Am I over reacting with my fiance
July 10, 2017 11:19 AM   Subscribe

My fiance and I have been together for 3 yrs now and as of yet his mother and sister don't approve of our relationship and they both have never gave me a chance to be around them. The reason why is because he had a previous relationship and had two kids with his ex, things didn't work out and moved on. Well his mom is so religious and old fashion that she states he needs to let me go and he needs to move back and make a family with his ex. We have been together dated for two years and now live together.

My problem is making him understand that he's not respecting me as his partner and making actions that bother me a lot. His ex moved into my fiance mom's house which that was a slap on my face, now his daughter calls him and tells him to come to her grandma's house and put them their A.C. cause it's too hot, buy them school supplies, clothes and shoes. Whatever goes wrong the mother has the daughter call him and he right away jumps to it. My point to him is if he pays her $750 a month for child support, pays there cell phone, internet and Netflix there is no need for him to worry if she's having money issues nor if things need to be fixed in there other home . I told him in our home they are our problem and we have them well taken care of . So once they are back with their mom it shouldn't be your responsibility even though they are your kids. I tell him everything they do is on purpose and you always fall in there traps. His awnser to me is their my kids and I have to do it. Smh I don't know what to do and want to get all of your advise if I'm over reacting or I should just end it.
posted by lizcrycas to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
there is no need for him to worry if she's having money issues nor if things need to be fixed in there other home

He is right, those are his children, and making sure their needs are met and that they are safe and cared for and feel loved is his primary responsibility. There is no price at which that is paid off.

If you still aren't married after three years and he is deaf to your rather valid complaint about being disrespected by his mother, you may want to consider whether you want to be with him.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:30 AM on July 10, 2017 [31 favorites]

"It's my kids and I have to do it" is the correct answer for a dad. He's not a dad only when the children are in your home, he's a dad 100% of the time. Boundaries are one thing, but it doesn't sound like he, personally, has an issue with helping when asked. Putting the AC unit in for his children (and his mother!) is... not something that should be so offensive to you.
posted by lydhre at 11:31 AM on July 10, 2017 [52 favorites]

If he's anything less than a complete jerk, his children will always come first. They're his kids. His relationship with them is between him and them. Is his ex using this to manipulate him? Probably. It's still his problem. If he wants to spend time with them, he will. You can't and shouldn't try to make him distance himself from his kids.

Either get used to it or get out.
posted by signal at 11:32 AM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

To be honest, I wouldn't want to get to know you either if that were your attitude toward my nieces/nephews or grandchildren. Your beliefs about your partner's obligations toward his children are way outside the norm in an unhealthy way.
posted by lemonadeheretic at 11:37 AM on July 10, 2017 [10 favorites]

I think you should end it. This is not a situation that's working well for you, and he needs to be in a situation with someone who understands parenting and is willing to allow room for it in the relationship.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:40 AM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

I tell him everything they do is on purpose and you always fall in there traps.

If you're wrong, then the kids really do need him to respond to these requests, and he is meeting their need. If you're right, then the kids need at least one parent to be reliable and stable, and their mother using them is evidence that she is not one - so he is meeting their need.
posted by solotoro at 11:42 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes , totally understand they are his kids and I understand they come first. But being manipulated from all of them constantly receiving text making him feel guilty for his action I just can't seem to accept it. I previously was married went through a divorce with 50 50 custody and I never asked nor did he asked me for anything. I guess that's why I just can't accept it.
posted by lizcrycas at 11:42 AM on July 10, 2017

If his mother really is manipulating him, which is definitely a thing that happens, you need to separate the things that he really needs to do (child support, money for school supplies, i.e. everything that is supportive of his kids) and the things that could definitely be done by other people in the house (their mom really can't lift an AC with or without a friend?). It's a matter of finding balance in everything. If he can't get over his feeling guilty and constantly racing over there without also meeting your needs, then yeah, you may need to ditch him. This totally sucks, I'm sorry.
posted by Melismata at 11:46 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

So once they are back with their mom it shouldn't be your responsibility even though they are your kids.

This... could not be more wrong. It's super, super wrong. And this attitude could very well explain why his mother thinks you are bad news.

That said, I think you should go ahead and end it. The guy's priority is not you, and it should not be you; and it's never going to be you, because he is a dad first and foremost and that is fine. And it's ok to want a partner whose attention and resources are focused on your own household.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:46 AM on July 10, 2017 [12 favorites]

Making someone's kids a priority does not mean that they should neglect their partner 100%.
posted by Melismata at 11:48 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So it seems that I'm just different. I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?
posted by lizcrycas at 11:48 AM on July 10, 2017

It's OK if you can't accept it, but it doesn't sound like he wants to change or feels able to change. It doesn't sound like there's going to be a happy ending here where he dials back his involvement with his ex's life to a level that you're comfortable with and you guys stay together - you're either going to have to learn to accept it or step away from this relationship.

I'm not sure either of you is *wrong* here (although I think others have a point about him being his kids' dad 24/7) - it's more like you two have really different ideas about what level of involvement with exes is acceptable, and that's a big deal. You probably can't both get what you want.

(Responding to your update: I wouldn't like it, particularly, but I also wouldn't expect him to change.)
posted by mskyle at 11:49 AM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

No, I think we'd all mind, and we're telling you the movable part here is you, not the kids. You have no control over the ex, and it's not your business to adjudicate how much help she needs making the house habitable for his kids when the AC goes out. That's their parents' area, not yours. And you're entirely justified in breaking this off: but you are not justified in trying to get him to de-prioritize his kids.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:50 AM on July 10, 2017 [40 favorites]

I understand that you don't feel accepted by his family, that must hurt a lot. I'm sorry.

I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?

But it's not about you. Your fiance's mother is his children's grandmother and she's perfectly entitled to have her grandchildren live with her.

You are also entitled to not feel fulfilled in this relationship and leave, if you so desire, and let him deal with his family entanglements.
posted by lydhre at 11:52 AM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?

The mother of your future stepchildren needed a place to live and someone to help care for her children, so she moved in with your stepchildren's grandmother. You need to stop framing that perfectly reasonable situation as a personal attack on you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:52 AM on July 10, 2017 [40 favorites]

Best answer: You should totally mind. It is unacceptable. I'd be pretty pissed off if this happened to me. The problem is, he is doing nothing to change the current situation, and doing nothing to assure you that you matter to him. Yes, his kids are a priority, but if he is making no time for you whatsoever, he doesn't want a partner, he wants a sexual companion/maid/whatever else is convenient for him. And if he won't change, then the only solution is to end it.

On preview: fingersandtoes has it.
posted by Melismata at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Step Mother / Step Child relationship is extremely complex. Lasting damage was done to me because my Step Mum was such a callous beast who expected My Dad to forget about his ex-wife of 20 years and his teenage children.

Obviously this was a different situation, but I truly think you sound like someone who is asking your fiancé to just deal with his kids when it suits you, on your terms (i.e. in your own house where you have control) and then forget about them when they aren't around. This is not OK, regardless of whether you think the kids are manipulating their own Dad.

I mean, I can't speak to the situation of the Ex-wife moving in with your fiancé's mother, but it does seem as if this is a CLEAR indication that your mother-in-law is demonstrating that she sides with the mother of her grandchildren. Right or wrong, this is her prerogative. Is it a bit weird? Yes - it would be for me, but this whole situation sounds a bit strange.

It doesn't sound as if you'll ever get the blessing of your mother in law, and you seem rather indifferent towards the kids of your partner. You sound incredibly resentful about the situation, which is fine, but NO GOOD can come of this. I think you should end it and find someone else with less "baggage"
posted by JenThePro at 11:55 AM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: True. We both think different and in my eyes. If there is harm to our relationship then the best bet is to end it.
posted by lizcrycas at 11:55 AM on July 10, 2017

Best answer: It seems like you have two separate problems that only appear to be the same: How much should your partner help his kids, leaving aside why he is being asked to help them and are you being manipulated or disrespected by your partner's mother and possibly by his ex?

Basically, it seems to me perfectly possible that your partner's mother and ex are defaulting to "ask dad" instead of "figure it out myself or deal with it in some other way" as a way to entangle him more. This seems particularly likely given that his mother has actually said that she wants him to get back together with his ex, moved the ex into the house, etc. Learned helplessness is a thing, and installing a window unit air conditioner isn't that hard. (What would they do if he were out of town?)

But he's kind of got to help, right? They're his kids, his mother's screwed up attitude is not their fault, etc.

A question about the helping: is he able to set boundaries around it, like "I can come over tomorrow night, not today - if that won't work, you should call one of your friends"? Or "we need to revise the child support arrangement so that it's predictable, since it seems like costs are routinely higher than we'd initially planned"? And if he does set those boundaries, what is the response of his mother and his ex? If it's that no matter what the issue (whether it's a real emergency or not) or what the expense it has to be handled their way right away, then to me that's a sign that they're not being on the level. The answer to "we are co-parenting" cannot be "therefore you have to do everything I ask when I ask it and the exact way I ask it".

There's a difference between "I prioritize my children in general" and "even when my children are in their mother's care with the assistance of their grandmother and something is not an emergency, I still can't make my own plans". It is okay for you and him to expect that he is not literally on call for non-emergencies 24/7, and to expect that the predictable financial needs of the children should be covered by a predictable amount of money (even if that's more than the child support agreement).

If you and he share a worldview, like "sure my mother is being kind of manipulative and I see that, but I'm doing this for my kids", then you have some common ground to build on. If he's thinking "what my mother does is totally cool and normal because it's my kids", then there probably isn't a lot of room for this relationship to work.
posted by Frowner at 12:02 PM on July 10, 2017 [12 favorites]

Mod note: Heya, lizcrycas, moderator here. Ask MetaFilter isn't meant to be an ongoing back-and-forth; it's fine to post a clarifying followup comment after a while if there's a major point of confusion or omission that needs addressing, but you need to not continually pepper the thread with real-time responses. It's more an ask-and-let-people-answer thing, not a conversation space.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:06 PM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

You will be so much happier away from this drama. I'm not exactly sure why you got engaged to someone with this much baggage, but it was a poor idea to enmesh with someone who has boundary issues on this scale. There's no problem with anyone's living arrangements, it's the family stuff between his mother, sister, and you. Too many issues, not worth it.

You are responsible for your choices here. You chose to get involved where you saw there would be resistance to your presence, going ahead to date and get engaged where the end result is fighting some sort of territory war with these people.

Everybody loses when these dynamics are present. There will never ever be any winners in this situation. Choose your future happiness over staying involved in so much emotional turmoil. Amicably end this relationship, refocus on yourself and your own children (it sounds like you have kids, yes?) Be on Team You. In the future, date folks where there are not so many obstacles. Life is hard enough without all the bad feelings and territory squabbles, so amicably end this and move on.
posted by jbenben at 12:17 PM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

It sort of seems that you've got a whole bunch of things tied up together--I can see why this could feel a bit confusing.

Issue #1: his mother refuses to acknowledge you because she wants her son to move back home with the mother of his children.

You need to sit him down and tell him this is super disrespectful to you. He needs to talk to his mother and sister and explain that he loves you, he is not going to move home so they need to let that go, and he expects them to show you the respect you deserve, period.

Issue #2: his kids call and ask him to fix stuff around their house or to otherwise help them out.

I think it's great he's a responsible dad; not every parent is. But it's also fair for him to check in with you first before he leaves you to go do whatever thing they ask. You want to encourage him to be hands-on, but there should be some effort on his part to not leave you every single time they call. Maybe you can become part of the action and build your relationship with them by tagging along.

As far as going over to fix things, this is his mom's house, right? So it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for him to help his mom out with maintenance. I think you need to roll with this a bit.

The stepmother role is super tricky. It's not cool to say his kids are manipulative or speak negatively of them in any way. It's really not okay for you to try to set limits about when he can see his kids. That's really destructive. You want to support and encourage his relationship with his kids and think "Team Us," not "Team Me and My Kids and Team Him and His Kids."

Of course, this comes down to your feelings. If you don't like the whole situation, it doesn't matter if we all think you're overreacting. You're allowed to feel what you feel and make up your own mind.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:23 PM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

He cannot control what his mother and his ex-wife do. They are grown adults who make their own decisions. Expecting that he will somehow be able to force her to move out of his mother's house is an unrealistic expectation. My MIL does things that range from weird to mean. I appreciate that my husband acknowledges them and sometimes calls her out on them. I also recognize that she has her own personality and mental health concerns and he is not responsible for her behavior. We make firm boundaries where it comes to our kids and work together to ignore the rest. Does this make it pleasant? No. Is she actively trying to break up our marriage? Not so far. Does it sound like your partner's mother is taking things a step farther? Yes. But, again, he can't change that. You need to decide how you will respond to this. That is what you can control. You can ignore the provocations and live your life, or you can focus on the upsetting things she does. I've found that the former is much better for my mental health and well being. The third option is choosing not to be in the relationship because that is not something you are willing to live with. All very valid choices.

As to the children, as others have said they should and will always come first. Does it stink that they are potentially being used to manipulate this situation? Absolutely. Think for just a moment about what it must feel like for those kids. They have to be aware this stuff is happening. Your partner is acting admirably by unconditionally meeting their needs and letting them know that there is a person who always puts them first no matter what. Kids need that. Thank goodness for your partner doing that for them. This is how it is always going to be. You can choose to adapt to that as an expectation, you can choose to resent it or you can decide it is a dealbreaker. All are valid choices. You cannot change his response to his kids, though. That is the person he is.
posted by goggie at 12:33 PM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

My Mother supported my SIL when she divorced from my brother. She & my niece & nephew lived with her for 6 months while they got on their feet. My niece left to live with my brother then returned & still lives with her now. My brother was an asshole with a drug problem (at that time) which is different to your situation, but my SIL is no angel either. My mother did that for her Grand children, not for my SIL or to "get back" at my brother or his girlfriend at the time. Hell to be honest my brother & SIL figured into none of the decisions she made.

Getting her son to fix things for her grandkids & do things for her grandkids that she isn't able to do financially or physically sounds just like something a concerned grandmother would do. My mother went to court for child support from both parents while raising her niece, not to punish the parents but to make sure a 74 year old woman on a retirees pension could afford to support a teen age girl. She calls my brother around to fix appliances, & drive my niece to appointments she can't get to etc, my brother (now clean for 18 months) helps out, because my mother is raising his child for him.

My point being, don't assume anything that is happening is being done with you in mind. Just because you don't like the decisions, don't presume his mother even thought of you when making those decisions.

Is she manipulative above & beyond what is reasonable? maybe, your examples don't seem to be unreasonable to me, but I'm not there in the middle so don't know all the details. I know many controlling types or narcissists are very good at manipulating people in ways you can't quite put our finger on. So you come across like the crazy/bitchy one & they appear innocent. But again your example seem a bit more like a worried dad, being a dad and you are over reacting.

You are in love with a man with kids by another woman, if he is even the slightest bit emotionally mature his kids are going to come before you, every single time. That is going to give his ex & his mother a tool to use against him if they want. Maybe he has decided that because he loves his kids so much he is willing to pay that price of being used on the off chance they do need help. This is something you need to calmly talk to him about. Don't make it a choose your kids or me type situation as you might not like the result. If coming second to his kids, at least until they are older, is something you can't live with. This may not be the relationship for you.
posted by wwax at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?

You really, really need to start grappling with the concept that what third parties do with other third parties is none of your business. Your fiance does not pay your mother's rent, I assume; therefore, she can have anyone live with her whom she pleases, and he has no say in it. You have even less.

It does sound like your fiance may not have the best boundaries, but you have to learn to stick to your own knitting. The impending drama is at least 50% on you at this point.
posted by praemunire at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

Not to pile on, but without reading any of the other responses in this thread, I have to say you're in the wrong here and your significant other is just trying to be a good father. Just because this guy broke up with his ex doesn't mean he shouldn't be an active, available father to his children. Honestly, my dad took the opposite route and I hate him and haven't spoken to him in years. His relationship with his kids is terrible and it's because he cared more about his new wife than his own children, and when we needed him or when we wanted him to have dinner with us, he'd decline because he didn't want to choose us over his wife. His wife is a shitty person in my opinion and so is he. And yet, I know that now this is an enormous source of regret for him and he misses us badly, but our relationship is fractured beyond repair. So in your case, I'm not sure why you'd want him to not have a relationship with his children, but you obviously can't handle him having other priorities in his life. I think there are other issues at play, but this one jumps out to me the most. My advice would be to find a man without kids.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

What does your partner say when his mother and sister say that he should break up with you and get back together with his ex because that is the moral thing to do? Have they said this directly to you, or did they say it to him and he passed it along?

I mean, this is the main thing that's making me feel sketched out about the whole situation and feel that you may be onto something - it's not appropriate for his mother to be telling him to dump you and that it's morally wrong not to get back together with his ex. That's not just "I want what's best for my grandkids, so I have invited their mother to live with me and I am always suggesting to her that my son should always be ready to drop everything to help us".

If he's sharing this with you, in a way I sort of get it because that's how we process stuff, with our partners. But he is the one who needs to push back with them, and to clarify that while he will be there for his kids (with some boundaries in terms of 'if it's not an emergency I'm not going to drop everything') he is not getting back together with his ex. I strongly suspect that if he has this conversation with them, the "come over now to fish the spoon out from under the stove"-type calls will be less frequent.
posted by Frowner at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2017 [10 favorites]

I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?

There are things in life you can't control, including who his mother lets move into her house. You don't have to like it, but it's 100% her call and her right. Same goes for the mother, she may want him to get back together with his ex, but she has no right to make him obey her.
posted by Linnee at 2:13 PM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

The ex and daughter moved in with the daughter's grandmother. When a grandparent sees that a grandchild needs help, often they will provide money or housing. I can see why that bothers you and makes you feel like you're not getting proper respect. But I think for the most part that the grandma strongly disapproves of what her son has done/is doing, and that your existence matters to her only because her son is with you instead of where he "belongs."

The main thing is that the situation isn't going to change. If you break up with him and he finds a new girlfriend, it's going to be the same deal with his mom, ex, and daughter. Please try not to take it as an insult. Just do what's right for you.
posted by wryly at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2017

I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?

So I am in a bit of a similar situation. Husband's ex (not really an ex just a brief encounter) is really tight with in-laws. They are closer to her and the kid than me and my kid. They vacation together, talk on the phone, etc. My husband sees his parents less frequently than his ex. I never really got to know them because we didn't need them for child care. Just how it is. I work very hard to be gracious to them despite it sort of hurts that they don't see their other grandkid as much. Or put his picture up the fridge. Or go to his games and go to the other kid's games. etc....

As an adulting-adult I work on making things as good for my husband and his kids (both of them) as I can. As long as I accept that some things aren't ideal for ME but better for US ALL, things are way more pleasant. And it's not always easy - the ex is VERY unreasonable. It would be a novel if I squawked about all the terrible things she has done to my husband over the years (and me, and to the relationship between him and his child).

I am on my husband's team and do all I can to make it easy for him to have a great relationship with his child and family. Have to celebrate our anniversary on a different day because she needs a babysitter? OK! Have to cancel our vacation cottage because she doesn't want him to miss CCD and reschedule (even though they have literally skipped because the parking lot was too full and she said that week was ok before I booked). OK!
I bet if I made things difficult for him, his family would pick up on it and wouldn't like me and it would certainly strain our relationship. I think if you want to be with him and have a happy life, rise above this. Being part of a blended family is work. Real work.
posted by ReluctantViking at 3:13 PM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I can't believe all of you wouldn't mind and accept your fiance ex moved in to their mom's house?

So there's a thing people say around here: Flag it and move on. If you see an objectionable comment, use the proper channels to flag it... and then get on with your life. Which is to say: It isn't that everybody would be totally okay with this. Most people would not really be okay with this. But there's lots of things in life that I'm not okay with. Most of them, all I can really do is roll my eyes and then go back to whatever else I was doing. Dwelling on it doesn't help. Dwelling on it is just feeding the drama. You don't get to choose what his ex or his mom do. You do get to have some control over how you respond to these things.

You can waste a lot of energy on the things you can't change, but why? Notice that it sucks and then figure out how to move on, whether it's by actually moving on or by just accepting that this drama doesn't belong to you and not letting it be your problem.
posted by Sequence at 3:28 PM on July 10, 2017

Best answer: I'm feeling way kinder towards you than most of the posters here. It sounds like your fiance could be unhealthily entangled with his ex and mother and that they may be using his children as pawns to manipulate him and damage your relationship.

That said, everyone is right that his biggest obligation is to his kids and that he can't turn his back on them. Is changing the custody agreement an option? If he's going to be the responsible adult most of the time, it might as well be in his dwelling with you. Is that something you would be willing and interested in doing? If the answer to either question is no, you might want to consider whether this is a dealbreaker, because right or wrong, it doesn't sound like his behavior is going to change.
posted by Candleman at 11:10 PM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If he's paying $750 / month and still jumping at her beck and call, it's not for the kids, it's for her... and it's not likely to get any better. Chances are, you have two choices... put up with it, or leave him.
posted by stormyteal at 11:36 PM on July 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sounds very painful. I think I would be upset, too. For me, the question would be: is what you have with your fiance worth dealing with this stressful situation? Can you accept the dynamic with his children, perhaps with some discussion about boundaries, but knowing that they will always, and deserve to be, a major priority for him for the rest of his life?

I also get the impression that you don't feel as loved and supported by him as you want to, so I would definitely take that into account.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:48 PM on July 11, 2017

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