My daughter (aged 10) brought home a family tree project from school — and she said she would just include her mum, me, and her brother because there wasn’t space on the sheet to include my new wife, and my step-kids. I told my daughter that we could add a sheet. To which she replied, that she could also add her mum’s boyfriend (affair partner). To which I replied: He is not family or blood. When he marries your mother he’ll be a part of your family. Until then, he’s nothing.
She burst out crying, saying that she loves him, just like she loves my new wife.
It’s come up before, and I’ve explained why I don’t like her mum’s boyfriend — “Your mum and (AP) were dating when we were still married, and that’s not right, and that’s why you live in separate homes now.”
My daughter touched a raw nerve: I can’t accept the affair partner (AP) as part of their lives — afterall, he’s one of the reasons why I get to spend 50 percent less time with my kids. I feel zero for my ex-wife, but still have vitriol for the AP.
I don’t like upsetting my daughter. I handled it so badly with her. How do I get past my feelings of rage for the AP?
It’s a school project, not a referendum on infidelity. Let her do it her way, and include (or exclude) anyone she wants to. At 10 years old, I probably would’ve included my stuffed animals as family and disowned my brother. If you worry that your wife will be offended at her family tree exclusion, she needs to get a tougher skin if she’s going to do this step mom gig. (A shout out to step-parents everywhere. It’s a hard job. At best you’re an inoffensive satellite. At worst, you’re a cartoon villain.)
It’s kind of you to reflexively want to include your wife and step kids, but your daughter might not be there yet. I don’t know how long ago the affair(s) or remarriage was, but I think it’s best not to push Family Unity on kids of divorce, but let them accept things over time. Think how hard it is for you to accept the dissolution of the family you thought you’d have. She’s only 10.
As long as she’s not being disrespectful, or acting out (don’t tolerate that), let her explain her family tree her way. (Technically, she’s correct, if we’re talking DNA and lineage. I’d have a different opinion if she was excluding your new family from her wedding or something.) It’s great that she loves your wife and kids. You’re way ahead there. But a lot of kids, in my opinion, cling to the false equivalency — dad’s okay! mom’s okay! Dad is happy now! Mom is happy now! It Was All For The Best. It’s one way to swallow the shit sandwich of divorce.
Frankly, cheaters peddle that Everyone Is Better For It narrative too. As if their cheating was this great benevolent act bestowed upon dim chumps. Oh thank you Omnipotent Cheater for the STDs and trust issues! Fifty percent parenting time? I never could’ve known such joy without you! As I’ve said elsewhere, this is the equivalent of a drunk driver killing your kid and then taking credit for your awesome public speaking skills at MADD rallies.
Anyway, your poor daughter is just trying to make sense of a very fucked-up situation, and she just tripped the affair partner land mine.
I feel zero for my ex-wife, but still have vitriol for the AP… How do I get past my feelings of rage for the AP?
A) Recognize the injustice that this asswipe gets to enjoy 50 percent of your parenting time, because he fucked your then-wife. I know you want to punch a wall. It’s not fair. There’s no getting around the fact that this is a great big shit sandwich and you don’t deserve it.
But LC, we have to deal with the reality we’re dealt. Tell yourself, “Yes, it’s unfair… now what?”
Are you going to forbid your daughter to ever mention his name, and by doing so confer all sorts of power and centrality on this idiot? Why not trust that he sucks instead? You’ve already explained to your daughter why you don’t like him. Next time, change the subject. Deflect. Or simply shrug. “Oh, Asswipe got a new fedora. That’s nice.”
B) Trust that you’re DAD. The AP usurped your roll as husband, but he CANNOT usurp your roll as father. That love is primal. Just keep being stable, loving, and sane. And keep parenting (it’s not a democracy). The AP can keep doing whatever it is douchebags do.
C) You have a new life. Embrace it. You found love again. A new wife, step-kids who accept you. You triumphed. Your ex apparently is with an AP who hasn’t committed to her, and they both brought all their crappy character with them to their new relationship. The AP didn’t “win” anything here. He got your ex — a CHEATER. A woman who also gets 50 percent less time with her child, because she thought that destroying her family was worth it for kibbles. THAT is who you lost.
Why not rage at losing a tumor or a case of head lice?
Hang in there, LondonChump. We all stumble at this parenting gig. Just brush yourself off and get back in the game. (((Hugs)))