Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

I’m Tired of Moving Every Time My Husband’s Daughter Moves”

I am pretty much in the same situation as this LW. I have been with my fiancé, “Tom,” for five years and we have a 2-year-old daughter together. Tom also has an 8-year-old daughter with his ex. I left my home and family three years ago so that Tom could be close to his elder daughter, but now his ex wants to move again, another six states away, and Tom wants us to follow. At first, I dug my heels in and said I didn’t want to move, again. It was important that our little one be close to my family (an 8-hour drive from where we currently live) and his family who live here. But I know how miserable Tom was before we moved here, missing his precious little redhead. I hated to see it.

I think it’s important for Tom to be happy and close to his daughter. I think his being happy will keep our daughter and me happy. So I am willing to move, and I think I will love the West Coast. The problem now is that my parents will only get to see our daughter when/if we’re able to fly her out for summer vacation with them. I know my mom is hurt. She has made the eight-hour drive to us many times and us to her. She loves our daughter and is broken by the thought of her being so far away.

Am I right to want to make this move with my husband? How do I convince my parents it will be ok? None of us are rich, and flights and trips are not easy to do. I know we struggle now, but for the love of my husband and “my red-headed step-child,” I am willing to try and make it on the West Coast. Who knows — maybe things will be better there. Any advice or tips? — Stepmom Going the Distance

Well, yes, of course you’re “right” to want your husband to be physically close to his daughter. But there are several things you need to think about and discuss — and, frankly, convincing your parents that whatever decision you make is “ok” really shouldn’t be the top priority; you’re a grown adult with a family of your own. THEY are your priority. That said, of course it’s beneficial to your daughter to be driving distance from her grandparents. And it’s beneficial to her to have stability in her life and not have to be yanked around every few years to follow wherever her half-sister is being moved to. Why is your husband’s ex moving again after just a few years, and why is she moving to the other side of the country? Does she or her partner have a job that will require continued moves? If they get to the West Coast and decide, for whatever reason, they don’t like it, are you going to immediately follow them wherever they move to next? Might it make more sense to give them six to twelve months to get settled and make sure they’re going to stay put before following them out there?

As for your parents, are they in a position where they might be able to move to be closer to you? If they’re retired or close to retirement, maybe moving with you could be a solution. If that isn’t a possibility, I think your idea to send your daughter to be with them in the summer is a good one. I grew up moving around every few years and I never lived in the same country as my grandparents (until I started college), but I spent every summer with them, and, because of that, I was very close to them. Maintaining relationships across great distances is challenging, but it can be done. Technology makes it especially easier to keep in touch and have “face time” with long-distance loved ones in a way we weren’t able to have years ago. Maybe the person you need to convince that it’s “going to be ok” is you, and to that all I can say is that it will be. You’ll figure out a way to make it work.

I do want to caution you about taking this out on your stepdaughter, though. A few phrases and comments in your letter sound suspiciously like little jabs, and I’m not sure if it’s a matter of tone being lost in translation or if there’s a current of resentment you’re aiming toward her. This situation is NOT her fault. She’s just an 8-year-old girl whose parents are no longer together, and she’s being shuttled to different homes around the country. This is all probably hardest for her. Please remain compassionate and loving with her, and remember that if she had her choice, she’d probably like to live in one home with both parents and not have to keep moving around. But, just like it will be for all of you, it’s going to be ok for her, too — as long as everyone continues treating one another with respect and making the kids’ needs a top priority.

I have been with my partner for three years; we live together and are expecting our first child. He, however, has a 9-year-old daughter who has not been part of his life for the past seven years; he has recently been granted permission to spend time with her.

Their story was heartbreaking to me, as I myself was taken away from my father from a young age and only had the chance to see him once before he passed away. It took a lot of time for me to accept his passing and to correct my “daddy issues.”

I was very excited for their reunion, helped him get her birthday gifts, and pitched ideas for fun activities to do. I’m a planner by nature; I like to have events organized and wanted to make these as fun as possible so that the little girl develops fond memories and feels excited for future outings with him and me. However, I noticed that my husband wanted to come up with ideas on his own, and I found that he would only include me in his plans at the last second or inform me at the last minute that he was going to be seeing her.

Likewise, he and his ex would exchange messages and not mention them to me at all or not unless I asked if there was any news from them. I started feeling like I’m a nuisance, like a third wheel. I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy hormones that are hitting the sensitivity button, but I’m feeling rejected by him, and I feel like I don’t belong. I just want to feel included in his plans. I try my best to make his life easier and in return I feel like he doesn’t care.

Am I being selfish? Unsupportive? Jealous? I feel horrible for the way I feel–I just want all of us to be happy. I know his daughter loves spending time with him alone, which is understandable since she missed him for seven years. — Feeling Rejected

 
I think the last ten sentences of your letter here are key. This little girl is only now being reconnected with the father she hasn’t seen in seven years. If she was two when they separated, I doubt she has any memory of him at all. They certainly must not have much of a relationship. Please, let them connect and bond and form a relationship on their own terms, without your help for now. It’s really sweet that you want to be such a part of this period, but it isn’t about you. It isn’t about somehow getting a re-do of your own childhood and the issues of abandonment you felt with your own father. This is about your partner and his daughter and their need to figure out where they stand with each other now, after what I’m sure has been a challenging seven years for both of them, likely filled with hurt feelings, confusion, and sadness. Let them work through those feelings. There will be room for you. There will be room for your baby-to-be. But right now they need space that belongs solely to them, the two of them, to figure out what it means to be father and daughter, what they mean to each other, before they figure out how you and a baby will fit into the relationship.

Related: If you truly feel like your partner doesn’t care that you try making his life easier — if that feeling expands beyond this situation with his reunion with his daughter, then you need to get to the bottom of that, stat. Have you always felt that way? Even before you were pregnant? If so, I’d say this isn’t about pregnancy hormones. But if this feeling is limited to the introduction of his daughter into your lives, then I’d suggest this is really about your feeling jealous and a little selfish, and you need to nip it in the bud, pronto.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

20 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Jane July 24, 2017, 10:33 am

    Is anyone else thinking about Luke and April in ‘Gilmore Girls’?

    LW 1: WWS.

    LW 2: WWS. I will only add that you might consider ensuring your partner that you respect his need for space with his daughter, but that you just want him to keep open communication with you about the situation. The level of detail you need to be comfortable without intruding on the process will have to be gauged by both of you.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      dinoceros July 24, 2017, 6:19 pm

      OMG, yes. It sounds just like Luke and April.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Ron July 24, 2017, 11:27 am

    All the exes I know with shared child custody are not able to just pick up and move out of the area without the ex’s or a court’s permission. There is a legal responsibility to keep the shared child within visitation range. One male friend decided to move about a thousand miles away and was required to relinquish joint custody. A female friend is tied to the coast she doesn’t want to be on in order to maintain primary custody (which is shared).

    I am curious what the bf’s custody agreement requires. Does he not have custody/visitation rights and his ex is just allowing him to visit? Did they never make legal arrangements and this has all been ad hoc? He needs to talk to a lawyer and possibly go to court.

    LW #2 — what did your bf do to lose the right to see his child for this many years? At least in this state, a parent who is not a danger to child has a right to visitation. Sounds like something pretty bad or he just had no interest up to now. Is this really the guy you want to raise kids with?

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      ArgyllWisp July 24, 2017, 1:15 pm

      That’s been my understanding as well, that in joint custody you don’t just get to pack up your kid and move. Unless you can provide, I think, a reason why the move is absolutely necessary (like for health reasons) both parents have to agree to the move. If the LW and her husband really don’t want to move, I would definitely talk to a lawyer. Obviously that won’t be great for the co-parenting relationship if they block the ex from moving, but this is no small thing and I wouldn’t just let the ex decide all the terms.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    SpaceySteph July 24, 2017, 11:32 am

    LW1, yeah it sucks that your child won’t see her grandparents often, but that doesn’t really compare to your future stepdaughter not seeing her father very often. It’s normal for your parents to feel sad and for you to feel sad that they won’t have as close a relationship with your child as if you lived nearby, but it’s not ok to put that above their father/daughter relationship. Assuming you and your fiance are able to find work there, can afford the cost of living, etc, then it’s definitely the right choice to make the move.
    That said, I can see how this might become unmanageable if the mother moves every few years, so hopefully this move will stick.

    Reply Link
  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeysmommy July 24, 2017, 1:16 pm

    My take on number 1 is a bit different. It would be VERY weird for me if my ex husband just up and moved with us. He has no reason to and his family is 3 states and 600 miles away, aside from our kids. He has a job and a life, he cant just leave it. How does his ex feel about It? Does she encourage this or is she annoyed as well? I personally think you should NOT move, at least not yet. It will be cheaper to fly RSD to you, than to fly all of you to your parents. An 8 year old can fly alone (and yes, my kids do it), a 2 year old can and should not. An 8 year old can be away from mom and know what’s going on. Dropping a 2 year old off across the country doesn’t really work for long. I would tell your ex to talk to a lawyer and see what his options are. Maybe she can’t legally move that far without his consent. Maybe she will be required to meet him at a reasonable distance every so often. What does his custody agreement say? My own agreement leaves it all to my discretion, but most are not so lucky.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      SpaceySteph July 24, 2017, 2:11 pm

      Really? Wanting to be near his daughter isn’t enough reason to move? I agree it might not be feasible for everyone to undertake a cross country move just because their ex-spouse and child moved, but if the means are there… then yes, absolutely.
      And their kid won’t be 2 years old forever, in a few years she absolutely can fly to visit her grandparents. It’s normal to only see your grandparents a couple times a year. This is the chance for the father to be involved in his daughter’s life– soccer games and dance recitals and what all– which he certainly couldn’t do without the move.

      Reply Link
      • Monkeysmommy

        Monkeysmommy July 25, 2017, 9:57 am

        If it were just the father, and he had the means and ability to move, sure. It isn’t. He has a wife and child, and their needs do factor in here. It is not smart or realistic for him to chase his ex all over the country every time she moves. Asking his wife to leave her support system is a tall order. She did sign up to be a step mom, sure, but I am reasonably sure that she did not plan to be uprooted every time ex wife gets a wild hair to move away. I also own up to being biased here. I am the ex wife who moved my kids and 2nd husband 10 hours and 3 states away from ex, and would have been less than thrilled if my ex moved here also.

        Link
    • avatar

      LW1 feeling better August 7, 2017, 4:37 am

      His ex is fine with us following her. She has told RHSC that she won’t have to miss her daddy because he will move too. I left a comment below explaining the rest. I guess I made up my mind. If we save and do it smart I would move mountains to better my little family excluding RHSC. I just have to live with , I can’t make everyone happy…. but I can do all I can for my lil family. ????

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        LW1 feeling better August 7, 2017, 4:38 am

        Terrible typo…. INCLUDING

        Link
  • avatar

    Morecoffeeplease July 24, 2017, 2:25 pm

    I think it’s a little crazy to follow your ex every time she moves so you can be near your kid. This is why when you get divorced you go through the court and establish joint custody. Then neither parent can up and move taking the child away from one parent. What if the ex doesn’t like it there after a year? How can one just keep moving and keep financially secure with their job? What about leaving friends and family. It sounds like the little girl has grandparents and her father in the same town she lives in now…I would think the mom cannot just up and move unless she or the father relinquish joint custody. I would be very wary about moving if I were this LW.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Ashley July 24, 2017, 4:46 pm

    LW-1 I second everyone here who is questioning how the ex can just up and move. I lived a fairly rural part of Texas, and that was always a HUGE problem for people as good jobs could be 60 miles away, and the couldn’t move, shackling them with huge commutes. It may be time to get your ex to commit to getting a formal custody agreement if he doesn’t already have one.

    LW2. If he didn’t ask for your help, has made his own plans and they went fine, there’s your hint right there to butt out. Don’t make this about you, and you should be glad he’s the kind of man who takes the time so these sorts of things. Wasn’t that a discussion the other day?

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    dinoceros July 24, 2017, 6:19 pm

    LW1: Your letter didn’t go where I expected it to go. The beginning made it sound like you were going to complain about moving, but by the end, it sounds like you WANT to move, but you don’t want to disappoint your parents. Am I understanding this correctly? I’d say that a father being near his daughter is more important than grandparents being near their grandkid. I think there are two separate issues here — the fact that the mom moves the kid around a lot without caring that the dad has to uproot his life too and then separately that you feel guilty about moving your kid(s) away from their grandparents. I guess my question is, would this be easier if the choice to move was entirely your own/it was forced — like a job transfer or something? It sounds like you want to move, but you also sort of feel like you *should* be pushing back against the mom, and therefore don’t feel like your reason for moving is valid? Because a lot of people have to travel to see extended family.

    I’m also curious about why they keep moving. Because if they are that fickle and you guys just up and move every time, then chances are you’ll be moving back closer in a couple of years, right? I say this sort of tongue in cheek, but I do think it’s good to think of the future, especially as you look toward marriage. Will you always follow them no matter what? Can you make plans to move back at a certain time? What does the custody agreement say?

    LW2: I think that your feelings are valid, but I also think that you’re making more out of this than there is. You’re taking it very personally. You seem to want the relationship dynamic to be you-him-kid, but he needs to have a dad-daughter relationship first. I think some of the things you listed are good to address. Like telling you at the last minute about plans — doesn’t matter if that’s about a kid or going fishing, I can see how that would inconvenience you. It’s OK to talk to him about it and ask if he can give you more notice. On the other hand, I doubt most people would feel the need to update their current partner on ever parenting text that goes on between them and their ex. That’s non-news, and I personally would assume partner does not have any interest on getting a recap of my conversations with my ex.

    The other thing that I think is unreasonable is your insistence that you need to help him plan activities. Why? Let him plan his own activities. That one seems very easy to do because all it involves you doing less stuff rather than more.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Stillrunning July 24, 2017, 8:13 pm

    LW2- “I’m a planner by nature; I like to have events organized and wanted to make these as fun as possible.” You’re trying to disguise what comes across as controlling as a wonderful part of you that you can’t change. I’m not surprised your partner wanted to make his own plans.
    Back off, you’re part of this, yes, but let your partner and his child get to know each other a little first.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    LW1 feeling better August 7, 2017, 4:31 am

    Well I have thought about all the pros and cons. And the pros win. But we will be waiting a year or two. There is no official custody order. In our state it does not go hand in hand with CS. They were never married. So we just have a verbal every other weekend regular visit and some long weeks during school breaks. RHSC is a lil term of endearment because she is red headed.lol Her mom has been pretty good with visiting. I have looked it to the laws. She does need father’s permission. But nothing is done unless we complain. If we did . We would have to go to court. We can’t afford a lawyer. Even if we did she has “good reason ” to move. Per the law moving because of better paying jobs and help with childcare are valid reason. If we were to “win”. And stop her from moving it would make all of our lives difficult as the kids are convinced it will be awesome. I think they are moving to be close to legal pot. But I can’t begrudge her for wanting to live a legitimate life. My worries are finance and upsetting and missing my family. But my Toms happiness trumps it all. O and if we move in a few years and like it. That will be where we settle. Even if his ex moves again. Says Tom. Also another answer to a question. He has not forced the idea. It was a compermise. So long as we wait a while and save. Thank you all for everyone being respectful.

    Reply Link
    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 7, 2017, 9:26 am

      It was easy enough to split up and go their separate ways without getting a formal, legal custody agreement and it seemed to save money. The trouble is that now it is costing money, probably more than seeing a lawyer and getting it all down on paper would have cost. The cost of moving and the cost of airline tickets, especially if this is the second time the two of you will move to follow his daughter is probably more than the lawyer. Was your fiance avoiding paying child support when he skipped a legal agreement?

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    LW1 feeling better August 9, 2017, 1:19 am

    A friend who has a similar situation paid over $10000 in a custody battle and we wouldn’t want to take the child from her mother. The moves will cost way less. We didn’t avoid a custody court. In our state they advise to work it out outside of court. We have not had reason to go to court. It was my fiancé idea and choice to go to court for child support. He was already paying for his oldest daughter from another marriage. And wanted to make sure he paid on the child we are talking of. He is an amazing man who just loves his kids. Just wants to do all he can to love them. And support them in every way possible.

    Reply Link
    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 9, 2017, 8:44 am

      Where is his older daughter and is he moving away from her?

      The thing about the mother is that if she chose to move away without the daughter over staying where you could both see the daughter it would be the mother abandoning the daughter. You wouldn’t take her away if the mother really wanted her.

      This mother already doesn’t care about providing stability for her own daughter. She certainly doesn’t care about stability in your own life. Consider whether she is actually a good mother and whether her daughter would be better off out of her home. Would you and your boyfriend provide her with a better home? You need to consider it all and make a decision that is best for this girl, your own family and the older daughter who wasn’t mentioned before. This isn’t his only child who needs him and not the only child needing stability.

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      Janelle August 9, 2017, 11:06 am

      Multiple moves cost a lot more than $10,000. Plus stability for the child.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Sarah April 25, 2018, 7:48 pm

    Why does he have so many children?!!

    Also LW1 sounds a bit manic to me. Why are you putting Tom first? You have needs too.

    This whole situation sounds super sketchy. The more details she gives the more odd it seems.

    And for LW2 the back story is missing and seems to be something of importance.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment