are contributing to this toxicity and work on fixing that.

With that in mind, very clearly the right answer here is to tell have your partner tell his daughter that you would LOVE to take care of the hamster and, by the way, new partner is SO APPRECIATIVE that you thought of her for helping out with this task and please do not hesitate for even ONE SECOND to ask again in the future. Then take care of the hamster because it's really not that hard. Repeat for all future interactions. My guess is that she will eventually come around if you try this kill her with kindness approach rather than being resentful when she asks for small favors.
posted by scantee at 11:39 AM on May 14, 2017 [15 favorites]

I'm also concerned about the seeming one-sidedness here. Being available for "babysitting, home maintenance, and emotional support" is called being a parent. And since she was well into adulthood at the time of the divorce, he bears some responsibility for the type of person she is now. This rage did not come out of nowhere.

That said, let him take care of the hamster. Even if the daughter never speaks to you and says terrible things about you, eventually the granddaughter will make her own decision about what kind of person you are and whether to have a relationship with you. You want her to think of you as someone who is gracious and kind, not petty and punishing. Think of this as a favor for the granddaughter, not the mother.
posted by FencingGal at 11:57 AM on May 14, 2017 [22 favorites]

It sounds like a really weird family dynamic that is never going to change. Just look after the hamster. No point in making a bad situation even worse.
posted by My Dad at 12:00 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also honestly, I see the hamster thing as a good thing.

It seems like she is tentatively experimenting with your house. She wants to see:

---Is your house a safe place for defenseless creatures?
---Are you willing to care for her loved ones, even though she's been kind of terrible?

Both of these strike me as necessary predicates for her letting her daughter be in your life.

In your shoes, I would take care of the hamster in a way that allows her a lot of control. I would have your husband ask her what her hamster instructions are, and I would follow them to a T. I would then have husband tell her when the hamster goes back to her "I followed your instructions and [repeat instructions]."
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:00 PM on May 14, 2017 [21 favorites]

My dad cheated on my mom with his secretary for a few years when I was a tween, got caught and really messed up my family during the divorce and subsquent marriage to said secretary when I was15. I refused to meet her for -10 years and there is still noticeable strain between my dad and I because of it.

I mention this because I live in a glass house and really feel bad about throwing stones here, but, uh, a 30 something lady with a child should not be reacting like an immature 15 year old, and I'm really concerned about why she is acting this way. With the info you provided, I'm leaning towards "selfish, immature, a user, and a major Drama Llama Queen" but who knows.

And you know what? Its sad that she is this way, but you don't need this in your life. Its sad shes making the choices she does, and that they hurt your partner, but... At a certain point, you've done your due diligence and can drop caring about Llama at all.

Don't play her games, don't chase after her, don't reward her tantrums and bad behavior with attention. She's written you off for silly reasons, so you are perfectly free to wash your hands of the whole train wreck.

Decide how much you want to support your partner in his dealing with his daughter, and stick to exactly that. Anything else hurts you. Crazypants Llama won't change... Shes acting emotionally, not rationally. For some reason she gets something out of tteatong you like a villian. (control? Levers? Drama?)

Chalk up the hamster visit to selfish, careless thoughtless typical using behavior from Llama. Maybe she's being aggressive, maybe shes just being her default her.

But none of this is about You the person. This is about Llama the crazy. It sucks you are caught in the crossfire, but you are only as involved in the Drama stampede as you want to be, or as much as you let yourself get sucked in and pulled down to Llamas level.
posted by Jacen at 12:08 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

And for an example of what I mean of your husband contributing to this dynamic, she has an ex who is issuing death threats to people. She's a single parent who needs a lot of help. Your husband has a lot of power over her if she (and her daughter) rely on him. She might also rely on her mother, who she probably feels really loyal to (it's her mother, after all). She's really vulnerable in a lot of ways. In this context, your husband should respect her boundaries, and has repeatedly failed to do so.

She repeatedly made it clear that she wasn't interested in a relationship with you, or in you having a relationship with her daughter. I don't know why on earth it would be brought up repeatedly when her response was crystal clear about her boundaries in this arena. Your husband, despite her extremely clear negative reaction, kept pressing the issue, despite her repeated refusals. Then he upped the ante by making it seem like babysitting help was conditional on her daughter staying with you, which he had to have known was not a neutral offer, given their conflict on this topic. The practical concerns cited for your husband's unwillingness to stay in her home don't seem very serious, if he's babysitting over there all the time. They seem like a pretext for putting more pressure on her to do something she doesn't want to do.

So there's another story here, where your husband is ignoring her clearly stated boundaries, no matter how clear she is about those boundaries, and her response is escalating (because he's not taking "no" for an answer). She's dealing with a lot and maybe meeting dad's new young girlfriend is not her priority number one, and maybe your husband could have been much more sensitive to that. Repeatedly failing to listen to a clear "no" erodes trust.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:21 PM on May 14, 2017 [28 favorites]

Are you sure you're getting the whole story here? Given that you haven't met, I wonder if your husband has not...perhaps elided some history with this woman or her mother that would explain some of her rhetoric?

Yeah. So you're hearing about all of her actions through him, right? You have zero interaction with her?

Not at all the answer you're looking for, but something is seriously off here.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:43 PM on May 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

I mean, like, at this point this is clearly a power struggle. You clearly don't like her and don't want to meet her, so a lot of this is about making her acknowledge you (and anger that she won't).

Do you really, really want to be involved in this woman's life? Do you want her ringing you to complain about work problems? Do you want her to expect you to babysit? Do you like anything about her?

And as for your desire to meet the granddaughter, sure, he cares a lot about his granddaughter, but many of us have partners who are passionate about things we're not involved in (eg work). Where's the sadness coming from? You haven't met this girl, and were circumstances slightly different you may never have met her. Is not having a relationship with someone you've never met really worth this amount of sadness and stress? Just because it's important to your partner, does that mean you have to be so sad about it? Do you really care enough about this stranger to make it a "constant" issue that you can't meet her?

Clearly, the power struggle here is obscuring the real goal: to be happy, to live with your partner, to have him treat you how you would like to be treated, to be involved in his life.

Is your partner fulfilling you and making you happy? Are you getting what you need? If not, your problem is with your relationship and your partner, not with his daughter. Maybe this relationship isn't for you because your partner spends all his time and energy on his family, and maybe you're feeling neglected. Maybe he puts too much pressure on you to manage his emotional reactions to his family. Maybe he's always in a bad mood or claiming that he's too tired to have fun. It's easy to blame problems in your relationship on someone you've never met and don't live with and love. But that blame-shifting, and this power struggle, is concealing what you can really affect and change here: your expectations of your partner as a partner, and your self-care as someone who needs intimacy and love.

(Sorry I've said husband before, didn't mean to presume).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:44 PM on May 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

He feels like his hands are tied because he is afraid of her cutting off access to the granddaughter if he forces the issue.

if this doesn't make you feel some tiny drop of pity for her, nothing can. He's not afraid that she might cut off access to herself? You two are worried about the granddaughter and meanwhile she might be so naive she thinks she has some value as a bargaining chip all on her own, just as his child. Or knows she doesn't, and is enraged because of that.

this all sounds like he's symbolically moved all the generations up by one, so he's relating to his daughter as if she's a difficult and hysterical ex-wife and putting all his emotional investment into the granddaughter he treats like a daughter, the top priority to which the daughter is mostly important as a barrier. Someone who is being downgraded in this way must have some strength of character somewhere, to have fostered a real relationship between her dad and her daughter when she didn't have to.

your own age is probably enraging to her as a symbol of this, more than as an object of judgment for itself. that is, apart from anything she feels about her parents' marriage, she is now occupying the age range of women he partners, not women he parents. she didn't change generations, but suddenly she is on a level with his partner, who is on a level with him. I bet it is a dislocating and alarming feeling.

obviously I am making all of this up! but since you can't talk to her directly you have to make up any opinion you have of her. so why not make up a sympathetic story instead of one where she's crazy.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:57 PM on May 14, 2017 [38 favorites]

Thanks all for your input. You're all right, of course, and I will shut up and mind the hamster. (I freaking love hamsters! It was the principle, but I know the principle is really not worth the upset here.)

But just to clarify, because it's stinging even though it's stupid but I was already upset today and I get that AskMe does this "but are you sure this is the real problem?" thing and I'd like to respond:

Partner takes responsibility for a lot of her behaviour. A bad thing happened to her as a teen and he and his wife subsequently excused a lot of difficult behaviour from her because of what she'd been through. They both freely admit they did not set good boundaries as they were treating her with kid gloves, and while they got her into therapy they didn't get any help in how to cope with an awful situation, so she continued to be difficult and still is. She is abusive to her mother - he picked up Child once from his ex's house and she said "Mom just got really mad with Grandma and threw a lamp at her" - and the time she expected him to mind the child for a week it was because her Mom was going on holiday, and she had already said to her "Well you'll have to take child with you" and her Mom had finally put her foot down. She doesn't speak to her younger sister (who I get on well with), and she is under constant disciplinary at work. In short she has a lot of issues, and I totally get that, and her family have excused her forever and so have I, and it's stupid that a damn hamster was the point where I thought no more! Because there will always be more, and that's just that. My partner and I have a great relationship, he is incredibly supportive, and he hates that she doesn't want to meet me, but I'm not that sad about not meeting her but about not being in the child's life, which is also what saddens him.

Anyway, I will happily mind the little thing and continue to hope that one day the granddaughter will want to have a relationship with me and even maybe the daughter will too one day, but I will not use Hamstergate to push anything. Thanks all.
posted by socksually active at 12:59 PM on May 14, 2017 [17 favorites]

I see this as another in a long series of power moves by the daughter, and you feel like you're in a powerless position.

There is a simple and relatively harmless way for you to assert yourself: call her. Force her to talk to you. She's already relying on you to take care of the hamster, so without saying no, this does give you some power.

One approach is to flatly lay out some of what you've said here: ask her what has changed that now you're good enough to look after a living thing when you haven't been good enough to talk to. Another is to play dumb and pretend that you and she have already gotten to the point where she is willing to talk to you, as evidenced by the fact that she is putting the hamster in your care.
posted by adamrice at 1:07 PM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not on the subject of the hamster, but given the animosity from his daughter to you, are you and he legally protected if he gets ill and needs you to make decisions, or even visit him at a hospital? If you're not married, she could conceivably cause much more difficulty and anguish in the future. Talk to a lawyer about it.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:26 PM on May 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

Yes, the way they're treating you is terrible. Yes, they should have asked about the hamster care first. But consider this; what if you took this as an opportunity to take a step to mend relations? What if you did a bang-up job of the hamster care, helping your partner send the kid cute photos of it nibbling on tiny pieces of fruit? Or curled up in its nest sleeping? Or sent teeny tiny notes purporting to be from the hamster to the kid? Maybe it wouldn't have any effect on your partner's daughter, but the child might notice.
posted by Soliloquy at 2:30 PM on May 14, 2017 [21 favorites]

I doubt that anything you do to be the better person will be recognized or appreciated by the horrible daughter. Write her off. She sounds like garbage. Be glad you don't have to deal with her in any way. Seriously, you are dodging a bullet here. Do allow your partner to look after the hamster and allow yourself to enjoy the sweet little fur ball. Enjoy the knowledge that the horrid daughter is probably hoping this will get a rise out of you and you are not giving her the satisfaction. Once the little furball is returned to his owner, have your partner tell the daughter that in the future, she (the daughter) must ask permission for the hamster to stay with you. She must ask with at least a weeks advance notice. No exceptions. Otherwise hamster sitting simply "wont be possible." End of discussion. Period. This will give you your control back (You deserve control over what comes in your house!) without creating a drama situation(which the horrid daughter would just love) right before they leave town.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:49 PM on May 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

One of the things I've learned from Al-Anon is to mind my own business. Even though he's your partner, his relationship with his daughter and his granddaughter is none of your business. This is not to discount the sorrow you feel for being characterised as "that woman" or for not getting to spend time with the granddaughter. You totally get to have feels. That said, I would encourage you to play with the hamster, as WalkerWestridge recommends above, but not to take responsibility for it because it's not your responsibility. I would also encourage you to set your own boundaries, as needed, for your own health. My husband has a different relationship with our kid than I do. It took me a long time to realise my job wasn't to set boundaries for him but for myself only. If the stuff your partner tells you about what his daughter says about you is painful, it's totally okay to tell him that you are done listening to hurtful things and he will have to find someone else to share that stuff with.

The hamster stuff would have enraged me as well. Then I would have stepped back and remembered that it's about partner, daughter, and granddaughter, not me, and let them work it out. People want to drag us into drama all the time and it's easy to go there. But is that what you want? You can't control any of these folks. So my advice is to let partner take care of hamster, for you to have fun with it, and for you not to make partner's daughter and granddaughter your problems. It's easier to be a loving and supportive partner when you have whatever boundaries you need for your own well being. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:10 PM on May 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

Hey, I like that you are owning your own agency in taking the hamster and choosing not to make drama over it.

This should be your way forward. Just don't engage with the dramatic aspects of this situation.

I hope you will look for the same in your partner. You really don't have to know all this stuff about the daughter may have told the granddaughter without asking blah blah blah. Your partner could say to you "Hey, I think I would like to watch this hamster for a week, ok?" and then he could say to his daughter "hey, I hear we are getting a hamster for a week, is that right?" He doesn't have to make all this fuss over the hamster either.

There does not have to be all this drama. I think he is getting something out of communicating all this to you all in the way that he does; my spidey sense is tingling. You don't seem to understand that he is making a choice to make this as dramatic as possible. Some examples are that he uses "difficult" (something someone is AT someone, really) rather than "wounded" for what he and his wife didn't deal with; he communicates all this drama without solutions, he behaves like he doesn't have any choice in which issues he brings into your relationship.

There's something kind of off here and it might be a good idea to stay aware of both your agency is in the situation and his.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:18 PM on May 14, 2017 [15 favorites]

You seem to be upset by the daughter wanting nothing to do with you, while acknowledging you are happy to not have a relationship yet still want one with her child. You can't have it both ways. There's no way of saying, I don't like you or want to see you but let me watch your child grow up, y'know?

This woman doesn't know you to dislike you. You could be anyone, she just dislikes what you represent - her parents no longer being together. Plus she obviously has other issues going on.

If I were you, I'd forget about the whole thing. She's a complete stranger that you have nothing to do with, why should you care about what she's got going on? Tell your partner you understand she doesn't want a relationship with you and you respect her enough to abide by her wishes. In return, you'd like him to leave you out of any theatrics they have going on. Just don't bring her up to you, whatever happens, keep it to himself and he can deal with it. If his daughter ever decides to change her stance, you'll welcome her with open arms but until then, you don't want to know about the drama filled rantings of a stranger, you'd just prefer a quiet life.

And then leave it. The next time he brings her up, remind him, his family, his issue. You trust him to be able to manage this by himself as they have both decided to not include you in their collective life. It sounds mean, but both of them are using her outbursts to drive a wedge between you, while you get worked up about it. This will only happen if you let it. So don't let it. And enjoy the peace.
posted by Jubey at 7:45 PM on May 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Glad you've decided to bear up and take care of the hamster without protest.

I'm curious about the same thing as Rock 'em Sock 'em and yes I said yes I will Yes. From what you've written, I'm wondering whether you have *ever* communicated directly with the daughter at all? Or are *all* communications filtered through your partner?
posted by tel3path at 2:32 AM on May 15, 2017

It strikes me that this is not a question about the hamster, or even about the daughter, but about whether you are truly part of your partner's family. Whether you are his primary, or always secondary.

It sounds like the daughter is difficult enough that if she were in contact with you, you would be here asking about how to draw firm boundaries. Instead, you have a built-in buffer. You could choose to embrace that buffer.

But it does not resolve the fact that your partner is able to be manipulated and pushed around by a woman you will never meet, and that this affects your life every week. This seems worth talking through in joint therapy, because it's tangled and fraught and it's helpful to have a neutral third party to help you both maintain your connection and hear each other while talking about it.
posted by sadmadglad at 6:36 AM on May 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Update: Partner is responsible for cleaning the cage and managing the food and water, I am responsible for squeeing over him and letting him run around my arms and shoulders, and writing the tiny notes. Partner sent this one to Daughter, she replied "She's delighted." Maybe this will help my case as I'm sure she knows her Dad's handwriting, and maybe not, but I don't care because the child is pleased. Thanks guys.
posted by socksually active at 12:49 PM on July 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

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