I understand it’s hard – his ex was a big part of their lives – but she still is. She still attends their family parties, etc. His sister just posted about his ex publicly on social media, saying “sisters forever – family for life”. And I would never expect them to exclude her, but I had hoped that with it almost being a year they would at least be open to meeting me or acknowledging I exist, too. His sister is openly hostile towards me, and though Levi sticks up for me, the very next day he’ll go to her house for a play date with the kids, which really bothers me. He says he can’t NOT go to her house – she’s his sister.
The negativity towards us and refusal to support our relationship is hurting me and I try to just focus on him and us, but when he’s hanging out with his family all the time – like everything is fine, it upsets me. Am I wrong for feeling upset? — Tired of Waiting for Acceptance
Hmm, you say that you and Levi got together “fairly quickly” after his separation, and I’m really curious how quickly. Like, minutes after separation? Days? Did you two express interest in each other before he separated? When he suddenly realized he could no longer stay in his marriage, did that decision coincide at all with meeting and/or hooking up with you? Is it possible that his family thinks it does? Because, look, even though you say his marriage was “over years ago,” it wasn’t. Is he even divorced now? You don’t say that he is. I’m guessing he’s still legally married, and that until he separated from his wife, his family (including his kids), didn’t think his marriage was over.
So, yeah, I can see where, ten months into his separation, his family, who is very close to his wife, is still upset about the sudden demise of his marriage. I can see how they might even think you are part of the reason for the separation. I can see how they might not be super eager to meet, let alone embrace just yet, the person they probably think of as the “other woman,” who wrecked a marriage and family they loved.
There is something I’m confused about though – you say that Levi’s sister is “openly hostile” to you, but you’re also upset that no one in his family is willing to meet you? How is the sister hostile to you if you’ve never met? Is she calling you? Emailing you? What? What does “open hostility” with a stranger you’ve never met look like? I’m not saying it doesn’t exist — I’ve been the recipient of enough online hostility to know it does — but it would be helpful to have some examples since you seem to think her behavior warrants her brother ending his relationship with her or at least not bringing his kids over to her house to play with her kids, which, I’m sorry, is super fucked up. You waltz into this man’s life immediately after (or before?) his separation, expect his family to warmly embrace you, and when they don’t, you want him to keep his kids away from their cousins? Gee, I can’t understand why this family might not be so interested in giving you a chance.
You want to stay in this man’s life and potentially have a future with him? Then back off on the criticism of his family, and don’t screw with his kids’ well-being (including their relationships with their cousins). I know people who have zero drama and don’t introduce their significant others to their family as fast as you’ve wanted to be introduced to the family of a man who is still married to someone else. The fact that you’ve already met his kids after only a few months should suffice for now. You’re upset by the negativity you think is directed toward you and that Levi’s sister posts supportive things to/about his estranged wife? So what! You know what else is upsetting? Getting divorced, dealing with child custody arrangements, and watching your soon-to-be ex move on to some broad who thinks her feelings are more important than anyone else’s in this scenario. You aren’t the victim here. Other people are hurting more than you are. Give everyone some space and realize that your happiness with your new boyfriend is not dependent right now on his family openly embracing you immediately. And if it is, and they don’t? Then he’s not the guy for you.
I don’t think you’re wrong to be upset that Irene hasn’t taken a firmer stance with her family in regards to your relationship, but I do think you need to be very clear what you think that stance should be and what the “results” are that you’re looking for — the results you say you got from taking a firm stance with your own family. In your eyes, is the only appropriate stance with family who won’t accept your relationship to cut them off? And is the goal result to have only family in your life who will embrace your relationship and love your partner? That’s fine if that’s the case, of course, but you need to be clear about that with your girlfriend. If those are your expectations, she needs to know, and if she isn’t prepared to meet them — to cut off her family because they won’t openly embrace you and accept your relationship — then you have to decide if that’s a deal-breaker for you.
If Irene is unwilling to cut off her family, and you are unwilling to break up with her because of that less-than-firm stance, then you both need to find some middle ground. What other stance, in your eyes, would be appropriate? What sort of boundaries would you like to see in place? And how do you, together, plan to navigate relationships with family if you have children?
I, myself, would be very leery about allowing into my children’s lives family who did not accept my relationship with their other parent. And I would think very hard about becoming a parent with someone whose family did not accept me, if my partner planned to allow said family into our kids’ lives. Those are very blurry boundaries that I would be uncomfortable with. I suspect you feel similarly, and you need to make that very clear to Irene. Maybe the firm stance she needs to take is to tell her family that she plans to have children with you and if they want to be part of the kids’ lives, they better start treating you with the respect and kindness that they’d want any partner of theirs to be treated with. The problem with that is that they may not take the talk of kids seriously until kids are actually in the picture. Are you willing to wait that long? Are you willing to take such a serious step with Irene and make the commitment of joint parenthood with someone who hasn’t yet proven that your feelings and your future kids’ feelings are more important than the dysfunctional relationship she has with her family? Only you can decide that. But since you asked what I would do in your situation, I don’t think I would stay in a relationship where I didn’t feel legitimate in the eyes of people my partner kept close ties with. I don’t know how I could.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.