Q&A with Geoff: My stepdaughter won’t let me see her new babyDec 30, 2020
My husband and I have been together nine years. We were both married before and ended up cheating on our spouses, which is how we ended up together. Even though we both regret doing that to our families, all of these years later, we’re happy together and have a good marriage. We’ve tried to make amends with his children, but they still treat me like “the other woman.”
We have gone through years of small, loving, slow steps, where for the most part, I still have been rejected, kept away or kept at-bay. We’ve moved forward, hoping that time will heal, provide forgiveness, and soften their hearts. We’ve supported his children’s relationships, finances, marriages, and now, the first grandchild.
His daughter only wants him to come visit their new child. He told her that “we” would come visit the grandchild, which was upsetting to her. My husband and I have had many talks and feel his children are being disrespectful to him, his life and me.
Even though nine years seems like a long time for his children to hold a grudge against you, it’s important to stay accountable and honest about what really happened. You both were a significant part of dismantling the family his children counted on for safety and stability. This isn’t something that heals quickly.
You were able to move forward and redefine your life with your new husband. This was something you both controlled. On the other hand, children who go through divorce are completely powerless. They don’t get to have a say. Their parents make the decisions about where they will live, who they will spend time with, and what their life will look like. From a child’s point of view, divorce is one of the most unfair things that could happen to them.
I recognize that some divorces are necessary and unavoidable. However, after counseling with couples and families for over twenty years, it’s my belief that most divorces are preventable if adults would take personal accountability for their behaviors and do the work necessary to build a healthy marriage. I don’t know the circumstances around your divorces, but I do know that infidelity is a choice that produces a train of consequences that don’t easily disappear after nine years. Plus, the very existence of your marriage to each other is likely a reminder to his children of your affair.
Instead of demanding that his children respect you, try having some compassion for what it must be like to have their dad with another woman. Having a new grandbaby is both a joyful occasion and a sad reminder of the loss of the intact family dream. These children are struggling with the fact that their ideal scenario of having an unbroken chain of family relationships has been shattered by an affair. Even though you’re connected to your husband, his children obviously don’t feel the same way about you. The painful loss of family bonds isn’t something that goes away over time without some intentional work on everyone’s part. You’re the outsider to this family and your job is patience, compassion and accountability.
If you really feel compassion and sorrow for the impact this affair had on them years ago, then I recommend you support her wishes with her new baby and show her that you don’t have one ounce of entitlement. This moment doesn’t have to be about your husband making a stand for his relationship with you. You guys already did that nine years ago when you formed your relationship. You had your time to show the world that you were a couple. Now, it’s your time to make this about her new little family. Don’t put your husband in the middle of having to choose between her and you.
If you want her to feel close to you, then show her the appropriate accountability and respect that she needs to feel safe with you. Validate her feelings of not wanting you close. Let her know it makes sense that she would be struggling with the loss of her family dream during this time of joy. She needs to know you’re not a threat to her and that even though you’re going to stay married to her dad, you understand how hard your presence in the family is for her. My hope is that she’ll eventually warm up to you, but it may not happen as quickly as you had hoped.
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