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I have searched the web and have spent thousands of dollars on therapy to help me cope with my fiance's adult children.  Has anyone had this problem.  Specifics below.

Three and a half years ago I reached out through email to the girl I had learned about love with so long ago.   Being on opposite sides of the country I thought this was a platonic reaching out after 35 years.  

So one thing leads to another and we are now both divorced, engaged and living in Manhattan for the past two and a half years.  While there have been many difficulties in this reconnection nothing compares to my difficulty in being around her three mostly grown kids.  

From the very beginning I have had difficulty when there are two or more of them together.  I feel like I disappear.  Conversation tends to be about people and past events I was not around for.  When one of them visits and stays with us, all long distance, it is all very comfortable.  Two or more together?  I am there only to pick up the tab.

So I have wanted to set some boundaries.  One at a time. Fine.  Two or more?  Only for very short durations.  One or two nights at most.  

This has caused serious problems to be sure.  We have come very close to seperating over this.  Her kids being together as a unit is very important to her.  For me this can, and recently did, cause me to have a panic attack that led to a night with no sleep.

So what do you think?  Any similar experiences and or advice.  As I have said, I have reached out professionally already.

I love this woman but I HATE this situation.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  No advice. But all my best wishes. nt (5+ / 0-)

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 03:15:59 PM PST

  •  Two remarks (8+ / 0-)

    I don't have any first-hand experience, but I've seen this more than once.

    First, you skip over how the divorces happened. If your ex- and new partner was still married 2½ years ago and her kids blame you for the breakup of their original family, that may be a long time in repairing. I'm sure you can see that to them it isn't college sweethearts separated by fate or ill-choice magically re-united.

    In my friends' cases, divorce wasn't an issue; the parent was a widower. But money was a big issue. The children were worried that much of their inheritance (including their late mother's earnings or gifts she had in turn received from her ancestors) was going to be squandered on the New Girlfriend. Maybe you aren't eligible for that sort of upper-middle class problem, but if you are, it can be addressed head on with a promise their will be a pre-nup if appropriate and by living within your means.

    As far as the events from before you were around, you don't expect your step kids to cut out the largest parts of their lives. Try to keep everyone busy in the moment, and in the present.

  •  I'm not the person to give advice (4+ / 0-)

       Have the children been confronted?   Don't make this a Me v. Kids.    If they are adults then they should know about boundaries and know that this ganging up is crossing all boundaries.  

        I have absolutely no CV to support my opinion, so take it for what it is worth.  

  •  Wake up... you are the interloper. (19+ / 0-)
    Her kids being together as a unit is very important to her.
    Forgive my bluntness below -- I don't like to see anyone in pain... BUT...

    Blood is thicker than water.

    You "reached out to her platonically"???  Call me cynical, but I doubt that a platonic relationship with a "person you had learned about love with" was your true intent.

    You cannot expect a person of middle age with grown children to suddenly decide to become unset in her ways.  It's not their fault you were not around while they were growing up... and that's what families talk about, among other things.  "Remember when ..."  The more who remember, the more fun it is to talk about.  Remember, they're still very much learning about who THEY are.

    You don't mention any kind of vindictiveness on their part, like they may be jealous and reacting with meanness due to that...

    Listen and learn about who they are... If you and she marry, these will become your kids, too, to SOME extent.  Don't you want to know who they are?  They are part of her, the woman you love.

    As they grow older, they may become sensitive to your being excluded from the discussion, but I would not hold my breath.

    Doesn't sound like the thousands you've spent in therapy has been a good investment.  (I've done couneling, mostly to recovering alcoholics, as I am... FWIW.  So I tend to be blunt and to the point.)

    In short, stop whining... you started this.

    "There's always room for cello." Yo Yo Ma

    by ceebee7 on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 03:24:16 PM PST

  •  Are any of the kids crack addicts? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If not, you're not doing that badly.

  •  Is it just conversation about (15+ / 0-)

    the past, pre Al? Or are there other things going on?

    I was with a man for over 4 years with teen/adult children, who finally broke us up.
    The daughter stole my clothes. The son stole my cigarettes, and I got slammed for locking them up.
    My toothbrush got used to clean... the sink? the toilet? Nasty.
    I had gas siphoned out of my car.
    Many plans were put on hold because...
    A kid had to go to court, the daughter's husband beat her up... again. One of the "adults" had no gas, so needed either the car, or for dad to drive them somewhere, to party.

    In the end, we parted when I refused to act "normal" with the abused daughter.

    Why don't you plan to do something with friends when the kids are around en mass? Tell them that while you are glad to see them, you feel like they need time to spend alone with their mother to talk about the past, and the people that you don't know.
    Go to a movie. Have lunch/dinner. NY? so full of museums and galleries.
    Surely you can absent yourself, have a good time. Maybe ONE of the kids would like to join you on an outing.

    Only thing more infuriating than an ignorant man is one who tries to make others ignorant for his own gain. Crashing Vor

    by emmasnacker on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 03:28:23 PM PST

  •  Absolutely (17+ / 0-)
    Her kids being together as a unit is very important to her.
    It is for many, if not most, moms. Many dads, too.

    Many a man (or woman) in your situation would be glad to be a sort of "fifth wheel" who can't share in the "remember the time when..." or "have you heard about so-and-so..." conversations.  The sibling chattering together and with mom means they are reasonably comfortable in your presence, and in being open they are (wittingly or not) giving you a chance to get to know them and their lives. What is all too common is adult children who are openly and actively hostile and resentful to the new love interest in mom's/dad's life. You could be getting the silent treatment.

    My advice, quit losing sleep over it and go with the flow. In due course you will become familiar with the events and people they speak of, just from listening. In due course there will be events, activities, and individuals that you have in common with them. But if hours of therapy haven't gotten you to that point already, there presumably are other things going on with you, or them, so my advice probably doesn't pertain.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 03:30:51 PM PST

  •  The problem is only what you created (16+ / 0-)

    meaning- I think you are jealous of those kids and don't like that your new love has other relationships in her life.

    That spells disaster all over it.

    I am married again, and so is my husband.  I have 3 adult children, he has one.

    At no time ever has your problem come up.  Never.  When I met my husband, our children were young.  My son lived with us- he saw his daughter on week-ends.  There were times when my daughters wanted to spend time alone with me without his daughter, and I obliged- stating the obvious.  "Go spend time alone with your daughter, I'm going to the mall with mine".  If he had any problem with that,  I never heard about it.

    It's the same with parents.  Every Mother's Day, we each go alone to visit our Moms.  Never a problem.

    Bottom line:  your relationship with this woman is doomed unless you realize and accept that she has children who will always be a part of her life.

    If my husband ever said to me "Only one child at a time"- well, he would not be my husband now.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 03:32:48 PM PST

  •  My priceless, but free advice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Being a lifelong bachelor who has never lived with anyone, I will now give you the wisdom that comes from armchair reflections:

    If you think you are miserable now, wait until you get married.  Break off the engagement, and move out.  If she is willing to continue to have a sexual relationship with you under those circumstances, fine.  You can just stay away when her children are in town, and your money will be safer too.  If she is not willing to have such a relationship, then tell her it is over.

  •  I see this as a lose-lose situation for you: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If she chooses her kids over you, you lose. Obviously.

    But any woman who would choose a man over her children is no prize. I suspect that in time, you would discover that to be true.

    You cannot cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Rabindranath Tagore

    by Thomasina on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:05:21 PM PST

    •  Should she have to choose? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Thomasina, marykk, ceebee7

      If these reunions that last more than a day or two are both extended and frequent (ten days at a time every two months or something) how is she choosing the kids over him if she wants to have more than a day or two with them as a group?

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:13:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was twelve when my widowed grandmother (6+ / 0-)

    remarried a widower with two children and several grandchildren.  As far as I can recall (I was twelve a long time ago), the way they handled it was when it was only my grandmother's decendants were visiting, her husband made himself scarce, and when only his decendants were visiting, she made herself scarce.  When both sets were visiting, they made a big friendly party.  

    I recommend that you try to think of your beloved's children discussing events from their shared past in your presence as being an opportunity to learn how she got along during your years apart, and not as her children's attempt to freeze you out.  Hang around and listen to the conversation even if you don't have anything to contribute.  Either that, or find something to do elsewhere that you enjoy and your darling doesn't care for.  Think of it as a private time to indulge yourself.  

    "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." -- Sen Carl Schurz 1872

    by Calamity Jean on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:20:36 PM PST

  •  Damn, how often do they visit? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Urban Owl, ladybug53

    It will take time but eventually you'll have experiences together and then you'll have things to talk about with them. Unless you can change to conversation then you're just going to have to sit by and listen-in and learn about the family if they continue with this behavior. If that proves too tedious or boring then go find something else to do.

    Whenever I visit my parents I'm always given some time by their respective new spouses to spend alone with just Mom or Dad. Building new families takes effort on everyone's part though. When I'm with my stepparents I make an effort not to dwell on old family history which would exclude them by its very nature. It's just polite to have conversation that includes everyone present. It's unfair to expect the "new arrival" to sit idly by while everyone is reminiscing about the past. Frankly, it's rude. And I would recoil in horror to think that my visit would ever become an issue between them. JFC, her kids are either tone deaf or horribly self-centered if they refuse to help their mother build a new relationship.

    Next time it happens try and steer the conversation in a direction where everyone can participate. If that doesn't work and you don't feel like hearing the old family stories, get up and leave. Find something else to do until they run out of steam.

    It is your responsibility to figure out how best to respond to this. Families aren't perfect. The only person you have control over in the relationship is yourself.  Choose a path that leads to your well-being.

  •  Here's my 2 cents worth.... (6+ / 0-)

            First of all, never make someone you love choose between you and their kids. You are a unique and important person, but the fact is your fiancé and her kids were a family long before you came along, and they now have a history, inside jokes, behavior patterns, and stories all their own--you're going to have to honor that.  Healthy families and family members tend to enjoy each others' company and to gather together on occasion--it's what families do.  Now, maybe during holidays it could be that gathering places are rotated--but then you'd better be prepared for your fiancé to want to go to wherever her kids are meeting up--it's what mothers do.  
          Plus, you say these are "mostly grown" kids--so what they've just been through is their parents breaking up, and now here you are....They'd have to be saints to just embrace you and move on emotionally as if nothing has happened.  Two and a half years is a really short time, actually--and most of that time, presumably, you haven't even been spending with these young people anyway, so they barely know you as all of this has unfolded in their lives.
          You haven't said these children are obnoxious to you, so I assume they are at least polite--certainly, if you feel you are being unfairly asked to have to pay their way while they're around, that is something you can negotiate, and a reasonable partner would be able to see your point of view about it (frankly, I think she and the kids should be paying for any associated costs of the visit, except maybe once in a while if you yourself want to treat everyone to something or other, but everybody works out finances in a relationship in different ways, and maybe none of these kids is economically independent yet?).  
          That said, the question of who pays is different from trying to severely limit the kids from spending time together with their mother in your home. I'm assuming that these  children aren't trying to move in and hang out with their mother in your home more or less constantly--that would be different, because of course it is crucial that your fiancée honors and fully participates in the relationship you two are building, and that she wants a private, grown-up life that includes plenty of time spent just with you.  I'm sorry about the panic attack--I get that you've been in therapy, but maybe what needs to happen is couples therapy, so you two have a safe place to work out what your bottom lines and needs are in terms of the kind of life you want to share.  That might help you to work out what about all this is triggering you so deeply--for example, do you feel invisible when the kids are around because of something they're doing, or is it more to do with something your fiancée is NOT doing?  Also, lots of ways to manage anxiety, from meditation to an occasional anti-anxiety med on a bad day, and maybe you need to explore those options if you haven't already.
        I'm also not clear on whether you're saying you don't want the children visiting at all as a group for more than 1-2 days, or you just don't want them staying overnight in your home more than 1-2 nights (as opposed to staying in a hotel, for example). If this is a group of siblings who like to travel together, you really can't expect them to travel to visit somewhere (and you use the phrase "long distance," so I'm assuming they live far away), and then all go back home in just 1-2 days--the visit itself should be longer than the travel time involved, just even in terms of making the costs worthwhile! But lots of families use motels/hotels in these situations to give each other more space.
           If after some time of trying to get used to all this you still feel invisible, then (assuming you and your partner are otherwise happy, and this isn't happening every other weekend) I'd say use the time the kids are around to do things that take you elsewhere--see your friends, go to that movie your partner doesn't want to see, work on a personal project, enjoy your time to just do what you want to do, on your own.  People in healthy relationships take those kind of breaks from each other all the time.
          Just don't ask someone you love to choose between you and her children--it's never a fair thing to ask. Sorry to go on and on, and also that things have been so difficult--but family systems fascinate me, and so did your question.  Again, just my 2 cents worth--good luck!

    "The Republicans' real target is the idea that dominated the last century--the idea that human reason can design, and create, a better world." David Kaiser, 2012

    by bibble on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:40:51 PM PST

  •  Why can't you just arrange for some alone time (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, marykk, Urban Owl

    while they visit. If they stay for more than a few days have a date night.

     Even if they were your kids together they would still take a lot of her attention.

    What do you mean by "mostly" grown?

  •  Listening and respect (5+ / 0-)

    I understand why you would feel left out when the people you are with talk about things they have in common. I think you must be feeling that they don't welcome you to contribute to the conversation, and that they don't respect you.

    To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It's a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.
    That statement is attributed to Deborah Tannen.

    In this case, though, I recommend that you think about listening not from the point of view of someone who feels unwanted in the conversation, but from the point of view of someone who loves a woman and wants to have a good relationship with her children.

    Someone else said that a good listener is not only popular everywhere--but learns a thing or two.

    My suggestion is that you take advantage of this opportunity to achieve at least two goals:

    1. Listen to them talk, and learn a thing or two about their lives (and your sweetie's life); and

    2. Make these people, who are so important to the woman you love, feel respected and valued, just by listening attentively to them.

    You're the older and (probably) wiser person. Just listen to them. I think you'll have better relationships all around, and, in time, they'll all listen to you, too.

  •  It's hard (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Al in NY, FiredUpInCA

    After my long marriage ended a couple years ago, I was lucky enough to find a great guy and we have a wonderful relationship.

    His family is great, they all seem to like me.  The kid thing is hard.  We each have 2--chronological adults.  I've met one of his, he hasn't met either of mine yet.

    But the feeling left out thing?   Every time we go to his hometown to visit his siblings, I feel like I'm in a glass box.  They're all very nice, they appear to like me, but the conversations are all about people they have known for years, or even better, people they knew who have died.  

    We had dinner the first night in town with both his siblings and their spouses.  I said later: "Did you notice I didn't say one word during the entire evening?"  There was not a single point of the conversation that afforded me an entry.

    Of course I tend to be quiet by nature anyway, but hell, what can you say when the debate is whether Mr. or Mrs. Smith died first, and which one of their sons married that girl who went to the other high school across town?

    I'm sorry I don't have an answer for you.  I'm happy you found love, and I can certainly empathize with the complications you're facing.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 05:40:29 PM PST

  •  They are giving you the honor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bibble, ladybug53

    of teaching you about their past.  Instead of trying to be on equal footing with their memories, ask questions about the people and events they are discussing.  Listen and learn.  They are giving you a precious gift of inclusion, not excluding you.

    Are you used to being the one in charge of social occasions?  I get the impression that not being in charge of your fiancée's family encounters is making you very uncomfortable.   But, you are not The Boss here, you are the New Guy, and so you don't get to set the rules of engagement in situations that are their family get-togethers.  Many of the comments above suggested you visit with their family group to the extent you can, and when it becomes too much, go find something else to do.

    While you and your fiancée will go on to make your own life together, it is unreasonable for you to expect her to require her "mostly grown" children to abandon everything about their own past and start from scratch, making a different life with you.  They already have a life and a family culture they cherish and that has worked for them.  The responsibility is on you to learn, join, and support that culture, while moving on to making a new life with your fiancée.  A new life does not mean making the previous life vanish, it means building on it.

  •  Clarification and Comment (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you all for your comments.  Some I found empathetic and useful and others I suspect reacted with their own triggers.

    First of all I should point out that I am an only child.  I raised an only child.  My lovey does not need to cope with the same circumstance.

    Second. Over the course of these 3 years of knowing her kids we tried to put us all together, inviting but not including my own daughter, much too soon.  It was if my girl had had this great life but just wanted to change partners.  While she didn't love their father the kids did, do and should.  Yes I am the interloper.  While I was not the reason for the break up of their family I am the catalyst.  This is now recognized but the mistakes have been made.

    Third.  We made an agreement to take a step back and go more slowly.  To have the kids here as individuals so that I could get to know them and they could get to know me as individuals.  The oldest lives in DC and visits several times a year and that has been great.  We just had the youngest and only boy here for 5 nights and that was great.  His sister comes up from DC and there is a regression in their behavior compared to when they are here as individuals.  The 4 of us went to Boston to stay with her brother and see his adult kids and I am asking myself what am I doing here.  I have been present when the eldest spoke to her mother in a way that if she were my daughter I would have called her on.  I feel that my fiance is afraid to confront the behavior out of fear or perhaps we disagree about what constitutes bad behavior.  Sorry guys, I don't have any DNA in the equation.  No biology here.  It makes a difference.

    Third.  I am trying to reach accommodation and compromise.  It has been hard for my lovey to understand how this could make me feel.   I have noticed in the comments that the people who identified themselves as women were the most critical.  Well their perspective is theirs and I respect it.  But my perspective is fair as well.  There is not right or wrong here.  There is just what you can do when you can do it.  Am I suffering the narcissistic wound?  I am sure.  Do I think this makes me a bad person?  No I don't.  I just have my point of view and my experience to bring.  

    There are reasons two people get together after 30 plus years and upend their lives and the people around them.  It is a selfish thing at some level to do.  But when you have been living without for so long.  Have resolved yourself to not being fulfilled for so long.  When love comes your way again it is intoxicating and it is difficult to bring families along for the ride.  They don't care about this new couple or this new love.  They want things to be the way they were as much as possible.  I understand.  But the ship has sailed.  Things will never be the same again.  I am doing my best to adjust.  I hope my partner and her kids can as well.

    In the end.  Don't sign up for what you can't live with.

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